Listen With Others

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Lawbreaker by Stick Insect

Posted by shirleycurran on 30 Dec 2011

Two for the price of one this week! What fun! The numpties seemed to have no trouble at all deciding where the clues split and gave us our two solutions. Our gridfill was unusually speedy – he solved almost as fast as I could write (which, by the way, does make me wonder how Mark Goodliffe can do his astonishing solving feats in the Times competition each year. I don’t think I would be able to read the clues and write the answers in the time it takes him to solve the whole crossword – in fact, I would probably still be sharpening my pencil as he finished!)

There were some easy clues here, though, weren’t there? It was a pleasure not to feel stupid and incompetent for once, as words like CYST appeared (‘Lucy Stoner secures a home for dominant organism’ – hidden) accompanied by DORS (‘mocks antique dodo half forgotten by eminent scientists’ – DO[do] + R[oyal] S[ociety]), PIE (‘chattering bird from island in Peru’ – I in PE) and URSA (‘collection of stars is restrained by our sanity’ – hidden).

I had to hunt for the habitual Listener compiler’s alcoholic tipple but it was there – “Kiss by mother was her ruin” – an obscure reference to the obsolete MAX for ‘gin’ and to the almost equally obsolete notion that vast quantities of inferior gin caused spontaneous miscarriage. (What a lot of useless knowledge we hoard!)

Even better, the long clues yielded solutions fairly quickly too. We soon had our EMMENTALER in place (‘Eternal shambles surrounding two maiden overs with England’s opener – hard cheese’ – an anagram of eternal + MM + E) and the DATAGLOVES (Computer interfaces are a little bit backward with balls, getting 5 for 11′. ‘Data’ gave this one away – a tad, reversed, though we had a moment’s doubt about how the B of Globes was ‘eleven’ – it’s hexadecimal isn’t it?)

No numpty hiccups until we reached CEILIDH, which wanted to go into the grid upside down. After a moment’s consternation (was there really going to be an entire device not signalled by the preamble?) we realized that something similar was occurring wherever we had a C or an H. So much for our initial suspicion that these two squares represented the two halves of a football pitch and that our lawbreaker was going to be offside! (Celtic playing Hibernian?)

We did wonder whether our C was going to be the speed of light and whether Stick Insect had managed to race off a crossword about neutrinos going even faster and get it published without the current Listener 7-month queue (though a CERN friend, who worked on the original GPS timing circuits involved in the measurements of the aberrant neutrinos, assures us that the time it took to feed the neutrinos into the system accounts for that anomaly there has been such a fuss about).

Before dinner, we had our twenty clashes and a full grid. We stared at it for a while and the physicist numpty muttered about ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ but we put our full grid on one side as the Alps have had a metre of fresh snow and even our little ski resort is opening in the morning. An early start is called for.

Coming off the slopes rather cold and leaping into the hot tub set the neurons moving; ‘Maxwell’s Demon’ appeared with a DOOR neatly situated in the centre of the grid.  In response to my total incomprehension, the physicist numpty produced his well-thumbed ‘An Introduction to the Kinetic Theory of Gases’, Sir James Jeans, CUP, 1962 (just 17s 6d!) and there it was, clearly explained.

So yet again, a Listener crossword proves to be a learning experience (and this wasn’t quite as difficult to grasp as the Klein Bottle theory!) so it remained to decide which side had to have the warmer particles in it – the H – HEAT appeared on the right (once I had chopped up my original grid and sellotaped it back together with RPRINCIPLEACCELERATO and OFTHEWEDGETHETHINEND producing ‘The thin end of the wedge’ and ‘Accelerator principle’) so I happily put the Hs there and the Cs on the other side.

Many thanks again, Stick Insect for an entertaining puzzle that was not too challenging and that left us some of the weekend for gardening, cleaning, ironing .. Oh dear!

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