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The Isolated Word by Ten-Four

Posted by shirleycurran on 26 Feb 2010

A couple of weeks ago, I was boasting that we had learned (from Samuel) what a good idea it is to scan the beginning and ends of clues for a few seconds before beginning to solve. How I kicked myself when ACROSTIC finally appeared as a compilation of those misprints to give the instruction: EXTRA LETTER FROM CLUE N OCCURS N TIMES IN FINAL GRID – and even then, the Stripey Horse (5) Z???A team didn’t immediately understand that we had to count the number of times that each of those letters occurred in the grid, in order to discover that we were looking for an anagram of ICORRAATTSS that meant NEBS, NYBS, NABS, NUBS, NIBS or NOBS.

Indeed, for our developing skills, the grid fill was straight-forward, especially as we quickly found TAUNEUTRINO, ORIENTEERED, SOMERSAULTING, ANOPLURA and STREETSWEEPER but the extra letter produced by the wordplay is invariably a problem for us. Take this week’s stinkiest red herring. ‘Saddo, desperate and shown up (4)’  Well, we have the NER already, so it has to be NERD. Hmm, the wordplay. D – that must be the Desperate, so REN will have to be ‘shown up’ – and Eureka, it is! Chambers gives REN as an obsolete version of RUN and we all know that run (a film, for example) is shown. Needless to say, we missed the ‘I’ that should have appeared as the extra letter in D(I)RE with ‘N for ‘and’.

We are quite proud of having acquired a number of Listener regulars, like NE for NOT. Thus ‘To get to know king? Not at all!’ gave us an extra E (At all? We wondered about those two words). Suffice it so say that our initial set of eight words didn’t produce ACROSTIC. We had ACCRETES and attempting to ‘accrete’ the stubs of down words took us nowhere.

As usual, we were wisely advised to think again. When we, at last, understood that simply counting the appearance of those ACROSTIC letters in the grid, with the clever touch that the C appeared in both 1 across and 1 down, and thus only once in our final word, we were not so much niggled by the fiddly task as surprised at the ingenuity of the setting. I am certainly not alone in wondering how Ten-Four went about making sure the clue numbers corresponded with the number of times the letter appeared, with the addition of his hidden ARISTOCRATS and NOBS.

I do hope we get a setter’s blog on this one. I hope, too, that Denis will explain the wordplay of ERRORS 4d, UTOPIA 7d, and TELLER 8d (that is, assuming that those are correct! With three almost consecutive wordplay problems, I realize that alarm bells should be ringing!)

Thank you Ten-Four. Do, please give us a setter’s blog!

6 Responses to “The Isolated Word by Ten-Four”

  1. Denis Martin said


    In 4D I had ogres (for example) = TERRORS

    7D universal = U, best = TOP, island = I, anywhere – number one indicates the first letter of anywhere (A). The clue is ‘& lit’.

    8D five = 5D = RINGER and one definition of ‘teller’ is one of the strokes made by a church bell ringing a funeral knell.

  2. I am certainly not alone in wondering how Ten-Four went about making sure the clue numbers corresponded with the number of times the letter appeared

    I think the construction was probably straightforward, because you could do it like this:

    1. Fill the grid.
    2. Count the number of times each letter in ACROSTIC appears.
    3. Check that each of these letters occurs a different number of times (if not, try another fill).
    4. Write the clues, making sure to add the extra letters to the wordplay of the appropriate clues.

  3. shirleycurran said

    Thank you Denis and Gareth.

  4. James Hastie said

    You can have a setter’s blog, Shirley, but only if you tell me how to do it!

    Glad you enjoyed the puzzle, I have to say that I think your handwriting is beautiful 🙂


    James Hastie (aka Ten-Four)

  5. Hi James. If you’re serious about writing a setter’s blog (and I too would be interested to read it) then the best thing to do is to e-mail Dave Hennings at Dave administers this blog, and he can set you up with an LWO account so you can submit your own posts.

    If you’d prefer someone else to post on your behalf, you’d can e-mail your text to me at and I’d be happy to post it for you.

  6. erwinch said

    I thought this an interesting and novel concept for a puzzle but let down by the largely elementary vocabulary used with straightforward clues. 1, 2, 3, 4, & 5dn were all solved within a minute, or so it seemed. Perhaps thematic constraints were an influence here.

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