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Listener 4123: Raich’s Six (ou Je ne le crois pas!)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 25 Feb 2011

C’est étonnant! En premier il y avait le laboratoire européen pour la physique des particules (CERN) que Shirley peux voir de sa fenêtre! Puis il y avait le drapeau suisse … que Shirley peux sûrement voir de son jardin! Et nous voilà cette semaine avec les six … quoi!

Or to put it another way, what’s with all the French? Are we gradually migrating from the Listener to L’auditeur? After all, it was unlikely to be a puzzle about someone called Leslie Six. Perhaps the title was just a bit more devious in its message. Time would tell. This was Raich’s third Listener, the last being OOOOPPPP about Parkinson’s Law which I thoroughly enjoyed, probably because it’s something I experience every day!

In the preamble, we were told that 24 extra and 20 missing wordplay letters would give us an instruction. Oh dear, that’s a bit asymmetrical, and I know someone who wouldn’t have been too enamoured of that! Anyway, that left nine normal clues and seven unclued entries; since one of the unclued entries was in two parts, I assumed that made up the Six in the title.

Starting on the clues, and it was soon clear to me that this would be a bit of a marathon. OOOOPPPP was at least easy to start with although it slowed down somewhat half way through. (I thought puzzles were supposed to get easier as more letters filled the grid!) No such problem here as the letters filled the grid very slowly from the start. 1ac Musical figure Luigi almost back in Italy (7), and in hindsight I cannot believe that I didn’t get it straight away: GIULINI, not that I’ve ever heard of him, but a simple clue that should have been my first to solve, but wasn’t. That honour should have then gone to Prince, shaken, first to leave liquid (4), but again, didn’t. I was trying to make an anagram of (P)RINCE minus a letter, despite being unhappy with the word losing a letter after being shaken. (The answer turned out later to be KHAN, liquid being the anagram indicator of (S)HAK[E]N.) 14, 15 and 17 also got left unsolved, and it fell to the puny 3-lettered ADO at 19ac to be entered first in my grid. What an atrocious start! 24ac SRI next, another puny entry, and I’ll give you two guesses which was my next: no, not DEE[R] at 38ac, but IAN at 41! This was followed by the slightly more substantial 48ac FETA and 50ac TREE.

I’m not really sure why I was making hard work of this. Maybe it was having three different clue types; I think I’ve said before that my brain can normally only juggle two. Either extra letters or missing letters on their own can be quite tricky, and of the two, I think the latter are the worse because it is always better to be given too much information (letters) than not enough. For example: Amateur thespian’s opening with old drama (4) gives A[U]TO — A + T + O. I’m not having a pop at Raich here, just giving a reason why I made such slow progress. Of their type the clues were all perfectly fair.

By the time I was about two-thirds of the way through the grid, all memory of the French connotation that I thought would relate to the puzzle’s theme had evaporated from my memory. Consequently, seeing ..EZ.. and QUI in the message didn’t ring alarm bells that the instruction itself would be in French. Strangely, it was seeing that RK.OSYA at 5ac was likely to be an anagram of good old Nicky boy that finally revealed the theme to me and enabled me to complete most of the other unclued entries as instructed by the message:

Mélangez les présidents de la cinquième Republique.

And so, the six presidents of the fifth republic are:

  • Charles André Joseph Marie DE GAULLE
  • Georges Jean Raymond POMPIDOU
  • Valéry Marie René Georges GISCARD D’ESTAING
  • François Maurice Adrien Marie MITTERRAND
  • Jacques René CHIRAC
  • plain Nicolas SARKOZY, but born Nicolas Paul Stéphane Sarközy de Nagy-Bocsa!!

Three clues had me scratching my head for a bit before I could submit my entry fully satisfied:

31ac LESLIE Man consistently cut title (European)
LE(S) [L] SI(X) (the title of the puzzle!) + E (European); so Leslie does make an appearance after all!!
21dn SIDE ON Is held up recording size of printer’s leading with edge
IS< + DE[M]O (recording) + N (printer’s size)
30ac RIAL King, for example, first setting aside money
[P]RIMAL (first) – M (money)

The thematic location that needed highlighting was obviously going to be ELYSEE, and it didn’t take more than a few seconds to find it in a NW-SE diagonal near the top-right corner of the completed grid. So, another good puzzle from Raich, and hopefully the last with strong European overtones for some time!

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