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Listener 4077: Forced Entry by Mr Lemon

Posted by Gareth Rees on 2 April 2010

Today, the rubric gave only an explicit entry method, with no other requirements: nothing to highlight, no quotation to discover, no penny to drop. “The wordplay in every clue indicates the answer with an extra letter that is not entered in the grid. That extra letter must be added to or subtracted from one letter of the answer (A = 1 or 27, B = 2 or 28, etc) to produce the grid entry, always giving a word or personal name; the change never takes place in an unchecked cell.”

The instructions said “A = 1 or 27” but significantly not −25, so it looked as though I would never be required to subtract a larger letter from a smaller (this turned out to be the case). I wrote a short program to do the additions and subtractions and dictionary lookups:

dictionary = set(map(lambda x:x.rstrip(),

def all_entries(answer, extra):
    a = ord('a') - 1
    for i in range(len(answer)):
        for j in [-1, +1]:
            adj = ord(answer[i]) - a + (ord(extra) - a) * j
            if adj <= 0:
            elif 26 < adj:
                adj -= 26
            yield answer[:i] + chr(adj + a) + answer[i + 1:]

def dictionary_entries(answer, extra):
    return sorted(set(all_entries(answer, extra)) & dictionary)

It was tough going, because the intersecting letters didn’t give much help, as I always had to bear in mind that they could have been wrong. And that meant the issue remained in doubt until the very end, because even with only one unchecked cell to fill, the final entry was still a challenge: it was very hard to see from the letters BOS_ that the wordplay might involve “Governor” ⇒ BAN.

There were a few cases where there were alternative possibilities for the entry (for example, 31d was MERE with extra D, so could be entered as MARE, MENE, MERI, MEVE, or MIRE), but they were all resolved by the intersecting words. The only clue where I’m still not certain about the wordplay is 13a.

If I have one small criticism of the puzzle it’s that the grid contained a high proportion (nearly 30%) of entries ending with S.

No Clue Answer Wordplay Extra Entry
1a Report of native’s sow going down in the west SUNSET Homophone of SON’S ELT L SUBSET
5a Paste dried stalks onto ship STRASS STRAW SS W STRAPS
10a May on round trip that’s dreamy MOONY Anagram of MAY ON O A LOONY
12a Stop fifty in mountain pass HALT L in GHAT G HAET or HAST
13a Playwright’s bow to people of fashion? ORTON Perhaps YO, RT ON? Y ORSON
14a A soldier boy, one of Daphne’s family AGILA A GI LAD D AGILE
15a By place for judo, priest stumbled dropping his one bit of bread DOORSTEP DOJO + anagram of PR[i]EST J DOORSTOP
17a Truant playing roque with chairman MOUCHER Anagram of ROQUE CHM Q MOUTHER
19a Power to exchange locally returned fruit PEPO P + COPE reversed C PESO
20a A clan’s sabotaged the drains NALAS Anagram of A CLAN’S C NAIAS
21a Dan set off for appointments DATES Anagram of DAN SET N DOTES or RATES
22a Associates sacking Dutch cooks FRIES FRIEN[d]S N TRIES
25a How dot can show island near Bikini WOTHO (courtesy of Wikipedia) Anagram of HOW DOT D SOTHO
27a Aspires to get flavour in beer HOPS HOPES E COPS or MOPS
28a Find fault with dull fruit IMPEACH DIM PEACH D EMPEACH
29a Comic verse from determined relative DOGGEREL DOGGED REL D HOGGEREL
32a Helen’s flourishing radiance SHEEN Anagram of HELEN’S L STEEN
33a Rustic’s to tolerate clever Arab ABEAR ABLE AR L ANEAR
34a Softly touch skin PEEL P FEEL F PEER
35a Vehicles with carbon components CARTS C PARTS P CARDS
36a People including alcoholic drink as provisions BOARDS BODS around JAR J BEARDS
37a Old Italian punch enhances function SABINE JAB in SINE J SALINE
1d Funeral music, possibly a hit in most of fashionable church SLOW MARCH BLOW in SMAR[t] CH B SLOW MATCH
2d Governor has quiet party BASH BAN SH N BOSH or PASH
3d Tax Yorkshireman’s dogs SCOTTIES SCOT TIKE’S K SNOTTIES
4d Pulses in a variety of bortsch THROBS Anagram of BORTSCH C THROES
5d Prudent people work hard to shed fifty juniors SAVERS S[l]AVE JRS J CAVERS or SAVORS
6d Supporter eats dread nouveau sweet PEAR DROP PROP around anagram of DREAD D TEARDROP
7d Reword Edward’s early poem EDIT ED DIT D ADIT
8d Threadlike wire for storing correspondence about baseless hoax FILOSE FILE around JOS[h] J PILOSE
9d Bread in Uzbekistan—filthy mush! SUM Anagram of MUSH H SUE
11d Deck bereaved with cut branches ORLOP ORB, LOP B ORLON
16d Inn cooked chops with suet and a pinch of oregano POSTHOUSE Anagram of CHOPS SUET O C POSTHORSE
18d Attached quick knot round middle of sheet FASTENED FAST + BEND around E B HASTENED
19d Physical one replaced by state is motherly MATERNAL MATERIAL with I replaced by NC (North Carolina) C PATERNAL
23d Waste time with base measurement taken backwards FOOTLE FOOT, ELL reversed L ROOTLE
24d Official clergyman returned equipment VERGER REV reversed, GEAR A VERGES
25d Female’s grabbing attention—strips SHEARS SHE’S around EAR E SMEARS
26d After a month Henry is relating to eight OCTAL OCT HAL H OCTAD
30d Tribe beginning to tolerate toff GENT GENS T S GENA
31d Maine’s red lake MERE ME RED D MARE, MENE, MERI, MEVE, or MIRE
32d Acquire black nut COB COP B P COR or SOB

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