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Some Assembly Required by Mr E

Posted by shirleycurran on 13 August 2010

I am feeling like a very small numpty indeed compared with the intellectual giant that Mr E must be. I have been attempting to work out how he compiled Some Assembly Required. Three four-letter clues had to be normal but composed of twelve of the twenty-six letters of the alphabet. Their twelve letters (HIVE, ZARF, ONUS) had to correspond with the extra letters produced by the wordplay of twelve clues. Those clues had to contain extra words that, read in, for example, ZARF order, gave ‘Grandma’s tiramisu uses wine’ – a clue for ASTI, one of the seven unclued lights. (So Mr E confirms my suspicion that there really is an oenophiliac requirement for Listener compilers!)

ONUS gave ‘Each expert’s holding prize’ (a clue for APIECE), and HIVE gave us ‘Mistakenly cite Hopi tongue’ (the clue for ETHIOPIC), leaving us with four ‘potential’ words to sort out, ILLUSTRATEDS, ROSETTA, PACKMAW and LADYBUG and twelve extra letters still to place (J,Q,T and X). We could eliminate ILLUSTRATEDS and ROSETTA at once, as they both contained checked double letters, so our culprits were L?DYB?G and P?CKM?W, and, of course, they produced just what we needed – a clue for ILLUSTRATEDS, ‘Our people started rioting after hurtful publications’ and a clue for ROSETTA, ‘African city grew up by dry area’.

Dazzlingly brilliant but where did Mr E start in the compilation? My mind simply can’t get round it. (It would be great if he honoured us with a setter’s blog!) What an injustice that a crossword compiler earns peanuts for compiling this sort of astonishing work of genius when a mindless adolescent can earn millions cavorting on a stage or kicking a ball around.

However did we solve it? The clues were superb, weren’t they? I was especially taken with the one for WALNUT (‘What could make Queen Anne cabinet reverse [hurtful] old fine’ – producing UNLAW reversed and the necessary extra letter T). The normal clues filled the grid fairly quickly and, about an hour into our solve, those telltale extra letters Z and Q turned up, (in QUIEN SABE and KRANTZ) prompting us that the extra letters were panalphabetical. Soon, we had only the unclued lights to sort out.

Doesn’t this sound easy? Of course the numpties faced problems. I had realized that the twelve letters of the normally clued answers and the words L?DYB?G and P?CKM?Q gave all of the alphabet except JQT and X, but, for nearly twenty-four hours, simply compiled random clues for the unclued lights, not recognizing the letter-to-word link (which, of course, had to be there; no doubt seasoned solvers saw it instantly) –  a real head-scratcher. For example ETHIOPIAN, in my bungling, had ‘Mistakenly Hopi cite African tongue’. Allocating all the extra words seemed to be an impossible task and there was no way to know how to place the JQX and T.

What a relief when it was finally resolved and the twenty-six extra words neatly slotted into clues! I thought Mr E’s Some Assembly Required was outstanding! I have never solved anything like it.

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3 Responses to “Some Assembly Required by Mr E”

  1. erwinch said

    Yes, an excellent puzzle but there seemed to be several superfluous words in some clues.  My five additional clues were:

    1. [ONUS] Each expert’s about prize apiece – PIE in ACE
    2. [ZARF] Grandma’s tiramisu uses wine Asti – Hidden
    3. [HIVE] Mistakenly cite Hopi tongue Ethiopic – CITE HOPI (anag)
    4. [PJCKMQW] African city grew up getting into dry area Rosetta – ROSE + TT + A
    5. [LXDYBTG] Our people started rioting after hurtful publications illustrateds ILL + US + STARTED (mixed)

    But this leaves some odd clues: for example, I don’t know what among is doing in 34ac and after in 4dn.  Accommodating in 35ac also seems superfluous but I don’t like to be too critical of a puzzle that I found to be highly unusual and the most challenging Listener for quite some time.

  2. Erwin
    The three words you mention all show where the replaced letter goes: R among FEED MAN, D after anag of BELEM TEAMS I, and YES accommodating X (reversed).
    Like you, I found it quite challenging, not to mention great fun, as you’ll see in my blog when it appears at 5pm (it should have been 4!).
    Dave.

  3. Jake said

    This was a fantastic crossword. By far the best Listener – though still being new – that I have come across. There were lots of levels here, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I can’t say what my favorite clue was because there were too many, and then the decoding! Highly recommended to any crossword fan.

    I was unsure about 23d. Why Chambers says ‘a patch of grass in a forest’. But it was Gladys (Knights) which was the solution indicator. Lots of PDM’s

    Thanks for the blog.

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