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Aristocat by Mango – not quite QWIJIBO

Posted by shirleycurran on 20 January 2012

Mango! What a pleasant surprise for the last day of the year and our 53rd Listener. We’ve managed to complete them all (though with what success I dare not guess as I rarely consult the solutions – though I did, last week and was disconcerted to see that CARNELIANS was in the original Times Website publication and in the following day’s newspaper, when CORNELIANS was clearly the correct answer). With the able Mango team at the helm, this promised to be fair and fun. And it was!

But it wasn’t easy! As usual, the numpties began in the south-east corner and, with SWEIR (‘So damn lazy up north (5)’) understood what was going on. The N was moving to give me a ‘sweir’ S(on) and the ‘dam’ was the weir. That was subtle enough and there were anther 42 of these little word games to complete! Ouf!  What a clever and original idea, though. I have seen the misprint device used, so that Mangled (anagram indicator), for example, becomes Dangled, but the idea of having every clue move a letter left or right, or omit one, with so many examples of word-play indicators being part of the device was delightfully novel and challenging.

We had ‘Toiled’ losing a T to give us ‘oiled’, ‘Violet’ gaining an L to be ‘violent’ (interesting that the capital letter was allowed to just disappear there!), ‘writing’ gaining an H and ‘writhing’, ‘angling’ becoming ‘tangling’, as well as ‘rap’ becoming a container indicator ‘wrap’. Part of the subtlety was that these were hidden among other tricky moves like ‘ruins’ simply losing its I to become the R of R(uns) and one I particularly enjoyed ‘Grant and Charley, on vacation, chase girl (22, diminutive)’. I didn’t know that Nancy was a diminutive of Agnes (a chaste girl), but liked the way that the randy couple of men became a simple ‘gran’ or ‘nan’ and C(harle)y on holiday with a pure lassie.

I could go on admiring these fine clues – but you solved them for yourself so move on! The p.d.m. came early when I fed my few letters of 24 ac into Antony Lewis’s Crossword Compiler word-finder and Duke Ellington appeared as one of about ten offerings. The ODQ gave him only one quotation: ‘Playing bop is like Scrabble with all the vowels missing’. What compiler could resist that temptation! (One has confessed to me that he has been working on exactly the same theme, prompted by that quotation – well, Mango preempted.)

From there I was on the home straight (but had to gallop for about three more hours!) 1ac had been an awkward PLYN?B?S and 42 L?S?RBBL. Well, I ask you! With them and Duke Ellington in place, difficult areas of the grid became easier, though I have never heard of YARDANG, JAPAN WAX, DISCOVERTURE or XEMA – more words to nonchalantly slip into conversation next week.

Of course Mango had the usual Listener Compiler healthy dose of alcohol. We had ‘Scotch or gin taken till mellow’ – though sadly it turned into a Scotch Tor – a  BEN, the gin drinker was ‘taken ill’ IGN giving us BENIGN. The ‘society crowd in 42ac were drinking ‘cold gin’ and a ‘pint’ in 10d turned into a ‘pin’ – a mere AXLE (Take = R after W in WRAXLE, ‘fight over maT in Devon). Is it that crossword compilers like their tipple, or just that the words for alcohol lend themselves so readily to crossword use?

So what was it all about? I highlighted my seven words that had no vowels and wondered about the other quotation that had appeared: ‘It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing.’ I imagine we weren’t supposed to be solving backwards (as we invariably do) and working from Duke Ellington to the quotation. The quotation was intended to lead us to him.

What was the point of all those words without vowels spreading out from the L of ELLINGTON? Aaah, SCRABBLE! Brilliant play! Mango have the X and Y in triple word-score positions. It was a friend who later pointed out to me that, just like Scrabble, this was pangrammatic (minus the vowels, in Duke Ellington Bop mode). Lovely! (But what a good thing that there wasn’t a space below the grid where we had to enter the total score in points of those vowel-less words, or even send our entries on an appropriately coloured grid.)

Thank you Mango for a fine last 2011 crossword.

4 Responses to “Aristocat by Mango – not quite QWIJIBO”

  1. Marmotte support said

    Oh silly me! Why did I enter TRNQLZE instead of TRNQLLZ when I knew I was dropping vowels? That meant I couldn’t find Wraxle or Japan Wax. I still don’t get that answer – Jaw means to lecture but Getz’s instrument was a Sax and where is the fat slag??

  2. David Rotheray said

    getz’s instrument = ax !!! sneaky

  3. shirleycurran said

    Yes, the putative SAX held me up for ages. Sneaky indeed – a deliberate red herring, I am sure.

  4. gerrym said

    The Scrabble board is 15 x 15 – wonder if the editors/Times would have allowed the puzzle to be that size?

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