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Listener 4128: Trev’s Ringtone (or What’s in a Number)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 1 Apr 2011

This is only Trev’s fourth Listener puzzle (including no. 4000 where he was one of the four setters). His last solo was back in 2004, before my current period of solving, and it was, in fact, a numerical. A quick look at revealed that Trev’s real name was absent. It was not until the Listener Setters’ Annual Dinner in Sheffield that I discovered his true identity.

Those of you who have read my blogs before will know how tough I find puzzles where more than one clue type is involved, and that’s the norm these days! OK, here we had only two types (extra and missing letters in the wordplay), so perhaps it wouldn’t be too bad. There was a space under the grid captioned ANSWER, and the extra or missing letters would tell us what to fill in that box. That seemed pretty straightforward. However, I didn’t get back from the up-north weekend until late on the Tuesday after publication, and I was off to Spain for some golf on the Sunday, so I just hoped that it wouldn’t be a tricky final step that would keep me up all through the Saturday night! Fingers crossed.

Four clues in, and I had 13 ANOA, followed by 21 SENLAC (thanks to Bradford) and 28 NOCTULE. Amazingly, I got 35 ANENT fairly quickly (Concerning insect with double stomach), having discounted BEEE and FLLY for the wordplay! 43 ECRU finished off my scan of the across clues which yielded a paltry five entries. My excuse is that the very late night at the Listener dinner had probably killed off more brain cells than I would normally lose in a month!

The downs revealed 2 USER, 3 SMILING, 7 CINEMA and 8 ASHTANGA (thanks, Elint), so not a bad start, but then there was a long gap until 37 AUDIT and 40 LOAD (which would eventually turn out to be LADE!). At least I had a smattering of clues in each of the corners.

With these two clue types, I found that even simple anagrams were a bit difficult. For example, LINEAR E at 24dn needed an extra T to make INCREATE, 19dn OR IN OCEAN also needed a T for NEROANTICO, while at 25dn CLUE AS IT’S required us to ignore the L to give SUITCASE.

39ac also took a bit of working out. Lives in between two vales, with the wordplay having an extra S. At least I thought it was an extra S; so often when I have more than one clue type, I end up with the wrong number of each at the end and have to go through every clue to find my mistake. Indeed, in this case, I had already had to find where I had put a plus instead of a minus or a – instead of a + against one or more clues. Anyway, 39ac could have been either ADIEUS or ADIEUX (vales, as in goodbyes). If I’d had to guess, it would have been ADIEUX, but then I don’t do guesses (well, not if I can help it). So it was probably I[S] in the middle of ADEUX, and amazingly it didn’t take too long to spot à deux, meaning between two, near the top of the column in Chambers. Very nice clue.

I’m thinking that completing the grid took in excess of four hours on and off (yes, golf got in the way), which I consider on the long (ie tough) side, but at last it was done. The extra/missing letters spelt out SUM OF ATOMIC NUMBERS OF ANSWERS TREATED AS TITLE COULD BE. The title was Ringtone which was an anagram of … R something, I something, N something … oh yes, NITROGEN. So there were a load of elements masquerading as normal entries. Cunning.

Forty minutes later, and I had, in order of discovery (for some reason I looked at the downs first):

Clue Entry Element At.No.
38dn INRO IRON 26
40dn LADE LEAD 82

I can appreciate what a difficult grid this must have been to construct. Nine thematic entries, and exactly 50% of each clue type, which meant that twenty-four entries needed to contain a letter corresponding to its position in the message. And did I mention what a nice grid it was, with 90° symmetry? All in all a first-rate puzzle from Trev, and I hope it’s not another seven years before his next.


As is my wont these days, I left the puzzle until the last minute to post, popping it in the box at the top of my road after being picked up by a fellow golfer to head off to Heathrow at 4:15am on the Sunday morning. No matter how hard I had tried, I couldn’t find more than nine elementary anagrams, but the thought that I was being deprived of three days’ checking time filled me with apprehension. Ok, I had checked my entries and I had added up the atomic numbers at least three times. Two minutes down the road, and I realised that the one thing that I hadn’t double-checked was that I had copied the numbers correctly from Chambers. How easy it would have been to copy the number above or below the correct one to my worksheet. Oh well, it was too late to do anything now … except think about it at least a dozen times during my five rounds of golf.

The thing was, it was such a strange number, 489.


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