Listen With Others

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Listener 4178: Confused by Tea Leaves

Posted by erwinch on 16 Mar 2012

Just a quick word to add to the many plaudits that I feel are thoroughly due this puzzle.  I would vote it the puzzle with the greatest Listener pdm in years if not decades – it was the colours that clashed in the interim grid!  I spent quite a while trying to fit two or more letters in each cell and it was not until solving the 1st clue across (champagne socialist), very late on, that I managed the first confirmed grid entries.
There was even room for a second quality pdm by interpreting the instruction given by extra words in each across clue correctly:
Applying fist (F is T) to title (Confused becomes Contused) suggests two colours (black and blue).  Use second (blue) for every letter apart from ten as described by Henry (Ford).
I had looked under O. Henry etc in the ODQ and also under Henry Cooper (no entries) thinking that the theme might be boxing before remembering Henry Ford’s famous line:
Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black. (on the Model T Ford, 1909)
Tidying up the loose ends took some time, especially where the grid entry was only a single letter or two, and here are my final two clues solved:
14th Across Sound modifications, two [from] hospitals in Sweden, arresting start of dementia (7) sandhis (initial entry HIS) – D in (SAN + H + I’ + S)
12th Down Twist handle conversely, holding in motion (6) Oliver (initial entry R) – LIVE in OR
I must only rate it a minor flaw but I thought it unfortunate that an obscure London suburb (London borough is not accurate but then suburbs do not generally have leaders) was used to clue the thematically essential FORD in the grid:
11th Across [Every] environmentalist in favour of leader of decaying London borough (9) Greenford (initial entry FORD) – GREEN + FOR + D We had the constraint of the extra word although every could have been each (letter) or all (letters).  I think that I might have gone for a well known actor with something like: [Each] actor to depict a former President as communist! (7) Redford (initial entry FORD) – RED FORD  The crossing entries for FORD were blue FILM, DOor, MERcerise and DEMIsable so red would still have fitted.  Although cerise is a purplish red, MERcerise was already considered to have clashed with SMEAred (5th Across).  However, it would have been a sixth use of red in the puzzle which is rather overdoing it.
The optional finale, the thematic appearance of the setter below the grid, was rather too obvious to be a pdm but it was still a masterstroke.  As I write we do not yet know the winner of the Ascot Gold Cup out of last year’s puzzles but Confused would to my mind make a most worthy (and indeed thematically appropriate) winner from 2012’s.  You are a champ Tea Leaves!
I admit that I was slow in not spotting that a colour was involved in every answer.  Had I done so then I might have solved the first clue much earlier.  The puzzle could then have appeared as a rather straightforward treatment of a very clever idea.  I suspect that the first clue was deliberately made difficult for this reason.
1st Across Coach against [applying] plays with simple left winger behaving inappropriately (18, two words) champagne socialist (initial entry SOCIALIST) – (COACH AGAINST + SIMPLE) (anag) The anagram was hidden by being split into two parts and the definition and extra word do not immediately stand out.  The preamble practically told us exactly where the down clues started by stating that the answer to the ninth (golden triangle) was found in Collins but not Chambers so we could readily see that SOCIALIST in the top row would fit with the down entries green SICKNESS, pinkO, CEred and IMPOsable etc.
There again, perhaps I was the only solver to struggle with this clue.
Anyway, I thought Confused a great Listener.  It will be interesting to see if the paper has splashed out on some blue and teal for tomorrow’s published solution.

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