Listen With Others

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Listener 4280: Face Off by BeRo

Posted by Dave Hennings on 28 February 2014

This week we had the latest in a long line of puzzles from BeRo stretching back to 1988. I’ve got a horrible feeling that he has tripped me up once before, but I’m not sure which one it might have been. The preamble sounded a bit devious, and the fact that we had normal clues here meant that a tricky endgame might be afoot.

Listener 42801ac Elusive monster, that is lost, at first puts in great dread (9) was indeed elusive, mainly because I thought PIG (Puts In Great) must be in there somewhere. Instead, 7 PREY, 10 DEBTEE, 19 ATOKAL and 20 CODEINE were the first clues to be solved, so the top half of the grid was off to a reasonable start.

Unfortunately, that’s where the across clues dried up. I should have got 31 Contemptuous Tyson KO’d, right inside … (6) on my first pass, but I read ‘contemptuous’ as an anagram indicator rather than ‘KO’d’. Anyway, I managed a fair smattering of down clues, finishing with the simple but enjoyable 36 Mail unwanted maps back (4) for SPAM (not every Listener clue has to be tough).

Back to the top, and 4dn NEBEL, 11ac THEREON and eventually 1ac GHASTNESS (NESS[ie] preceded by HAS in GT) gets the top pretty much done. Even so, 3dn Memory area in computer functioned successfully in Edinburgh (5) for which I had ST··K, and 3ac Type of “starter” prepared with earliest couple of apples (5), AL··P, stumped me for a bit longer than they should have (STACK and ALAAP respectively).

I continued down the right-hand side of the grid into the SE corner. Finally resolving 31dn as SNORTY (TYSON* containing an R), I could see that 31dn Identify as contemporary 5’s sound (5) was obviously SYNCH. It took me a few seconds to work out why, since I’d forgotten that the ‘Cinque’ in Cinque Ports is pronounced to rhyme with ‘sink’ not ‘sank’. No doubt this would make your average French speaker apoplectic, but I suppose it’s no different from pronouncing Paris to rhyme with Harris rather than Harry! Or indeed Londres to rhyme with… well, nothing really.

The SW corner wasn’t the quick sprint that I thought it would be, but finally the grid was complete, so on with the endgame. First was to work out what the seven letters in the circled cells represented. I looked at them in my grid, and I shamefacedly have to admit that they passed me by. It was only when I wrote them down alongside the grid that GAARNAM became ANAGRAM.

One of the first things that I do in this sort of situation is to look for symmetry or patterns. In this case, taking the alternate letters on the NE-SW diagonal gave YNDREDJ, and John DRYDEN was soon unjumbled. One poet down, one more to find. At this point, a reread of the preamble would have been in order and perhaps “appear in turns” would have made the discovery of John DONNE a bit quicker, interleaving with Dryden. Needless to say, I couldn’t find any poets hidden in the likes of GATESRY, LNIREPT or GAALPUJ, alternate letters in the rows and columns.

Before I resorted to Google, I looked at ECIRSR in between the circled letters (CRIERS?) and then OJENDN on the other diagonal, and retrieved the second poet, Donne. I checked my ODQ to find a solitary reference to anagram from Dryden:

Thy genius calls thee not to purchase fame
In keen iambics, but mild anagram:
Leave writing plays, and choose for thy command
Some peaceful province in Acrostic Land.”

… from MacFlecknoe (1682). (Oh dear… again we have some strange rhymes: ‘fame’ and ‘anagram’; ‘command’ and ‘land’. Perhaps they were pronounced differently in the 17th century.) Presumably the first two lines are the couplet that we were after, with ‘anagram’ and one other word dropped.

There was no quotation in the ODQ from a work by Donne entitled A or The Anagram, so Google was at last required to give:

Marry, and love thy Flavia, for she
Hath all things whereby others beautious be,
For, though her eyes be small, her mouth is great,
Though they be ivory, yet her teeth be jet,
Though they be dim, yet she is light enough,
And though her harsh hair fall, her skin is rough;
What though her cheeks be yellow, her hair’s red;
Give her thine, and she hath a maidenhead.

I had already seen her TEETH, CHEEKS, EYES and HAIR in rows 2, 4, 10 and 11, and it was clear that they would have to be written in letters that were black, yellow, small and red respectively. On my final entry, I wrote most of the letters in pencil in order to make the black TEETH stand out more prominently.

So, back to the “couplet… disguised by word pairs initially observable”. This was obviously a reference to the initial letters of the clues or grid entries. I had avoided looking at the initial letters of the clues until now; I know that some solvers scan the first and last letters of clues of every puzzle just in case something is lurking there. How many people made the same lax mistake that I did at first, and overlooked the (deliberate) “…her note” at the beginning of 11ac, I’ll never know. Without that ‘h’, the nonsensical EIGTYSU nearly sent me on a wild goose chase to look for other possible sources of initials.

Luckily I reread the clues and noticed that pesky letter which helped spell out our hint:


Listener 4280 My EntryTaken in pairs and disguised thematically (ie anagrammatically) they give pairs of words in the couplet with the exception of ANAGRAM and one other word. That word turned out to be PURCHASE.

So thanks to BeRo for an excellent puzzle with a fine Listener implementation of one of our favourite words.


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