Listen With Others

X and Y by Ron

Posted by shirleycurran on 19 April 2013

‘Oh dear’, was the first Numpty reaction. The preamble for Ron’s X and Y was almost as large as the grid and, as we read through it and coloured our pages accordingly, we found ourselves making a column for extra letters, a column for extra words and little pink squares to remind ourselves that the down clues were in alphabetical order of solutions.

We were looking for a quotation which somehow referred to characters who were going to appear in a jumble in an ‘extra clue’. (Well, it didn’t take us too long to work out that that had to be a down clue as there were 24 across clues that neatly sorted themselves out into what was going to be a symmetrical grid.)

It got worse when we came to that word ‘dodecagon’ – more of that later!

Even though some of the extra words stood out rather obviously (ECTOCRINE/ NEURATION/ TE-HEED), we didn’t exactly cover ourselves with glory as far as finding the quotation was concerned. We had solved for about three hours before ‘to pretend that they came round the corner’ prompted us that we were on familiar ground – and we are great Winnie the Pooh fans. For years, when I was small, I walked ‘never on the cracks and only on the squares, to avoid being eaten by the bears‘.

‘And some of the bigger bears try to pretend that they came round the corner to look for a friend’ was prompting us that the puzzles theme was lines and squares (X and Y). Of course, all those little bears were waiting to gobble up any sillies who stepped on the lines. Now that we could tease out the extra letters, we had the message 4X (lines) 9Y (squares) CUT TWICE ALIGN SILLIES.

I had used Antony Lewis’ Crossword Compiler to construct my grid and wonder how anyone manages with just pencil and paper. The statement that ‘the initial bar pattern has 90-degree symmetry’ was a gift, as it gave us so many of the words from the lower half that were proving very difficult to solve. (UNGOT – ‘Pickled tongue well-nigh rejected by mat? (5)’ TONGU[e]* – Rejected by ma[t] and CACUMEN ‘Canine penetration makes thigh mark ((7) – [t]high mark C + ACUMEN.

Of course, we had noticed that Ron solidly earns his place in the Listener Setters’ Tipsy Club (well we saw him in the Ring o’ Bells before the Listener setters’ dinner just a couple of weeks ago so needed no confirmation, “Cheers, Ron!”). ‘Loose crock shortened booze up earlier’, ‘Animal may be taken from tipsy chef’, ‘Person in the alcohol club for the first time holds university feast’ he tells us (SCREE, PSYCHE and PURIM).

There were two bars in every column and in every row so even a Numpty could see how these should be moved to create four lines and nine squares, and even a Numpty could see that there were potential words for sillies in the complete grid. ‘Beastly pal mugging that foolhardy nit’ was our extra clue and had to produce six sillies, and, sure enough, there they were. SILLY, HATTER, GALAH, DINGBAT, GOOF and, surely not – fame at last! NUMPTY.

But how numptyish can we be? I had a very clear (and flawed) mental perception of what a dodecagon should be (a twelve-sided figure with twelve angles – I was visualising a regular one, and any numpty could tell you that was not possible here) and attempted to draw diagonal lines on my grid with increasing frustration, finally abandoning in despair and sleeping on it.

That must be why we obsessively solve these puzzles each week. So often, I am made to rethink my convictions. At about 3 a.m. in my sleep, I mentally did exactly what was asked for – CUT TWICE, then counted the sides of the shape I was reconstituting and found that it had twelve sides and twelve angles. Of course, that is what both Chambers and Wikipedia tell me. What’s more, all my sillies were now crossing the lines, or treading on them and sure to be eaten by the bears. (I’m the NUMPTY in the bottom of the lowest section.)

Many thanks, Ron, this was a super puzzle with so much in it.

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