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Listener 4232: A Murder Mystery by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by Dave Hennings on 29 March 2013

Four of Hedge-sparrow’s previous five Listeners have had a scientific theme.

Number Date Title Theme
3988 28/06/2008 Travel Agents Wormholes
4037 06/06/2009 S Charles Darwin
4064 12/12/2009 Metrical Variations Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity
4119 08/01/2011 Mass Production Large Hadron Collider
4196 30/06/2012 Here and There Half the answers had a letter added, half had one omitted, all giving real words

 
Listener 4232Although you shouldn’t necessarily infer too much from a Listener title, the preamble did seem to confirm that Hedge-sparrow had now entered the world of Poirot, Holmes and Morse. There was a murderer to be identified, and a victim to be found, as well as a code to be unravelled. Three detectives would appear (coded in the grid), each of whom had some profound words of wisdom (coded in the preamble). Finally the murder weapon would need highlighting (coded?).

The across clues had nine of the DLM+1 type (definition and letter mixture with an extra letter), which I think is a fairly recent innovation. My initial reaction was that this type was somewhat unfair, but they aren’t actually too difficult … although I suspect it depends who the setter is. And so, after dispatching 12ac CILIATE (courtesy Mrs B), 13ac Map confused head of Mafia branch proved to have quite an easy definition and gave CAPO, with M as the extra letter.

15ac Find a reference further down page was also a DLM+1 and gave INFRA. A flurry of solving followed, with 17 OURIE, 19 PSI, 22 EUOI and 23 ALLEGRO. However, apart from 38 OBO, that was the end of my across entries.

The down clues were a different type, each being two clues run together separated by an extra word; these which would provide a message from their first and last letters. 3,37 was Thin women I watch enter Greek marketplace from the north, all bearing silver and gold (5). The first part was a reasonably easy WISPY, and ‘Greek marketplace’ positively shouts AGORA. With CAPO and INFRA in the top left, this enabled both to be safely positioned in the grid and ‘enter’ identified as the extra word.

A lot of the down clues were straightforward, including 4,33 BELONG & RARELY plus 5,43 MYA & NOR and 8,31 TESTED & LICKED. The trickier ones were soon slotted into the grid with the help of the across entries, which I generally found more elusive.

The grid was completed in under two hours. The murder was a jumble of mdeasiohu, and a bit of doodling revealed her to be the housemaid … you really couldn’t afford to upset the staff in your country house! The first and last letters of the extra words in the down clues gave:

Killer first then unused letters

The code thus became:

H O U S E M A I D B C F G J K L N P Q R T V W X Y Z
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Identifying each detective by his label in the square to the left of his name, we had:

Row Label Coded Name Decoded Name Decoded Statement
1 B MPOPKWJ FR BROWN Floating on lake
2 C WDGQEY WIMSEY At bottom of garden
13 A GHDAPER MAIGRET Draped over floor

 
Listener 4232 My EntryIdentifying the BODY (or is it THE••BODY) in the central row, we see that Wimsey is wrong because it is at the top of the garden (EDEN in column 8), and Maigret is wrong because it is under the GROUND (in row 6). This means that my nemesis (thanks to Dysart) Father Brown is the correct detective since the body is indeed floating on lake BUTTERMERE (in row 8).

All that remained was to highlight the murder weapon, and that could easily be seen in … erm … umm … oh, where is it? Don’t tell me it is in code after all! Luckily it wasn’t, and I eventually identified PONIARD running NW from the bottom right corner.

Thanks to Hedge-sparrow for an entertaining murder mystery which helped us to put away that dastardly housemaid.
 

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