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Listener 4265: Ability by Kruger

Posted by Dave Hennings on 15 November 2013

Before I start, I will mention my win of a prize last week for Commission by Aedites. I do this, not to preen my feathers (after all, about 150 of us win a prize each year), but to say what an excellent prize it is… the latest 19th edition of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. It is a much slicker edition than my current 16th dating back to 2003, so thanks to the powers that be for that. And while on the subject of prizes, at the recent Budock Vean event that I mentioned briefly last week, I won a copy of Alan Connor’s book celebrating the centenary of the crossword, Two Girls, One on Each Knee. It is thoroughly entertaining, and covers a wide range of topics from Sondheim and Spooner to Simon and Schuster… and Simpson!

Listener 4265And so onto this week’s puzzle. Kruger has (and I hope he doesn’t mind me saying this) been around a long time! He has been setting EVs since their birth in 1992, but, having said that, this is only his second Listener. The first was the rather strange one about nobles, hounds and knights in East Barnet (#4213 A Spirited Performance).

Here we had extra letters in some wordplays (no indication as to how many1) and modification required to some answers before entry (ditto2) according to some ability. Mind you, the preamble read as though we wouldn’t be able to identify the ability until we’d entered the answers using that ability. There seemed to be a bit of a catch there.3

After a quick sprint through the across clues, I was not a happy bunny. Only two clues solved: the simple-ish hidden at 18 High priest visiting bazaar? Nonsense (5) gave AAR[n]ON, and the simple-ish anagram at 37 Needy director was high for a 24-hour period (9) for WEDNESDAY. At least I had the first of the extra letters from 18.

Of course, in hindsight, it was the mismatch between the length of the special answers2 and the entry length given in the clue that caused the slow solving. As I write this blog, I’m wondering whether it would have helped me to obliterate the enumerations at the end of each clue. They were a bit like a magician’s sleight of hand, where he dangles a (5) in his right hand in order to distract you from the (7) that he’s holding in his left. I’ll try and remember to cross them out next time.

Luckily, 7dn was the first clue which led the way for me: It terminates the whole US railroad, including North Dakota to Alabama (4). It wasn’t (4), or even (5), but (6): END-ALL, as in ‘the be-all and end-all’. Well, I was up and running, but with 9 and 34 as the only other down clues I got in my first pass, up and crawling seemed more appropriate.

Anyway, I guessed that the ability had something to do with squeezing more than one letter into a cell, a bit like Wasp’s Laureate earlier this year. Even with this knowledge, it wasn’t a particularly quick solve, but very enjoyable. I found that I was working my way down the grid fairly steadily, and the gist of the quotation was revealing itself with a bit of guess-work, such that I had to meet the challenge of… fairly soon. As I neared the end of the solve, …filling the space finished it off nicely.

I quite often find with extra letters that I end up with some that I think are — and aren’t — and some that I don’t see — but are. Since we were only told that there were some1, I had no way of knowing whether I had them all… or indeed too many.

They all seemed to be different, so that was a good sign. I had U N R L O M J A I E S. Luckily, I had the good sense to be unhappy with my parsing of 27dn which gave me the extra letter E. Grant third of tutees are enthralled by very bad novel (8) led to VILLETTE. Having had ‘second of diagonal’ giving I at 29ac, I thought that ‘third of tutees’ was more likely to be TE with ILL and VET…somehow. Of course, it was LET (grant) [tu]T[ee] in VILE (very bad), so there wasn’t an extra E after all.

Listener 4265 MyEntryThat left just ten letters, and I was determined not to look up ‘challenge’ or ‘space’ in my ODQ, but to try and work out the anagram first. I was obviously looking for a noun (an ability), but the letters didn’t seem to shout out any nounal ending very loudly. Until that is, after about twenty minutes, I got -ISM, and the JOURNAL came almost immediately. I had to look up journalism in the ODQ though, where ‘J.—an ability to’ led to Rebecca West’s quotation, revealed by all the cells which had more than one letter in the grid.

As expected, a good puzzle from Kruger… not too difficult, but enjoyable nonetheless.

 
1  there were 10
2  there were 25
3  22
 

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