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Listener 4139: Nutmeg’s Unsettled Spell (or What Site is This?)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 17 June 2011

This is only the second Listener from Nutmeg, the first being 3971 Franglais in March 2008. I have become a bit remiss in solving Inquisitors and EVs recently, and a number of Nutmeg’s in those series have passed me by. However, I did solve EV 942 Block Capitals by Nutmeg (mainly because I blogged it for fifteensquared), and a thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining puzzle it was.

And so onto this week’s offering which involved letters being swapped between entries and clues, 50% going one way, and 50% the other. I can tell you now that this device made my head swim, but that’s par for the course these days.

Starting with the across clues, I guessed that 1ac had an extra letter – waiver, and 5ac had one missing trifling. However, neither answer was forthcoming. That privilege went to 23 Top monk shuns holy books in scripture lessons — this teacher wouldn’t, an excellent clue. 37 ARDENT (heart), and that was it for the acrosses, two out of 26! OK, my concentration wasn’t tip-top — did I mention it was 5:30am and I’d been awake since 4?! The down answers were just as reluctant to show themselves, only 3 ENTOMBED (harmed) and 26 (Wilde).

After another hour or so, I’d got only about a dozen more clues, but at least 1ac CHEERIO, 1dn CLEANSER and BEGINNING gave much to go on in the top left. And looking at the swapped letters, I saw that they started ITW.B.LE.., and it didn’t take long to get (My spelling is Wobbly. It’s good spelling but) it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places. Milne. Thus WINNIE-THE-POOH went in at 5dn. Getting that so early in the puzzle helped a lot, and the top left and bottom right corners were finished fairly quickly. The other two quadrants took a bit more teasing, and resulted in the whole puzzle taking longer than average to solve.

Of course, longer than average for me is probably longer than longer than average for you … or not! Much as I try to log significant chunks of time spent solving the Listener, I invariably forget to make a note of some shorter periods at my desk. In order to improve this, I have now downloaded an app for my iPhone that will help me log solving times for LWO and for the EV puzzles that I blog. Now all I’ve got to do is remember to start the timer when I sit down for a session, and, just as importantly, stop it when I finish. Why I think that will work better than adding to the notes that I make anyway beats me, but I’ll give it a go.

Anyway, “longer than average” here means about 4 hours.

A fine puzzle from Nutmeg, and a couple of final points to make about it. Firstly, I know some Listener solvers (maybe even a lot of them) are tired of extra letters, extra words, misprints, etc. However, I think that here the device is appropriately thematic, and even the most stubborn missing/extra letter hater will appreciate its use. Secondly, I know how easy it can be to sit back after finishing a puzzle, satisfied with a job well done, oblivious to how hard the grid construction must have been. Unless I’m mistaken, this must have been fiendish difficult, with every entry, in order, requiring a specific letter to be inserted or omitted, 50% of each.

And if anyone says that they sussed the theme as soon as they saw the title … 😯


2 Responses to “Listener 4139: Nutmeg’s Unsettled Spell (or What Site is This?)”

  1. shirley curran said

    Four hours, ‘longer than average’ – you must be joking Dave. My longest so far was 20 hours of solving (I’ll give more details of that shortly!) We would consider four hours a Formula 1 solve.

  2. Yes, I think my average stands at around 3hrs 55mins ;-). But don’t worry Shirley, a certain puzzle will up that average significantly!!

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