Listen With Others

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Variation on a Theme by Nibor

Posted by shirleycurran on 16 December 2011

What fun – right up to the final touch when we had to decide how to make a bat look sporty. I toyed with notions of Batman leaping off a building but, as ski season is just beginning here, decided that Nibor probably expected that sort of bat represented in a sporty and pictorial fashion. I don’t think bats usually smile but did my best to make this one look happy.

The Numpties solved Nibor’s Variation on a Theme steadily, grumbling just a little bit about the number of proper nouns, like OMAHA, YEAGER, OKINAWA, ERNANI, LHASA etc.  but we did enjoy some of the clues. ‘Mixture resulting from (half) a horse and sheep (7)’ A NAG + RAM and ‘Tarty (otter) could become 7s friend (5)’ (RATTY). (We had already worked out that MR TOAD was the ‘Reckless driver’s time (out) in travelling under motorway (6, two words)’ but that had taken some unravelling of the convoluted wordplay – T in ROAD under M).

There was plenty of generous cluing here too, with more than the usual sprinkling of hidden clues and anagrams, though the reason for several of these was obvious. We needed help to solve a clue like ‘Madonna (largely naked) conceals religious leader (5)’ NANAK with the ‘largely’ as the extra word. It is perhaps a good thing that solvers are so intent on discovering the solution that they barely give a thought to the surface reading of the clue. Well, really!

Those extra words were cunningly slipped into the clues but all at once one of my favourite authors leapt into view: ‘HOW I WOND…’ It could only be one thing … well, two. We had enough letters to identify ‘How I wonder what you’re at, Up above the world you fly’, and, after a moment’s consternation when we were unable to fit L. Carroll into the final eight letters, remembered that he was the Reverend Charles Dodgson.

Of course, once the extra letters have all been discovered, solving speeds up and we soon had a complete grid and a clash on the bottom line that unraveled itself to put a TEA TRAY into the SKY.

Almost finished! Just the preamble to decipher. Clearly our sporty bat had to be drawn in the small square in the centre as he was the topic of Carroll’s ‘Variation on a theme’ – no problem. Just TWINKLE TWINKLE left to find. ‘The first two words of a four line verse are included in the completed grid in a manner representative of the original theme and must be highlighted.’ That, in the Misses Taylor version that Carroll was satirising was ‘Twinkle, twinkle little star, How I wonder what you are, Up above the world so high, Like a diamond in the sky.’ So were we looking for something like a diamond, for a star, for something above a world or just ‘Twinkle’ somehow hidden?

OK, I admit that it took us another day to get to the final highlighting. We coloured all the TWINs and KLEs in the grid and hunted for stars upwards, downwards, backwards,  circling, twinkling on every second light in every direction and on every diagonal – and found a few – Uranus is lurking in there and so are Mir and Orion (Yes, sir, I know it’s a constellation!) However, Erwinch’s warning always lingers in my mind. If it isn’t clearly right then it isn’t the solution. The Editors would never have accepted a crossword that required lots of funny little moon-shaped half words to be highlighted as the final move.

Wait a moment though. Why was that ‘TW IN KL E’ spread out on rows like that? Memories of childhood piano lessons come back. Why was this catchy little tune one of the first in Book One. Of course! It ran down the notes in order with a nice final thump on ‘ARE’. A quick Google hunt produced the music and we had to give Nibor full marks for ingenuity.

Very enjoyable, thank you, Nibor!

2 Responses to “Variation on a Theme by Nibor”

  1. erwinch said

    Such a shame that you did not stick with your skiing bat Shirley – what happened? It would have been a cruel judge that marked this wrong.

  2. applications…

    […]Variation on a Theme by Nibor « Listen With Others[…]…

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