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Listener 4181: Sinecure by Franc (or I Prefer Victoria Sponge)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 6 April 2012

For a change, I downloaded this puzzle on the Friday evening rather than wait for it to be published in the Saturday Times. The reason for this was that the following day was the Listener Crossword Setters’ Dinner. I didn’t want a repetition of the previous year’s experience when I spent most of the time in the pub beforehand trying to avoid overhearing any comments about that weekend’s puzzle! It goes without saying that this year nobody mentioned it at all.

Anyway, Friday at 8pm I started, hoping that it wouldn’t keep me awake too late. After all, the Saturday evening would undoubtedly be a late one (3:30am as it turned out … or so I’m told). Franc’s last Listener was on the anniversary of Galileo’s discovery of the moons of Jupiter with Five Dots being required in the grid to represent the planet and its moons. Here we had a standard 12×12 grid, but the central horizontal and vertical grid lines were dashed rather than solid. I hoped that all would become clear in due course.

Twenty minutes into the puzzle and I had about as many entries, so an early night looked promising but by no means certain – who knows what the endgame would hold! I was a bit surprised that 1ac COBRA was in Chambers (2008 & 2003), as I don’t think that many people were aware of it until the Iraq war. Also, 22dn CHAGAS, in Chambers under Chagas’ disease and named after a Brazilian physician, appears for the first time in Bradford’s 8th edition, but misspelt as Chagus — was this a deliberate trap by Franc?

Listener 4181It wasn’t until the nineteenth entry that I finally got a clash, so there were nine more to locate. Thirty-five minutes later and they had all been found, and the grid was finished. Just under an hour — blimey, not even 9 o’clock! The four-word phrase popped out almost immediately: A PIECE OF CAKE (hence the title), and it really just remained to find the anagram of the letters dropped from the clashes. I decided that 2dn would not end up being the somewhat crude BINT, so I had the letters B•B•P•T•N•E•G•R•E•A, as any others would not enable real words to be left in the grid, across and down. No joy with that, although gabberdine seemed close.

I turned my attention to the two words hidden in the grid that would identify how it was to be embellished. Well, YELLOW was there in row 10, if 33ac was YELL, and a few seconds later, so was PINK at the bottom of the 11th column. Luckily I remember BATTENBERG cake from my childhood, but, not being a cake-eater now, I hadn’t seen it for years. However, this meant that I was wrong to use the P at 11ac/dn: the entry was not TETRA/TOISES, but PETRA/POISES, and PETRA wasn’t in Chambers, although it is a well-known historical site. This worried me for a bit, but I could see no alternative.

At last, the dashed grid lines made sense, and I shaded the top left and bottom right quadrants pink (well, pink-ish), and the other two segments yellow. The ‘outer layer’ of marzipan was not needed.

Listener 4181 EntryI was tempted to go out and buy a battenberg cake for old-time’s sake. I resisted the temptation, but was surprised at how lurid the pink was in most of the images I found on the internet. I’ve always thought of pink as a somewhat subdued colour (which is how my entry turned out), and would have really described a battenberg as yellow and purple.

Nonetheless, an entertaining puzzle from Franc, and thanks to him for a bit of nostalgia.


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