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Listener 4098: Schadenfreude’s Language Balancing (or A Cog in the Machine)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 27 August 2010

Although Schadenfreude has an Inquisitor puzzle every month or two, his Listener visits (once or twice a year) are something to look forwrad to. His last (4060, BAT) revealed his PIN number, and the one before (4034, Overhead Reduction) was based on the phrase “cutting out the middle man”. In Language Balancing, one letter or word has to be removed from each clue to spell out the definition of a phrase. Schadenfreude (as Oxymoron) has used this letter/word technique at least once before (EV 910, All the Initials), and I seem to remember it was great fun. Once the grid is complete, there will be some empty cells which will need filling.

I started off quickly, with the river EBRO at 7ac (Clive becoming Live in the clue), followed by STRESS at 16ac, with the letter M being dropped. Don’t ask me how I got COMIC at 22ac! Bunty for Bounty seemed the only possible word that could lose a letter, and the comic for girls was the obvious reference, confirmed by the wordplay IC after COM (for commerce). (I must stress that I was a Dandy and Beano boy!) Here we also had our first answer that doesn’t fill its length, and COSMIC seems to be very likely for its entry.

No more acrosses made themselves known, and I wondered whether I should give the clues more of a chance on my first pass through; normally it’s only 20 or 30 seconds. Anyway, next is 4dn SIRS, with the last R dropped from ruler, and then PATINA at 6dn (with my first word to be dropped, ME). Both these were just one short of their entry length, so it didn’t look as though there would be too much empty space at the end. A few more clues finally got solved, and most were in the top half of the grid, so that is where I concentrated my efforts over the next hour or so.

I decided to look more closely at the entries that were likely to have empty cells: SHAM.ERS/S.IRS, AR.KS and P.ATINA. SHAMMERS/SMIRS, ARAKS and PLATINA seemed to be the main (if not only) candidates, and reading left to right, I got MAL. MALTESE FALCON or MALTESE CROSS perhaps. I also had MECHANISM being spelt out by the dropped elements of the acrosses, and MOVEMENT in the downs. A quick check in Chambers revealed a Maltese cross to be (apart from the medal) the “mechanism providing intermittent frame-by-frame movement in a motion picture film projector”. It didn’t take much more studying of my grid at this point to realise that the letters added to the grid to make new words, when connected as required by the preamble, gave the shape of the medal itself. A very pleasing result.

Sadly, all this meant that the clues could be corrected and the rest of the puzzle (ie the bottom half) solved reasonably quickly … probably about 2½ hours all told. However, they were some good clues on the way, and HOWFFS transforming into SHOW-OFFS was a delight. All in all, a fine puzzle by one of the masters.

Not uncommonly, I also got nicely distracted when I solved 1ac ALDIS LAMP, with a nice little foray into the world of Monty Python. Remember The Semaphore Version of Wuthering Heights and Julius Caesar on an Aldis Lamp?!

Finally, here’s a picture I found of the mechanical type of Maltese Cross on Wikipedia.


2 Responses to “Listener 4098: Schadenfreude’s Language Balancing (or A Cog in the Machine)”

  1. shirley curran said

    Yes, indeed – who could resist commenting on that brilliant HOWFFS clue – the SHOW-OFFS!

  2. bb said

    I always preferred “Gunfight at the OK Corral in Morse Code.”

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