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Listener 4188: Rasputin’s Painless (… well almost!)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 25 May 2012

This was a Listener debut from Rasputin, although we’ve had a couple of Inquisitors and a Magpie in the last year. Only about a month ago, there was a theme based on the Goons’ Rhubarb, Rhubarb, Rhubarb, which was great fun with a tough set of clues from what I remember. I suspected that this circular grid would likely have a tough set of clues too. Hopefully there would not be too tricky an endgame in store.

It was the Thursday after publication when I started on the puzzle in earnest, due mainly to running late with Dysart’s puzzle the previous week. For a short while I have a job up in the big city and it’s taking its toll on my crossword solving ability in the evenings. Actually, at weekends too. Consequently, everything runs late and descends into mild panic as the deadline approaches. What’s more, I haven’t done an Inquisitor or EV for a few weeks now. Anyway, back to Rasputin …

Ten to threeHalf the radials were to be entered inwards, the other half outwards, with no clashes (ooh, wouldn’t that be nasty?!), letters latent (ditto) or msiprints in the clues or grid. However, the wordplay in half the clues led to the answer with an extra letter which was not to be entered. It struck me that the structure of the grid meant that there were quite a lot of unchecked squares: letters in the innermost circle were used by four radials, those in the next one out were used by two radials, while the other three were only checked by the outermost circle. Oh well, perhaps Rasputin would be lenient with the clues this time … yeah, right!

I got 5 COUGHS and 6 HAUGHS reasonably quickly, but as my eyes read down the page, I realised that, much like the daily commute to and from London, the scenery was passing by quickly without really registering. I tried a few clues at random, but that was even less successful. I decided that Mrs B would have to come to the rescue a bit earlier than I would normally like. She helped a lot, and pretty soon I had 15 or so clues, predominantly in the top right quadrant.

I don’t know whether this was by design, but I count myself lucky all the same … there staring me in the face at this point was • • • H U R • H C L O C K, and it didn’t take a literary genius to realise that we were back with Rupert Brooke and The Old Vicarage Grantchester. I pencilled in “stands the church clock” around the perimeter, and took a stab at “is there honey still for tea” which coincided nicely with a couple of letters I had in position. A few entries later, and I also put THE OLD VICARAGE into the cells containing ellipses. I also found TRUTH in circle 5, and pencilled a few more letters in as I retrieved the poem and its relevant lines from Google:

Deep meadows yet, for to forget
The lies, and truths, and pain? …oh! Yet
Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
And is there honey still for tea?

Circle 5 now seemed certain to read “to forget the lies and truths”, with pain omitted, hence the title.

It was nice to see that the extra letters were in the odd-numbered clues early on, but the even clues at the end. The changeover seemed to be somewhere in the 20’s, but, and was this a deliberate trap, not exactly where I initially thought (19, 21, 24, 26). Of course it all went horribly wrong for me later on when I discovered that at the end, these clues had reverted to the odd numbers.

Among others, I stumbled over three clues. They weren’t exactly the last that I solved, but they caused me more grief that I was happy with:

19 Teak-like tree to plant NW to SE in units was the reverse of SAL + SET, the latter being a word which can mean almost anything, being agreed as the English word with most different meanings. The NW SE reference was the direction that had to be read in the grid, with TESLAS in the opposite direction.

20 Steamship has contracted Shakespearean pro in large rooms was either SALLES or SALONS. The latter seems to have LOON, which is a harlot, trying to get in, although the Shakespearean word quoted in C is spelt either lown or lowne. This was a clue that I had originally identified as not having an extra wordplay letter, but in the end did … a C: SS (steamship) holding [C]ALLE[T].

40 My team conveniences commonly incorporate mobile sinks the ‘my team’ bit containing an extra letter [W]E followed by M (mobile) and BOGS (which I really haven’t used since my schooldays when it was the slang for the school toilet block).

Finally we had to obey the instruction spelt out my the extra letters: Alter four cells to show poet. At one point I had pencilled in ‘give poet’, which caused much confusion for those clues affected! In the end, it was easy to see that 41 REVERT and 12 BRONZE each had to have two letters changed to give RUPERT BROOKE and then highlighted.

All in all, this took me nearly 4 hours, but it was an immensely enjoyable puzzle, with the usual handful of tricky clues to get to grips with from Rasputin. Hopefully we will not have too long to wait for his/her/their next offering … OK, OK, they are a they!

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