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Listener 4106: Elgin’s Change of Clothing (or Undisguised Heroes)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 22 October 2010

Batman VillainsIf, unlike me, you’ve been solving the Listener regularly over the last six years, you may remember Elgin’s Asylag. I know of it only by reputation as having one of the highest error incidences ever: nearly 90% of the submitted entries were wrong! The puzzle’s final step require the solver to hold the completed grid in front of a mirror and read a reflected diagonal. With such a devious mind at work, I approach all Elgin’s puzzles with due deference and anxiety.

Here we seem to have a crime (a heist) to be solved with some usual suspects, an item of clothing, and two crime fighters. Batman and Robin spring to mind. Of course, Batman and Robin were, at least in the TV series, known as the dynamic duo. I always thought that was pretentious in the extreme and consequently I rooted for the villains, especially Caesar Romero as the Joker, and Burgess Meredith as the Penguin (although he sounded more like a duck when he spoke). Sadly they were constantly outwitted. Anyway, wouldn’t it be great if I got a head start before even reading 1 across?

Although it starts off being a bit of tricky, I get a dozen or so clues without too much of a problem, mainly in the bottom right corner (and including 22dn LIMBURG). This yields one clash at the intersection of 32ac and 22dn. Although the word ‘clashes’ isn’t mentioned in the preamble, it does say that one entry modifies those it intersects. Then, as I enter RABIN at 25ac, my suspicions about Batman and Robin seem to be coming to fruition. In quick succession the top right corner gets filled with five down entires: 10 NATANT, 9 OSSIANIC, 8 ARNA, 7 EARLAP, and 6 STEUBEN. And who should be struggling to make himself known at 19ac but BATMAN, although the entry currently requires BAGMAN. It looks as though 20dn, which solves as EMMENTAL but is currently GAA.IEYL, is total gobbledy-gook, as is 22dn where three down entries all clash. I can see Asylag looming large!

Except I know my Batman villains, and taking the across answers for 22dn, followed soon after by 23ac and then 13ac, we have the three characters above: PENGUIN, JOKER and RIDDLER. Although RIDDLER replaces LIMBURG, it is sometime before I get to solve 23ac STILTON and 12ac GOUDA, which are replaced by the villains. It looks like they’re all cheesy places. Perhaps the home straight is in sight.

At last, all the clues are solved, about 2½ hours in the end. With BATMAN and ROBIN appearing, I have TAOMIUYL, and with the preamble’s hint at an item of clothing modifying the entries it intersects, I try changing REPAINT at 22ac to REPRINT. Now I have TRO….., and it’s obviously TROUSERS, a hint perhaps at the Dynamic Duo wearing their underpants outside their tights! (I still don’t make the connection between cheeses and trousers!!)

Now I have the across entries as BATMAN, REPRINT, ROBIN, GAUP, DENSALS, CERES, ERES, ESSOIN, all new real words. Except, of course, DENSALS isn’t. Moreover, with three villains, which one must be highlighted along with BATMAN and ROBIN. Rule 13 in my Top Tips for Solving the Listener (especially if you’re stuck) is: If you’re at a loose end, let your eyes glaze over and wander aimlessly around the grid for a few minutes.

Penguin on a TrainBingo! In the third row from the bottom I see WALLACE! And GROMIT is running north-east from the first letter of 25. And there goes my ‘before 1 across is even read’ out the window … the theme is Wallace and Gromit’s The Wrong Trousers, and 20dn has to be ROUSTERS. Sadly, Batman and Robin disappear from the grid, becoming BARMAN and RUBIN. Oh well, I never really liked them, did I? And our new heroes pleasingly dispense with the need for flimsy disguises, disguises that every outsider can see through, but not the characters in the comics. So the modified entries are: BARMAN, REPOINT, RUBIN, GASP, DENTALS, CERES, ERES, ESSOIN, and thankfully are all new real words. Finally, the villain to be highlighted is the PENGUIN.

Thanks for another thoroughly enjoyable puzzle, Elgin … not too tricky this time, I’m pleased to say, and very satisfying. And another up-to-date theme for the Listener. I hope nobody suggests it’s dumbing down! More cheese, Gromit!

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