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Listener 4104: Adam’s Merchandise (or An Exercise in Self-Harm!)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 8 October 2010

It seems that Adam goes back a long way … and I’m not referring to the fictional Adam who was fictionally dating a fictional Eve! The Adam of this week’s puzzle set his first Listener back in 1955. Yes, 1955, when I was only … well, when I was only very young. Incredible. And according to the A-Z of Crosswords, he was born in 1925.

So, here we have a fairly wide-open 11×13 grid with only 12 unchecked squares. Down answers are entered normally, but acrosses must be jumbled, so it makes sense to start on the down clues first. With 2 YIELDS, 5 STANE, 6 INHALANT (courtesy Bradford’s) and 8 HITACHI, I’m off to a flying start in the top half of the grid. 20 SURGEFUL (Chambers confirms that it really is a word), 22 RINGLET, 24 SEMIPED and 27 QUISTS give me a smattering of entries in the bottom of the grid as well. Since I’m not an expert on enzymes, I look it up in Bradford’s to find UROKINASE with OK and As (weight) at two points in URINE (water), and I’ve got my first across answer.

I proceed on a pleasant stroll through the puzzle, which is enjoyable and not too difficult. Not too difficult that is, apart from a couple of clues that have me scratching my head. First LYCOSA at 1ac which is a genus of spiders, so no doubt it is the correct answer, having AYOCS. already; and I can see that only without on (leg) gives the LY, but can I see ‘COS (for = because) + A. Well I do eventually and kick myself for being so slow. And then WELSH AUNT at 37ac, which I’ve not heard of before, and is WELT (dry) around SHAUN (boy). At various times I thought I saw the letters of AUNT or UNCLE trying to get out, but it is Bradford’s that again comes to the rescue with entries under dry. And then there’s 31ac FUSING (Attaching out-of-date study makes this union baffling), where I mistakenly think the definition is attaching, rather than this union which, with con added, gives confusing. Another self-kicking moment.

Listener 4104 Just THE

So here I am with the grid nicely completed. And all I have to do is to find the quotation embedded in a regular way in the grid. And, yes, you’ve guessed it, I make a right pig’s ear of it!! It is obvious that the jumbling of across entries is necessitated because it would be difficult to hide an 11-word quotation regularly among normal answers. So I try a few combinations. Alternate letters give AOSIAC, YCLCH, AHMDSE; every third letter gives ACIHI, YSCCP, OLASO; and then there’s the knightmare of knight’s moves: APSNA, SOTIC, etc. I even try AHMDS and SAEUN in the down entries for a bit of variety. Well, nothing seems to work, and of course you can see which pattern I smartly avoid trying!!

After dipping into the puzzle from time to time over the next day or so, invariably trying out the same letter patterns, I decide on a different approach that would hopefully weed out the solution. What are the most common words in the English language? I’m guessing A, AND and THE. A wouldn’t help at all with what I plan, but THE is a suitable candidate, so I prepare a grid containing only those letters. You’ll find it on the right. There in the penultimate row is T.H.E. But I’ve already tried that pattern … about a dozen times, I think. Hold on though, it’s there in the penultimate column as well, this time as T..H..E. Working back to column 1, and I can’t believe I missed it during all the early fannying around. Every third letter gives “He said, I look for butterflies that sleep among the wheat” from Through the Looking-Glass. It is followed by “I make them into mutton-pies, and sell them in the street”. That’s every third letter in the normally-entered down answers! Unbelievable!!

As I enter MUTTON-PIES below the grid, I’m pleased that a bit of logic saved the day, but also find that kicking myself again and again can be quite painful.

Excellent puzzle, Adam.

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