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Listener 4207: Ferret’s Loco

Posted by Dave Hennings on 5 Oct 2012

This was Ferret’s first Listener, although he had a very nice Inquisitor, 20/20, about 18 months ago. And it seems that we were in railway territory again, just one week after Ifor’s A1! We were told that the grid represented a railway network, recording the connections between lines. I have to confess that I really didn’t understand what this meant, but there were twenty clashes between these connections representing delays in minutes.

There were three groups of clues, headed Across Lines, Down Lines and Stations. Clues within each group were in alphabetical order of their answers, and each clue had a misprint that could be anywhere, either in the definition or the wordplay. The correct letters would indicate what needed to be done with the delays, and the incorrect letters would give some clarification. Unfortunately these were in the order that the entries appeared in the grid, rather than in the order of the clues, so there wouldn’t be any help given by reading down these letters as they appeared in the order printed. Oh well … perhaps the clues would be easy and everything would slot into place quickly.

Listener 4207Well that didn’t happen! I started on the acrosses, and got CHARTA, CITOLE and FISTULAS fairly quickly. However, these could go anywhere in the grid, and I decided to move on to the station clues, which had some interesting word lengths. Two clues had 14-letter answers and would go across the top and bottom, and two were of eight letters and would go down the first and last columns since there were no 8-letter answers provided by the down clues.

The second 8-letter station was Defile Queen Elizabeth’s first LP following quiet end to week for detective and was SHERLOCK; it took a bit of time to unravel (COL (defile) R (queen) E (Elizabeth’s first))< after SH (quiet) + K (end of weeK); the misprint was LP for UP … sneaky! Since we were told there were no clashes in the stations, I guessed that this would go in the right-hand column. I doodled with ANOTHER CUCKOLD in the first station clue, which was three words and ended in K, and with THE probably in there somewhere, AROUND THE CLOCK got me going in earnest. BRANCHIA in the first column came soon afterwards, but the top row took some time. Even though it began with B and probably ended with NESS, it seemed likely that there was a misprint in SAW HENNA BARRED and it caused BRAND AWARENESS to be slow coming. I wondered why Ferret chose L’Oreal as the brand to get a free plug!

As I progresssed, I tentatively entered clues in the grid, half expecting some to be in completely the wrong place. In fact I got everything pretty much spot on, although that’s not to say that all the clues came easily. I found it quite a tricky fill, taking me about four hours in total. For example, 08:46 across Shuts eyes briefly, worried in case of tears after good snort didn’t begin NAP, but was NICTATES … ATE (worried) in TS (case of TearS) after NIC[E] (good cut snort short). And the station clue to NEST was What medic might report leaving wife with infant at last residence … NEWS (what medic media might report) – W (wife) + T (infanT’s last). I had also found it useful to highlight the stations since they didn’t have any clashing letters.

With the grid complete, the first thing to do was to rub out the clashing letters in each cell and to replace them with the numerical difference between their letters. These represented the delays, and I marked them in the corners of the cells.

Then, sorting the misprints into order, the correct ones gave me Sum with clue times Draw clocks unide hands, and the incorrect ones gave Hour hand points directly at relevant hour. It took me a while to realise that my mistake that gave me unide was in 18:39 down Watery liquids and cola getting a large lump of ice where the correct version of the misprint was colt, not cold since both had c as an abbreviation. So it should have been Draw clocks Unite hands, which I assume meant ‘join them’. (I wondered at first whether ‘Unide Hands’ was meant to be read as You Need Hands, a song made famous by Max Bygraves, recently deceased!)

With all this knowledge, it still took me over half an hour to realise that I didn’t add the delay to the the time for each entry, across and down, but needed to add the times of both crossing clues and the delay, which gave a new time that could be drawn as a clock within each clashing cell. Don’t ask me why, but I started to work left to right. As I began column 2, I was pleased that a lot of them were on the hour or 15, 30 or 45 minutes passed, as these would link nicely with other clocks

Unfortunately, as I moved on to column 5, I got 16:15, 02:45 and 09:20. I didn’t like the last one, but hoped that would meet something like 00:50 further on. And so it proved, and as I finished column 5, I suddenly realised what I was drawing, and a broad grin spread across my face. A few minutes later, and the old British Rail logo was sitting in front of me. The entries in the top and bottom rows showed themselves to be appropriate.

Listener 4207 My EntryAt last this tough puzzle was finished. With four hours on the clues, half an hour stumbling over the next stage, and then all the adding together of times and drawing them in the grid, the whole thing had taken nigh on six hours. I can’t say that it wasn’t worth it though. Thanks for a fun time, Ferret.

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