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Listener 4274: SONAMB by Porlock

Posted by Dave Hennings on 17 January 2014

Contrary to what I said last week, this puzzle was the last Listener of 2013. It rounds off the year with a new setter, Porlock (fresh from The Merchant of Venice?). Here there were extra letters, extra words, and seven thematic answers which had to be interpreted correctly to give an answer in two parts. Part one was a jumble of letters in the clue, the other part had to be entered in the grid. The trick was, presumably, to find a link between the two parts.

Listener 4274I started off with a quick scan through all the clues. Except that 1ac Take nearly all the plate, essentially. This includes marshmallow (6) was ALTHEA (with ‘Take’ as an extra word), and I decided to temporarily abandon my sequential scanning and take a peak at 2dn which was LAVRA. I thought that the top left deserved further attention, and was rewarded with 3dn TIMOROUS. 4dn, however, Industrial chemical produced in batches in Haber process (4) didn’t ring any bells, despite Chambers telling me that the Haber process was ‘a process for synthesizing amonia from nitrogen and hydrogen’.

I rerturned to the across clues, and was rewarded with 11 JAI ALAI and 17 RARE crossing my two down entries, as well as 16 HEWN (with extra word clue’s), 19 PYEMIA (extra word capital), 23 WOOL (extra word letters) and a few others as well. Later, I would be annoyed that I didn’t solve 14ac Taking part in quarrels, teenager’s one that’s been busted (8), which would turn out to be a simple hidden word, ARRESTEE, albeit with a sneaky L in the middle.

However, before even starting on the down clues, I had Take… clue’s capital letters…. Indeed, a quick scan through the clues revealed a lot of place names, a few people, including Attila and Ford Prefect, and, just for Shirley, an alcoholic beverage in the shape of Bacardi! Unfortunately, they didn’t seem to spell out anything meaningful, so I moved on to the down clues, and was feeling pleased that I seemed to be making progress quite early in the puzzle.

A scattering of down entries were slotted in, followed fairly quickly by LABRET at 6ac; this was an anagram of ‘ear bolt’, minus an extra letter no doubt, that I had initially thought would be something like LOBULAR. Well, that made 8dn look like BUSHEL, but I couldn’t get the clue Get mortal on glasses of Bacardi (6); it must be one of the ones containing a meaningful jumble of letters. Well they could be anything!

Yes, I know, I should have seen the capital letters G and B and sussed out what was going on, but that would have to wait about half an hour until I got numbers and significant as further extra words in clues. That enabled me finally to put the 8 with BUSHEL and see the jumble of GALLON in the clue. I could also see what was going on with 12ac Gilly, Milly, Annie and Tilly, of modest demeanour, don’t get into a Jacuzzi (4) with its capital letters GMAT and jumble of ‘good men and true’ (demeanour dont g).

The message revealed by the extra letters still took a bit of time to unravel, what with its fun goings-on in the middle, but it finally read Take only clue’s capital letters and insert ‘in’, ‘in a’ or ‘on a’. Numbers are significant. Fourteen L in a S. The last bit gave 14 LINES in a SONNET, the two words needing highlighting going SE from square 2 and across in row 10 respectively. The other thematic clues led to:

–    4 Inches in a HAND
–    8 Gallons in a BUSHEL
–    12 Good Men And True on a JURY
–    21 SPOTS on a Dice
–    22 PLAYERS on a Football Pitch
–    25 POUNDS in a Pony
–    31 Days in AUGUST

My favourite clue has to be 22dn Perhaps Ford Prefect might copilot half-brother’s stolen spaceship (7) with its reference to Douglas Adams’s Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and Zaphod Beeblebrox! And even I know that there are 22 Players on a Football Pitch, at least to start with.

Listener 4274 My EntryFinally, we had to sort out the title, SONAMB and highlight the appropriate square in the grid. LIVERPOOL ST, spelt out by the letters in the circled cells, was the clue to ‘so many S on a MB’. I must admit a bit of sympathy for overseas solvers who may not know the squares on a UK Monopoly Board. In the States, the central squares on each side aren’t even stations but names of railroad companies. Even with the Liverpool St hint, 4 Stations on a Monopoly Board might have been a bit of a leap.

And so, thanks to Porlock for bringing the 2013 Listener year to an entertaining conclusion.

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