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German Serial Composition by Quinapalus

Posted by shirleycurran on 29 November 2013

Quinapalus 001We completed our solve almost 24 hours ago and yet I have been putting off writing my blog – ironing, shopping, thinking up a few clues, solving a couple of weekend crosswords – and why? Well this crossword by Quinapalus was simply too mind-boggling and every time I look at it again, a further bit of brilliance appears. What is more, although I have little doubt that my solution is correct and that I have understood the preamble, I am still convinced that there is one aspect that I do not and probably never will understand.

Those notes under the grid that are, I am told, from Mantra by Stockhausen, and can be read to give a frequency, say nothing to me, though I am sure my columns are now in the right order as they give a FREQUENCY in row five, followed by HOPPING, SPREAD and SPECTRUM and that is when HEDWIG KIESLER appears in row two with the columns in that order (‘SORT COLUMNS BY FREQUENCY’  said the corrected misprints). That, according to Wikipedia, was the original name of Hedy Lamarr.

Hedy Lamarr was a familiar name as the fair used to come to my country village when I was small and we threw ping-pong balls into the throats of swans. If one rolled out into the slot with Hedy Lamarr on it (that meant nothing to me at the time), we won a goldfish in a plastic bag of water. Of course, the poor thing died within a week (what atrocious cruelty). However, we had that name imprinted into the long list of useless information that children store.

Useless? What an eye-opener to find that here was yet another achieving woman of the early century (was it 1913 or 1914, her year of birth? – There seems to be some discrepancy) who not only starred in Ecstasy, Samson and Delilah and White Cargo, but also thought up the FHSS (Frequency-Hopping Spread Spectrum, a technique for reducing interference in radio broadcasting).

After a rather astonished read of the preamble, where nothing much made sense to us (as is so often the case), I did a quick scan of surface readings, just to confirm that Quinapalus was retaining his membership card for the Listener tipplers’ club and he was modestly there, consuming mead and becoming plastered (obviously) ‘Suffer when one’s imbibed most mead (5)’ (with meaN for meaD LET round AS giving LEAST) and ‘Scots capers abort drinks gathering in company (6)’ (aboUt for aboRt and SUPS round CO giving SCOUPS – clearly in his CUPS by this time).

We found the clues tough and some of the misprints raised wry smiles. One in particular amused us. Wikipedia confirmed what the other Numpty knew – that UNECE (one of three abbreviations, not two, as claimed in the preamble, aren’t PEC and PCAS abbreviations too?) was founded in 1947. Thus we had an L corrected misprint when MCMXXVII became MCMXLVII. Now that was original wasn’t it!

There were a number of happy moments like that and the grid-fill took about three hours, with a few gaps remaining but five clues that clearly would not provide misprints. Those gave us SAMSON AND DELILAH and WHITE CARGO, or so we thought, as we hadn’t, at that stage, understood the word play at all. We thought the Fs, that were clearly performing oddly, had to have something to do with the muscial notation.  It was only hours later that we understood the brilliance of the hopping frequency (f), which, in each of those clues, hopped backwards or forwards to make sense. Thus ‘In German fund, let off deposit’ became ‘In German und, left off deposit’ (AND = LAND less L)

Quinapalus 002‘Monkfish is risky with indication of additive’ became ‘Monkish is frisky with indication of additive’ (WITH* + E) This was the frequency hopping. We had a third title, ECSTASY, too then what was claimed to be ‘a facetious description of the thematic person associated with the titles’. HEDWIG KIESLER was being described as ‘BIT OF SCREEN CRUMPET’ and this S[creen] CRUMPET, when ‘SPREAD’ or anagrammed, gave us SPECTRUM.

Yes, all of this was brilliant, but it was when I attempted to rearrange the columns that I realized what a remarkable piece of compilation this was. How did Quinapalus manage to create this grid that gave real words in its original form, yet produced those four words when it was rearranged, putting her name in its correct order (obviously adding the G and another E and resolving the ambiguity of the two Is and Es that were already there). I simply can’t get my head round the feat of compilation.

There was a minor issue with the question of how this should be submitted. Just rearranging the letters meant that all the bars were in the wrong place, and were those notes part of the columns? Were we expected to cut the grid and recompose it with the notes in ascending order of frequency? Hmmm! That would make a nasty cut in the treble clef. Well, if the editors did require that, I fear there will be very few ‘all corrects’ at the next Listener dinner. (Not another KOHb event, I hope!)

There was that last delightful little touch too. We actually had EREQUECY on row 5 but we were told  that we had to erase part of an abbreviation of the third title. ECSTASY (E) had to lose just that one bar to become an F and give FREQUENCY. I thought that was hilarious and completed this with such a nod of approval for Quinapalus that my head is sore. Honestly!

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