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Listener 4246: Construction by Shackleton

Posted by Dave Hennings on 5 July 2013

A Shackleton puzzle is, for me, a cause both of keen excitement and much trepidation. Excitement because they are a joy to solve, and trepidation because they have, on a couple of occasions, nearly tripped me up. This week, there seemed to be some sort of building involved, but the last part of the preamble stated “Actual construction is not required.” Phew!

Listener 4246However, we were faced with unnumbered clues in alphabetical order of their answers, with loads of 4-, 5- and 6-letter entries. That had the makings of a jigsaw where all the pieces are almost the same shape! Two objects were involved somehow, and a quotation and its author. Because there were bars on the left and right edges of the grid, it looked as though some words would wrap around. I wondered whether Shackleton had the same Tubular Bells idea that Samuel had three weeks ago. I suspected, however, that the editors would have spotted that.

Comparing the length of the clues with grid entries, I had:

Length Clues Grid
4 8 8
5 9 11
6 11 12
7 13 12
8 4 4

A total of 45 clues and 47 grid entries. As always with a jigsaw grid, you can throw it away for a couple of hours and just make a list of the required numbers, here 1–45, and mark the answer against each. The first port of call is the long entries. Here we had four 8-letter entries. Sadly they didn’t interlock, and even more sadly they weren’t particularly easy to solve. In fact, I didn’t get any of them until about two hours into the solve. Here they are, in case you’ve forgotten:

10 Previously published books lecturer removed from bar
18 Fashion from nineties one admired at Princeton?
30 Fine divers (old-school) cleaving to oxygen and nitrogen in ascent of 1.5 fathoms
42 Vice president overcoming good—see corrupt West African

Yes, I know, I should’ve got EINSTEIN at 18 more quickly, but my letter doodling didn’t make him obvious; and what a sneaky definition. I finally succumbed to a dejumbler, and keyed FINE TO O N to reveal NINEFOOT at 30. A bit of examination of intersecting 4-letter entries meant that it probably went in the top-left or top-right quadrant, and with BE FOR IT as a possibility in row 5, I pencilled it into column 9. My grid was up and running.

Next I put SONATA crossing the second O of NINEFOOT, and BOSNS in the central column. This latter turned out to be wrong, but you can’t get everything right first time with these puzzles. In the end it took at least another two hours to polish off Shackleton’s clues and fill the grid…with the exception of •AV•EN in the top row and BA•ON in the middle.

The clues could now be put in standard order to read out their initial letters:

Book of Genesis Eleven Four; Title of Led Zeppelin song

Unfortunately, I am not an expert on either of these things. I do, however, still have my old school bible, and Genesis chapter 11, book 4 relates to the Tower of Babel. It needed Google to identify a relevant Led Zeppelin song: Stairway to Heaven. So the unclued entry in the top row was HEAVEN, and it looked certain that the central entry was BACON. The quotation climbing up around the tower proved to be from his Essays of 1625:

All rising to great place is by a winding stair

Listener 4246 My EntryFinally, the BYL of the overlong BY-LANES needed to swap places with the C of BACON to give the thematic location BABYLON, and another superb Shackleton puzzle bit the dust. I mused on his Listener offerings which covered Bela Lugosi, Jackson Pollock, Beethoven and Ernest Hemingway, in addition to the Listener Olympics puzzle last July. What would he come up with next?


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