A Mango treat this week, so we were in for an entertaining (and probably tough) time. The last Mango puzzle, Listener 4260 Nuts and Bolts was superb with its William Tell theme, but it tripped me up and I was determined not to fall into any traps here. Of course, traps are easy to spot if you know what you’re looking for… but then they wouldn’t be traps, would they?
With a Listener, traps can often be avoided by careful reading of the preamble. The preamble for Movements was somewhat daunting, and seemed to indicate that a bit of mathematics would be required later. Well, as I say, that’s for later; here we had letters to move in some clues, and some answers that would be one letter too short.
1ac Rope in local eel? Perfect en aspic (starters only) (4) led to PEA from initial letters, and a quick check in Chambers showed that ‘pea’ was also salmon roe. Moving the P from ‘rope’ to ‘eel’ and then checking peel5 via peal2 showed that to be a local word for grilse (young salmon). In went PEA (one letter short of entry length), accompanied by the hope that the research needed for every clue would be less convoluted!
I was relieved when 8ac Trouble with loth learners (4) was simply AIL, needing to be read as Trouble with sloth learner (4). Well, that was the two top row clues, and knowing Mango’s predilection for symmetry, I expected the two in the bottom row to be special clues as well. They would have to wait, as I wasn’t in the mood to skip my first run through the clues.
I managed a flurry of across clues, though… indeed more than I was expecting from Mango. These included the delightful 14 Mature soprano developed swellings in throat (7) for STRUMAE. Eventually I reached 42 For each pie’s crust, a sliver of gratin (4) and 43 Attention from aid inside mart (4) leading to PER and EAR respectively. I assumed that the first just needed the G moving from the front of ‘gratin’ to the end.
Before embarking on the down clues, I looked at the four short entries. Needless to say, they could all be augmented by several different letters to make new words. ·AIL could become one of a dozen words, and that was without Dáil or Gail! I wondered how many short entries the downs would reveal, if any.
Unfortunately, the answer to that would have to wait since my paltry tally of eight answers didn’t include any short ones. However, 1 PASCHAL, 10 ICE MAN and 23 AGLITTER meant that most of the grid was developing nicely. When I did get the short ones at the top — 4 IMP, 5 LARUMS, 6 TE and 7 OON — a quick re-evaluation of the symmetrically-placed clues and the short entries were revealed. I particularly liked the clue to 6 TE: it must be difficult to come up with something interesting, but Note ten wives anew (3) was superb, needing to be read as Note ten waives new (3).
I finished the grid in a much shorter time than I had expected, and it didn’t take long to see SPRING, SUMMER, AUTUMN and WINTER lurking in the grid. No doubt many solvers saw the four seasons as they went along, but I deliberately take one step at a time and concentrate on just the clues unless I get stuck.
So, with the title as confirmation, it looked as though we were in Vivaldi country. The letters which had moved in the clues were, in clue order, P S G M R U A T I W N E, all the letters needed to spell the names of the seasons. So, the thematic number of clues, d, was 12. Moreover, “The sum of a clue’s moved letter and the entry’s added letter is the same in each case”, given by the preamble, meant that the letters moving in clues and those plugging entry gaps formed six pairs. Also, the six letters in the bottom row would probably be where the sum of the four words would be found, ie “suitably placed”.
It didn’t take long to get PRIEST along the bottom, completing the entries PERP, ICER, RAI, AUSTERE, EVES and TEAR. Along the top, apart from ALARUMS and UTE, there seemed to be a couple of alternatives.
So, we had to substitute the digits 0 to 11 (10 and 11 being counted as a single digit in base d) to give the sum:
Well that should be easy, I thought, and proceeded to prove myself wrong! Since it was a year to be entered in the bottom of the grid, represented by SUMI in the circled cells, it seemed that S would be 1. It was probably Vivaldi’s year of birth, year of death, or the year in which The Four Seasons was composed. I decided to try and do the maths unaided by anything other than the 1.
It took me the best part of forty minutes to solve it, mainly because I didn’t think that T would be as high as 4. The starting point was that P was 11 or 10, and G probably 0. The two Rs in the units column also limited the options for N and T. After a lot of trial and error, the sum was revealed as:
1 11 9 8 10 0 +
1 6 7 7 3 9 +
5 6 4 6 7 10 +
2 8 10 4 3 9
11 9 8 3 1 4
Amazing! I slotted 1678, the year of Vivaldi’s birth, into the space under the grid.
It needed a bit of googling to determine what colour PRIEST needed to be since I do not (yet) possess a copy of Chambers Biographical Dictionary. It seems that he was known as the Red Priest. Although Brewer’s gives Vivaldi under Red Priest, there is no entry for Vivaldi pointing to this, otherwise I am sure Brewer’s would have been given as the reference.
As expected, another tour de force from Mango. I wondered if there were any other puzzles waiting in the wings from this triumvirate of setters, given the passing of Radix, one of their number. I hoped there might be at least one to look forward to.