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Listener 4165: Nibor’s Variation on a Theme (or What Sort of Bat?)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 16 Dec 2011

Nibor is a regular, if infrequent, Listener setter whose first puzzle dates back to 1975! Many had a musical theme, but not this week … or so I thought. Here we had a poem to be found with the help of the initials of extra words in clues. That sounded straightforward, but unfortunately there were clashes in the grid. I always find these tricky, but there were only two of them, so I relaxed a little.

This relaxation did not last long, as the across clues yielded few answers, and the down clues even fewer. 18ac OKINAWA was the first that I solved: I always like well disguised hidden words where the extra letter or word is in the middle of the sequence (here it was wOK [enterprise] IN A WArehouse). Next came 32ac EIGHTEENTH, a simple anagram, 40ac CANT, 42ac ORION (nice extra word “tame animal”, and 46ac EAT. Lastly in the acrosses was 47ac Tarty otter could become 7’s friend which looked like it should be RATTY. This helped me with 7dn Reckless driver’s time out in travelling under motorway, which I originally thought should be ROAD HOG (too many letters), but was obviously MR TOAD.

Needless to say, 26dn and 38dn caused me a problem later on, since by the time I’d worked my way down to the bottom right corner, I’d completely forgotten about those two damned clashes. I need to devise a method for the future so that I keep all aspects of the puzzle, especially the clueing, fresh in my mind, or perhaps written on a crib sheet by the puzzle.

I reached the point where the initial letters of the extra words in clues resulted in the last few downs yielding C • O D G S O •, and Lewis Carroll was revealed as the author. It didn’t need much to fill in the gaps I still had for the across clues to reveal the middle two lines from:

Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder what you’re at!
Up above the world you fly!

Like a teatray in the sky.

Carroll seems to have been an early exponent of the modern day usage, especically in text-speak and emails, of frequent exclamation marks, although why he refrained from using one at the end of the last line, which is the most bizarre of the four, is beyond me! (Sorry!) For some reason, the last line reminded me of the late, great Douglas Adams’s line in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, describing the Vogon Constructor Fleet: “The ships hung in the sky in much the same way that bricks don’t.”! (My exclamation mark.)

Eventually the grid was completed, with the clashes in the bottom line resolved to read LIKEST EAT RAYKY, representing the last line of the verse, LIKE + TEATRAY in SKY.

Listener 4165There were some tricky clues on the way (definitons in bold, and extra words in square brackets):

5ac LYM Will’s bloodhound could be hovering [over] clipper if in the Faroes
would be a hovering clipper if in FO, ie FLYMO; tricky for foreign solvers, even though it’s in C?
20ac ENTRY Hounds ready for training [reject] half of mutton to annoy
a mutton is a word for an em in printing, and half an em is an EN
25ac NISSES Busses, with first three further on, attract friendly creatures
KISSES with first (short pause) three letters advanced
32dn ENROLL Jonathan’s to register green Rolls, partly [open-topped]
Jonathan is a word for Americans that I haven’t come across before
38dn E-BOOK Tablet on Mac (familiarly) [negates] thumbs-up for text on iPad, say
E (tablet, ie ecstacy) + BO (Mac, meaning bloke) + OK (thumbs-up)

Next, we had to highlight the first two words of the verse in the grid in a manner representative of the original theme. Well, it was easy enough to spot INKLE TWINKLE running left to right in the top six rows of the grid, and TW was a bit further down. The trouble was that there were different combinations of TW and KLE that could be highlighted and it wasn’t immediately clear which were correct. In a manner representative of the original theme from the preamble was obviously intended to define the correct option. Was it referring to Twinkle, twinkle little star? There was no way that a five- or six-pointed star could be formed, that I could see anyway. And how could it be made to represent a teatray?

I have to confess that it was only after keying the grid into Sympathy, and staring at it on and off several times, that the penny finally dropped. The correct highlighting represented the notes on the scale as used for the original lyrics, the French melody Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman. Each letter represents one note, the two Es representing the longer ones:

Twinkle Twinkle

And lastly, the first two lines of the verse had to be represented in the central large square in a sporty and pictorial fashion. I had always thought that Lewis Carroll had the flying mammal in mind, rather than the cricket club. Either, with a bit of a stretch, could be imagined as a teatray. But we were told sporty, so, unless there is a bizarre sport involving live bats (much as flamingos were used in croquet by Alice), a cricket bat was required. I’m guessing that a baseball bat might be accepted by the editors, but presumably only on entries from North America!

My entry would soon be off to John Green, but a final check of the grid was needed. I got to 2dn Mucker leaving Morocco over repeated [extortion]. I hadn’t fully resolved the wordplay, but a few minutes later, via muck → manure in Bradford’s, and I had MANURER (mucker) – MA (Morocco), reversed, giving the answer RERUN, not RERAN as I had originally entered. Wow, a lucky escape.

Nibor’s fine puzzle certainly wasn’t a piece of cake; I think it took me the best part of 4 hours to complete and was very entertaining.

Post postscript (Saturday)

I should just add that the time I have given above does not include how long it took me to work out the highlighting required for Twinkle Twinkle; that was certainly an extra hour or more.

One Response to “Listener 4165: Nibor’s Variation on a Theme (or What Sort of Bat?)”

  1. erwinch said

    I too opted for a cricket bat Dave and the slope NE to SW indicating that we are both right-handed.  How conventional of us.

    Trial by Google: “baseball bat” v “cricket bat” v “table tennis bat” suggests that World wide baseball bat would win hands down (51:7:1).  If you look only at pages from the UK these reduce to 14:8:1 but I am certain that a picture of a cricket bat will have predominated in Listener entries.  Other sporting bats, and presumably rackets, were of course acceptable and it would be interesting to see the overall statistics here.  However, you might have been on sticky ground with a flamingo – surely a mallet rather than a bat.

    I also stumbled on rerun (2dn) with its tricky wordplay but this was a highly accomplished and enjoyable puzzle from Nibor – as we have come to expect from him over the years.

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