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O Gather Twelve by Augeas

Posted by shirleycurran on 23 March 2012

Numpties unlimited in action today! What do you do when you read ‘four words cryptically represented by the title’? You feed the title into an anagram solver! Well, we do. What does it come up with if you nourish it on ‘O Gather Twelve’? ‘Get over wealth’, ‘Elevate growth’ ‘Le Havre got wet’. Of course, we abandoned that line of thinking and wondered about the Twelve Tribes of Israel. That’s what the Internet gives you, as well as a poem about gathering roses, if you ask it where the words ‘O gather …’ originated.

With the Twelve Tribes as our suspected culprit, we were somewhat put out when our calculations of clashing vowels began to produce strings of Cs, Js, Hs, Ls and Ks with a few Gs and Rs thrown in for good measure and not enough vowels to produce any words in a language that Augeas could conceivably be using.

It hadn’t taken us long to work out the method of entry of words like PHILOLOGICAL (fortunately the first clue we solved, closely followed by other long words like SELFLESSNESS, LOGODAEDALUS and DODECANDROUS). It soon became clear that any vowel that was not a checked letter was going to be absent from the word play. Thus ‘Roped in place of seal, walrus finally reaches Land’s End’ gave us the simple word play LS (the abbreviation for Locus Sigilli – ‘in place of seal’) with (walru)S and the end of (lan)D and the other letters of LASSOED – all its vowels, were clashing with letters of the across clues.

In the urge to solve, we tend to sometimes ignore the surface reading don’t we? How dastardly, though, of Augeas to have the poor walrus being towed all the way to Land’s End! Looking for surface readings, I couldn’t find any of the usual Listener setter dose of alcohol either – just ‘Forestall Mary over tea, not before’ (BV, the Blessed Virgin followed by TEA with the A disappearing – ‘not before’ = OBVIATE). However, looking back, I see that we were given a few hints by words like PHILOLOGICAL, IDIOLECTAL and LOGODAEDALUS – all words prompting us to hunt for something verbal.

This was, for us, an original device – the wordplay having only parts of the clue and generally being composed of abbreviations and short forms. In places it was hard work to sort out what was being clued. What a clever clue we had in ‘DDT breakdown product followed by ban the bomb group and eminent scientists with a lot of stamina’. We put together DDE, CND and RS and wondered how that could produce anything to do with stamina. Oh the subtlety of it! Stamina – the plural of stamen. DODECANDROUS!

This was a speedy grid fill and soon we had only one clue left to complete. ‘Men surrounding middle of Forum caught favourite of Romans’. This was a ‘give-away clue’ but we had to play silly games, putting every possible vowel, in turn, into a word-finder to produce MURAENA. To complete these weekly challenges, one does need a fair amount of the ‘General Knowledge’ that has been discussed this week on Derek’s message board in the context of interior angles of triangles. CARIBE, HACEK, MURAENA, PYEMIA: this week’s words to idly drop into dinner-table conversation!

We highlighted and double checked those pairs of vowels and what they produced and stared at it. Could it be kings of some far-off country (a few James and Georges?), books of some odd Bible version (Genesis, Kings, James, John, Leviticus?), some odd form of Morse? In frustration, we slept on it and, of course, the light of day led to new lines of thinking. It had to have something to do with vowels and VOWEL appeared in the title when anagrammed (Go back to where you started, if you pass GO, do not collect £200!) The other letters gave THE GREAT, and obviously we had to ‘Shift’ the lot. THE GREAT VOWEL SHIFT. This was part of my university linguistics course. It must be age that is slowing down thinking processes!

One can only admire Augeas for the hours that must have gone into creating this grid where all unchecked vowels were clashing. Thank you Augeas!

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