Listen With Others

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Toga by Nod

Posted by shirleycurran on 26 August 2011

What a relief to see a short preamble with such a succinct instruction, ‘The wordplay in each clue indicates the answer with an extra letter not entered in the grid; in clue order, these letters spell out some advice that solvers must follow.’ 40 clues to solve, so 40 extra letters to find. Chris Lancaster’s wise words are engraved in the Listenersolvey part of my brain, “I always glance down and up the first and last letters of the clues to see whether there is a message hidden there; it can save a lot of time.”

Look at the down clues! They produced rather an odd set of initial letters: URAUVTUYVTUGVACHECYR Definitely something rather fishy there, that wasn’t a statistical display of ETAOINSHRDLU! Well, highlighting the instruction and looking at openings of clues was not going to get the numpties far, so we began our solve. The first clue to yield, ‘Balkan waters a wild cherry (6) produced a conundrum. It looked to me as though the six-letter word AEGEAN was actually losing a letter in the wordplay A + GEAN (Yes, I realize now that A represented ARE but had to work back to that when solving was complete!) This looked daunting!

Fortunately, a couple of long anagrams gave up their secrets. ‘Reflexively playing piccolo rarely (12)’ was a generous gift to solvers. RECIPROCALLY went in, with an extra O and we learned a new word with ONOCEATOR ‘Unnatural clone outran hybrid (10)’.

A number of clues had us puzzled and unsure of the extra letter, especially those where we the clue led us to a shortened word that still had to produce the extra letter, like ‘Addict almost free from danger rising (4)’ USER fitted the slot but we had to work backwards to find that RESCU(E) was ‘almost free from danger’ – reverse that for our USER and find an extra C.

Most of the message appeared,’S???TFI??? LETTERS OF THE CLUES FOR MORE ADVICE’. I was puzzling over the opening of that message but, luckily, have two thirteen year-old guests. (Just to make me feel a real numpty!) “It says ‘SHIFT FIRST LETTERS’ doesn’t it? Does that mean you have to move them along in the alphabet?”

“Bedtime!” I muttered and crept away to puzzle over the extent of the shift somewhere where they wouldn’t shame me by doing it in their heads.

Writing out a couple of (double) alphabets and sliding them along like a slide-rule until I found a suitable fit (of course ABCD… = NOPQ… – should I have guessed that from the word ‘Toga’ that was leading me to a Latin source?) and I was soon able to decipher, SHIFT A ROW BY THIRTEEN THEN HIGHLIGHT IN PURPLE.

It was obvious which row had to be enciphered and sheer delight, as midnight approached, to see CAESAR CIPHER emerge. Only one problem remained; even Spud’s Rubick’s cube didn’t lead to the purchase of a purple highlighter. I hope my superimposition of pink on blue will suffice.

Many thanks to Nod for what I believe was a debut puzzle – great fun.

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