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Listener 4072: The Isolated Word by Ten-Four

Posted by Gareth Rees on 26 February 2010

The rubric was short and sweet today. “The wordplay in eight clues indicates the answer with an extra letter that is not entered in the grid. These eight letters can be rearranged to form a word that will provide a hint as to how to identify the isolated word (as well as 29 Across, which defines it loosely) that must be entered to complete the puzzle.”

After about an hour I had a full grid, apart from the two thematic entries. I had found seven clues with extra letters in wordplay:

  • 1a “Erratic singular comet’s moving with some spin” ⇒ SOMERSAULTING. Anagram of SINGULAR COMET’S with extra C.
  • 12a “To get to know king? Not at all” ⇒ LEARN. “King” ⇒ LEAR and “Not at all” ⇒ NO, with extra O.
  • 16a “Acted in a leading role—looked hard” ⇒ STARED. “Acted in a leading role” ⇒ STARRED, with extra R.
  • 19a “Eavesdrops on sort of Mediterranean bar?” ⇒ TAPS. “Sort of Mediterranean bar” ⇒ TAPAS, with extra A.
  • 1d “Undisciplined cop’s so lost organ parts!” ⇒ SOLO STOPS. Anagram of COP’S SO LOST with extra C.
  • 14d “Influence young bird (not European)” ⇒ PULL. “Young bird” ⇒ PULLET, with “European” ⇒ E removed, and extra T.
  • 18d “Eating rock dries up small arthropod” ⇒ SEA SLATER. “Rock” ⇒ SLATE inside “dries up” ⇒ SEARS, with extra S.

There were also three clues whose wordplay I didn’t understand:

  • 20a “Twelve, possibly concerned with organs” ⇒ RENAL.
  • 8d “Resulting from the actions of five at a funeral, I give out and take money” ⇒ TELLER.
  • 9d “Saddo, desperate and shown up” ⇒ NERD.

The seven extra letters I found were ACCORST, which could lead to ACCOURTS, ACROSTIC, CAR-COATS, ECTOSARC, or SOCRATIC. Of these, ACROSTIC was the only one that I could imagine being a “hint as to how to identify the isolated word”. That required an extra I somewhere, and indeed the wordplay in 9 down could be explained as “desperate” ⇒ DIRE, “and” ⇒ N, all “shown up”. (20 across is explained as an anagram of 12 across, LEARN. For 8 down we need another sense of TELLER, “one of the strokes made by a church bell ringing a funeral knell”; this is the result of the action of the RINGER from 5 down.)

At this point I spent an embarrassingly long time trying to work out the hint. I noticed that none of the extra letters was in an answer that goes below the isolated word: they are all in clues that start in the top half of the puzzle. So I started looking for hidden words that extended downwards from the isolated word. A point in favour of this idea was that that the word extending down from the tenth letter of the isolated word would have intersected with 29 across and resolved the five-way ambiguity there. The trouble with this idea was that there were far too many possibilities for the words, for example the word descending from the first letter of the isolated word could be CUE, DUE, GUE, HUE, RUE, or SUE.

Then I looked up ACROSTIC in Chambers. It’s “A poem or puzzle in which the first (or last) letters of each line spell a word or sentence”. Of each line. An across-tic. And indeed the initial letters of the clues spelled out EXTRA LETTER FROM CLUE N OCCURS N TIMES IN FINAL GRID.

(I should have paid more attention to the advice given to Shirley Curran by Chris Lancaster: “he invariably quickly scans the opening and closing letters of clues—just in case”. Lesson learned, I hope.)

Anyway, after counting up letters, I found that I was left with the twelve letters AACIOORRSSTT to finish the grid. These spelled ARISTOCRATS, leaving an O for NOBS.


One Response to “Listener 4072: The Isolated Word by Ten-Four”

  1. shirleycurran said

    Of course, the irony is that I didn’t learn my own lesson either! See above! At least you got the hint, while I was trying to ACCRETE things!

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