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Listener 4228: Detective Work by Ilver (or The Little Grey Preamble)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 1 Mar 2013

Almost as if it’s to spite us for previously having picked holes in Listener preambles, here we were with a non-existent one, apart from what appears every week: “The Chambers Dictionary (2011) is the primary reference”. Given the title and “Theme: ______ (7,6)” written below the grid, it seemed that we would have a puzzle or two to unravel before discovering what was going on!

1ac Tortuous tours group (4) shouted out SORT as an anagram without the U, but then 16ac … and elsewhere takes time after knocking back coffee (5) shouted out LATTE (T in ET AL reversed). So I may have been wrong about 1ac … or more likely, there were two (or more) clue types in use.

Listener 422819ac referred to four other clues, so that looked suspicious, but obviously couldn’t be solved for a bit. Half a dozen answers later, some of which had an extra letter in the wordplay, I came to 41ac. 1ac first letters of 11 45 40s to produce theme (5). Although it was only 5 letters, with the entry below the grid being given as (7,6), it looked as though the answer to this clue would tell us everything … or be a red herring.

I made a good start on the down clues, and then came to 18dn First letters of 22 7 45 40 tender instruction (5). I wondered what the instruction might be: sleep, faint, choke, scoff? 7dn probably began with D for deserted, so it was possible that the answer, ·D··T, was just EDICT.

After 45 minutes, I had finished my first pass through the clues. This was longer than I would normally have taken, but a lot of the clues seemed worth persevering with, and I had about twenty scattered around the grid. Not much more than an hour later, and I had a nearly full grid. The unclued entry across the centre was probably THE DOUBLE CLUE, and, after a correction to 10dn, where I originally had [W]EE instead of [P]EE in SN to give SEEN, the extra letters spelt out:

Unclued entry is an appropriate title.

Before I had started solving the clues, I had read their initial letters. They had yielded nothing sensible. But now … I casually scanned them again, but only those where I had pencilled the extra letters alongside. I was pleasantly surprised to read:

Their poor clue. Read the extra letters.

With a slight detour, wondering whether SORT WORDPLAY and IMPERFECT NUDE in the top and bottom rows were hinting at an anagram, I reread the “suspicious” clues, and found:

19ac SIN Being “imperfect”, some wordplays include extra letter
I assume that, as well as referring to most of the clues being “imperfect”, this was an imperfect clue in that SIN was hidden in ‘wordplayS INclude extra’, the ‘extra’ being superflouous
41ac TOPIC Sort first letters of other imperfect clues to produce theme
anagram of the first letters of Other Imperfect Clues To Produce
18dn EDICT First letters of every down imperfect clue tender instruction

It seemed that I was doing everything in the wrong order. The only thing outstanding was to sort the “other” imperfect clues. This had to refer to the acrosses, and it didn’t take long to make HERCULE POIROT from the letters that I had already identified: their poor clue. The Double Clue was one of Poirot’s cases.

Listener 4228 My EntryI double-checked the preamble to see if any highlighting was required, and was relieved to find it wasn’t. So thanks to Ilver for a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle. I just hope that he hasn’t made the editors think that preambles really are superfluous to requirement!

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