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Murder Mystery 2 by Gos

Posted by shirleycurran on 21 September 2012

What an enormous grid. We gasped as we downloaded this then wondered about the astonishing unching. There had to be a reason for those numerous 2 unches in 4 and 2 unches in 5. We made a mental note to look in that area for the endgame and examined the preamble. Yet another useful hint to store away. We are going to highlight ‘one version of’ the title of a novel by a whodunnit writer’. That snippet should prove to be useful once we have identified the writer (and indeed it did – we raced down the list to find which of his murder mysteries had two titles and BINGO!)

Next useful prompt: our author to be has two names and one is apparently 15 letters long and the other 13. Store it away for later! Now let’s look at the clues and find that we have jumbled misprints with a playfair … NO! Immense relief, none of those odious extra letters; just plain straightforward clues with merely a murmur about a few jumbles to come, probably in the endgame.

So we solve – at break neck speed almost – at least, one numpty did. I could barely keep pace writing his answers as he shot them out and the grid filled in under two hours. This really was a gentle solve after the fearsome maths with misprints and demanding knights’ moves! Perhaps we were lucky as TRANSCRIPTASE ‘Sat near one eccentric taking exam paper in type of enzyme (13)’ had to finish with ASE and was an obvious ‘eccentric’ anagram (SAT NEAR* round SCRIPT), as was ‘Playhouse: that’s where many are assembled to take in a bit of drama (15, two words) (THATS WHERE MANY round D*) leading to WYNDHAM’S THEATRE.

We soon had no gaps except for a little bit of doubt about LE?S – Straight lines of at least 160 yards. Was that ‘of at least’ pointing to LEAS since two of the definitions of LEAS would, with a small stretch of the imagination, satisfy the clue. LEA (3) in Chambers , also LEY fulfils the 160 yards half of the clue and LEA (1) which is a variant of LEY (2) would, by implication, fulfil the other part of the clue. BUT NO – it is only under the LEY version of the definition that ‘lines’ are mentioned so we opt for that. Now I wonder why the editors left this potential trap in when they could so easily have asked Gos to clue LENS, for example (like the TAIRAS/TAYRAS that knocked the miraculous Simon Long out a week or two ago – though I see he got his consolation prize as the winner of the Chambers Dictionary in Lato’s ‘Talking Scouse’. That has to be this week’s funny; if anyone needs a new Chambers, it must be Simon!)

Anyway, the editors will not have any problem wiping out any remaining ‘all corrects’ this week as the perfect trap is lying in wait for all. We’re wise old dogs now so we know that when we encounter EL NIÑO intersecting with WHITENER, we mustn’t just assume that we can transliterate that character into an upper case English N. After all, the ñ and n are quite distinct in the Spanish dictionary and must be treated differently. So we’ll enter in lower case OK? Ah, but then we have whiteñer – either way we are scuppered – but so is everybody else! Maybe, to satisfy editorial exigencies, we should squeeze both characters into one small square and survive. Ha!

We continue anyway, noticing that Gos shares the Listener setter propensity for a drop of the strong stuff (but only a drop, ‘Small amount of wine removed from cup’ and ‘With time her wine gets drunk in addition to coffee’) and we have enough letters to feed into a word finder that produces JOHN DICKSON CARR. We live overseas and can’t nip into the local library to check on obscure characters but, of course, the Internet tells us he wrote as CARTER DICKSON too, and a quick scroll down the list of his works shows us that he has a few with two names including ‘NINE – AND DEATH MAKES TEN’ – there’s our suspect, neatly circling the centre of the grid.

We’ve learnt along the way that DR FELL is one of Carter Dickson’s two tecs and surprisingly he is there in the grid, tempting the unwary but we are learning to smell a red herring when we come across one as he doesn’t fulfil the requirement for ‘the usual nickname for the detective at the centre of the investigation’. That’s HM (Sir Henry Merrivale) isn’t it? And sure enough, there he is in the centre of the rectangle. We’re reminded of Dysart’s Prize and Prize Winner where we hunted vainly for Kafka before finding Haruki Murakami. Oh these wily setters!

I would say that that red herring was the highlight of this crossword – and, for us, the pleasure of completing it before it was time to cook and eat Friday dinner.

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