Listen With Others

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Listener 4148: More Collusion by The Magpie

Posted by erwinch on 19 August 2011

A second Listener outing for the mighty duo and we were reintroduced to the Brains Trust of Bright Spark, Clever Clogs and Smartypants who all appeared in the first, Collusion, in 2008.  I had a look at my file but could not fathom Collusion at all – I would have had to solve it again to understand the theme.  My comments were: Great! Hardest of the year to date (it was only mid-March but at the 2009 Dinner in Fife it received an honourable mention in the AGC deliberations).  So, I was expecting more of the same, as the title suggested, but the first grid turned out to be a surprisingly straightforward fill:
How do two people go about setting a puzzle?  Do they perhaps each write a full set of clues and then decide on the best?  Well I would bet that Pieman was responsible for 16ac since it contains his now trademark as = a’s:
Means to forget as is going slow (6) verges – (A)VER(A)GES
Only those who have not been paying attention are going to be caught out by this device again.
On to the second grid where we had to pick out an unnecessary letter from each clue.  In many cases this was by no means an obvious choice, starting with 1ac:
One hunting meant to use this for storing plucked catch? (7, two words) game bag – GAME + BAG
Either E, on or N, meat would fit and before I had even solved the clue I fell for the seductive O, string (plucked).
Others I was just blind to and did not get until they were used to replace a portion of the first grid:
17dn What might produce eel or remover in the old world? (7) eloiner – ELO IN ER gives eel or
I considered E, el and R, remove but  failed to spot L, word although the reading of the clue does not make a lot of sense with either world or word.
So, where to place these unnecessary letters?  A 5×7 rectangle read in clue order, Across then Down, replacing the centre of the grid was my first thought:
However, for some inexplicable reason I placed the start (the NW corner) in row 4, column 4 instead of row 3, column 4.  I would have finished three days earlier had I been less careless.  Instead I went on to fill the rectangles by grid order (1, 2, 3, 4 ….) and also tried placing them elsewhere and at 45°, etc.  I became fixated on the idea that the centre column of the second grid would read: ?THIS?PLAN?, to be changed to give the third and final grid.  All of this was to no avail and I was on the verge of giving up for the second time this year (after Sabre’s Jumping to Conclusion) until a friend told me that this was a clever puzzle but on the easy side for a Listener.
He was right!  Returning to my first thought, the letters now slotted in smoothly:
The jumbled letters of this plan were immediately apparent, making the finding of the third grid and solution a formality:
One quibble that I have with the preamble is that they did not all arrive at the same solution and so did not think alike, at least not until they colluded.
Well, I was kicking myself for making such a meal of the second grid.  We know that our solving ability will inevitably decline with age but not yet surely.  I cannot even blame the distraction of an all absorbing Tour de France since that had finished the weekend before.  Let us just say that I allowed the setters’ formidable reputation to get to me – thank you both for a splendid puzzle.

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