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Listener 4275: Make a Connection by IOA

Posted by Dave Hennings on 24 January 2014

It’s 2014, and start of a brand spanking new Listener solving year! Last year, I messed up on three (that I know of): no 4231, Vera by Elfman, where I had OF LATE for OBLATE; no 4256, Boxes by Radix, where I stupidly copied my entry from an interim grid which had one of the ambiguities wrong; and no 4260, Nuts and Bolts by Mango, where I put NEWTON (instead of GESSLER) below the grid. Of course, only the annual stats in March will show whether I managed to make a silly mistake somewhere else as well.

Listener 4275And so on to this year’s first puzzle. It was from IOA, and his fourth Listener. His last was a mathematical puzzle back in May 2011, but the previous two were standard crosswords. Here we had some extra letters in the across clues, some missing letters in the downs, and some works by a famous person. It didn’t sound too tricky, especially as we were told, contrary to recent practice, how many extra and missing letters there were: five and four respectively.

My first scalp came with 15ac in the NW quadrant, Points changed in planet’s character (6), giving NATURE. I decided to concentrate on that corner, and was rewarded with 1, 2, 4 and 5 down. (The exact reason why 5dn was RESEAL would have to wait!)

3dn Burgess or Pope possibly commuted royal command (6) came next, although I wondered why IOA had chosen Burgess as one of the WRITERs… King and Pope would have made a more misleading pairing. And 1ac Drake and cob or suchlike in sign of hesitation with vessels around (7) looked like BOWLERS, but ‘Drake and co’ meant nothing to me.

Anyway, I had two of the four missing letters to be found in the down clues: L (missing from ‘learner’ in 1) and A (missing from ‘heard’ in 2dn).

11ac came next, We are prepared to protect boy sapper (8) for WEAKENER, and the NE corner sparked into life. That corner was polished off fairly quickly, except for 7ac Website reported bent outlet (5) for which U-TUBE, sounding like YouTube, took a bit of teasing out.

And so the rest of the grid was pretty soon complete. The extra letters in the across clues were B, O, U, N and D in 1, 14, 19, 26 and 29 respectively. However, I only had L, A and U as missing down clue letters, in 1, 2 and 20. Don’t you just hate it when that happens?!

There was only one thing to do, and that was to examine every down clue very carefully. Unfortunately, that helped me not one jot, so I concentrated on the across letters, BOUND. The preamble says that ‘what these letters do represents a well-known work’. ‘What these letters do’… that seemed strange. A few minutes cogitation, and I had nothing.

I referred to my Listener Crossword Solver’s Guide. Rule 11 suggests going and doing something mundane, like topping up your coffee… it was 7am, so that seemed appropriate. B, O, U, N, D. What do they do? As the microwave heated up my brew… well, they spell ‘bound’. Spellbound! And Alfred Hitchcock seemed to be making an appearance.

Back to my desk with some hot coffee, and I make a long list of Hitchcock movies. Well you’d think it would be long, but despite having made over fifty films, my list comprised only half a dozen of them. Luckily, it included The Birds and North by Northwest, both of which I could see in the grid: OWL, CROW and TIT in rows 1–3, and NBYNW in row 5.

I decided that it was time to sort out the missing letters from the down clues: L, A, U. I began to wonder about the U in 20dn Recalled anything for local number for dad? (3), the U missing from ‘duad’. Except it could be a Y missing from ‘dyad’. That gave L, A, Y, and it took only a couple of seconds to see that The Lady Vanishes was the movie in question. So where did the D come from? Well 5dn was the culprit, Run over direction from London, nearly quite close again (6), where the D was missing from Dover, which is ESE of London! And that explains R+ESE+AL[l].

So that was the sneaky clue of the week. My two favourites, on the other hand, were 28dn Concoction of Vladivostok, viz, eclipsing poor slivovitz? (5) for VODKA, and the superb 38ac 38 Curse taken to heart by assistant Lewis (inspector replacing Morse) (5) for SWEAR, simple yet effective.

Listener 4275 My EntryFinally, back to the grid in search of the missing two Hitchcock movies. I needed to refer to a list on his Wiki page for this. The 39 Steps was there in the bottom row, but Rear Window was a bit more elusive as I was looking to see if WINDOW was reversed in one of the rows. However, it was reversed in one of the columns, which was justified using ‘rear’ in the sense of ‘erect’ (verb).

I was a bit disappointed that Torn Curtain wasn’t one of the movies, and I spent some time hoping that I Confess was hidden in the guise of ‘IT WAS ME’.

A quick count ensured that the number of cells that I’d highlighted agreed with the 26 required, and an enjoyable trip into the world of Alfred Hitchcock came to an end, courtesy of IOA.

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