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Listener 4175: Ozzie’s Winning Line (or What the XXX!)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 24 February 2012

This week, we were faced with a 13×13 carte blanche grid. The preamble started “Clues are given in order across the ranks and down the files …” with the clues listed under the headings Ranks and Files. This must be a hint that the puzzle has something to do with Chess or Draughts. Anyway, no shenanigans with the clues, but entries could start anywhere in the designated rank or file and continue on the next line if necessary. The rest of the preamble could wait until the grid was complete.

1ac (or 1rk, if you prefer) was Pear sauces I’m cooking, specially made (12) (an anagram of ‘Pear sauces Im’), followed by a straightforward Powder one in solicitous concern (4) giving TALC. This fixed the 12-letter word starting in the first square, with TALC starting in the last and continuing onto the second rank. I decided to work my way down from the top left and see how I got on. 1dn (or 1fl) was (8, 4, 6) so that fixed them starting in the first square as well. The last two were MOES and CULLIS, and I thought a quick finish might be on the cards.

1dn CASTAWAY made me concentrate again on 1ac. Perhaps it wasn’t a full anagram, but a pear followed by an anagram of ‘sauces im’. I don’t particularly like pears so had to resort to Bradford’s for some help. Of course, there I found CUISSE-MADAME … it was an anagram of ‘sauces im’ followed by an anagram of ‘made’. This enabled another brief flurry of solving, but after about 1¼ hours I only had about 20 entries placed (including ICES misplaced).

Listener 4175The preamble said that bars “must not be entered”, and that’s exactly how I started off filling the grid. However, at the 1¼ hour mark, I realised that I really thought they would help; after all, the answers didn’t overlap. Another 1¼ hours later, and the grid was finished … finished, that is, with the exception of the last three squares in column 13. There were some tricky clues to be grappled with, as well as some really tricky clues. First, though, my two favourites:

9rk.2 BESIEGE Surround Bee Gees when independent subs for one of quartet playing
anagram (BEE GEES with I for one of the four Es)
6fl.1 EGGCUP It may be found by soldiers bearing an unexploded shell
a superb cryptic definition which took me some time as I thought they were out of fashion with the Listener

 
And now the trickier ones:

4rk.1 TIC-TAC Of course the signalling of taxis requires switching sides
the definition is ‘of course the signalling’ referring to bookmakers’ method of communicating on the racecourse
5rk.1 SESQUIPEDAL Une moitié de gosses who locally ride in the Tour de France using vélocipède for bike?
Well, this is just playing into Shirley’s hands! I, on the other hand, thought that ‘moitié’ meant a little bit, rather than half! But it’s [GOS]SES + QUI (who locally, ie in France?) + PEDAL (ride in the Tour de France)
(And later on we had Monsieur Hulot to contend with!)
7rk.1 APOSTOLIC Evangelist’s mayonnaise with a place set for very good Catholic
AIOLI (mayonnaise) with A POST (a place) instead of A1 (very good) + C (Catholic)
11rk.1 SEPS Return of Roman goddess as snake
I needed Google/Wiki to find that ‘Spes’ was the goddess of hope
3fl.2 OASES Retreat from having regularly eliminated characters from no …
here the … means the answer to the following clue (ASSETS), so we take nO AsSEtS, ie getting rid of characters 1, 4 & 7
12fl.1 LOLIGO Behold, progressing from head, “limbs”, five organs redoubled?
LO (behold) + progressive letters from Limbs fIve orGans redOubled; this one had my head spinning!

 
And so to the endgame. My initial guess was that we were faced with a game of Battleships. Rank 4 contained GAMES and 9 and 10 both had HIT. The reason that I didn’t suss the whole of Rank 4 was that I’ve always thought it was tic-tac-toe with an E. In fact, I’m sure it is, but a quick check with our primary reference has tick-tack-toe, tick-tack-too and tic-tac-to. So that was the theme and, I assumed, the “mostly incorrect description of the remainder of the final grid”.

But where was the instruction? The symmetrical row to TIC-TAC-TO GAMES read O, ME TOO, Y[our] GO, DOPE … well, ‘dope’ was reversed, but hey! No, I decided that was far too convoluted. But, and here I am being brutally honest, my scrawly writing and the bars that I had stupidly decided to put in my working copy of the grid, enabled me not to spot MULTI and PLY and BYTE and N! Instead, I wondered whether the instruction snaked around the grid a bit.

I decided to fill in all the zeros, ones and twos of the code and see what popped out. Yes … loads of 0s and 1s did, but also three 2s. One of these corresponded with the B of BELTED, but the other two were in the central column. Finally, I saw MULTIPLY BY TEN lurking there. And of course it became obvious what to do with all the zeros and ones … they got changed into noughts and crosses, although I’m not sure that the Romans had a zero. (I soon discovered my error with BELTED and substituted a P for the B.)

Now all that remained was to fill one of the three empty squares. A quick inspection showed that these formed part of a valid game of tic-tac-toe in the lower right 3×3 block, which, with my X in the bottom right corner, gave me a winning line. Well done me, and well done Ozzie for a superb puzzle. What looked as though it was weird and convoluted turned out to be exactly what was required by the preamble. In all it took me two lots of 1¼ hours for the grid and at least another 1¼ hours to find the message and check and recheck all the noughts and crosses in my solution!
 

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3 Responses to “Listener 4175: Ozzie’s Winning Line (or What the XXX!)”

  1. shirleycurran said

    Entertaining, Dave, it sounds as though we sat side by side and solved but honest Guv, I swear there was no collusion at all – we only ever communicate when the blogs have appeared!

    Perhaps the astonishing similarity of our blogs simply details the path that most solvers will have followed and the problems that will have held them up – like the misplaced ICES, the attempt to produce the wrong 1 across anagram and the final problem with BELTED/PELTED.

  2. mark said

    It’s curious that with all the options in Chambers (tick-tack-toe, tick-tack-too or tic-tac-to) you have used tic-tac-toe in your last paragraph.

  3. Habit I’m afraid, Mark!

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