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Listener 4103: Annual Turnover by Ragtag (or What the *******!)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 1 October 2010

I was just about to write “A first-timer this week …”, but a quick check at The Listener Crossword site reveals it to be his/her second. The first was back in 1987! So welcome back Ragtag.

The preamble begins “Solvers are advised to use a pencil …”. Now I’d like to know if there’s anybody out there who starts off by using a pin pen. If so, I’d like to meet you … armed with your trusty bottle of Tipp-Ex!

Anyway, back to the pencil in hand, and I’m off to a good start with 1ac DEPOSE, 5ac STARTLE, 16ac RETALIATE and 20ac SHED, all of which I assiduously enter in pencil. I solve three more acrosses in the first pass, including an extra E in the wordplay at 49. The down clues turn out to be quite kind as well, starting with 3 PIN-UP, 6 TEA SHOP and 10 EGESTA, the last giving the first letter clash with SHED. However, 17dn IDLE also clashes at SHED. Could it be that SHED is entered in reverse rather than contributing to one of the seven clashes?

Revisiting 8dn and 9dn, I get TWAE and LATHERED, which means that ADAGE is probably entered in reverse as well and, I’m guessing, the down entries are to be entered normally. Next comes 30dn HERSELF, 45ac TIERS (reversed), and 48ac LEVEAN (also reversed). It seems that every alternate row is reversed and it then dawns on me … BOUSTROPHEDON. If only all Listeners could reveal themselves with such quick manifestations, except that would take a lot of the fun out of them I suppose. Not that I’m being critical of Ragtime here; it’s nice to have a relatively easy week every now and then. Not that I’ve finished this one yet. It may have a trap in its final stages.

Listener 4103 Solution Corrected

Listener 4103 Solution ... Corrected!

The puzzle is nearly solved, and I have CHALESSWAIN as the extra wordplay letters, so there’s another one lurking. I try CHAPLESS WAIN, which sounds as though it could have something to do with our agricultural theme! Perhaps CHARLES SWAIN was the inventor of the combine harvester! I google him, only to be told that CHARLES’S WAIN is another name for the plough in some parts of England. It takes only a couple of minutes to track down the missing R at 24ac which I had sloppily solved as ELAPSE without the final E, instead of RELAPSE without the final E and an extra R.

Lastly, the letters in the seven clashing squares must be replaced by an appropriate symbol. It is fairly obvious that they are in the shape of Ursa Major, so my initial thought is that a star is required. However, the paranoid part of my brain wonders if there is something more symbolic of the plough, but nothing seems obvious. I know that on star charts in The Times monthly Night Sky article, the stars are represented by white circles of differing sizes (depending on their magnitude). Perhaps ●s would be better, or even ⊗s. In the end I decide to stick with ∗s. I hope I’m right, but would the others be accepted?

All in all a very enjoyable puzzle from Ragtag with some good clues and a nice implementation of the ‘plough’ theme (to which the title alludes). The Boustrophedon entry method has been used before:

  • Listener 4021, Mazy by Salamanca (although the entry method was given in the preamble)
  • EV675, The Middle Row by Piccadilly in 2005, and before that
  • EV580, Etymology in Chambers by Auctor in 2003

3 Responses to “Listener 4103: Annual Turnover by Ragtag (or What the *******!)”

  1. shirley curran said

    Dave, did you put in ‘HOT RED’ and ‘PELOT’ just to see whether anybody noticed or were they just slips of the finger when you were composing the blog. You had me seriously worried for a moment!

  2. Hi Shirley

    I know what it feels like to see someone make a misprint in a posting … mild panic that I’m the one that’s made a mistake!! I’ll forgive the fact that you’ve just done it to me … I’ve had to check the photocopy of my solution to make sure! And yes, luckily they were slips of the typing digit. Sorry I did the same to you.


  3. shirley curran said

    Yes, Dave,
    That puts it in a nutshell. I went into a pink funk and am truly sorry if I gave you the same panic – though it was, I think, fairly obvious that it was the double whisky controlling the fingers – or some other tipple that got the boustrophedon moving in the wrong direction.


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