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Listener 4213: Kruger’s A Spirited Performance

Posted by Dave Hennings on 16 November 2012

I can’t believe that this is Kruger’s first Listener. He has had a host of Inquisitor and Emigmatic Variation puzzles, some of which I have tackled, and I assumed he’d had a few Listeners too, but no. I had it in the back of my head that he was a bit of a tough cookie, so it was interesting to see if I was right.

Listener 4123One glance at the preamble confirmed my fears. Clues in alphabetical order of their answers, each with an extra word. When they were arranged into conventional clue order, the first and fourth letters would spell out a venue, a title and a cast list. Well that meant that a message wouldn’t gradually appear from extra or missing letters as they were written next to the clues. There were also wordplay-only clues and they needed to be modified before entry.

At least we were given word lengths after the clues, and I decided to tackle the 9-letter words first. They were clue numbers 22, 25, 28 and 34 in the list. Three came very quickly: 25 IN SERVICE, 28 MIMESTERS and 34 OLECRANON. I decided to get help from an anagram finder for the last of these (R LOAN ONCE) since I had enough work ahead of me as it was! It really needed the fourth for me to perhaps be certain how they interlocked, but 22 GRASS MOTH was some time from being solved.

I therefore started on the clues in order, and was surprised to find that they were actually pretty straightforward. Perhaps I had been wrong about how difficult the puzzle would be. OK, I spent considerably longer than normal on this first pass: probably 45 minutes instead of 20. With the three 9-letter words I had over half the clues solved.

In the process I had a few wordplay only clues which were members of two thematic groups. 10 BARON, 15 DUKE and 16 EARL indicated that we probably had members of the aristocracy. Unfortunately, we weren’t told how many of these special clues to look out for, and, what’s more, they needed to be modified thematically before entry. Additionally clue 11 Timorous wild beasts (6) also looked thematic and was probably BASSET. Hmmm … so dogs were here too!?

If you were anything like me, at this point in the solving process you slowed down considerably. Fitting entries into the grid was a bit of an uphill struggle. It was some time later that I was trying to fit REAL into 9dn (in the completed grid), and, of course by then I had forgotten about the need for the wordplay clues to be entered thematically. Luckily, amnesia didn’t last long, and I slotted in REAL as an anagram of EARL. BARON, DUKE, and possibly other gentry would also need to be jumbled. But what about the BASSET?

I finally solved clue 11 Belgium authorises shoulder insignia for US officers (6). It was BEAGLE, and I had been put off by a reasonably long clue being one of the wordplay clues – B + EAGLE. What’s more, it looked like it could go in the bottom right, but that was just EAGLE! A quick tally of clue versus entry lengths revealed a sneaky fact: there was a mismatch, and some of the thematic entries looked like they’d lose their heads.

Finally, the grid was completed, but the slow down in solving speed after the initial flurry meant that it probably took in the region of four hours. Yikes! All that remained was to find out what the hell it was all about, and I listed the first and fourth letters of the extra words:

W A N H I R L P G N K C H U S C H H D L L R S A D E N D S B A D K N I G H T S O S P O O M E B A D K
O A K D E L I N A R O B L E R H E A I L E S O H O U A S T A N R N E T G H O S T N H R R S E N A C E

 
After a bit of jiggery pokery, the following two messages appeared:

Oakhill Park, Church Hill Road, East Barnet: Ghost’s Promenade
Wandering nobles, headless hounds and knights on horseback

Listener 4213 My EntryWell, we had the wandering noblemen, entered as anagrams (BARON, DUKE, EARL, MARQUIS and VISCOUNT) plus the headless hounds ([A]FGHAN, [B]ASSET, [B]EAGLE, [S]PANIEL and [W]HIPPET). It took only a few seconds to find the knights on horseback in the centre of the grid, three Ns above ESROH. It needed Google for me to confirm the existence of all of this … not that I doubted Kruger!

And so ended a novel and entertaining puzzle, thanks to him. It seemed to me that this was a bit of a departure from the normal subject matter for a Listener theme. I’m not sure why I thought that, after all we’ve had Wallace and Gromit, British Rail, Battenburg Cake and “The Sun wot won it” in recent months.
 

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