Listener 4147: OZ and WR by Theod (or Little Shop of Horrors!)
Posted by Dave Hennings on 12 August 2011
This is only Theod’s second Listener, the first being way back in 1998, well before my current Listener solving habit. This time, there’s a Playfair codeword involved, not my favourite gimmick, but hopefully it will be easy to sort out. I hoped that the answers to be encoded would be relatively easy to solve (no DINOTHERE). Meanwhile, every clue had an extra word which spelt out a message.
This turned out to be a good straightforward puzzle with excellent clues. A smattering of acrosses began with 5 ENCODERS, 10 U-BOAT, 17 ABASE, followed by two words to be encoded, 18 RANSOM (hidden word) and 27 LIKELY (anagram). A similar smattering of down clues, including the third of the answers to be encoded, 6 TULIPS. The fourth was a bit more elusive: 26 Express contempt for [Dubai] and fly as prearranged (6), which had me trying to get PREBOOK (fly as prearranged) into a 6-letter space. It turned out to be BOOKED, BOO + KED (a fly).
The grid was finished in about an hour and a quarter, fairly quick for a change. So on to the Playfair codeword with these encodings:
There seemed to be several in-a-line codings of three letter sequences, namely RAG from 18ac, ULY from 27dn, CTU from 6dn and EDC from 26dn. Not being a great expert on Playfairs, I didn’t know whether this was par for the course or not. The RAG could go in as RAG•• , •RAG•, ••RAG, or even G••RA or AG••R … and either horizontally or vertically. From this point, it just seemed to be a question of jiggling around with some of the known sequences, and hoping that a good proportion of Q, U, V, W, X, Y and Z would go in the last two rows.
And so TRAGICOMEDY appeared after about 15 minutes, enabling the four empty squares to be filled in the grid. My next thought was: I’ve just finished the grid, so how else is it to be modified?!
Writing out the first and last letters of extra words with their Playfair codes took another 10 minutes or so …
… and it was fairly clear what the hidden message was :
A compound word each element being equal in status eg Playfair codeword word highlighted in grid
The last few words of the message seemed very contrived and convoluted, so I turned my attention to the title, decoding it from its Playfairisation. I was initially convinced that DV and VA were initials of something, and I thought they might be characters from a play, but Venus and Adonis were the only ones that came to mind. Dv.. always makes me think of Dvorak, so I thought I’d check on any words beginning with DV.., et voilà, there was DVANDVA, a word I’d not come across before, and everything fell into place beautifully. Its definition in Chambers reads:
A compound word, each element being equal in status (eg tragicomedy, bitter-sweet)
And so the final modification became apparent. I particularly liked the fact that you weren’t actually told to highlight BITTER-SWEET, but it was almost a prediction given by the hidden message. Great stuff!
A really enjoyable puzzle from Theod, with fine clues and good surface readings. I’ll never be able to shop at Argos again!!