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OZ and WR by Theod. Dvandva!

Posted by shirleycurran on 12 August 2011

As this rolled off the printer and a longer and longer preamble appeared (were we going to get any clues this week? The one with no clues is yet to come – or has it appeared before my Listener days?) my face fell; Playfair! Ah well, nil desperandum. That comes later!

One redeeming fact about the crosswords with knight’s moves, playfair or invisible ink gimmicks seems to be that the clues have to be relatively straight-forward in order to give solvers a chance to get somewhere. This one with that strange title, ‘OZ and WR’ was no exception.

We worked our way steadily through the clues, debating which was the extra word giving us those two key letters. Some of those extra words were not too evident to us, causing a sense of trepidation. There was a dose of schoolboy humour too. Now why were the men around me laughing at that clue, ‘Left [home] with incontinence in the rear and ran furiously for the bog near Argos’ (5) while I was racking my memory for the name of that swamp? (L + (incontinenc)E + RAN* = LERNA)? And what was amusing about ‘Love [triangle] heading for sex in bunk bed’ (5) (O + S(ex) in ROT = ROOST)?

Theod seems to have been suffering the effects of the Listener Oenophile club, too. There was the incontinence in 29 and his drunken hobo, ‘Ilkley [hobo] drunk? Probably’. (6) (Ilkley*  = LIKELY) though there was perhaps a move towards good food with the lobster and mozzarella. Are we beginning a new cheese club? ‘Bacteria in first of [water-buffalo] cheeses and Cheshire supply ultimately indicating a pathological condition’ (11). (C(heeses) and CHESHIRE* with IA, the suffix indicating a pathological condition – hmmm, I thought that was rather a sneaky clue, but what a stinker to clue!)

After a break for supper (no lobster but a bit of wine and cheese), we attacked the final corner – as usual the top left one and after an astonishing four hours or so of solving (astonishing for us) had an almost full grid.

Yes, we cheated and used a web site to find the key word. TRAGI-COMEDY appeared and we had soon sorted out the message contained in the Playfair code: A COMPOUND WORD, EACH ELEMENT BEING EQUAL IN STATUS, E.G. PLAYFAIR CODE WORD/ WORD HIGHLIGHTED IN THE GRID. Of course, working that out resolved issues about which were  the extra words and gave us our essential lead into the encoded words that still remained unsolved. When Dubai moved out of the clue, we could spot BOOKED ‘Express contempt for [Dubai] and fly as prearranged’ (6) (BOO + KED) and TULIPS, which had previously evaded identification – showy things.

We know where to look (usually) for these hidden words and BITTERSWEET appeared on the diagonal. English-teacher Pavlovian responses came into play. Aah, that’s Oxymoron, says numpty no. 1.

Well, we have to have a numpty red herring don’t we? The preamble said ‘…the theme word, which must be written below the grid; the components of the title should help to identify it.’ OZ and WR – were we looking at Oxymoron here – some contrast between the open spaces of Oz and the West Riding (we did have drunken hobos in Ilkley, after all)?

Encolding those letters gave us DV and VA (back to last week’s  ‘What it says by Waterloo?) and surprisingly, when I fed that into an anagram solver, (yes, ‘cheating’ again – or is it?) nothing appeared except a DVD van.

What next? Well one of the best tips I was given by a superior solver was ‘Look up every element of a clue or a word in Chambers!’ VA, of course, gives Victoria, so I was back in OZ, but with DV I struck gold. Deo volente (of course), Drive (in street names) and when the eye strayed down one line Eureka ! DVANDVA, (grammar) n. a compound word, each element being equal in status (e.g. tragicomedy, bitter-sweet). [Sans dvamdva a pair].

There’s nothing to describe that fabulous surge of excitement (well, yes there is but that sort of comment is not appropriate here) when the magic of a Listener endgame is ultimately revealed and this one has such perfection. This was superb, thank you Theod for a crossword that came together so beautifully in the end.

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One Response to “OZ and WR by Theod. Dvandva!”

  1. linxit said

    How annoying. I’m an idiot. I got all the thematic bits, solved it correctly, decoded the title (writing DV and VA at the top the same as you did), looked it up in Chambers and saw how apt the definition was, then stuck in TRAGICOMEDY under the grid as the theme word and posted it off. About ten minutes later I realized the theme word had to be DVANDVA.

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