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SONAMB by Porlock

Posted by shirleycurran on 17 January 2014

Porlock SONAMBLast of the year. We wonder what they have in store for us! At first sight, it looks like a bit of a sleepless night ‘SONAMB’. The Numpties mutter and grumble about the combination of seven thematic clues which include ‘a continuous jumble of letters’ and another part to be answered in the grid. Jumbles, I would say, are my anathema (but then next week, someone will probably think up some other device for me to loathe even more). On the whole, I tend to regard them as a ‘cop out’ for a setter who is not willing to struggle to make the grid contain real words – at least, that is the case, I think, in a circular crossword. Rant over.

What else do we have? Eight clues with an extra word and 25 others where the wordplay leads to the answer with an extra letter that is not entered in the grid. Well, that combines two devices but it is conventional and acceptable isn’t it? Clearly a long message is going to be spelled out. We are going to receive another thematic clue, too, and are prompted that the title and those circles will give us yet another.

MB? Chambers tells us it is Mark of the Beast, Manitoba or Bachelor of Medicine. We play those ditloid games in the overnight quiz at the Budock Vean Crossword gatherings, where we have to identify 76 T in the HP, 3 M in a B and so on. What is this one? Spots on a mark of the beast? Well we had better start solving.

No, first a scan through the surface meanings of the clues just to confirm that Porlock is applying for his (her?) membership card for the Listener complers’ tipply club. I find an eclectic set of clues with a couple of Fords, a few girls, drugs, trains, quarrels and so on but there is Porlock trying to ‘Get mortal on glasses of Bacardi (6)’ Later on we learn that this clue represents ‘Gallons in a Bushel’ (the ‘gallons’ hidden in a jumble and the B representing the Bushel) so with gallons of Bacardi as evidence, I don’t need to stress about Porlock.

We solve steadily finding the clues generous and enjoyable. The eight extra words stand out so that soon we have an intriguing message; TAKE ONLY CLUES’ CAPITAL LETTERS AND INSERT (then what seems like gobbledygook ININAORONA). NUMBERS ARE SIGNIFICANT FOURTEEN L IN A S.

In retrospect, the fact that we had gaps in the words SPO?S, JU?Y, HA?D and P?AYERS should have led us straight to the endgame but, even though the other Numpty recognised that we had LINES and SONNET in the grid and that there must be a link with that 14 L IN A S, we had to live through one more post-Christmas party before returned home and really saw the light, working out that there are 21 spots on a die, 12 good men and true on a jury, 25 pounds in a pony, 4 inches in a hand, 8 gallons in a bushel, 31 days in August and 22 players on a football field. Of course, the clue numbers indicated the relevant number (NUMBERS ARE SIGNIFICANT!)

Ah, so we were inserting IN, IN A, or ON A to make the ditloids.

Now all those rather strange clues that hadn’t made much cryptic sense suddenly became clear (Scooby Doo’s seen insIDE comics – I like the inclusion of the alternative DICE that we more commonly hear!) We filled our empty cells, highlighted LINES and SONNET and smiled. Er, wasn’t there a requirement to work out the title too? The clue was now evident. LIVERPOOL ST filled our circles, so clearly SONAMB was not going to be SPOTS on a MOOSE’s BEHIND.

This must be the MONOPOLY BOARD. Squares? There must be 42 if you count Chance and Community Chest in the centre of the board. Think again! You can’t highlight 42! There are only 37 numbers. Streets? Stations? Those were RAILROADS on the original board weren’t they. This would be a moot point for anyone over the pond. Well, I know there is a Liverpool Street but think we’ll play safe and go for Station (£50 rent and £200 when I owned all four – cheap at the price!) We highlight the number 4 and breathe a sigh of gratitude to Porlock for providing an entertaining final puzzle of the year.

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