Listen With Others

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A Spirited Performance by Kruger

Posted by shirleycurran on 16 November 2012

The numpties need that red herring again as for the first half of the solve, we were convinced that we were dealing with Shakespeare’s Henry VI Part I or three separate Shakespeare plays. Not only did we have what was almost a carte blanche, with clues in alphabetical order of their solutions, but also we were given a deceptive preamble that led us to expect some kind of dramatic performance.

BASSET ‘[Timorous] wild beasts (5)’ (BEASTS*), DUKE ‘Nancy’s from [Korea]outside of this country (4)’ (DE round UK), EARL ‘Almost deserve 50 [kroner] (4)’ (EAR[n] + L) and MARQUIS ‘Run into [gigantic] thicket (7)’ (R into MAQUIS) had appeared fairly early on and if you ask Google, he says that these are characters in that tedious Henry play. (Well did he really have to produce three plays for that king who was virtually a non-event and lost all that his father had fought for?)

Labouring under this delusion, we continued this laborious solve. There was no short cut, was there? There was no way one could guess at the theme and render this cold solve easier. Kruger didn’t even lighten our task with the usual Listener compiler tipple: there was just a ‘watery mess’ (‘Preparation for Andalusian horse is beginning to look more like a watery mess (8)’ (SLOSHIER from HORSE IS + L(ook)*) and ‘… dubious bouts of overindulgence’ (Possibly Cesare, no bachelor, in [dubious] bouts of overindulgence (5)’ BORGIA less B).

We couldn’t attempt a grid fill until we had solved almost all the clues. Indeed, they were relatively straightforward clues though we groaned at a couple. STOAT ‘Animal sat around [Karoo] in a fixed position (5)’ SAT around TO, and ICARUS ‘High flier in section of airship with [Miss] America (6)’ I’ + CAR + US. It is all to easy for a solver to be critical, though, isn’t it? The retort is “See if you can produce a better clue yourself that is concise, solvable and doesn’t repeat a gimmick found elsewhere in the clues etc. (and will pass the demanding standards of the two vetters!)

The difficult thing was that we had to have almost all the solutions in order to begin to fill the grid. However, with some generous gifts like ‘Mesmerist [painlessly] knocked our actors (9)’ (MIMESTERS) and ‘Snakes [defoliated] old trees (4)’ (ASPS) we soon had all but ten of the solutions and with the four nine-letter words in our set, began what looked like an easy fill. No, that’s not numpty talk – there is no such thing as an ‘easy Listener grid fill’. I should know better. When most of our forty solutions were in place, we were faced with, for example, the dilemma that the remaining eight-letter solution had to begin with T, U, V or W, but the remaining eight-letter light read ISTUCNO. That’s not a word, said numpty 2 and stomped off in disgust.

It took me a while to see that BARON, DUKE, EARL, MARQUIS and VISCOUNT were anagrammed and thus ‘modified’ before entry and the penny dropped that BASSET, AFGHAN, BEAGLE, SPANIEL and WHIPPET simply needed to lose their heads to fill the remaining lights. Just in case I made that solving process sound easy, here’s a thumbnail of our solving sheet, all colour-coded to help us spot word-length, characters and so on. And we weren’t finished yet!

Kruger had set us a substantial Friday evening workout. We now had to list the solutions in conventional order with those first and fourth letters we had extracted (of course, giving Kruger a pat on the back as we did so for managing to find all the 100 necessary letters that would provide the venue of the performance and the cast in words that were embedded convincingly into the clues).

We are old hands now and had marked the words and letters as we went along, so this was a time-consuming rather than a difficult task and our astonishment grew as we read ‘OAKHILL PARK, CHURCHILL ROAD, EAST BARNET GHOSTS’ PROMENADE’ AND ‘WANDERING NOBLES, HEADLESS HOUNDS AND KNIGHTS ON HORSEBACK.’ Of course, Google was rather more helpful this time and I was soon absorbing enough bloody and frightening material to disturb my dreams (it was almost bedtime – this had been a lengthy Friday evening solve!)

The headless hounds and wandering nobles now made sense. This was clearly intended to be a rather back-to-front solve wasn’t it when we couldn’t understand the theme until we had applied it by beheading a few dogs and making nobles wander? It reminded me of that classic Asterix where he needed form B to get form A but couldn’t have form A if he didn’t produce form B.

Form C, though produced no problem. We needed to find KNIGHTS ON HORSEBACK cryptically represented in the grid. Of course we looked in the middle and there they were: three Ns on ESROH (HORSE rev)

What can I say? It was a bitterly cold evening and Kruger kept two of us busy for about five hours, entertained us and introduced us to a topic that was totally new to us. He was unlikely to have anyone preempt his theme or anticipate it and what a tour de force to put all of that information into a 13X13 grid with 100 more thematic letters hidden in the clues. Thank you, Kruger.

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