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Liberty Bell, by Pieman, LET FREEdoM O

Posted by shirleycurran on 10 December 2010

This was mind-boggling, right from the start as my printed copy ran onto three pages and I stolidly counted 79 clues. Pieman, Uh-huh! This is going to be impossible! Many, many hours later, with a few solutions in place in our usual south-east corner, we began to understand that instruction, ‘anagram answers where necessary into real words or names’. ALGA (51ac) was a fine solution to ‘Main growth’s a large one’, but it fitted in rather oddly with PINATUBO (Yes, I glowed with pride for solving that obscure clue, ‘Pitch about, flying Spitfire’! The capital letter was misleading wasn’t it?) INDEFINABGE couldn’t be the answer to 13d, ‘Dim and bailed out with fine’, so, evidently ALGA had to change to GALA. Real words were being anagrammed to other real words. Aaaah!

Slowly, as the midnight oil evaporated, I completed half the grid (about five hours!) with a tremendous muddle  when 10d seemed to produce PAN (‘One deposit NOT initiated by father’). How quickly one little error leads to complete confusion. That meant that PAM had to be the girl at 8ac (to fit with ANE and MADRAS – she must anagram to MAP – and so on and so on).

It was the dawn’s early light that suggested ANILINE, ‘Elder comprehends nothing of coal-tar product (NIL in that useful crossword staple AÎNÉ) and MAY finally crawled into view, happily revealing MAYFAIR as one of those words of maximinsed length.

This blog will go on forever if I recount all Saturday’s struggles. Suffice it to say that with that nasty little 35d outstanding (two unchecked lights in four, and probably an anagrammed word too – YUK! Call that fair?) we had a full grid after about eight hours’ hard labour.

Nine anagrams appeared: ANIS, CROTAL, BONO, CHAR, GALA, BOK, BONSAI, FLUKE and TOSE.

The next stage of the solving was fun. We found that about half of the crossword would combine into longer words: EVITATE, MAYFAIR, DIMETHYLANILINE – just another of those useful new words I shall, of course, introduce into casual conversation this week, TANGHIN, ISOTOPIC, CHAMADE, SELF-RELIANT, PLACER, VALHALLA, GAMESOME, SPATFALL, INDEFINABLENESS and a couple of strays, ANTIPARALLEL and KO – see below.

OK, so we can’t delete the bar in ANTIPARALLEL without scratching with a fine knife, so let’s forget that. Eleven letters appear (or thirteen if I count KO) and ‘I have a dream’ is the obvious four-word phrase. For a while, I pondered that KO. ‘OK, I have a dream’ – or ‘I have a dream, knock out!’ but then, of course, the careful reading of the preamble awakened me to the fact that removing the bar in between the K and O would actually minimise word length. (Doh!)

Somehow, now, I have to change only the anagrammed entries to ‘make a representation, with some liberty, of a refrain borrowed from another source’. There is a clear hint there. This representation must be pictorial. We have already understood that we could change ANIS/CROTAL to ANI/SCROTAL, and FLUKE/TOSE to FLU/KETOSE. There is a hint here, perhaps, that FREEDOM is involved – ‘I have a dream’, ‘Liberty Bell’ and ‘with some liberty’. A little bit of fiddling and a substantial dose of ‘liberty’ (but how else could Pieman have created his D,O,M?) and there it is. ‘Let freedom ring!’

There’s a wonderful feeling of satisfaction in completing a crossword like this in not much more than the time it would take to fly to Australia and I am left wondering how on earth Pieman compiled it. He must, I imagine, have begun with that circular word – but then what? Astounding. I do hope he’ll honour us with a setter’s blog.

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