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Pipes by Samuel

Posted by shirleycurran on 14 June 2013

Pipes by SamuelOh no! Not a carte blanche! The numpties read on in disbelief. There is an initial grid so there must be a different final grid and there are going to be six thematic clues with word-play only. Pipes? One of the numpties plays the bagpipes – are we on Scottish territory again? A touch of the pibroch? Music for a change from poker games? We abandon an early attempt to understand the preamble which is telling us how to rotate clues but highlight the word CAREFULLY lower down. That must be there for a reason (Don’t Listener solvers always attempt to obey instructions carefully?) and two final items to highlight. (We highlight that instruction too – what a gaffe to complete the whole thing and forget the highlighting – and it wouldn’t be the first time!)

A quick read through the clues shows us that Samuel isn’t in corny joke mode (as in so many of his hilarious crosswords like last month’s SHY NIECE WITH PURSE in the Magpie) but qualifies as usual for the Listener Setters’ tippling confrerie with is ‘Unoccupied evil journalist in New York, maybe, napped after drinks (8)’ Ah, but the drinks seem to be TEAS followed by E[vi]L + ED, as that is clearly a clue to rotate. I think ‘Unoccupied evil journalist’ has to go to the end of the clue which leaves 31 letters unmoved and that would give me an E.

I am beginning to despair of Samuel’s tippling tendencies as a series of rather negative surface readings appears. We have ‘frosty look’, ‘foolery’, ‘cruel’, ‘evil’, ‘All Saints’ missing out on ‘virility’, smacking a ‘tart’s bottom with a rubber bat’, ‘clash’, ‘weep’, ‘strive’, ‘spoil’, ‘accursed … about love’ and it is only in his last two clues that he redeems himself with ‘Dash of Rum and Orange, say, in rough bar in Glasgow (4) R[um] + ISP – well, my ISP is Orange – what a lovely clue) and Bottle the first of absinthe in village (4) A in VIL. Of course there is a different device operating for the down clues and I laboroiously work out that those two give me an S and a T.

March to May 2013 114Perhaps we are lucky that our solve gives us MUMBLERS as our first down clue (‘Bunglers getting money for fine could be unclear speakers (8) FUMBLERS with M for F) and a few other downs follow. That gives us an inkling about what is going on as our solving proceeds. The across clues don’t tally with the downs and we have a set of words that might well be thematic (GONG, PEAL, VESPER, BIG BEN) and a message emerging from the remaining across clues that is telling us to ROTATE  … We were told initially that the grid represents the curved surface of a thematic object so we begin to suspect that we are dealing with some sort of pipe or BELL? A quick visit to our Bradford confirms that those are indeed bells and she adds CROTAL and LUTINE to our list, providing the six we need.

Oh wonderful Mrs Bradford, she gives us another bell ‘TUBULAR!’ Haven’t I been playing that all week and isn’t this just about the fortieth anniversary? A quick Google check gives me May 25th 1973, so we have the theme and a good idea what is going to occupy one column and who the creator is (Mike Oldfield) who is going to occupy the symmetrically opposite column.

Oh but our solve isn’t over yet! Getting the across clues into the right order (and how clever of Samuel to make sure that there was only one order possible in each of them) was only half the battle. Counting the letters that hadn’t moved and converting them to letters was almost equally demanding. Take ‘Surrounding new style knight inhibits British noblemen (8)’ We unsnarl the clue to get Inhibits British noblemen surrounding new style knight (EARLS round NS + N = ENSNARLS), then we have to count those 23 letters that didn’t move to produce the last letter of the instruction: ROTATE EVERY ROW!

Wrong grid!

Wrong grid!

We haven’t finished yet. Our down clues give us a message too. First solve, then identify the letter that gives us the position of a key letter in the clue and hey presto! ‘THEME OF THE EXORCIST‘. Wiki told us that too so we know now what we have to do. We find an M and a T on the first line, and I and a U on the next, a K and a B on the third. Simples! We rotate the rows and what do we have? MIKE OLDFIELD/ TUBULAR BELLS.

We are patting ourselves on the back and preparing to copy this very satisfactory solution onto our sending copy when we remember that we highlighted that word ‘carefully’ in the preamble. What are Samuel and our Editors up to? Haven’t we rotated every row? Well, have we? I check carefully Tubular bells Right grid!and daylight dawns. How did they engineer that twist? We haven’t rotated row six! Back to the drawing board. (Actually I just cut my grid in half and got the desired result – every row rotated and there were TUBULAR BELLS followed by their creator MIKE OLDFIELD in the order given by Samuel in the preamble.

How beautifully this all came together with the circular nature of the thematic device echoing the tubular nature of the bells. And we got our pipes too, even if they were rather grunty and ughy Exorcist pipes. This was a massive challenge; thanks Samuel! It will certainly silence the critics who want a difficult one.

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One Response to “Pipes by Samuel”

  1. Jim360 said

    With his new job over at EV I expect that Samuel might not have time to provide a setters’ blog? Pity as this was a great offering. Plenty of twists during the initial grid fill, though once I cottoned on to the wrapping round of words things started to move fairly smoothly. What an interesting gimmick for extracting messages he used! A bit tedious doing all the counting by hand perhaps, but well worth the effort in the end, and a wonderful finish. Thanks Samuel.

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