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Listener 4143: The Bottom Line by Charybdis (or What Goes Up Doesn’t Necessarily Come Down)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 15 Jul 2011

Charybdis is always entertaining … remember Out to Work last year with its Jack jumping out of the box? Great fun! Here we had a seemingly straightforward grid, but some sort of graph to find which had several consequences to be found. Then there was a quotation which was the clue to a relevant name which had to replace the entry at 19ac. Already my head was beginning to spin, so on with the clues.

Well, I don’t remember Out of Work being this easy to start with, but I probably had the most fruitful first pass through the clues for many a year, with very little need to refer to Mrs B. A dozen acrosses and at least as many downs, including three answers that were too long for their entries in the grid. And all within 35 minutes. I couldn’t help thinking that my come-uppance was lurking round the corner, especially since the extra letters generated by the wordplay currently looked uninspiring.

Twenty minutes later, and another eight clues had succumbed, and the hidden message now started ••M•T••••W•C•ED••ISWAYC•MES and the quotation from Macbeth was there: “(By the pricking of my thumbs,) Something wicked this way comes“. Two book titles in one here: the first by Agatha Christie, the second by Ray Bradbury. How long before every line in Shakespeare has been used as a book title?

Unfortunately, this didn’t really give me any idea as to the theme, and I certainly couldn’t solve it as a clue to the name to go in at 19ac. Needless to say, the solving process slowed down after the initial flourish, and it took over an hour to finish the grid. The last clues I got were 6dn TYPESETTER, 15ac PEST and 27ac FATWA (I couldn’t get Pan Am out of my head having forgotten about poor old TWA, which, by the way, was a really good airline).

There were eight answers which were too long for their entry length: GUTTIES/SPECTRES, EVANGEL/KUNG FU, FATWA/TYPESETTER and FOOTIE/FLOODWATER. Here SPECIES, FUEL, WATER and FOOD had to be removed from the clashing squares, to represent their probable disappearance sometime in the (relatively near?) future. This left just T, G, T and O in the grid.

Oh, and did I mention how much trouble 19ac itself gave me? Having got it starting with an M, I didn’t see CLIMATE until METICAL was the only entry that would fit the crossing letters. And there was Climate Change!

The remainder of the extra letters from the clues now spelt out We need to see a downturn at ten. 10dn, unclued, was NO•TA•U•OP. This was obviously not a word going down, but it didn’t take long to see POPULATION going up, completing the rather depressing graph started by the bottom row GROWTH IN HUMAN POPULATION. The message told us to reverse the growth and enter POPULATION downwards from 10. I highlighted it in a rather disgusting shade of brown to indicate the scorched earth of our future world! (I suspect this was lost on John.)

Finally, the name which needed to replace my hard-fought-for answer at 19ac. I’m afraid I hadn’t heard of him, but he’s there in Chambers under Malthusian. Thomas Malthus was a nineteenth century scholar who wrote, among other works, An Essay on the Principle of Population, an early warning that everybody obviously ignored! And his name: MAL (something wicked) THUS (this way) comes.

So thanks to Charybdis for another very entertaining, if depressing, puzzle.

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