Listener 4180: Knight’s Move by Merlin (or How Far Can Your Heart Sink?)
Posted by Dave Hennings on 30 March 2012
I started to read the title of this puzzle … Knight’s … and my heart began to sink. I continued … Move … and it completed its downward journey. And then the next two words … by Merlin … and it sank again! I think we all remember a certain knight’s move puzzle from last year, and I certainly remember Merlin’s Olde Treasure Hunt from 2006 (pre Listen With Others) which, if I remember correctly, had quite a low number of entries — none of which were mine.
I breathed a sigh of relief as I read the preamble, since there was no mention of entries being in knight’s move order. Just the normal Merlin trickiness to battle with then. That, and having to juggle three clue types: those with a missing letter, those with an extra letter and those containing a misprint, none of which seem restricted to the definition part of their clues.
1ac started us off with an easy clue Captain of whaler, a hardy seaman (4) giving AHAB with the extra letter being the Y of ‘hardy’. I guessed that the extra letter clue type would be the easiest of the three types to decipher, given that they were probably the most difficult to disguise. Unfortunately, since there was no way of knowing which clue was of which type, or how many there would be of each, this proved to be of somewhat limited value. However, five of the first eight clues that I solved had an extra letter.
Good clues all round from Merlin. 31ac Inside forward dare take one from old Liverpool footballer (6) had me panicking a bit since I know of very few current footballers, let alone old ones. Surprisingly, I had heard of Ian Rush, so INRUSH was OK in the end although the definition ‘inside forward dart‘ was a bit odd. I liked the simple 37ac Firmly fixes nut and acorns (8) leading to EN (nut, as in printing) + GRAINS ([a]corns). Despite holding me up the longest, my favourite was probably 36ac House may be inhabited by these initially wanting pads (6). Even knowing the answer, OTTERS (JOTTERS without its first letter), it took a long time for me to realise that ‘House’ became the river ‘Ouse’.
The quotation that we ended up with was:
“… you may know by my size that I have a kind of alacrity in sinking …”
Unfortunately, this was not in my 5th edition ODQ which surprised me. I decided not to search the internet just yet, but to work on the basis that the editors presumably thought this would not be too much of a hindrance.
The endgame initially required that we find a “distraught protagonist” in the grid, presumably someone known for their size. Nobody seemed obvious in the rows or columns, so the spectre of a knight’s move path resurfaced in my head. In column 1, row 3; c2, r1; c3, r3; c4, r1 I spotted CHUB and I started thinking of Chubby Checker, Chubby Brown and Chubby Kaye. They got me nowhere. I also saw FLAB starting in 5ac and going down column 6, but that proved equally futile.
After about 40 minutes of floundering around the grid, I was on the verge of resorting to the internet to find the source of the quotation. However, and don’t ask me why because I’ve forgotten, I decided to look in my older 3rd edition of the ODQ. There, under alacrity, was a pointer to our quotation – from The Merry Wives of Windsor. Four extracts above was an exchange between Falstaff and Ford, and Falstaff was a tad overweight, wasn’t he? Well, it didn’t take long to find him centrally placed, albeit jumbled as expected, in the middle of the top two rows.
But where to move him to. The bottom two rows seemed likely, especially since the L could turn ANGER ino ANGEL. I soon saw THAMES in the row above, so that was definitely where he had to be relocated. In addition to ANGER becoming ANGEL, we had OTTERS/AFTERS, ENGRAINS/ENGRAFTS, SUMMON/SUMMAT and HAJI/HAFF. Finally the space that he had vacated was surrounded by BUCK-BASKET, which Chambers defines as a sort of old laundry basket, and is where Falstaff hid before being carried off and dumped in the Thames.
A delightful puzzle from Merlin, and luckily not as difficult as his Olde Treasure Hunt. I was left with two mysteries. Why did the editors of the ODQ decide to cut the number of entries for the Merry Wives of Windsor from 16 in the 3rd edition to just 7 in the 5th? (Perhaps political correctness influenced them!) And why did the Listener editors not have any reference to the ODQ in the preamble?
I made a note to invest in a new backup dictionary of quotations. Any suggestions, or would the latest edition of the ODQ have solved my problem?