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Listener 4175: The Winning Line by Ozzie

Posted by erwinch on 24 Feb 2012

I used to think of Ozzie as a regular Listener setter, as he certainly was in the early nineties, but this is only his second since 1995.  I suppose that we all get less productive with age although he has also set four of the monthly puzzles for the Crossword Centre in that time (Aug 2002, Mar 2004, Oct 2004 and Oct 2005).  I retain fond memories especially for the third of these, An Undecided Game.  It was a brilliant concept for a puzzle based on a game of snooker with the grid entries bouncing off cushions and balls, sometimes several times, and sometimes ending up being potted.  I think that it would have made for a memorable Listener but for the fact that it was somewhat convoluted.  Reading between the lines, it would appear that Ozzie decided to retire from crossword setting at around this time (2005) but he has recently returned to the CC Message Board and now with a new Listener.
The Winning Line gave us a 13 × 13 carte blanche with clues arranged in Ranks (Across) and Files (Down).  Each rank and file positioned the starting point for entries from one to three clues, which might continue into the beginning of the next.  The first two clues gave us a gentle start:
1Ri Pear sauces I’m cooking, specially made (12) cuisse-madame – (SAUCES I’M + MADE) (anag)
1Rii Powder one in solicitous concern (4) talc – A in TLC
Only the T of talc would fit into rank 1 leaving ALC to continue in rank 2, which meant that file 3 started with IC.  I suspect in common with many solvers, I confidently entered the answer to 3Fi (ices) here but in fact ices did not start until rank 3.  Similarly, the A at the top of file 10 did not belong to the first A of adaws (10Fi).
If we did not know the identity of the setter then we might have made an educated guess by considering those clues with ellipses.  Generally these are used merely to combine two fragments into a coherent sentence but Ozzie has been known to go a step further.  The following pair appeared in his previous Listener, Musclied Miss Lued is Clumed, back in 2005.  Clues were of three types where the definition was affected in the same way as the grid entry.
27dn Ices regularly sampled for citrine … (5) frirn (frorn) + D – Alternately hidden (misprint in definition and entry)
31dnand so no oxygen or iodine are lacking in what remains (3) cte (etc) – FOR CITRINE minus FRIRN equals (O)CT(I)E (two letters swap position in definition and entry)
[For the record, the third type of clue had one letter misplaced in definition and entry.  The three types were illustrated in the title, which corrected would read Misclued Misclued Misclued.]
This time Ozzie gave us two pairs:
3Fii Retreats, having regularly eliminated characters from no … (5) oases – Regularly hidden in NO ASSETS
3Fiii holdings to that extent determined by society (6) assets – AS + SET + S
12Fii Prepared for golf swing, apparently? That’s repellant! … (4) deet – TEED (rev)
13Fi … See that mozzie’s beginning to flutter: it’s appreciated (8) esteemed – (SEE + DEET + M) (anag)
I made a mistake with one clue:
11Fii Vigorously beat local piglet covered with an amount of soil (6) belted – ELT in BED
I wasn’t particularly happy with bed for an amount of soil (or beating the poor piglet) but of course it should have been pelted – ELT in PED.  My mistake came to light when substituting numbers for each letter (see below). 
Eventually the interim grid was complete with three cells remaining empty (bars and clue numbers added for clarity):
An instruction was to be seen in file 7: multiply by ten
And a description (mostly incorrect) of the remainder of the final grid in rank 4: tic-tac-to games
The dénouement could now be spotted from a mile off.  Other than the instruction and description, the numbers 0, 1 or 2 were to be substituted for given letters of the alphabet.  It was clear that no letter due to be substituted by 2 would be involved and since B was one of these we had an indication that belted was incorrect (11Fii).  Once the numbers were assigned and the instruction obeyed they were to be displayed appropriately.  Three of the sixteen games showed 9 X’s and others were little better so these were not true games of tic-tac-to and the description was mostly incorrect.  Finally, one of the empty cells was to be filled to show the winning line:
I like this solution, it is most unusual, but I think that the win should have been awarded to 0 by default since X had so blatantly cheated in most games!  Thank you Ozzie, you have proved that you can still do it so I look forward to your next.

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