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Bias by Zag

Posted by shirleycurran on 10 February 2012

There was a question on Derek’s message board this week about different cluing devices wasn’t there? It seems appropriate that we should have this ‘different’ device in this week’s puzzle. ‘Every clue is given a degree of spin, resulting in a consecutive group of some or all of its letters being reversed before entry into the grid’.

At first sight, this didn’t look too difficult except that I compounded the difficulty by assuming that most of the clues, where there was some sort of anagram indicator, would consist of jumbles. A number of the clues were relatively easy to home in on but I soon had a grid littered with little boxes of potential letters intersecting with similar little boxes of letters. In fact, I seem to have treated it as though these were the detested jumbles.

Still, some clues yielded quickly and within minutes we had a scattering of words in place: ‘Cuts up baggy garment (4)’ had to be LOPS, reversed giving us the Shakespearean SLOP (I imagine there is an &lit. anagram indicator in there, like that strange one ‘tight’ in the clue about cavalry men in Lycra!) and ‘Black fruit found underfoot (5)’ gave us SLOES/SOLES, though, of course, more solving was required before we knew which word to enter.

The grid fill proceeded steadily and when I realized that, once I had inverted a section of a word, the remainder could go in normally – PARNASSUS, for example, giving APRNASSUS, we were within sight of the end. We had, of course, spotted the usual Listener compiler oenophilia as Zag had blood pressure rising at the sight of a loose lady in the pub, ‘Her getting hour off in pub has an effect on blood pressure (5)’ ([h]ER in INN giving RENIN or INERN) and ‘Other contents found in best ales (4)’ I struggled for a while with my conviction that this must be ET AL entered as TALE, (awful isn’t it when one becomes convinced of an answer and wastes time on it!) Of course the ES and LE had to come out of [b]ES[t] [a]LE[s] to give ELSE.

With the grid almost full, we stared gloomily at those unclued lights. There had to be a ten-letter hint somewhere. Could it be round the centre like last week’s butterfly? Diagonal was more likely – and sure enough, there it was, SEVEN SAGES – but how craftily hidden on a bias (of course!)

Did I do the obvious thing and go to Chambers to see what it said about them? That was what the preamble was so clearly prompting me to do, ‘The Chambers Dictionary (2011) is the primary reference and confirms all of the theme words.’ No, it would be unnumptylike to do such a wise and obvious thing.

Brewers Dictionary of Phrase and Fable produced words to fill seven of the lights, MILETUS, MITYLENE, LINDOS, ATHENS, PRIENE, SPARTA and CORINTH (locations for seven wise but rather macho men, I thought) but consternation hit me, as I could not see how LINDOS could fit with our rendering of TRUANT ‘Time a turn is made otherwise one’s in the wrong place (6)’ which had to go in as TTNAUR.

I was mildly miffed when I finally saw the Chambers rendering of LINDOS – whoever heard of LINDUS? Is this another of those Chambers errors that endearingly prevail from volume to volume? (Like that ‘nulla nuova, buona nouva’ that appears faithfully in every edition – the error is still there – it’s on page 1836 of the 2011 version!) Perhaps Lindus really can be spelled this way?

Answerbank people seemed to find this crossword easy. (Yes, why deny it, of course I look in and follow the discussion every week!) I was really challenged by the original device and the mental gymnastics of having to produce IINOAN for IONIAN, TEBA for BETA, APRNASSUS for PARNASSUS and SENELLEH for HELLENES (Yes, we spotted the subtle relevance of the smattering of Greek references – Clever!). Thank you, Zag.

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One Response to “Bias by Zag”

  1. Marmotte support said

    If only I’d though of looking at the diagonal. I gave up in despair when google couldn’t provide me with a link between the 4 cities I had and none of my word finishers could help. And it just added insult to injury when Answerbankers were saying how easy it was.

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