The numpties blogging before dinner on Friday for the second time in a month. That really takes the biscuit! This was certainly our fastest grid fill ever as we had all but our last three clues in just about thirty minutes. This can only bode ill. We must be due for a real stinker – I hope somebody has tied Sabre’s right arm behind his back and banned all references to Klein bottles, graphs on tori and the like in Listener crosswords.
“VERSINE” said the other numpty for ‘Angular function is even? Odd! (6)’ “No,” I replied, “there’s an R missing from the anagrind. D’oh! Is that why it’s called Links? Surely we aren’t going to take an R out of every clue – VESINE”. Three clues later (Comandeer boat after exercise (4)’ P[R]E + SS, ‘Tea for example, upped load (5) CHA[R] + EG rev, and ‘BeST A[R]rangement’s part 2 perhaps (3)) and not only had we decided that we were doing that, but also we had found enough letters to suggest WITTGENSTEIN (well, actually Crossword Compiler suggested it when I fed the letters in!)
“The left-handed piano player, of course! Brother of Ludwig. While the other numpty slotted solutions in as fast as he could write, I did a quick visit to Wikipedia and, of course, produced all the composers who wrote for him, at his request. We were clearly told that the loss of RIGHT was something ‘evidently not affecting the group of four’ and we had enough letters to slot in (with their right arms intact) STRAUSS, RAVEL, PROKOFIEV and BRITTEN.
The rest was a gift. We were solving so fast that I didn’t even have time to hunt for the usual Listener setter boozy stuff, just some tea in there and, oh dear, somebody dropping old trousers.
There was a moment of delight when the wordplay of 19 down led us to SHIPWS ‘Carpenters whip top to bottom within ends of stocks (6)’ and we realized that the entire word RIGHT had to come out of SHIPWRIGHTS. Of course, we had to apply that wisdom to understand why ASY was appearing at 3 down ‘Affectedly creative perhaps, in Aberdeen forever holding last of paintings (3)’ A[RT]SY – and PUIE at 28 across ‘Pick up that is more charming for cowboys (4)’ PU[RT]IE[R]
So there we were: a full grid but a little bit of head-scratching about some of the wordplay. SPI[R]AL seemed to be our answer for ‘Wind, from the east, almost drops ball into round one (5)’ but, even though we play golf, it took us a while to work out that A (one) was to go into LIPS (nearly drops ball into), heading east. And I still don’t understand the wordplay of OFF-COLOU[R]ED, ‘Description of inferior diamond: “ice” South African man initially extracted in winter? (10)’ Perhaps Dave will explain it in his blog.
What was left? That strange instruction that ‘Solvers must highlight the letters of Xs first name where they appear closest together (ie, the average distance between any two being minimised).’ What was the purpose of this? Did anyone think you could solve this puzzle without realising that it was the left-armed Paul the pianist and not the philosopher, Ludwig, that we were dealing with?
The mathematical numpty explained to me that in a total of 6 Ps, 10 As, 4 Us and 4 Ls, we immediately have 960 choices to make PAUL. There are six distances to compute for each arrangement of Paul (4C2) so a major computation is involved in proving one has the closest set.
I got my ruler out and measured what seemed to me to be the two most likely candidates. (Surely the total distance of the six relevant measurements is exactly analagous to the average distance between any two. I hope so anyway.) The PAUL in the top corner added up to 16cms, while the one in the lower centre of the grid came to 12cms. He does say ‘any two’, so we are totting up six measurements for any set (PA, AU, UL, PU, PL, AL – not just PA, AU and UL). No, I refuse to work out the other 958 combinations of the four letters! I’ll just highlight that set of four letters with no idea what it has to do with the theme. A bit of a shame after such a light-hearted fill.
Thank you KevGar. A gentle romp.