Listener 4236: Oh, No! Not Another Playfair by Mordred
Posted by Dave Hennings on 26 April 2013
A strange title, I thought. After all, it’s not as though we’ve had three of the pesky things in the last couple of months! You can probably guess from that sentence that Playfairs aren’t my favourite device. Luckily, the first part of the preamble indicated that we didn’t actually have to do any encoding, but just find a Playfair code-square in the grid. I wondered, therefore, why the remaining two-thirds of the preamble was devoted to explaining the coding method in detail if it wasn’t to be required.
It was an enjoyable solve, with some nice surface readings, particularly the obliging Scottish landowners dropping dead in their burial plots (LAIRS). We also had Lady Penelope’s butler at 23dn — Parker perhaps displays such lack of vices, securing regular parts in Thuderbirds — where NO SINS contained just the 6th and 12th letters of thundErbirdS.
I spent longer than I should have done in unravelling three clues. 13ac Girl with duke slipped a wink to Will (5) was obviously ELIAD, but it was some time before I saw that it was just DELIA with the D slipping to the end. 14ac Times when computer program fails both of us (5) was BOTH – BOT (computer program) + OURS (of us) giving HOURS (times). 19ac Three Sisters could be more than one dedicated to pleasure (9) I thought was going to be PLAYBILLS rather than PLAYGIRLS.
36ac Intricate puzzle using A-Z set by Mordred (4) giving MAZE was a gem.
With the grid finished, it didn’t take long to find the code-square, but it took a bit longer to make sure that I correctly swapped the nine letters not in the code phrase WORDPLAY GIVES FUN.
Taken at face value, you could be forgiven for thinking that the setter’s task was just a question of fitting the Playfair code-square in the centre of the grid. But Mordred had set himself a fairly stiff additional challenge. The nine letters not in the code phrase weren’t to be found in the code-square after the initial gridfill. They were scattered elsewhere and had to be swapped with those currently sitting in the code-square. Thus, there could only be one each of B, C, H, K, M, Q, T, X and Z. Making sure that there was only one T must have been a real swine!
So thanks to Mordred for an entertaining puzzle that didn’t involve deducing the codeword from encoded entries. Unlike Rustic’s EV puzzle the following day which it was my turn to blog for fifteensquared!!