Listener 4206: A1 by Ifor (or Just Up the Road)
Posted by Dave Hennings on 28 September 2012
I was surprised to find that this was only Ifor’s second Listener, as I’ve done a number of his puzzles before. It turns out that most of them had been in the EV series. I had good memories of them, as well as of his first Listener Frightened Catherine with its Fahrenheit/Centigrade theme. In A1 we would end up highlighting the connection (14 cells) between a start and a finish (11 cells). The A1 road in Britain connects London with Edinburgh, and they were both in the clue to 7dn Edinburgh and London — capitals connected by line. I didn’t twig what line was being talked about … unlike some solvers no doubt.
Across clues contributing to what needed highlighting had to lose some letters before solving, and I suspected there would be quite a few of these. There were also four wordplay-only clues which would have to be dealt with thematically. I decided to start on the down clues first since they were pretty much normal. My first pass through gathered about a dozen entries.
I was reaonably happy with this, so started on the downs. 1 was Ran over to take a chance reforming aged family of parasites. Not being an expert on biological parasites, I resorted to Mrs B, and the only realistic entry she had beginning with O (I already had OPIATES) was ‘Orobanche’, and Chambers provided OROBANCHACEAE. This took a bit of disentangling, and proved to have the ‘ran’ as extraneous letters with the rest deriving from O + ROB + CHANCE* + AE.
Sadly, most of the across clues were not that simple. I had been right in surmising that most of them would lose two or more letters … in fact about two-thirds of them. And it was only when I had solved about two-thirds of the across clues that I managed to link ALAS, TA and IR together to form ALASTAIR, a Scottish boy’s name. FIN and LAY were also there, and it wasn’t too long before I had eight of them:
Ranald Alastair Callum Cameron Arran Finlay Murdo and Logan.
So here we had another Scottish connection. With a complete grid, ED in BURGH was at the top of column 4, and L on DON was at the bottom of the last three columns. What linked them, however, wasn’t obvious at that stage. Despite having told myself that the A1 connected London and Edinburgh, it took a good fifteen minutes before it occurred to me to look for the connection going northwards up the grid, but there it was … The FLYING SCOTSMAN. Those eight Scots had indeed flown from the across clues.
There were four wordplay-only clues, 44ac APTERAL, 2dn ODA, 7dn ELL and 24dn LNER. LNER was obviously the word that provided leads (ie initial letters) to a thematic ‘group’ … one of the late, great railway operating companies. That meant that I was left with APTERAL, ODA and ELL. I looked at them for a short while, trying to determine in what order their clue numbers should be entered below the grid. Of course, it turned out that the words themselves had nothing to do with determining the order. It was solely the clue numbers that we were interested in. I got there by working out what numbers I would put beneath the grid if I were setting the puzzle. For a very brief time in my teens, I had done a bit of train-spotting. Unfortunately, I don’t think that The Flying Scotsman, LNER loco number 4472, was one of the ones I collected. Shame.
Entering 4472 beneath the grid completed a very enjoyable puzzle from Ifor, so thanks for that. I wondered how long we would have to wait before we were served another railway-oriented theme!!