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Listener 4196: Here and There by Hedge-Sparrow (or 1 + 1 = 2)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 20 July 2012

It was Saturday morning and rubbish weather to boot, so time to get on with the Listener. The trouble was that this was the puzzle from the previous week, and I was running horribly late with everything. This was probably due to the stress of moving house, on which I’m scheduled to exchange contracts towards the end of the month and complete in early August. Watch this space.

This was Hedge-sparrow’s fifth Listener, his last being about the Large Hadron Collider at Cern which has recently discovered the Higgs Boson. Or, at least so I thought: it might just be a boson. I can understand the doubt, since it exists for something like a thousandth of a billionth of a billionth of a second … not even time to make a nice cup of tea!

Anyway, back to Here and There. Everything here was quite normal … except for the fact that every answer had to be modfied before entry, and there was one extra special clue containing two definitions and a jumble of letters involved in the modifications. The extra or missing letters in the down clues would provide additional, and hopefully helpful, information.

It started at a lick, with 1ac Collected schoolgirl clutching broken mops (9) giving me COMPOSED … only 8 letters though. Luckily my brain hadn’t been too distracted by the (9) given. This turned out to be pretty easy, and as I toyed with entering COMPOSTED in the grid, I wondered whether it had been devised to be deliberately easy. 12ac Whales moving across heaving bit of sea (4) came next, and was ORCAS (ACROSS – bit of Seas)*, one letter too long, but it could be entered as OCAS, ORCS.

So, after two clues solved, it looked like I’d sussed it, and like the down clues, all entries either gained a letter or lost a letter, still preserving a real word. Moreover, in my first pass through the clues, I paused at 28ac and thought it might be the ‘special’ clue. Mental disorder: Hebrew woman rings NICE doctors for a pill (4) just seemed to have too much going on for it to be a clue to a single entry. However, with a couple of definitions to account for, it didn’t have anywhere near the 46 letters that were needed to be a jumble of the extra/missing letters in all the clues.

Listener 4196The grid filled up, not particularly quickly, but at a steady rate. It took about 2½ hours altogether, which, in hindisght, seems quite a long time. There were some superb clues on the way though, especially:

1dn Company welcoming Madame as Lady Mac, with its Macbeth hint but turned out to have an extra letter, with Lady MC being the definition of COMMERE. This was one of a couple of clues requiring the ‘sometimes changing case’ warning in the preamble.

And of course: 7dn At foot of force of Reichenbach, Sherlock’s heard Moriarty’s second cry of surprise (3), which led to ODSO, OD (Reichenbach’s force) + S (Sherlock’s head, heard losing the letter R) + O (Moriarty’s second letter).

I also loved 34ac Clockmaker taking off back of watch for mountain specialist (8) which gave HOROLOGIST (watchmaker) – H (back of watcH) to give OROLOGIST, which then lost the R to give OOLOGIST as the entry.

Meanwhile, the extra/missing letters (E/MLs) in the down clues spelt out All entries are real terms. Obviously this turned out to be less than helpful since I’d been aware of that for the previous couple of hours!

Now, when I say that the grid was finished in 2½ hours, I was obviously bending the truth. 20dn and 32dn both had alternative entries. 20dn •ELATION could be DELATION, GELATION or RELATION, and 32dn CO•D could be any one of four alternatives. And then there was that pesky 28ac, which was certainly the special clue. While mental disorder was MANIA, it took me sometime to discover from my old Chambers that Maria (see Mary) was a Hebrew name from the New Testament form of Miriam, of uncertain meaning. And there was I thinking it was Italian! I must say that I thought Hebrew woman was too loose a definition of the name, and was particularly unfair given the clue’s crucial role in the puzzle and the lack of the Some First Names section in the latest Chambers. Sorry, but I think this could have been better. Anyway, these three ambiguities would no doubt be resolved by the jumbled letters forming the second part of the special clue.

There was one thing that struck me about the letters involved in the modification to answers, and I’m guessing that this was deliberate. The letters were:

Across:     T N L R L O O P E S E L S A ? O C I R D G R I F

Down:      C P O C S G O D T C N ? I S O A I I R L ? F

There were only two Es, four Cs and six Os. And rings NICE doctors for a pill had one E, two Cs and three Os. Of course, it had precisely 24 letters as well, half the number of clues plus one! More importantly, it had two Rs and two Ns. It still took me a bit of time to get my head round it all, but the second half of 28ac had to be used twice to give all the E/MLs in the grid. This meant that the three question marks had to comprise two Rs to make the six required by the E/MLs, and the letter left over to be used to clarify 28ac … with two Ns in the E/MLs, only one of the Ns in the clue jumble was required, leaving the final N for 28ac. Result — RELATION, CORD and MANA. I think!

Listener 4196 My EntryPhew!! That turned into quite a struggle at the end, but I think I was satisfied, and the grid construction must have been tricky to say the least. I wonder where Hedge-sparrow got the idea! Good fun.


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