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Listener 4230: Elm by Quinapalus

Posted by Dave Hennings on 15 March 2013

Quinapalus’s three previous Listeners were:

Number Date Title Theme
3417 05/07/1997 Brick Wall Tetris
3660 09/03/2002 Mistake Puzzle to be completed in Red Ink (yes, I appreciate you know what red ink looks like!)
4176 11/02/2012 Small but Perfectly Formed 3-dimensional cuboid and quotation from King Lear

Listener 4230Here we had a simple 12×12 grid, although without symmetry. There was also another grid for which the diagram wasn’t given … lack of space I guessed. This smaller grid needed incorporating in the solution, securely attached, and the preamble said that the final grid had 180° symmetry. Anyone who begins each week’s Listener by noting the title, reading the preamble and looking at the grid before even clocking the first clue, may have sussed out what was likely to happen this week. I am not one of those, so I just dived in head-first.

There were two types of clue: those with a misprint in the definition appeared in alphabetical order of their answers, and those where the wordplay omitted one or two letters of the answer and were in alphabetical order of the clues themselves. A bit of analysis, and it was possible to have a good stab at which were which, and this helped a lot. Of course, what didn’t help a lot, either for solving the puzzle or for the writing of this blog was the lack of clue numbers. (Yes, I know I’ve dropped hints before!)

There were two 9-letter answers, and it looked as though that was the way in to fixing the location of entries. Clue 23 Glaur with ordinary, not wild, grass (9, three words) and clue 43 To clue resin, liquid discharging in ____ (9, two words). The second of these looked like an anagram of ‘to clue resin’ – ‘in’, but nothing looked obvious. As for the first, that also looked like an anagram, this time of ‘glaur o not’ with a misprint of grass for crass, glass, grasp, gross or perhaps even grans! I suppose if I had got these two entries early on, things might have been plain(er) sailing. 23 was LATCH ON TO, ‘glaur’ and ‘latch’ both being words for a Scottish mire, and was listed under mire in Mrs B; I should have paid more attention to her. 43 was LOCUST[T]REE, which I finally got by seeing TREE among the clue’s letters.

After some time (quite a long time, actually), I had cu••l•••g••d•i••s beginning the message, and cut along grid lines was an easy deduction. But helped that me not a lot. What did help was some time later (even longer than before) getting agor•••riple and Pythagorean triples seemed to be the theme, ie 3, 4, 5 and 5, 12, 13. The title confirmed this, being the 5th, 12th and 13th letters of the alphabet.

I won’t deny it, but I found this puzzle incredibly tough. The clues varied from being a doddle to being deeply devious and on to downright difficult:

9 DO[G]-ENDS Damaged sodden bits of cigarette (6)
10 ENTE[R]ER I join in some orienteering (6)
20 GLOW PLUG Party? I’ll get things started, getting down to Prince, possessed by drink (8, two words)
LOW P in GLUG with ‘party’ as a misprint for ‘parky’ … devious but totally fair
45 SUBFUSC Sober OU rag under Foot? Posh alternative to Viz (7)
an academic gown, especially at Oxford University; there seemed to be too much going on here, but it was SUB (under) + F (foot) + U (posh) + SC (scilicet for viz)

The only clue I wasn’t 100% happy with was 38 Refuse medic (3) with its misprint of ‘medic’ for Médoc!

Eventually, the full instruction and theme were spelled out as Cut along grid lines by skipped letters. Pythagorean triple. Of course, now the reason bacame clear why there were only two instances of two letters being skipped by the wordplay: they were the two clues where the scissor-work went through a clue twice.

So far, you may have noticed, I haven’t mentioned Grid B. I’m sure many people tackled that puzzle before even starting Grid A. Again, I was not one of them, but somewhere between ‘quite a long time’ and ‘even longer than before’ I tackled it and found it to be pretty easy. I also noticed that it was a 180° rotation of the top left corner of Grid A, and it looked likely to be the bottom right corner of the completed grid.

Listener 4230 My EntryAnd so, after a bit of snippy work (plus photocopying and rotating the top left corner of Grid A) and some sticky-back plastic, I had a superb 13×13 grid, 180° symmetrical and with lots of new words appearing from the original two grids. Congratulations to Quinapalus for a masterpiece, in terms of both concept and execution … not to mention difficulty. I estimate it took me three sessions of about 4 hours each, plus a couple of hours of head-banging in between! I’m glad I persevered … just!


2 Responses to “Listener 4230: Elm by Quinapalus”

  1. Roger Phillips said

    You’re a day early.

  2. shirleycurran said

    Well, he was but he took it away almost at once. Good to know, Roger, that you keep an eye on us. I committed a far worse sin once and accidentally published on the day the puzzle (not the solution) appeared but happily no-one noticed and I was able to retract before one of you came to assassinate me.

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