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Listener 4135: Travellers by The Tall’n (or When Shall We Four Meet Again?)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 20 May 2011

I’m not sure why, but my Listener solving day seems to be slipping. Perhaps it is because I plan to put my house on the market soon and I’m busy making sure everything is in good order for prospective buyers … or perhaps it’s because I’m playing too much golf! Whichever, I didn’t start The Tall’n’s latest until the second Sunday after publication. As I read the preamble, I was relieved that it didn’t seem too tortuous but I was worried that the seventeen jumbled answers and the vast quantity of highlighting and drawing required at the end might prove to be problematic. But at least we had been given jumbles of all the perimeter letters, which I thought a bit odd since we are normally only given the unchecked ones.

After 7ac ECOFIN, I got 11ac ANCHORET with its clue number in cell 4. It was only at this point that I mused on the preamble wording about the jumbled entries “… starting in the numbered cell”. If an entry is jumbled, it is jumbled however you read it, so did this just mean that the first letter was entered in the numbered space and everything else was jumbled around it? Seemed odd, but that’s what I went with, and firmly entered an A in cell 4 and the rest lightly around it. Not that that helped much, cell 4 was unchecked.

However, this was good news because it meant that the 17 jumbled entries could be identified as those having their clue number in other than the first cell … well 15 of them could be identified this way, two needed to have their first letter in the first cell, to be followed by the jumble. In theory this meant that all entries should be entered lightly, but I decided to brave the gauntlet and hope the two sneaky entries would make themselves known without too much trouble.

I had sixteen clues solved in the first pass (about 30 minutes), including three definite jumbles. Over the next hour and a bit, I solved another 26. Good progress, except that exactly half of them were definite jumbles. By this time I had also identified the two sneakies: 13ac CRIMES and 4dn OCEANIA and I also found out how helpful it was to be given the jumbled letters for each of the four sides of the perimeter: it enabled some of the perimeter letters to be entered definitively.

At this point I had the following for the four sides of the perimeter, assuming that the message started in the top left cell:

.ITHT.EI.MA.T.
R.EN.HOTB. ..HKE
.ONNWA. APU.GIR.
N.G.T.O…..SE

A bit convoluted, but with the unused letters I deduced WITH THEIR MASTER for the beginning, and it didn’t take long to see ON WALPURGIS NIGHT running up the right side. So the travellers were witches! Unfortunately, neither master nor Walpurgis had any meaningful entry in my ODQ, and anyway it hadn’t been mentioned in the preamble. I looked up Walpurgis night in Chambers and was amply rewarded: “… when witches … rode on broomsticks and male goats with their master the Devil, esp on the Brocken …”.

This was getting interesting. I sussed that the top side would end with TO CAROUSE, and I could see a space for BROCKEN at the bottom. However, I had EHNOT to fit into .EN.HOT, and it took ten minutes of head-scratching before I looked up gam.. in Chambers to see that 34dn Whole range forgotten in note after school (5) wasn’t GAMUT but GAMME!

With their master on the Brocken on Walpurgis night to carouse

So then it was time to find four travellers and their transport. Well, they had to be witches with their broomsticks and male goats. They were all pretty easy to find. The MALE GOATS and BROOMSTICKS were in reverse in rows 10 and 12 respectively. The four witches, HECATE, CARLINE, WICCAN and HAG, were to be seen running down columns 4, 8, 10 and 12 and the one they are going to meet, OLD POKER, in column 2.

Finally, ten straight lines had to be drawn through 22 cells to show an “appropriately-shaped four-word description of what each of the four wears”. A bit of a hiccup here! I was probably looking for a hat or cape. I stumbled across BLACK in an inverted V shape, and almost next to it was a similarly shaped CONICAL. For some reason, I looked up witch, but that didn’t help. I read on through all the derivations and compounds, to be greeted by “witch’s hat n a tall black conical brimmed hat, the traditional wear of fairytale witches“, and there in a brimmed-shape hat was BRIMMED and a bit lower down HAT. It was only after I had done all the shading and drawing for my final submission that I realised that the apexes of these four words were directly above the four witches’ names.

All in all, an exellent puzzle from The Tall’n with a huge amount of thematic material using information gleaned solely from Chambers.
 

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