Listen With Others

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More Collusion by The Magpie

Posted by shirleycurran on 19 August 2011

Initial reactions to this one were mixed. The Magpie indeed! We know what to expect from those clever clogs. The current Magpie is sitting in front of me. We have solved one puzzle (but it is still current so ST SH or whatever those ‘hush’ abbreviations are). The Magpie ratings go from A to E with A being occasionally manageable, C about average Listener standard and E just what you need if you fancy a week or two in an institution for raving lunatics (don’t know what the current PC expression for that is). Magpie No 104 has as its 6 puzzles this month A,D,C,D,B, and D – yes, that averages out as C (the MEAN – see 16ac, is C) so we might as well have a shot at this.

Next reaction; a delighted guffaw as we study the preamble – so they are a brains trust with a bright spark a clever clogs and a smarty pants. Seriously, though; we have 35 clues here and an 11 X 11 grid. We are going to change 35 letters in that grid to replace a portion. We can’t be working on the perimeter or diagonals so it is going to be a 7 X 5 or a 5 X 7 rectangle in the centre.

The preamble is clear. We have to complete the bright spark’s grid, so we set to work. That initial fill is not over-difficult though we have a few places where the unnecessary letter in the clue doesn’t leap out at us. ‘Technique of colouration foxy animal goes over (4)’? This seems to suggest TAKI reversing to IKAT and our likely culprit is that ugly U in the middle of colouration, but what’s that ‘foxy’ doing? Does a reddish-brown horse become ‘foxy’ or are we in a mess here and is ‘foxy’ a lovely new anagrind?

LATERAL or LITERAL at 15ac? (As it turned out, this clue and the obscure VERGES and even a hint of doubt about ALKENE didn’t matter – luckily for us!) We understand now that ‘Rival dropping first pass leaves one taken aback (7)’ gives COLLATERAL dropping COL or ‘pass’ but I am unable to see what that has to do with ‘one taken aback’ – but it did give us that A in [A]back.

Similarly, ‘Means to forget as is going slow (6)’ Means are averages, and we can forget As (two of them) so we get VERGES but how is that ‘is going [S]low’?

Puzzled nudniks but we had an almost complete grid and, encouraged by the fact that yet another set of Listener compilers seemed to indulge in the traditional alcohol, this time with the fascinating new way of becoming inebriate[D] ‘What rueful linguist admits becoming inebriated (7)’ (FULLING hidden), took a pause for a single malt, then attempted to fit those 35 letters into our grid.

Copying all the bars correctly into my working grid would have saved me a good half hour of floundering – that was our red herring this week as we were hunting for odd words like SETOSEL and MATTACK. However, the problem was finally resolved and we were left with realising what the smartypants had seen.

GREAT MINDS THINK ALIKE didn’t require great minds (but we are wondering, is there some way of applying to join this smartypants collusion? We are so often scratching our heads and they seem to sail with great ease towards their solution!) We actually had to work backwards to find the eight words we had changed, but the fact that they were symmetrically placed was a generous Magpie hint. (EDGE, IDEE, VERMIN, BARS – a bit more of that oenophilic thing, I suppose they were drinking the MIXERs too, INKIER, PARE, PENK – indeed what a silly word – and SKIN.)

Great fun, this one and nowhere near so difficult as we had originally feared. Of course we are left with a sense of admiration that these bright sparks were able to see that there were three different ways of completing that central section. I hope we’ll get a setters’ blog explaining how it was done – did they work backwards? Thanks to the Magpie clever clogs for a pleasant romp.

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