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Vera by Elfman

Posted by shirleycurran on 22 March 2013

TrueliebothsavedNumpty consternation when not one but three little cartes blanches rolled off the printer. We counted the clues and found 36 but we had 42 lights in the three grids, 14 in each, so it didn’t take us long to realize that the ‘6-word version of a proverb’ was going to cross the centre of the three grids. And we remembered to highlight those words in the preamble that said that ‘in each section one appropriate 7-letter entry is unclued’.

Solving was enjoyable as, apart from the devious tricks Elfman resorted to to put ‘exactly one lie’ into each lying clue, these were relatively straight-forward clues. A few of the clues had us flummoxed at first with regard to whether they were truths or lies. ‘Against being scantily clad — doubly so (4)’ is one example. Clearly we were removing two letters from each end of SCANTILY to give ANTI, so that seemed to be ‘True’ and it was only in retrospect that we realized that the word was actually being UNCLAD, making that one a lie.

That was, of course, after we had fitted all our answers into grids and checked whether they behaved as they should, producing one true grid, one lying one, and one that strictly obeyed the rule of alternating between truthful and lying clues.

Aaah, those devious tricks! An anomaly had appeared when we attempted to split our clues into acrosses and downs. A simple count revealed that we had one extra 6-letter clue that seemed to belong to the acrosses (where there were no 6-letter clues) and one 7-letter down clue missing. Could the editors have let an error through? Nooooo! We know them too well for that. The culprit was staring us in the face. ‘Title of respect to glorify and elevate (6)’ It had to give U+PRAISE in our lying and truthful grid, but it also came between two obviously ‘True’ solutions ET AL (‘Lose millions from gold perhaps and other things’ (4) METAL less M) and TABANUS (‘Cheers prohibition on American gadflies (7)’ TA + BAN + US). Thus the UPRAISE clue had to contain ‘exactly one lie’. Penny drop moment! The word count!

Once we had spotted that, we were on the home-straight. (There were a few horsey clues in this, and doggie ones too, weren’t there and a surprising lack of the usual Listener compiler alcohol! Even I know that THE OAKS – clue one, is not a dog race!) However, the deciphering of the wordplay took a while: I now know that to BUCK was once to SOAK, and, of course, the S(econd) had to go to the end of the clue. How wonderfully that clue misled us. I was back with Jack London and his Buck in The Call of the Wild, though he would hardly have come second to last in any dog race – he’d be more likely to have eaten the winner.

Of course, we had looked, right at the start, for ‘Truth’ quotations in the ODQ but there are rather a lot. Still, the right one soon emerged: A HALF TRUTH IS A WHOLE LIE, and checking in Chambers told us that this was not another bit of Elfman trickery. Half-truth does have that deceptive hyphen that some crossword editors indicate, but naturally not the Listener – that would make our hoop-jumping activities too easy wouldn’t it?

It remained to find those three appropriate words, one in each section. Sure enough, they were exactly where we might have suspected. One right down the centre and the other two symmetrically placed. Nice, Elfman! This was an enjoyable romp.


One Response to “Vera by Elfman”

  1. jim360 said

    This one ended up defeating me – my first duck of the year excepting any silly errors in earlier ones that I didn’t notice. A pity as it was a nice idea. Thanks for the blog so that I can see the solution at last.

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