Listener 4141: Trailblazers by Dysart (or The End of My All-Correct Run!)
Posted by Dave Hennings on 1 July 2011
Dysart’s last Listener was Refrain, a year less a day ago. It was the one where a tortuously squiggly line had to be drawn through the letters spelling out “Fifteen men on the dead man’s chest, yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum” but requiring LEFT BOOT, an anagram of bottle of, to be highlighted. Great fun back then, and I was hoping for more fun here.
Well, Dysart’s idea of fun this week was to restrict me to just half a dozen entries after my first scan through the clues. I’m beginning to wonder whether this is really the best way to tackle a puzzle … it can certainly be the most depressing. So acrosses 13 ADAPT, 20 ENGINED, and downs 2 TEAWARE, 25 LEGUME, 33 NAUPLII and 34 UPCOME. I was pleased to get teaware as it was only to be found in the OED, which I do not possess, and 13ac had a misprint, of which there were nine spelling out a title. Rather pathetic, huh? I must have something stressful on my mind … oh, yes, trying to sell my house, one of the top three stress-makers according to everyone I’ve spoken to.
Surprisingly, my solving accelerated quite nicely, and over the next hour or so I got another 18 clues. And then a stroke of luck. For pretty much the first time I looked at 1ac and 1dn, which held the two adversaries in the encounter we were unravelling. I had ••AM•E••, and somehow FLAMBEAU leapt off the page. I don’t think I’d even started going through the alphabet for the first letter (which often helps) … strange how the mind works. So there he was, and of course at 1ac FATHER BROWN slotted in nicely. I don’t think I’ve read a Father Brown story for at least 30 years, but I remember how enjoyable they were, although I can’t remember any of the stories, or indeed their titles.
Luckily the correct letters of the misprints were hopefully spelling out just the one we were looking for. It wasn’t long before Blue Cross was there, but even that didn’t jog any memories. Of course, try as I might, I couldn’t find the Penguin Father Brown that I had way back then. I suppose a couple of house moves and six years in New York could have helped lose it!
It needed me to go online to read the full story which is about Father Brown, in an attempt to entrap Flambeau, making it known to all and sundry that he was carrying a valuable jewel. Having attracted the villain, they then go through London with Father Brown doing outrageous things to ensure that the police (including French detective Valentin, referred to in 18ac) managed to follow them. This included upsetting the SOUP (unclued OPUS), smashing a WINDOW (unclued WINODW) and upsetting the APPLES (unclued PLEASP).
Another half an hour, and all the clues were solved. Unfortunately, that included a few that I wasn’t 100% happy with and needed fully rationalising. 28ac Like a frail, old female, having to slip outside (6) necessitated looking up frail2 in Chambers to see that it’s a basket made of rushes giving the answer RUSHEN which is what the wordplay had already given me. Crossing this was 24dn Power station would stretch to Selby (4) for which I had thought power was a misprint of poser to give CRUX, although the wordplay most definitely didn’t. Sometime later, and I had the power station at DRAX (which I’d never heard of … it’s in North Yorkshire). This meant that the misprinted S must appear in another clue, and right at the end I saw that my worry about 46ac Something left over from pantry after trimming the edges was allayed with its misprint for pastry, and was TORTE without it’s edges … nothing to do with larders or butteries. DRAX also enabled me to suss my last clue, 32ac Player in position with his opponent moving thus (4) as EAST (not •UST which CRUX had led me to). This was SEAT with the opponent of East (the not-yet-solved-answer), ie S, moving thusly (ie in a not-yet-solved-direction, east), ie to the right 2 letters; despite the tongue in cheek, this is a perfectly fair clue.
Now we had to find a connected sequence of five letters, and it didn’t take long to see BLUE X in the main NW-SE diagonal. This had to be replaced by a seven-letter sequence to give new words (or in one case a two-word phrase) and represent a deception perpetrated by one of the adversaries. So this was to be the tricky bit then! The crossing words were CAMPER, BLIT, CHOU, EAST and POX. Looking at the last of these, poxy which crossed with drax, and I couldn’t see any alternative matches for the x so I guessed that this is where the three letters went, and probably where the two-word phrase was.
A bit of trial and error, and I came up with POPERY and DRAPER. This, together with CAMB, BAIT or BRIT, and all I could get was PLUMPER for the new seven-letter sequence, and no two word phrase. This was all getting messy and reminiscent of the dead man’s chest! I looked in Chambers again for all the seven-letter words beginning DRA, and came across DRALON® which gave POLONY crossing. Excellent! So the new word we were looking for was PA••LON or PR••LON, but again the two-word phrase was missing and anyway I didn’t recognise AONE as a word.
Well, it was at least 15 minutes before I realised that AONE, pronounced A-OWN, was not a word, but A ONE, pronounced A-ONE was!! Voilà! So the new word was PAILLON. Or at least I thought it was, being defined in Chambers as ‘a piece of foil to show through enamel, etc’. I wasn’t really convinced. Online OED gave ‘A decorative metallic scale or spangle’, so I guess that it was referring to the way that Father Brown substituted the Blue Cross package with a similar package holding phony padding.
I mused long and hard about PAILLON, and indeed the crossing CHOI (which is only given in C under pak choi, I think this should have alerted me) but in the end could see no alternative. It would be ironic if I survived Sabre’s Knight’s only to be felled by Dysart’s Father Brown. So thanks to Dysart for an entertaining puzzle, and curses if he’s finally upset my all-correct run!