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Listener 4117: Great Expectations by Samuel (or Two Degrees of Separation?)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 7 January 2011

Samuel is becoming a bit of a prolific solver at the moment. As well as his this being his second Listener of the Year (the first was 4069, Conversion, about Muhammad Ali), he’s had a smattering of Inquisitors and Enigmatic Variations puzzles as well. What’s more, he seems to have been getting progressively sneaky, and as this is the last puzzle of the year, he has probably been told to conjure up a doozy!

As far as I know, I’m all-correct this year, so there’s just this one hurdle to jump. Anyone who’s got to know me will realise that athletics is not my forté! Anyway, let’s press on.

In Great Expectations, there were two clue types. In Grid A, there were normal clues but with an unknown number of clashes, which must be replaced by the number got by subtracting one from the other. I’ve said before that clashes are probably my least favourite feature, and I haven’t changed my mind since whenever that was. No point in having a strop though, so I got going … on Grid B!! Here each clue had an extra letter in the wordplay which was not entered in the grid. It looked as though the two grids were entirely independent, each being a puzzle in its own right. I suppose that’s so we don’t complain too much about there being no Times, and therefore no Listener, on Christmas Day. Spare a thought for us atheists, guv!

10ac yielded GREAT, 14 RIO, 15 TAELS, 19 ORCA and 22 AREA. The downs provided 6 ERGS, 20 BREW and 21 JOES. Not a bad start, and in fact the grid was pretty much complete after about 90 minutes. 24ac, Simple to rip off brave tale, TEARABLE, was a nice bit of misdirection, with the definition being simple to rip and an anagram of BRA[V]E TALE. And as for 25ac, In Scotland, will weasel bet rent with flight crew?. The answer was obviously WETLEASE, an anagram of WEASEL [B]ET, but it needed a check in Chambers to see that will3, defined as a Scottish word for astray, was the anagram indicator.

So all was going swimmingly, but I knew trouble lay ahead. I had let my eyes wander over to the Grid A clues and realised they could be tricky. However, I had pretty much left it alone, since mixing two distinct clue types in my head would have been a recipe for, if not disaster, certainly confusion.

Without a doubt, Grid A was the trickier. The first pass only gave one across answer, 16 LAB. The downs fared better with six: 2 AERATES, 3 EKKA, 4 YEEHAW, 6 CRIED, 15 DIV and 20 XOANA. In hindsight, I am a bit annoyed that I didn’t get ISLANDERS sooner, it was a bit obvious, but that’s how my mind worked on the day. I don’t know if it would have helped greatly since the two 9-letter acrosses had four clashes. The other one, 12 ORDERINGS was a bit of a pig, being (B)ORDE(R) RINGS.

After I got about three or four clashes and did the numerical subtraction, it was a good guess that the theme was the Advent Calendar, and that there would be twenty-four clashing squares, ie about 25% of the grid! In all, I suspect Grid A took the best part of four hours; a bit difficult to be exact as it was the run-up to Christmas and I dipped in and out of both grids quite a bit. But I got there in the end.

I know that Samuel tries to introduce a feature into his puzzles that hasn’t been used before, and I believe that having to put the extra letters into the order of the answers to the respective clues was just such a gimmick (in a nice way). And after determining the first six, I reached for my scissors. CUT OUT …. Actually, I now use a Stanley knife as it provides a much sharper blade and can get into fiddly corners of the squares. Yes, this week we had to CUT OUT DOORS AND PASTE A OVER B. I made a copy of the grids and cut out the doors. Twenty-four little squares littered my desk. This was followed by another of my pet hates: obliteration of a lot of hard work. Making sure not to detach the two grids, I folded Grid A over and pasted it on top of Grid B and looked through the holes.

4117, Alternative Entry?

Well, of course, it read rubbish!

So, another copy and more cutting out, but this time ensuring that the little doors were not detached. I separated the two Grids and pasted A over B. Still lots of obscuring of past work, but this tiume a message could be read using Grid A and those squares revealed in Grid B: SEASONS GREETINGS TO ALL SOLVERS AND SETTERS. I coloured it, not with my fibre-tip pens, which had all but dried up, but with my recently-purchased colouring pencils. I thought green to be an appropriate colour, representing the Christmas tree.

An excellent puzzle, as expected, and as I was about to put my entry into its envelope to John Green, a major panic set in. The preamble did not say with partial detachment!! Perhaps the two grids needed to be kept attached. and a small tube made. The message could still be read, and the little doors would still flap about neatly. I decided that I would have to miss the post that night (this was 21 December, I think). OK, the closing date was not until 30 December, but the idea that my envelope could be lying around in the postal system for six days worried me hugely.

“But it wouldn’t look like an advent calendar, would it?” Talking to yourself can be quite therapeutic, although it is also the first sign of madness. “No it wouldn’t!” Answering oneself is, apparently, the second sign of madness! So off went my entry the following day. Would it be received safely, I asked myself? Madness, again!

A letter arrived from JEG this morning to indicate that it must have been!

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One Response to “Listener 4117: Great Expectations by Samuel (or Two Degrees of Separation?)”

  1. shirley curran said

    Well, great news that you got that letter that you were hoping for, though the little tube would have been more fun.

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