Listener 4233: Elementary by Wan (or Don’t Let Him Near the Lab!)
Posted by Dave Hennings on 5 April 2013
This was Wan’s first Listener, although he has had an EV and a few Magpie outings. Here we had an old favourite, the periodic table, but with a neat twist: every clue had to have the two-letter symbol of one element replaced by that of another before it could be solved.
Like the ‘setter’, chemistry isn’t my strongest suit, so my first job was to print out a list of elements and their symbols, preferably in alphabetical order. A visit to a couple of websites and a paste into Word got this onto a single page. I wondered whether there might be situations where the wrong symbol needed to be removed from one word, with the correct symbol needing to be added to another. I thought that unlikely, but I’d try to keep an eye open for one or two such instances. (It turned out that there were none.)
I gazed blankly at the first half-dozen or so across clues with nothing jumping out at me. Even 14ac Prince ate a protected animal … (5) passed me by until about half an hour later; it was, of course, PANDA (ate became and). 19ac Feet ache or hurt (6) looked like CHOREA or CHOREE, but again HORACE would take some time to make himself known (feet was poet). My first success was 23, where
Tail Coil left on scoundrel (4) gave CURL.
And so I was off. It was great fun teasing out the substitutions that were required. Sometimes they were in the definition, as in 23, sometimes in the wordplay like 7 Last of the Muses could be contributing to passion in snatches (5) with its ‘simple’, ‘hidden’ NINTH!
All the surface readings were excellent; I particularly liked the sick bag for the dodgy picnic! However, my favourite clues had to be these:
|2dn||AVID||Greedy helper eats two more than these
these becoming three was a delight
|10dn||IRISH COFFEE||Officer initially exceeds his roaming coverage
we’ve all had problems with mobile phone coverage, not necessarily so with beverages
|16ac||BHUTAN||… tabu outside last of Hutu land whence it came, perhaps
reference to the preceding answer, PANDA, with the last letter of Hutu becoming all but, ie most
|17dn||UPTOWN||In court, won’t betray where Yanks might live
It took me ages to suss astray for betray!
|18ac||SPEED TRAP||Monitored section of road in drug scare
Monitored needed to be read as an adjective rather than past tense (I think Chambers has speed trap as two words)
I made a complete list of which symbol moved from which clue and where it went. The clue that evaded me until the very end was 28ac. Well, obviously it was TOUCHWOOD, but I just couldn’t resolve the clue: Perform art with supposedly supernatural power from tinder. I could see that the supposedly supernatural power was OD. After all, Chambers gives that as ‘Reichenbach’s arbitrary name for a force he supposed to manifest itself in light, magnetism, chemical action, hypnotism, etc’. OK, so ‘supernatural’ may not apply (although hypnotism has always struck me as a bit weird), but ‘supposedly and ‘power’ fitted perfectly. TOUCH can be to play a musical instrument, but the WO eluded me. Of course, it was a ‘simple’ double definition, with art becoming act, and needed me to pronounce it as touch’wood in one sense and touch’ wood’, with a pause, in the other.
With the grid complete, all I had to do was highlight ‘two rows that conceal the full name of someone whose creation might have proved helpful’. Note the wording here. If his name was concealed in the rows, why were we required to highlight the complete row? Obviously all the letters were relevant, and the two rows provided an anagram of his full name. (The advantage of writing a blog is that you can make it sound as though you came to a conclusion ahead of time, rather than in hindsight. Truth be known, I thought it might be someone called VINCE or HORACE!)
And so the letters of Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev could be found in rows 2 and 11, and a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle came to an end.
I don’t know how detailed the Listener web site will be for the solution to this puzzle, so here’s a full list of substitutions if you need it.