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Listener 4090: Refrain by Dysart (or I Land Treasure)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 2 July 2010

I think this is Dysart’s fifth Listener, his last being Child’s Play in November, with its snakes and ladders theme. A fairly long preamble this week, specifying extra letters in the wordplay, eight clashing squares, a meandering trail to be highlighted and a transmutation. Sounds straightforward!

Listener 4090-a

My initial troll through the clues, although marginally better last week, reveals a less than stunning 9½, the ½ being IN S···· at 8dn which is INS(T) plus something. Going back to the top of the grid, I get IN GEAR, DREARILY, GHIS and finally IN SOOTH at 8dn. Half of 20 presumably refers to 20dn which therefore probably begins THOO* or HOOT*, and I soon get HOOT-TOOT.

17ac is the sort of clue that makes extra letters in the wordplay quite tricky: Continued west leaving town (4). ..O. means that the town is almost certainly ETON, but working back to satisfy the wordplay can be awkward. Here it’s not too bad: putting in a W (the opposite of west leaving) gives WETON, and adding the extra letter gives WENT ON. This is a pretty simple example, but quite often the brain needs to make more of a jump to get from definition to wordplay. Another example is 31ac Track from early film, one becoming classic finally (5); SCENT is the track, I (one) has become C, and SIENT has had an L added to give SILENT for the early film.

1dn nearly has me off on a false trail. I have LO·G·O·N··L··· and since the preamble mentions song, I initially think it’s LONG JOHN BALDRY, a singer from the 60s who, Wikipedia reminds me, had a number 1 hit with Let the Heartaches Begin. I solve 31ac SCENT and 1dn is corrected to LONG JOHN SILVER. Aaaar, Jim lad!!

The rest of the puzzle is by no means easy. The last five clues I get are CRAB TREE, NARCOTIST, ASCENT, C CLEF (so much for hidden answers being simple!) and ST ANTHONY’S FIRE, which took an age to unravel. Most of these are tricky because they involve clashing letters. My favourite clue of the puzzle is 22ac Sun’s out, bird’s beginning to tweet, cat’s not roused which has a great surface reading with cat referring to the (orig of Jazz) information given by Chambers; the clue to LYNCHED is a close second.

The extra letters in the wordplay of clues gives (once I correct that in 4dn which I thought was A GRAN(D) with an extra N, but is in fact A GREA(T) with an extra E): DRINK AND THE DEVIL HAD DONE FOR THE REST TREASURE ISLAND. I’m afraid that Google leads me to DERELICT before I see that choosing one of the clashes in a satisfactory manner leads to real words in both directions. It seems a bit odd to have the alternative title as an optional entry, after all, 7ac/7dn can be either GHIS/G CLEF or CHIS/C CLEF, and DERELICT needs to be discovered to be certain that it is not the C that is used. I know that entering C would result in there being two routes for the meandering line in that part of the grid, but being faced with that would be a bit worrying I suspect.

The preceeding lines of the song can now be made out in the grid: FIFTEEN MEN ON THE DEAD MAN’S CHEST, YO HO HO AND A (bottle of rum). I must say that ‘meandering’ doesn’t come close to describing how tortuous and wiggly the line is!

Listener 4090-b

Now for the final simple step, the transmutation. Well … it took me bloody ages!! The preamble says that a transmutation ‘takes place at the end of the trail’. So I start looking for something to change. BOOTY is there, for example, but what could that change to. A transmutation is normally the changing of one precious metal into another, but that would probably be of use to LJS and I couldn’t see anything anyway. I can see B·OTT··RU· as if BOTTLE OF RUM is trying to get out. I trace out the meandering line to see if that gives anything and it does look a bit like LJS’s profile but nothing more than that.

I have a horrible sinking feeling in my stomach as it is now the Monday before the closing date. Don’t ask me how I saw it, or even why I hadn’t seen it before, but there’s LEFT BOOT which is useless to LJS and his missing left leg (yes, all the drawings and photos show that was the one he lacked), and it is of course an anagram of BOTTLE OF, ie RUM! If only the preamble had stated that the transmutation ‘has taken place at the end of the trail’.

So thanks a lot, Dysart, for a grand puzzle. I got the treasure in the end, although I could have done without the mild panic I had when I thought I was heading for my first blob of the year.

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One Response to “Listener 4090: Refrain by Dysart (or I Land Treasure)”

  1. shirley curran said

    Yet I see that the solution on the website has the title DERELICT written in below – so clearly we were not being instructed to ‘Refrain’ (in Radix ‘double cross’ style).

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