A Poat puzzle this week, he of the England flag (No 4134, Cruciverbalism), the Babington Plot (No 4102, Something Brewing) and the 8×8 word square (No 4048, Rules of Construction). These three, and probably his previous Listeners as well, were tricky little blighters, and no doubt this would be no exception.
There were two grids here, the one on the left labelled Fore, the one on the right labelled Aft. Clues were in pairs with two forms of modification possible after the grid was complete, although they would only determine which words went in which grid. Extra word(s) in clues would define the modified words.
I was happy to solve the first clue of 9ac Rough sea we manage adrift without leaders (6) as AEGEAN (extra word ‘Rough’) and entered it in the left-hand grid—well, it was as good a place as any. 11ac EARD and 13ac ESTER came next, and I had three in the NE corner, although they may not necessarily end up in the same grid. I snuck a peak at 7dn, and found that clue (b) Regularly clean off washerwomen’s strips (9) gave UNDRESSES [LAUNDRESSES – LA (cLeAn regularly)], which crossed nicely with the last letters of the three clues I already had. Was that just luck? I, for one, wasn’t complaining, although I half expected to have to move one of them to the other grid later on.
Next came 14ac (b) Leafy plant that’s unknown in Portwenn, strangely (9) PENNYWORT, which can’t intersect UNDRESSES, so I slotted it in the Aft grid. Next came 17ac (b) LEAST, 20ac (a) PAS and 22ac (a) EARL, none of which could be slotted with confidence in either grid, so I pencilled them very lightly in both. Then came 6dn (b) Indian bread serving-boy once turned inside out? Yes and no (4) which had to go in the Aft grid, but as what… the answer could validly be either ANNA (bread = money) or NAAN (bread = food)?!
For some time I had focused on the words ‘glass ovenware’ in 24ac (b), which shouted out Pyrex® and helped everything come together nicely when I got 21ac (b) PYRE. The modifications would lead to new words resulting from additional letters being added in front of the entry in the Fore grid, and after the entry in the Aft grid.
Once the grid was complete, it was fairly easy to tie in the definitions provided by the extra words with the grid entries augmented by extra letters. Each letter of the alphabet was used once, and once only, 13 before words in the Fore grid and 13 after words in the Aft grid. It was nice to see VIDEOPHONE, PENNYWORTH, WASSAILING and DIGITALISE appear. I had indeed been lucky that my initial choice of where to put AEGEAN resulted in everything ending up in the correct grid.
Time to mention some of the sneakier clues.
|17ac (a)||ALPHA||[Convert to binary] a coded record — I’ve got it outside (5)
‘Convert to binary’ defines DIGITALISE at 7dn Aft; with A-HA (I’ve got it) containing LP (coded record) to give ALPHA (defined by ‘a’)
|20ac (b)||POA||[Scots promise] grass wastes my time (3)
‘my’ referring to POAT and losing his T (time)
|21ac (a)||ITCH||Desire expressed by one chindit after another (4)
hidden in chindIT CHindit
|8dn (a)||LOOE||[Summer attire] can be seen at last in Cornish resort (4)
where ‘can’, obviously a verb in the clue, is actually a noun leading to LOO + E (last of bE)
Finally, those pesky ambiguities. I have to confess that it took me the best part of 15 minutes to realise what Poat was referring to. Luckily I did realise, because I had put PACO on the left and PAVO on the right, and with the third letter being unchecked, they could go the other way round. In fact, the other way round was the way to go, since the C and V had to correspond to the modifications in their half of the grid. (I must admit that I thought that this was an unnecessary final, final step!)
As usual, we were treated to a fine puzzle by Poat, so thanks to him for that.
[SPOILER ALERT! Those of you interested in coincidences may like to visit fifteensquared where it was my turn to blog Kcit’s Enigmatic Variations puzzle for the same weekend, Loss of Life. That also had letters added before and after words in the grid… except there it was the same letter every time!]