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Listener 4284: Cruciverbal Creed by Syd Lexis

Posted by Dave Hennings on 28 March 2014

Syd Lexis has set a lot of puzzles over the years, mainly in the Enigmatic Variations series. This is only his fifth, and sadly last, Listener — he died in February this year. Some of his puzzles have had fun themes, as you’d expect from his pseudoplume, his 2008 Listener being based on YYUR YYUB ICURYY4ME.

Listener 4284Here, we had extra letters in the wordplay for each clue, leading to a quotation from a 1984 novel by a Scottish poet. Strangely, nothing sprang to mind, so it was on with the clues.

Getting 1ac PHRENETIC made me focus on the NW quadrant, and 2dn HOGMANAY, 5dn TEN and 6dn CORONA meant that I as off to a good start. I’ve come across the meaning of TEN used in 5dn before — “used indefinitely, a large number” — but to me, ten has never meant anything other than slightly more than 9 and not quite 11.

11ac and 14ac were REJOICES and ANARCHIC respectively, and suddenly I found myself heading down the right-hand side of the diagram. Unfortunately, the unclued entries at 12dn and 24dn meant that I couldn’t quite make it into the SE corner. So, just as PHRENETIC had started me off at 1ac, so NOISELESS helped me work my way up from the bottom.

Soon, the grid and the quotation were beginning to take shape, with words and language lurking, and it looked as though must thrive was spanning the across and down clues. It didn’t take much guessing to see PURE AND WHOLESOME at 16dn and 25ac respectively, with the other unclued entries being defined by those two words. However, it turned out that we weren’t thriving but striving, and the full quotation, which wasn’t in my ODQ, needed Google to verify that it was from Time in a Red Coat by George MacKay Brown:

We who deal in words must strive to keep language pure and wholesome

This is followed by “and it is hard work, as hard almost as digging a stony field with a blunt spade.”

Now… when I say that I needed Google to verify its source, it wasn’t quite that simple. I googled the first part of the quotation and was surprised not to have Wikipedia or Wikiquotes thrust at me. In fact, a Powerpoint presentation entitle The Theory and Practice of Legislative Drafting at the top of the search results seemed such an unlikely place to look that it was about a quarter of an hour before I opened it. But there it was on slide 2.

Listener 4284 My EntryI am at a bit of a loss to understand why it was that such an obscure source was not signposted a bit more explicitly somehow. Of course, the end of the quotation, and indeed the other unclued entries, were pretty much self-evident, so one could reach the end of the puzzle, shrug and say “Well, I guess there’s a poem with those lines in it somewhere.” That is, unless you write blogs for Listen With Others and need to be a bit more thorough!

All that aside, it was an enjoyable swansong from Syd Lexis, and what an appropriate creed for us all to try and follow.
 

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