Listen With Others

Be My Guest by Mr E. Contesseration

Posted by shirleycurran on 22 January 2010

Namey Namey becomes Mr E's soulmate

There was a fair chance that this was going to be a blogless week for the Easy-clues-stripey-horse-Z???? (5) team. Did I hear a groan of relief from the experts who despair of our floundering bungled solves? After the usual hours of desperate staring at Mr E’s odd grid with the blank corner square, our early solutions took us nowhere.

Why? Clearly, since clues were going to yield words that were sometimes longer than the number of cells, and ‘two letters separated by a diagonal line must therefore be entered in some cell’ (did he mean cells? Was this a Listener misprint?) we had to spot across and down clues that shared a couple of letters. ASPIDISTRA and DISEMBARK seemed to be a fine pair of culprits and a few other pairs appeared – and we had dug ourselves into a fine hole.
Obviously we were on the fast track to failure.  The south-east corner of the grid filled easily with straight-forward clues like ‘Purple (coat) missing in inn’ (AUBERGE). (For once, our other language didn’t work against us.) ‘Who will bother the queen about measure by (eastern) prince’ PESTERER , INVITEE, ORDINEE, TOGETHER  and FUGIE but nothing would fit around our slashed cells.

Expert solvers will probably find it impossible to believe that we could be so blind to the obvious. It took our wise friend to prompt us to read the preamble more carefully. (New Year resolution stuck on the mirror READ THE LISTENER PREAMBLE MORE CAREFULLY!) Of course, there was a reason for those details, ‘both letters in a double cell from part of both the across and down answers intersecting at that cell, when read in the encountered order‘ So that was why the line had to be diagonal! As soon as we understood that the letters were read in one order for the down clues and the other for the across clues, the grid-fill became easy.

CONTESSERATION emerged in a lovely upward-slanting line of double cells – ah, the joys of ignorance – Chambers explained that and all was clear. Even the message emerged, ‘Cut it out, cut it in Y, keep Y, enclose Y with your name on it’. With backward easy-clues team logic, we understood that our missing solution at 2d ‘Without a bit of stealth, like criminals raised imperfectly’ (4) had to be HALF and the wordplay was explained to us – FLASH (slang for criminal) upwards, without S (a bit of stealth).

This was not the only wordplay that confounded us. What had Hurok to do with the SUNGOD in ‘Maybe Sol Hurok clebrated with force’, (except, of course, that we needed its H)? We recognised that we were dealing with a TIGON because the word fitted but failed to see that subtle wordplay where AN and English went round it to give us the tragedy ANTIGONE, and we still cannot understand how we get CLIO as the ‘Goddess caught mother of 10 cutting head off’ (eldest). It seems to us that we have to cut the tail off a LION to get the LIO of CLIO. (More cruelty to animals, just like last week’s miserable little stoned wrens!)

At one stage Mr Math muttered, ‘If Mr E really wants to contesserate with lots of new friends, he should make his clues easier!

We dabbled with the idea of cutting the entire grid in half diagonally and sending a queer triangle of words, but, in the end, neatly chopped out that tessera and are carefully looking after Mr E’s part. After last week’s birds and this week’s holey grid, we are fearful of what lies in store next week. Thank you, Mr E, for what, in the end, was a very rewarding solve.