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Listener 4069: Conversion by Samuel

Posted by Gareth Rees on 5 February 2010

“All answers must be amended prior to entry.” It’s the kind of rubric that sends a shiver down my spine: misprints (but only in some of the clues), answers to be amended, and mysterious references to “professions”, a “workplace”, and multiple “conversions”. But these things usually become clear in the end, so let’s get started.

27a Feel upset confining female sailor allowing relation in wards ⇒ EFFABLE (misprint O)

These two would intersect if EFFABLE were amended (e.g. by jumbling or by rotation to the right by one or two letters) so that one of the “F”s was in the fourth cell.

21d Tamed canine, deeply disturbed ⇒ YCLEPED (misprint N)

ASSET intersects with the first letters of SEBAT and SEASHORE, but only if the two letters “S” are in the third and fourth cells. Let’s suppose that every across answer is rotated by one cell to the right, so that its last letter moves to the front. That would make 5 across, “Bowled out for 7, Boycott’s ruptured earholes?” O_ _C_ _ _ _. I don’t fully understand the clue but it seems to be an anagram of BOYCOTT with B (“bowled”) replaced by something clued by “7”. Maybe a reference to 7 down? Anyway, the definition must be “earholes”, so maybe it’s OTECTOMY, with the question mark indicating a punning definition (the holes are the ones left by the removal of the ears).

Let’s fill in what I’ve got so far, assuming that down answers are amended by deleting one letter. See right.

4d See Tory base reeling having lost tense, ugly election perhaps ⇒ EYESORE (misprint R)
25d Polite strike is broken by a drunken sot ⇒ PEASTONE (misprint O)
44a Desirable bachelor lost out relaying to the stars ⇒ SIDEREAL (misprint T)
12d Nurse king, perhaps, caputured by dyed-in-the-wool Afghans ⇒ OLAF (misprint O)
23d Every diamond’s a sham ⇒ ALLICE (misprint D)
32d Spicy plant hoards he leaves for you in Paris ⇒ CACTUS (misprint K)
39a Showing revolution is all over in France ⇒ STOUT (misprint S)
41a Little Larry’s more sexually attractive naked ⇒ UTE (misprint O)
35d Letter’s eaten by that old bear’s head ⇒ YEST (misprint E)

So far, all the down answers that I’ve been able to enter have had their second letter removed. Also, I have across misprints *O*DS*O*T* and down misprints *R*O*NDO*KE. The across misprints could start SECOND. Is it SECONDS OUT ROUND OKE? That can’t be right! The misprint at 32 down must be N: a cactus is a “spiny plant”, not a “spiky plant”. So the misprints spell SECONDS OUT ROUND ONE. The subject of the crossword must be a boxer (maybe ALI that I can already see at 23 down?), and his “workplace” mentioned in the rubric must be the boxing ring.

So I’m instructed to take SECONDS OUT of the down clues, and move the across clues ROUND ONE. Let’s apply the instructions to everything I’ve got so far. See right.

43a UPON
10a T-BAR
16d Student chased by onion seller, initially he wallows in regret ⇒ RUSHEE (misprint U)
11a Lame deer gets in for the onset of estrus ⇒ ILK (misprint S)

7 down is OUTCASTE and 5 down is ST KITTS, but neither fits. It must the case that OTECTOMY is wrong, which is a relief because I didn’t understand how the clue works. Aha, “7” clues the obscure Roman numeral S, and the answer must be OTOCYSTS. This word is missing from the 2003 edition of The Chambers Dictionary. (FAT FARM too.) Maybe it’s time to buy the 2008 edition?

13a I start to see conveyance returning from trek ⇒ CASSIA (misprint E)
14a Bank owners without a pound must be targets for firing ⇒ CLAYS

I don’t fully understand either of these. In 13 across, it looks as though I’m supposed to reverse “I”, “start to see” = S, “conveyance” = SAC, but where does the A come from? In 14 across, the definition is “targets for firing”, i.e. CLAYS in the sense of “clay pigeons”. But the rest? Either “bank owners” = CAYS and “without a pound” means “around L” or else “bank owners” is something like CALLAYS from which “a pound” = AL has been removed. But neither possibility seems right.

Nonetheless, both of these answers must be right because they reveal CASSIUS CLAY across the middle of row 3. And there appears to be a BATTERFLY in column 3—indeed much of Ali’s famous quote FLOAT LIKE A BUTTERFLY, STING LIKE A BEE can now be seen going anticlockwise in a square, with a couple of errors where it intersects with CASSIUS CLAY. I guess we’re going to end up fixing those errors in the final step of the puzzle.

22a Sexy rector’s inside with a lot of berks ⇒ STREAMY (misprint C)
12a ADO

15 down is FOREMAN. Here is one of the “professions that was found wanting”. The other must be COOPER, and sure enough, it slots in at 40 across.

29a When queen gets out, special tail section tilts ⇒ STAINS (misprint N)
42a I am on the trail of river otter band ⇒ RIM (misprint U)

In 30 down, ‘divers?’ (even with a question mark) seems a very weak definition for such an obscure word.

Now the grid is complete, what about the final step?

The rubric says, “On locating the subject of the puzzle in the grid, solvers must carry out a conversion (the source of which was itself a conversion). This completes, in the shape of the subject’s place of work, a thematic quotation that must be highlighted.”

So what do I do? A further application of ROUND ONE to CLAY would get the L into the right place, but it looks as though I would need to apply ROUND THREE to CASSIUS to get the U into place, and there’s no justification for this. Maybe I need to apply the instruction SECONDS OUT in a different way, by removing the letters “S” from CASSIUS CLAY before rotating. That doesn’t work either.

Maybe I need to pay attention to the repetition of the word “conversion”? Cassius Clay was a convert to Islam, and when he converted, he famously converted his name to MUHAMMAD ALI.


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