Listen With Others

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Listener 4108: Past and Present by Emkay (or 19th Century Texting)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 5 November 2010

Giving a whole new meaning to 'mobile phone'

An interesting entry technique in this puzzle that I had not seen before: 3-letter entries in the outside section of the grid were augmented by one or more letters from the central 8×8 square. I thought it strange that this central section was ‘numbered’ a-h left to right in the bottom row of squares, and 1-8 upwards in the right column of squares. I would have expected them to be in the first row to the right and the first column downwards. Perhaps it was to put the idea of a chess board and its notation in my head … or there again, not.

The first thing that worried me was that these clues using central squares might need a lot of cold solving. As it turned out, this didn’t cause a problem since the clues were all pretty straightforward (I hesitate to use the word ‘easy’). I liked the way that the 3-letter entries in the outer section were all words in their own right. Even the wordplay-only clues weren’t too hard, although the connection between VIVIEN, MERLIN, MESSAGES and MOBILE PHONES wasn’t apparent to me until I solved 39ac TENNYSON (NY in TENSON) and spotted SQUARE and TEXT in the central section, which led to the quotation:

A square of text that looks a little blot. [The] text no larger than the limbs of fleas;

A bit further on we have:

And none can read the text, not even I; And none can read the comment but myself;

If Tennyson were alive today, I’m sure that this would be his view of what people actually put in their text messages!!

Finally, there was the matter of the phrase below the grid. The letters not used in any clue were ELLORHE which, with the missing article THE probably gives HELLO THERE, rather than ETHEL HOLER (who can be found in the University of North Carolina Greensboro – Pine Needles Yearbook – Class of 1949)!! I must say that I thought this last step was a little weak and contrived, but it was an enjoyable puzzle nonetheless.

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