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Sine Qua Non, by Shackleton, Dit dit dit dah!

Posted by shirleycurran on 16 April 2010

The stripey horse (5) team is still reeling from the shock of Shackleton’s Sine Qua Non – most of all from the shock of having actually completed it!

As each clue resolved itself into a word, we became more and more astonished. TAPERECORDING, for example – Green giving ECO, followed by the last two letters of biRD in TAPERING – Wow! ‘Yankee hosted by queen – Earl shed some tears for her’. We fumbled with RAYLE and RAYNE – both seemed plausible – but opted for RANEE hosting Y and shedding E(arl) to give some Years for the queen (according to Spenser) and giving us a Y misprint. I still wonder how you fellows who claim you ‘whizzed through one of these crosswords while your coffee was cooling’ manage to do it!

Hours of tussling with this really difficult word play led us to an almost complete grid and what seemed like an incomprehensible hint. ‘DOTONESISAN?CLOSSONESTSIDDY’ Yes, it reads like gobbledey gook!

Of course, we needed GROTTY, not GLITTY as the misprint at 36 ac ‘Gritty silica removed from stackyard’. What a superb clue! We remove the ‘sard’ or silica and get ‘tacky’. With that simple little adjustment, the gobbledey gook turned into DOT ONES IS AND CROSS ONES TS and, of course, IDDY UMPTY and the morse code.

Hints indeed, but of what? Mystified, as usual, we gazed at the grid seeing no morse code. Surprisingly, though, I did work out another bit of that fearsome-looking preamble. By a simple process of trial and error, it was obviously the fifth letter of the fifth word of the remaining clues that gave a message: DIAMETRIC EXCHANGES – that was going to come in useful later on – as was FIFTH!

Light years later, when I should have been ironing and weeding, I sorted out that morse message and light dawned. Two questions: MUST IT BE? MUSS ES SEIN? (Isn’t German brilliant – it can use sixteen dots in a row – I wonder whether it is possible to create a phrase that uses even more consecutive dots or dashes – MOM TO TOM-TOM!) As I deciphered it, I decided that it had to be some sort of joke – just a string of dots. But then it all fitted together.  Or almost!

Ludwig Van Beethoven, Muss es sein? Ja, es muss sein. His initials were clearly there in LiVeBox producing an initial representation of the questioner, but that seemed somewhat tenuous. He was speaking of that exultant final movement, so I opted for the PAEON as my element, deciding that IT was the penultimate element of the first question. There were a few ITs in the grid and TItanium is one element. Lots more fruitless fumbling. Then the next breakthrough. Suppose the letter B was an element! (Repeat after me: READ THE PREAMBLE MORE CAREFULLY!) Four letters in the morse code share the elements of dot dot dot dash – L V B and F – and, of course, the F and the MAJOR of A MAJORI produced the key.

Next red herring. There was a fine word hidden at 9d EADOT – that gives ‘dot, dot dash dot’. Could that be what needed to be diametrically exchanged for the final highlighting? But no! It’s the PAEON, the victory theme of the FIFTH.

I look up the word in Chambers – just to be sure and DIT DIT DIT DAH, what do I find? Two definitions! ‘A song of praise, thanksgiving or triumph, exultation’ and ‘a foot of four syllables, any one long and three short’! This is too good to be true!

And what a wonderful resolution PAEON produced when diametrically exchanged! I was reminded of Kea’s fabulous resolution of last year’s  ‘Admission’ when real words appeared at all the entries, including those for the new key of C MINOR.

This was a spectacular crossword wasn’t it? What a wonderful feeling of achievement to have reached the end after all that astonishing information packed into one small grid!

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