Listener 4173: Bias by Zag (or What’s a Tyrant Doing Telling Stories?)
Posted by Dave Hennings on 10 February 2012
Another new setter this week you might think, but this is in fact Zag’s fifth Listener. However, the last was way back in 2002 … and was a numerical. Luckily that’s not the case here as the next isn’t due until 18th February.
Bias provides us with an entry method that I hadn’t come across before, namely a sequence of letters in each clue’s answer being reversed before entry. Some help was given, with the wordplay referring to the entered form, although in a lot of cases (primarily anagrammy type clues) this didn’t help. There were also nine unclued entries, but they would hopefully become clear when the rest of the grid was completed and a ten-letter phrase revealed.
I was encouraged when the first clued entry, 9ac TISSUE had wordplay of SITS + U + E and could be entered straghtaway. No such luck with 12ac INSIST and 14ac TERSE, but 15ac BETA could be entered as TEBA. I solved another six across clues in this first quick pass, but none of them could be fully entered in other than light pencil. It was the same for most of the few down clues that I solved, although 22dn HELLENES could go in totally reversed since the last letter of 37ac OSTEAL was fixed.
I think I was expecting progress to be quicker than it actually was. I suppose that must always be the case when you can’t guarantee that a letter that’s staring you in the face might not go at that position in the answer. You’d think I’d be used to all this by now, but, hey, my mind is slowing down! Not that I am tempted to switch my allegiance to the standard 15×15 blocked puzzles. How lucky those solvers have it, although I suppose they have their own hurdles to jump.
Anyway, after almost three hours, most of the grid was filled, although there were still some entries, eg 30ac COACHES that I hadn’t been able to fix. A little extra work, and all was complete. On the way, I wondered about the significance of the Greek entries: as well as HELLENES, there was PARNASSUS across the middle of the grid, plus IONIAN and SAPPHO. RHODES, ATHENS, SPARTA and CORINTH also seemed likely as some of the unclued entries, but I was unable to deduce the theme just from that. It required me to find SEVEN SAGES running NE to SW in one of the diagonals to put me on the final leg. We had been told in the preamble that Chambers confirmed all themewords, although I think we should have been left to find that out for ourselves. There were the names of the story-tellers under Seven Sages to reveal all:
|Solon of ATHENS|
|Thales of MILETUS|
|Pittacus of MITYLENE|
|Bias of PRIENE in CARIA|
|Chilon of SPARTA|
|Cleobulus tyrant of LINDUS in RHODES|
|Periander tyrant of CORINTH|
I was surprised that the tyrannical nature of Cleobulus and Periander was mentioned, and not, for example, Solon mild-mannered of Athens, or Chilon elephant tamer of Sparta!
Good clues as well from Zag, with excellent surface readings, including:
|10ac||PILOT/TOLIP||Where glass of wine goes more might follow if it goes down well
TO LIP and reference to success of a pilot
|16ac||WHEEL/EHWEL||What’s that? We need angular momentum to ride a bike
EH + WE + L
|28ac||PLAYPEN/EPYALPN||Where you might find toddlers cavorting nappyless, special section set aside
anag NAPPYLESS – SS
|20dn||SAPPHO/ASPPHO||In whatever manner prostitute got round parish priest her sexy lines were admired
AS HO around PP
A good, entertaining Listener, and hopefully we won’t have to wait another ten years for Zag’s next.