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Listener 4102: Something’s Brewing by Poat (or Is That Why the Pope Came to Visit?)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 24 September 2010

Poat’s last Listener was 4048, Rules of Construction which came close to tripping me up, and before that came 3983, Reappearance … which did! Consequently I didn’t really know what to expect here, but was reasonably sure that the puzzle would be pretty tough. One entry in each column was of the Letters Latent type, and six across clues didn’t have a definition and needed to be encoded before entry. At least it wasn’t a Playfair encoding, which I sometimes find to be a bit of a struggle. Also, there was no mention of what to do with the dropped letters in the down entries, but I was sure they’d turn out to mean something.

Listener 4102The men-only gathering at 1ac should have been either STAG NIGHT or STAG WEEKEND, but neither seemed to work. However, an early visit to Chambers gave STAG PARTY (I’m sure I’ve never been to one of those!), leading to STAGY as the entry. 10ac looked like it might be one lacking a definition with ‘Manipulation’ losing an A and gaining an E. I was just about to move on to 11ac when ‘massage’ popped into my head and MESSAGE was the answer. The car thief at 12ac was ‘twoccer’ (I came across that for the first time relatively recently) leading to TWOER when CC is removed. A good start on the acrosses … but then that was it, apart from ‘widow-maker’ LEHAR at 35ac. The downs were slightly more forgiving: 2dn THAWY (but LL), 4dn GREBO, 5dn GOLFERS (I’d have been ashamed if I hadn’t got that), 28dn OBOES, and EARTHS at 31dn.

Two other undefined theme entries were next to be solved: 13ac LETTER (‘setter’ with the initial S changed to L), and 25ac EPISTLE with a jumble of SPILT (not TEARS) in the middle of EE. So it looked as though the themed entries were types of correspondence, and because of the coding scheme, it meant that, for example, R for S in 12ac could be used in 25ac EPISTLE as well (and eventually in MISSIVE and DISPATCH), a sort of free gift.

The rest of the puzzle provided a few problem clues: 5ac had nothing to do with vegetable gardens, but just gardens, with (MAY)ORS around CHARD; ‘do as Dawkins’ really was ATHEISE; 8dn was DUMFOUNDS, not DUMBFOUNDS which I tentatively had to start with (entered as DMBFONDS); and ILL SEEN wasn’t to be found under ‘ill’, but under ‘see … and not under ‘ill seen’, but as an aside to ‘well seen’ under W!! I suppose that can be forgiven by 22ac Tell scorer to cover cross in international? The reverse for ROSSINI!

The keyword gradually got worked out to be BUNGHOLE, which rang a few bells, but not loudly enough to get the final component provided by the dropped letters latent. These initially spelt out ABGOOTNNLBIPT, but, remembering the preamble and its one letter per column, it didn’t take long to put the letters underneath. Voilà … BABINGTON PLOT, the attempt by the Catholics to overthrow Elizabeth I during which the correspondence between the plotters was put in the bunghole of beer kegs by a local brewer … hence the puzzle’s title.

Someone recently commented on the Crossword Centre Mesage Board that one of the reasons he doesn’t make ‘silly’ errors with his submissions is that he can spend up to an hour checking (and rechecking) his final grid. Luckily I’ve started spending more time on this, probably 30 minutes or so, and on this occasion I found that I’d coded the third letter of 39ac the wrong way, and had GATMBSNE instead of GARMBSNE. A lucky escape!

So, another good puzzle from Poat, with only a self-inflicted trip-up nearly catching me out this time (as far as I know).

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