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Listener 4109: Not a Black and White Decision by Brock (or Will there be a Marina?)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 12 November 2010

OK, so an 11-line preamble with a hint that there are (at least) two ways to complete the grid. Plus another ambiguity and lots of highlighting. And 18 clashes … my favourite!! But Brock takes pity on me and tells me they are all in three consecutive rows. It’s a shame that a couple of answers, including 1ac, are only in The Shorter Oxford Dictionary, but luckily my library provides access to the OED site, so I can check things there.

Listener 4109 AttemptsAnd 1ac is a bit of a doddle, although playing with BEASTS-something delays me for a bit. STABLE BLOCKS is the answer and no need to look it up really. I start on the first half dozen down clues as any there could help with placement of the top half acrosses. 2dn/b is TRONE and that goes on the left, and 4dn/a CUT DOWN goes on the right with the other half BEOWULF on the left. 5dn begins with either E or S, and ECOLOGIC goes in. Trying some acrosses now, and I realise that, unusually, I’m not really approaching this puzzle in a very structured way. Oh well, variety is the spice of life. 6ac/a is BUSY, a word for detective that I came across only a few weeks ago, and 5dn/b beginning SY… provides SYLLABIC. 12ac gives WEB and LEG, and still no sign of a dreaded clash.

Marching on, I finally get to 14, with /a being ELDEST (/b was to come later, with its lovely misdirection of flat for BEDSIT). Anyway, we have our first clash, and it looks as though rows 7, 8 and 9 are the three with the clashes; I’m assuming it’s 9 in each half.

Progress is steady from then on and, with HORSES / HOUSES in the bottom row providing the final ambiguity, it’s done. Except, of course, as predicted by Brock, I have only SIX clashes!!! And what makes it worse is that I hadn’t made any conscious decision about colours at all.

So, back to the drawing board, and you’d think it would be a cinch to sort it all out, having all the answers and knowing that there are 18 clashes. Well my brain just goes into befuddled mode as it seems that almost any answer could go anywhere. After what feels like an hour, but is in fact considerably less, I have the second, and hopefully correct, grid.

And now there are the 28 cells to be highlighted in four rows. That should be easy? No, that actually does take me an hour to spot. I can see FIELDS, but that doesn’t trigger anything. (I should have concentrated on the colour hint in the preamble a bit more even though that seemed to refer to the actual solving of the grid.) Anyway, remembering Rule 13 in my Top Tips for the Listener (especially if you’re stuck): If you’re at a loose end, let your eyes glaze over and wander aimlessly around the grid for a few minutes. Well it finally works as my eyes spot the B of WEB and put it together with SROWFN in the next row. And there on the left is G plus RSEENF. And the FIELDS come into their own as well as I highlight GREEN FIELD SITE and BROWN FIELD SITE. Excellent stuff!

Well done Brock. A really good puzzle that, like a few this year, had me panicking at times. And a debut to boot, I believe. I’m intrigued as to what came first, the two types of building site or the possibilities provided by STABLE BLOCKS. And when did the HORSES and HOUSES come into the equation, with HORSES going under STABLE and HOUSES under BLOCKS??

Thanks for all the entertainment.

So what's this called?

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