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4059: Dysart’s Child’s Play (or Rubbing Out and Drawing In)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 27 November 2009

Dysart has been going as a setter for about four years now, and has had puzzles in all the major series. His last Listener was based on “The Times They Are A-Changin'” by Bob Dylan and was very enjoyable. Except that I made a mistake, stupidly anagramming GEARING into NAGREIN instead of GAGREIN. Knowing that it was a horsey term meant that nagrein made it through my rechecking process unscathed! Hopefully this puzzle will be as enjoyable but without the silly error.

There are two sets of thematic clues, and all the others have a misprint in the definition, with the incorrect letter spelling out an instruction. This will need careful attention as it is normal for the correct letters to be the important ones.

Acrosses first then. 1ac an anagram of NEARLY without the last letter of deer; it doesn’t take long to get LEANY (Spencer’s land/lank). 9ac’s energy (E) and life (VITA) leads to the stale/stage play. At 24 TA (volunteers, getting very hackneyed) and K-something rings a bell for a disreputable house leading to TAKEN for punched/pinched.

The only trouble with using the incorrect letters is that some of them stick out like a sore thumb: ‘sing of wagons’, ‘Welter’s shelter’, and ‘one of two shaving’ quickly give S, E, and V. Not that I’m complaining at the moment since I’ve got the thematic clues and a bit of artwork coming up which could take a bit of time for all I know.

The downs also start well, with 1 being LENTI and 3dn, beginning YA, pretty soon yielding YACCA (Y replacing D in DACCA). 11dn is an anagram of IN A O (circle), and NAOI must be the plural of NAOS, but I can’t find it in Chambers, which is strange. Next comes PLAY AT with a theatrical clue, although ‘just for Shaw’ can’t disguise the misprint for ‘show’, and lastly EASED and KRAALS, the K from TAKEN helping to spot ARK as the overturned vessel.

So, not many clues really, but quite a few letters guessed from the misprints. So far I’ve got SEVENTY and MA.IC…T which means we may have 70 or so MAGIC LETTERS, whatever they may be! A quick look at the thematic clues, and a bit of letter randomising gives COMPANION at (i), and Bradford’s helps get VIPER at (a). That’s all I can get, since there are no definitions, and nothing else springs to mind.

[Hands up those who sussed the theme at this point in the game? It shouldn’t have been difficult given the title of the puzzle.]

I manage to fill the grid at about my average Listener pace, not too quick, not too slow. The misprints finally give me DELETE ALL BUT SEVENTY FIVE THEMATIC LETTERS … so much for another MAGIC square puzzle.

I don’t know if you remember my agony over Waterloo’s fiDlEDE, but one of the reasons I used to rationalise not having to make changes to the grid after I completed it was that there was no “solvers should initially use a pencil” warning. And here we are, barely a month later, and there’s no such warning but we are being told to delete half the diagram! I’m assuming therefore that anyone completing their only copy of the diagram in ink is justified in scrawling through the non-thematic letters. What messes did John Green receive?

Anyway, back to the thematic clues, and I don’t know why I didn’t see NAGAsake (Japanese city minus its alcoolic drink) first time round. Hey presto, it looks like all the acrosses are snakes, and the theme finally dawns. Better late than never. So the set 2 themes must be ladders, which should go straight up or diagonally in the grid unlike the wiggly snakes. It doesn’t take long to find them all, but sorting out the clue for STY takes a minute or two (Yeasty in the past this would be frothy with YEA plus STY being frothy).

Unfortunately, adding up the number of letters in the theme words gives 74 of the blighters! It takes about fifteen minutes to spot my mistake: I have ANACONDA ending on the first letter of ASP, which I guess is a no-no, although I don’t see why a snake can’t run into another, enabling you to start your downward journey in two places, a long trip from the top or a shorter one from the middle. Since there’s no reason why a snake cannot go up at some point in its journey, long as it ends up below its starting point (as RACER does), so I’m assuming that ANACONDA uses the A in row 5 to finish. I’ll be mighty sore if this logic is wrong! Oh no, I’m filled with self-doubt again.

All that’s left now is to draw the snakes and ladders. I’m sort of surprised that the non-thematic letters were required to be deleted. It would have made more sense to delete the thematic letters and then draw the snakes and ladders in through the empty squares. According to the preamble, the drawing must distinguish the key features of the grid components. It would be easy just to draw straight lines for the ladders and squiggly lines for the snakes. Luckily, Shirley’s lovely diagrams for her blogs convince me to draw the ladders as double lines with a few rungs, and the snakes as double lines with a tail, mouth and forked tongue. How much (or little) flair is required to fulfil the instruction in the preamble? The solution will no doubt make it clear. Shirley will probably have some fabulous creatures writhing across her diagram.

So, a good puzzle from Dysart that was well-constructed and entertaining despite my little niggle about the misprinted letters. HOWEVER … the clue to 27dn, Duke informally grabs a bottle (that could contain rose drops) leads to PHIAL … A in PHIL!! We may have to wait a few years before the next Dysart puzzle, unless they allow him his copy of Chambers in the Tower of London!

[As an aside, there was a puzzle Snakes and Ladders by Child’s Play in Issue 32 of Magpie.]


One Response to “4059: Dysart’s Child’s Play (or Rubbing Out and Drawing In)”

  1. But, Dave, (re: I don’t see why a snake can’t run into another) how indescribably mean to send the poor kiddie who is playing the game down an anaconda and then down an asp. Even the nasty realistic boards we had as children never inflicted that on us!

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