Listen With Others

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Carte Blanche by Lavatch

Posted by shirleycurran on 16 August 2013

Listener 4252 (1)Another carte blanche? That was our first reaction, but we soon realized that Lavatch’s creation wasn’t exactly that as he had given us letters to tell us which row or column our solutions were to be entered in, and a rough grid soon appeared. We spotted that there was a sort of imbalance in the symmetry since column A was composed of a 6-letter and a 4-letter clue, while column M had a 7-letter and a 4-letter. Obviously, we were being shown where our seven blank cells were going to be.

Finding the three clashes was not so easy and, noticing along the way that Lavatch just squeezed into the Listener Setters’ tipply club with his ‘Extract of coffee liqueur provides flavour’ (FEEL hidden) we managed to produce a convincing grid-fill with only one clash at the conjuncton of BAT and LEAK.

We had strange gaps at B?G?T?D and E?TI?N and clearly our remaining two clashes would have to appear there. We opted for NATION (NON round A + T’ + [Berlscon]I) which gave us yet another strange pair of misprint/correct letters and finally realized that we had another BL clash if we chose LIGHTED rather than BIGOTED for ‘Got down solution no. 1 in paper’  (LIGHT + ED).

SolutionEven more worrying, (we were being especially numptyish numpties) those pairs of letters (DO GY GR JT FW BT IU CT LT FP BV HW DS and BR) didn’t seem to spell anything out to us, though we did realize that the first of the two was always earlier in the alphabet. Doh! It was after a night of pondering that the word COORDINATES was shouted out in glee and it was a speedy move to SWIFT AFRIC MAPS, where we found:

So geographers in Afric-maps/ With savage pictures fill their gaps;/ And o’er unhabitable downs/ Place elephants for want of towns.

More head scratching! We spent an unconscionable time attempting to work out which savage pictures we were expected to draw in our gaps (squeeze a couple of boa constrictors in?) before realisation struck us and those letters neatly fitted into the gaps to give real words (SAUSAGES, SALUTER and so on!)

It now made sense that those clashes had produced pairs of letters that consistently produced real words like BLAT and BLEAK so had we finished? What was that bit about the geographers placing elephants in the big white spaces of Africa (in the ‘here be dragons’ style – I was reminded of that wonderful opening of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness where he talks of the fascination of those vast, white, empty spaces). We had noticed that we had TOWNS on the second row of our grid. Was this the place for a little bit of artistic licence? But how would Mr Green be expected to mark my mini pachyderms?

Yet another p.d.m. If we wiped out the TOWNS and put ELEPHANTS up there in this genuine ‘carte blanche’ we were consistently using pairs of letters to fill yet more cells. How very clever this was! Thank you, Lavatch.

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