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Ability by Kruger

Posted by shirleycurran on 15 November 2013

JournalismThe initial numpty reaction to Kruger’s preamble was that this sounded conventional and totally fair – nothing to really frighten us as we were actually, for once, solving with just the Times and a pencil, on the road towards a crossword event where the compiler himself was standing holding a glass. Now I insert that snippet of info as reassurance, as, otherwise, I would have no evidence at all, from the surface readings, that Kruger is a fully qualified member of the Listener setters’ tipply club. We had Metallica, rejection of a terrible mate, a pinch of Scottish snuff, some massage, a posh car and some rather odd desire to eat snake but otherwise a series of alcohol-free clues with no small dose of rejection, forgetting, worry and bugging everybody!

‘Beginning to bug everyone’ – well, that was clearly going to give us B + ALL but we were certainly ‘bugged’ as, on the first read through, we could solve a mere five clues. Our frustration mounted as the resolution of the wordplay just didn’t seem to lead to words that corresponded with the definitions. LIBERO, HERS, THERIAN, PEEK and KNEAD – yes, no problem, but 1 across, for example, seemed to say STONE HAMMER ‘One must hear intro from Metallica distorted – this could destroy rock (9, two words)’  (anagram of ONE MUST + M[etallica]) but that’s 11 letters long! Consternation!

Back to the preamble: ‘an ability that will be needed in order to enter some answers, whereupon the exact nature of the ability will be evident …’ Something fishy here. Clearly this ability was going to be needed to help us fit ETHERIAL into six cells (‘Heavenly look reflected in a Barrymore’) If we  reflected AIR and took not John Barrymore, but Ethel, we had our word for ‘Heavenly’ but again we had two letters more than we had room for in the cells.

The numpty solve continued and we were cursing soundly and regretting the passing of our Sun, coffee-break easy clues, stripey horse Z___A (5) days, when a certain pattern began to emerge. TORMENTORS at 5 down (They distress soldiers constrained by wrong orders, discharging ordnance (9) TORT round MEN with ORDERS less ORD) may be rather a clunky clue but did give us a potential TO intersecting with the TO of  STONE HAMMER. Were we going to fit two letters into a single cell?

MESNE, at 10 down, suggested that this was the case – a generous clue ‘Intermediate section of ensemble stood up (4)’ There was MESNE, reversed, or standing up in a section of ENSEMBLE and MESNE apparently means ‘intermediate’.

There was a lot more solving of what were totally fair and nicely set clues (once we had sussed out the fact that those word-lengths were deceptive) before a sort of message appeared ‘reading from left to right and top to bottom’ (I imagine the editors insisted on that stipulation – there must be Listener solvers in exotic places who might read bottom up or right to left but I have yet to meet one!) We learned that ‘TO MEET THE CHALLENGE OF FILL …’ and when I fed that into Google, together with the word ABILITY, the entire Rebecca West quotation appeared.

Journalism – an ability to meet the challenge of filling the space. (Is she serious? Surely the challenge is compressing all that has to be said into the 200 words or eight column inches that are allocated!) Still, it was a gentle and enjoyable downhill coast from that point on and when we found that SOMA was a body, and worked out that the J of journalism was coming from ‘Limit my leap (M’ + [J]ETE) we were even able to convince ourselves that we had a complete solve in front of us – a most enjoyable one too. Thank you Kruger!

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2 Responses to “Ability by Kruger”

  1. Jaguar said

    It’s perhaps a bit of a shame that the “multiple letters per cell” device has already come up rather often this year, so that when I first figured out what was going on there was a level of “Again?!”. After that feeling passed, though, I did enjoy the puzzle and clues, so thanks Kruger.

  2. Jake said

    Yes. I agree with Jaguar.
    As good as most of the Listener puzzles are, they could at least be pre-solved by the editors – or someone – and placed in order so that ‘again’ doesn’t happen.

    Nice puzzle Kruger. Let down by the placement timing by the editors or whoever is in charge of the puzzle cycle, if anyone is???

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