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Listener 4182: Ron’s Breach of Contract (or Doing the Conga)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 13 April 2012

The first new Listener setter of the year is Ron, and it looks like the puzzle could turn out to be a maze, given the ‘exit’ arrow in the square protruding from the end of the bottom row. Other than that, normal fare, with answers that require thematic treatment, clues that have an extra word, and clues where correct letters for misprints spell out a message.

1ac Kind Oswald Mosley, going berserk after mislaying dolly’s potty, was dreadful (6) was a good place to start. It really only needed confirmation that AWSOME was an alternative spelling, and indeed ‘was dreadful’ was a suitable indication that it was an obsolete word. It’s nice that you can see a phrase in a crossword clue that you wouldn’t expect to see anywhere else, and ‘kind’ isn’t an adjective you would immediately associate with the 30’s fascist, but no doubt he was some (or even most) of the time. Still, ‘kind’ was the extra word that needed to be removed before solving.

14ac Notice changes for intellectual era (6) led to NOETIC with ‘era’ as an extra word, and that was it for the acrosses. With the worrying ‘numbers in brackets refer to lengths of grid entries’ in the preamble, probably referring to the seven across answers requiring modification before entry, it wasn’t surprising I solved so few. I find incorrect enumeration a real bummer. (It’s a frequent EV gremlin!)

The downs started well, with WOLF CUB at 2 and EECH at 5. I double-checked that the latter was an alternative spelling of ECHE, and promptly pencilled ECHE into the grid! That mistake wouldn’t come to light for about 30 minutes when I solved the first clue where the answer required modification, 11ac DOUBLE-BOTTOM. This was four letters too long for its entry, and needed to fit with DOUBLE••M, meaning either BOTT or OTTO needed to be dropped. My money was on OTTO.

Listener 4182This was pretty much confirmed with 6ac RE-ELEVATE needing to fit with REEL••, and EVA saying bye-bye. I guessed that this was going to be a tribute to the appendix of Some first names recently dropped from Chambers! (While writing this blog, I misread my notes, and was surprised to find out that re-evaluate is nowhere to be found in Chambers. In my view, it is a far more widely used word than re-elevate. I shall write and complain to Jeremy Paxman — who also failed to make the latest edition!)

Progress was reasonably quick, and the theme was gradually revealing itself. The central batch of correct letters in the down clues was ten-finger, and in the bottom line of the grid I had PI, obviously leading to PIANO. So we were dealing with kiddies’ piano exercises, a subject of which I have absolutely no knowledge, and a situation that continues to this day given the true nature of the puzzle!

Yes, eventually PIED PIPER appeared in the bottom row, and there behind him were all the children who had been taken from the seven across answers, in order:

EVA    OTTO    ANKE    MAX    ELSA    RALF    ERNST

The ‘scenario’ spelt out by the extra words in the across clues was: Kinder abandon homes pursuing performer. Whether ‘kinder’, German for ‘children’, was supposed to be enough to alert us to the language in which the down clues’ message was written, I don’t know. It certainly wasn’t enough for me (although it did explain why the names were mostly foreign). Having spent ages wondering what could possibly begin Derra, it was the ending Hameln that gave it away. The message finally read:

Der Rattenfanger von Hameln

There were some good clues along the way. My favourite was probably 36dn Guy, originally without children, pens intro to Annie’s Song (4) leading to GASP … misprint Song for Long; G (Guy, originally) + SP (without children) holding A (intro to Annie). The one that held me up the most was 3dn Canon, perhaps Roman Catholic rector, accepting biblical favour, is taken in by bedevilled Faust (12) giving SURFACE-CRAFT … misprint Canon for Canoe; RC (Roman Catholic) R (rector) holding FACE (biblical favour) in FAUST*.

This was great fun, and a nice implementation from Ron of the Pied Piper theme.
 

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