Listen With Others

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Listener 4137: Frightened Catherine by Ifor (or When Shall We Two Meet Again?)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 3 June 2011

Ifor is another new Listener setter, although he has had other puzzles published, including a couple of EVs, an Inquisitor and a few Magpies. This puzzle was a carte blanche, so an uphill struggle ahead seemed likely! And the preamble was full of worrying phrases, like ‘one of the clues must be ignored’, ‘all bars but only two clue numbers’ to be entered, and ‘a thematic ambiguity which should resolve which clue to ignore’. As I said last week, the day on which I start my Listener puzzle seems to be slipping, and there I was at 6am on the Friday after publication, hoping that the puzzle wouldn’t be too baffling or have a tortuous endgame.

Most of that would have to wait till later. The clues needed solving first. The main thing to look out for at this stage was the group of twelve clues comprising only definitions; these led to two words differing by a single letter. Luckily 1ac was the first to succumb, leading to AFRIT/AFRIC, followed by 15ac LEASH/LEAST. Of course, being a carte blanche, only 1ac seemed to be a fairly certain positioning.

And then the clue that was to cause nearly all my problems: 18ac Just like Uriah? leading to RIGHT/TIGHT! At 6:15am, my brain must have still been asleep and I momentarily got Heap confused with Scrooge!

A few more acrosses, but not many, ending with 40ac TANGRAM, which seemed to fit on the left of the bottom row and confirm my confidence in the positioning of 1ac. I was tempted by AIRTS for 41ac Quarters for Scottish nobility but couldn’t rationalise the nobility bit, and it would be some time before FARLS/EARLS would reveal themselves.

In my first pass through the down clues, I only got seven! One of these was 18dn The business of saying sorry’s apparently excluded science which seemed certain to be OLOGY (apology – ap) and that seemed to indicate that either it or 18ac (see above) was the clue not to be entered in the grid since they would otherwise clash. I should have got 6dn Plant sesame inside while live at this point, since we had til last week and ASTILBE was fairly easy wordplay, but it eluded me for another hour or so.

In fact, most of the answers eluded me for quite a long time, and after a couple of hours I had only solved a couple of dozen of them. And the reason why there would be ambiguity in which clue was not to be entered intrigued me since it would appear to be either 18ac or 18dn!

Believe it or not, I sometimes get unnecessarily stubborn, even with a Listener. I frequently refuse to use an anagram solver for a word that I think I should otherwise solve easily. In this puzzle it was the poor sure. Any other day, and I’d have seen PORTERHOUSE in less that 7ns, but not today! I won’t say that it was the beginning of the end, but certainly the end of the beginning.

And so the denouement was approaching. As I positioned OLOGY and ASTILBE, I realised that 18ac was not RIGHT/TIGHT but ONLY/OILY, and with MAGI and GODHEAD/GOAHEAD in row 12 immediately above TANGRAM and FARLS/EARLS I found that 39ac Fit it to cavity was TANTRUM, very similar to TANGRAM, with its differing letters neatly unchecked.

Also, the pairs of letters in the across clues on the left of the diagram seemed to be matching those on the right, and a couple of seconds looking at those on the left …


… pretty soon shouted out CENTIGRADE, at least it did when looked at top to bottom rather than left to right as here. And upwards on the right was FAHRENHEIT. Or should it be the other way round?! Something had to be telling me which was which, and it was the clue numbers 5dn and 41ac. 5°C is 41°F, and these were the “somewhat outdated corresponding couple” mentioned in the preamble, since today the weather bulletins, at least here in the UK, use Celsius with the occasional reference, for those still stuck in the past, to Fahrenheit.

Now I don’t know whether the temperature at which both scales coincide is known to other than those that do pub quizes on a regular basis, but I’m lucky to know that it is -40. So 40ac TANGRAM was the clue to be ignored, and the convergence to go beneath the grid (5,5) was MINUS FORTY. Finally the title, and Frightened Catherine is, okay with another A, an anagram of FAHRENHEIT CENTIGRADE. A good set of clues as well:

20ac DAIL Cleaner scrubbing last house (4)
33ac ROBES Tires of old, frightful bores (5)
reminds me of a few evenings down the pub!
40ac TANGRAM Puzzle that’s opening with anagram (one answer going missing)
T(hat) + AN(A)GRAM; except that 1ac isn’t an anagram!!
7dn REN Fuse no longer in use (no broken short in current)
CURRENT – CUR/T (broken short); I think this was the last clue I rationalised
13dn SLIDING SEAT Digest snail wriggling about — it moves back and forth in shell
anag DIGEST SNAIL; a shell is a light racing boat

… and, in my view, the best clue of the week (if not longer!), the simple …

Sweet nothing (6)

An excellent workout all round from Ifor. Solvers who keep old puzzles may like to compare it with Schadenfreude’s 41 to 5, Listener 3893 from September 2006.

And a final bit of QI trivia from Stephen Fry: The interesting thing about the British is that we use Centigrade when it’s cold and we use Fahrenheit when it’s hot. So when it’s hot someone says “Oooh, it’s in the 90’s, it’s 92” but when it’s really cold they’ll say “It’s minus 3”.

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