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Coordinated by Mr Lemon

Posted by shirleycurran on 14 March 2014

LemonCoordinated by Mr Lemon. A moment’s silence from the Numpties! We knew that there would be another Mr Lemon crossword almost a year after his death but it was still a shaky moment to find it in front of us. One thing we could be sure of: a crossword by the previous editor of the Enigmatic Variations series was sure to obey all his own very strict rules and to be a pleasure to solve – as indeed it was. Carte Blanche, too (but I have said before how I like those, as they have to have transparent clues in order to be solvable). No word lengths! There is a brief hint of dismay that is quickly mitigated by the information that the grid will be 180-degrees symmetrical and the solutions are clued in alphabetical order. That’s a fine combination!

Co-ordinates! Now that is interesting. Weren’t they a creation of René Descartes – the COGITO ERGO SUM polymath? There is to be a quotation to highlight – could it be…? And will it be in that obvious 13-letter place, the leading diagonal? Ah no! The quotation is associated with the inventor of an unclued nine-letter entry. We are not aware of any Cartesian inventions.

We got to know Mr Lemon fairly well over the years and I know he enjoyed his glass of whisky, so I don’t need to check for evidence of membership of the Listener Imbibers’ Corps but I do, all the same, and Red Eye is there, and a cask in the following clue (though why a priest would be keeping lithium in it, we shall probably never know).

Red eye 001When I say ‘got to know fairly well’, there are nuances. Mr Leonard kept a tight rein on his EV setters and never minced or wasted his words. One of his early missives to me said “Hopeless grid! Set it again using this.” (a generous gesture from an editor!)  Another was “Too easy: solved it as my coffee cooled.” We had an amusing little game going amongst the setters. Who could get the shortest response? Another setter was leading the pack with ‘Fine now. James.” until I received the outright winner. New setters had to snail-mail two copies of size 12 print, double-line spaced etc., but, with time, email was allowed. I emailed the query ‘Shall I send the revised copy by ordinary mail too?” and received “No. James.”  Beat that!

We raged and fumed to each other when our clues were rejected for quirky reasons, but all were ultimately of one mind. It was James Leonard, with his strict rules and helpful input who taught us much of what we know about setting … and solving, even when it is one of his own. All these clues obeyed his own strictures and this grid filled with lots of pleasure and pretty fast.

Obviously, with two coordinates to combine into the wordplay of every clue, anagrams were going to be the order of the day. And they were! I have just found 19 total or partial anagrams  in a total of 47 clues, with a delightful range of anagram indicators (barking, working, unusual, contrived, injured, smashed, foreign, scrappy, revised etc. – and, of course, no noun indicators – they were a red rag to MrL!) These gave us BOAT TRAIN, CAREWORN, AFTERCLAP, TINAMOU, and NACELLE and with those so-helpful coordinates, the grid began to fill.

Suddenly SPLINTERPROOF was the only word that TEA could fit into the available letters and, sure enough, there was another partial anagram STERLING MP, that gave us the GM coordinates and SPLINTER followed by a mini clue to PROOF (demonstration). We were in Cartesian philosophy here, and now COGITO ERGO SUM was clearly going along that diagonal. With a couple of awkward corners filled (CRIM, COUE, PERSUE, INGRAM – there are this week’s Numpty words to casually drop into dinner conversation) the grid was full.

…except for BO?T?EIM?  Consternation! That had to be BOTTLE IMP but Wikipedia assured me that that was a story by Robert Louis Stevenson and no amount of Googling would tie him up with COGITO ERGO SUM. It was one of Mr Leonard’s rules that ‘Themes should be accessible in the usual reference books. ODQ, Brewers etc. Puzzles that need access to the Internet will probably not be accepted.’

I scoured the bookshelf: but I didn’t need to, did I? Under Cartesian in Chambers I find ‘Cartesian devil, diver or bottle-imp n a scientific toy named after Descartes, a glass container with a floating figure that sinks when the top of the container is pressed. Aah! So after all MrL has truly guaranteed eternal membership of the tipplers’ club. This must be the first Listener crossword themed around a bottle since Mash’s Klein Bottle crossword.

Thank you Mr Lemon! Such a gentle and kind figure, entertaining us and teaching us a year after you have left us!

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One Response to “Coordinated by Mr Lemon”

  1. Jaguar said

    I suppose this will mark the final goodbye to Mr Lemon/ Rustic/ James Leonard that we’ll see in crosswords. Thank you, once again, to the great man.

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