Listen With Others

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Listener 4112, Girl by Xanthippe (or Holey Moley!)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 3 December 2010

Xanthippe’s last (of five) Listener puzzles was at the beginning of the year, and was all about mobile phones. It required a series of squares to be linked to give the shape of a dog’s bone. I believe it caused a bit of controversy as to how bone-like the ultimate drawing looked, but I think the editors were fairly lenient. Before that puzzle, Xanthippe appeared at the beginning of 2008 with Solitaire, a puzzle that did trip me up through inadequate checking of my final grid. You can imagine what a depressing year 2008 was, striving as I was for my first invitation to the Listener Setters’ Dinner.

Here we had a nice simple 10×14 grid, simple in as much as it was a carte blanche, ie no bars and there were only two squares labelled, one with 1, the other 2. The resulting grid would be asymmetric. Finally, a message would be spelt out by a combination of the first and fourth letters in the extra words in all clues.

I started off very well, or so I thought. TISRI went in at 1ac, and AVAIL next to it in the first row. (Hmmm … you see the mistake, do you? It should have been AVAL, starting in either column 6 or 7. That took a bit of time to correct) ENTERTAINS, SEALANT, RACER and ARBOR were solved in my first pass … not many, but enough to get a good start.

Some clues were quite tricky. The 15th across: Earl usurping “nothing” king in city long ago, long ago (4) had me convinced that the extra word would be “nothing”, but it was “king”, the answer being YORK (city) with E (earl) for K (king). I didn’t really like third of panels in the third down clue; to me, thirds are taken in tranches left to right, not higgledy-piggledy in the middle (a minor gripe, though). The clue that took the most deciphering was Local injected primarily by [ordinary] US dentist replacing cap of molar in state, with its nasty dental connotations; it turned out to be a rather fine &lit clue: LI (Local Injected primarily) + DOC (US dentist) + (M)AINE (state with head of Molar replaced, in the sense of “ousted”). And with the last down answer DARG, I had a word I’d not heard of before.

I won’t say that the remaining clues were a doddle, but I made steady progress. Lots of extra words to be extracted to eventually give the following line of 1st and 4th letters:

The first snaking phrase I got was: FOLD OVER TWO DASHED LINES CUT ALONG THICK LINES. This left FORMERLY A TWO HUNDRED AND FORTIETH OF ONE POUND. I’m lucky enough to be old enough to remember that prior to 15 February 1971, the good old British pound Sterling was divided into 20 shillings, each of which comprised 12 pennies. Each of these pennies was therefore 1/240th of a pound. The obvious phrases with penny are “The penny drops” and “Penny for the guy”. I could see DROP in row 6 and ENNY in row 9. Part of me noticed that the two unchecked letters at the beginning of DROPLET could have been avoided by having DERE instead of just ERE in column 4. There must be a reason for that methought!

I read the preamble again: “Appropriate interpretation of these instructions, for which hints are supplied …”. Well, where were those hints? And the squares labelled 1 and 2 did absolutely nothing to help me. Were they pointing at something beginning in those squares? And I couldn’t see any other hints in the grid … for now. Dashed lines … well, the central line of the grid formed dashes with its alternating bars, so I folded the grid in half. The lower half of the grid now also presented alternating dashed lines, so I folded that in half. I then noticed the thick lines, most notably those around the DR of DROPLET. I cut them out , together with the A and the M in rows 4 and 2. Of course, I now had six little pieces of paper:

A quick shuffle, and what do we have?

And what a nice one it was, and smartly entered in the space below the grid. And now a temporary moment of doubt: How to submit my entry to John Green. I would normally just write my solution on a print-out of the grid from the Times Crossword web site. However, the instructions say “Fold over”. Must there be evidence of such folding in the solution, and, indeed, evidence that the squares making up the phrase had been cut out and not just omitted from my entry. In the end, I did copy the grid, fold it as required, cut out the various bits and then clip it to my name and address sheet. That’s the way it should be done; anything less should be marked wrong. I hope you all agree!!

Going back to the numbers 1 and 2 in the grid, they were immediately below and to the right of the dashed lines we had to fold. Didn’t really help me though! The other hints were TOPSIDE and LOWEST in the first and last columns to indicate how the folds were to be made, ie TOPSIDE indicated that that segment should be kept uppermost and LOWEST that its segment should be downermost. I must say that they were hints, but only in an after-the-fact sort of way. In other words having to spend half an hour trying to find them!

So, a fine puzzle from Xanthippe. Is this continuing a trend set last year by Jago’s origami wren, whereby a puzzle near the year-end will involving snipping, folding and otherwise butchering a lovingly produced grid?

A final postscript: Pity the young novice Listener solver who never knew pre-decimal coinage, and worse still, never knew it was called a penny drop moment!!

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