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Conflict by Pointer (struggle and strife!)

Posted by shirleycurran on 10 January 2014

Aren’t we becoming sly Numpties! We checked on all the anniversaries and beamed happily. Well, it is the 100th anniversary of the crossword today isn’t it! Minutes ago we passed the winter solstice, so the days are now getting longer (though looking out of the window at the gloom and sleet of the Dales, I wouldn’t believe it) and Christmas is coming, so we are surely in for a crossword glut of reindeer, Brussels sprouts and wonky anagrammed carols or meteorological calendar things. Shouldn’t be difficult to find this week’s theme. There is a little humanity in the editors (surely?) and they know we’ll be busy making the mince pies and so on, so this one should be a piece of cake. Hah!

Twenty-four hours late my submission has just gone into the mailbox. Most of those hours were spent not solving but grid-staring. Yes, of course, my original stare was a clue stare and Pointer seemed to be a very promising member of the Listener Tipsy Christmas Club with the very first clue that caught my eye; ‘Drink often bottled – over 50 [litres] in cases (Yes, very disappointing OL in CA = COLA but still, there was hope). There was ‘Sequel to German Bitter? Wetter [youth]’ (what an odious clue – could it be DANKER?) Then there were ‘Tops of cans, ones with louvred [inner] sides? (Still hope of a little bit of boozy Pointer but , no, they were just the first letters giving COWLS). We had an ‘Officers bar’

Pointer full grid

and ‘With change of vessel, beer goes [through] bung’ That was the very last clue we solved and I imagine that was the case for lots of solvers. At least it was real beer, KVASS, that changed its vessel to ARK and gave KARKS. I had to do a Chambers search to find that KARKS means dies and that ‘goes bung’ is also Aussie slang for dies.

Those were all across clues but the real club membership ticket came in an across. ‘Numbers halved in Shiraz [district] etc.’ [hund} REDS finally gave us a bit of Christmas spirit.

We solved slowly and became uneasy as those initial letters of misprints gave us a more and more unlikely celebration of Christmas, the solstice or even that first crossword (though I kept looking at it as more and more strange echoes appeared in our grid; of Arthur Wynne’s first words we had FUN [in reFUNd], EVADEs, LION – just accidents or deliberate red herrings, I wonder). We had HANDMILL/MILLHAND, DOWNTURN/TURNDOWN, DEMURER, EMURE and MURE, MILL, SILLY, lentIL/L, YERKS and nervERK/S. Clearly something was going on and there was going to be some kind of reshuffling of our original grid to produce something different (a Christmas tree, a reindeer, a turkey?)

PointerAt last our grid was full and we had six clashes that produced the intriguing word RIDDLE when we anagrammed them: CAY/RAY, LOON/LION, TANKER/DANKER, DIVER/DIVED, EMULE/EMURE, and DITTED/DIETED.

The preamble told us that ‘the initial letters in clue order spell an instruction solvers must follow after completing the grid’. Well our message was gobbledygook BUT there was that extra bit of deception ‘Solvers must sort out another problem with the clues to get the correct form of the puzzle and solution for submission’.

I tried everything: first letters of clues, first letters of clues in alphabetical order, alphanumeric conversions, twenty-third letters of clues read back to front and upside down in the mirror – (well, I shall not forget the Klein bottle). I had almost resolved to just fold the thing into an origami Pointer finalturkey and post it to JEG when the idea of shifting the columns round and reassembling them in a new order appeared. Another Numpty failure – it looked good but didn’t quite work. However, it did confirm the idea that words had to somehow be reassembled so I simply started from scratch and fitted those original words into the original grid but in a different order (obviously beginning by switching HANDMILL and MILLHAND). It worked!

The new order, of course, gave a new order of letters and my gobbledygook became: DISCARDED LETTERS SHOULD BE USED TO FORM A SYNONYM OF THE TITLE. We already had RIDDLE but that is hardly a synonym of CONFLICT is it? So there was further pondering before I realized that letters that had originally been part of clashes were now in their correct format (DIVED, DANKER and EMULE) and that new clash resolution had appeared. Oh my! This was clever. We now had OINK/OINT, CALLOW/FALLOW, CAY/RAY, RAVINED/RAVENED and AVINE/AVISE which with the original LOON/LION gave us TFRISE. STRIFE indeed, and struggle – a real Christmas t(h)reat! What a remarkable piece of compilation! Thank you Pointer(!). (Oh, and don’t call us next year, we’ll call you….) the family will just have to forego their mince pies.

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