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Listener 4289: Popularity Contest by Tibea

Posted by Dave Hennings on 2 May 2014

SCENE: The Editor’s office, July 2013.

There is a desk in the centre of the room. There is an in-tray on the desk containing two letters. There are two chairs, a big one behind the desk and a small one in front of it.

Enter Editor and Sub-editor. Editor sits behind the desk, Sub-editor in front of it.

Editor: I see the in-tray has come back.

Sub-editor: So it has. The last time we saw that was with the Doctor Who puzzle last November. What has it got for us this time?

Editor empties the contents of the in-tray onto the desk, takes the first letter and opens it.

Editor (reading letter): It’s from a Max Turner and he says that he has been grappling with the Listener crossword for a couple of years now, and so far he has had little success. He is coming to the opinion that it is too elitist and needs to include puzzles that the average punter has got at least some chance with. He seems to think that there’s an inner circle that the ordinary solver cannot get into.

Sub-editor: Do you want me to write the standard reply from you, saying thanks for the letter and you’ll pass it to the relevant person… i.e. me?

Editor (handing letter to Sub-editor): Yes, please. Mind you, it reminds me of that puzzle that you and I thought of some time ago which played on the fact that ESOTERIC and COTERIES were anagrams.

Sub-editor: Yes, except that failed because we couldn’t agree on our pseudonym. Neither Edisub nor Kuron seemed to have the same cachet as Mango or Rasputin. What’s in the other letter?

Editor (picking up second letter): That’s odd… it’s postmarked next Friday!

Sub-editor: I expected nothing less!

Editor (opening and reading letter): It just says “How about this?”. It is unsigned. There’s a completed puzzle attached with the title Popularity Contest with circled squares that read ESOTERIC from top to bottom, but COTERIES from left to right. MORE LIKE THIS is the Phrase written under the grid. Well that’s a coincidence.

Sub-editor: I doubt it! Who’s the setter?

Editor: Tibea.

Sub-editor: Sounds like it’s a joint puzzle.

Editor: Why didn’t we think of that?

Sub-editor: We probably will.

Any similarity to actual events is entirely disjointed.

Fast forward to April 2014.

Listener 4289Another new setter this week in the guise of Tibea. From the preamble, it seems that the editors have had lots of letters pleading for the Listener to be dumbed down! Hopefully that won’t happen. After all, there’s the Inquisitor, Enigmatic Variations, Spectator, Magpie and Crossword, all catering for the solver who needs a little bit extra than the daily 15×15 block diagram gives. Indeed, the standard of the Listener varies from week to week, if not from setter to setter. I wonder where Tibea will stand on the difficulty front? And why was he selected as setter for this puzzle?

Twelve answers were of the Letters Latent variety, whereby a letter needed to be removed from the answer, as often as it occurs, before entry. In this puzzle, letters in brackets referred to answer, not entry, length, so a bit of help there.

There was a nice variety of clues on my first pass through them, from the simple anagram at 12ac A he-man, I demolished a West Coast city (7) which gave ANAHEIM, to the misleading use of ‘ground’ and ‘houses’ in 17ac Ground around houses left with small lump (7) for NODULAR. Despite being given entry lengths for the LL clues, I didn’t solve any in my first run through, although 15dn Red shifts (4) was certainly an anagram, given its 3-letter entry slot. NERD seemed likely! I was also perplexed by the wordplay for TABU at 6dn Prohibition is what fills the bath with rum, essentially.

I wish that it had been 11ac Joint badly twisted (9, two words) that gave the game away for me, but HIPLLI looked like gobbledygook. In fact, it was G[r]ASS [r]OOTS at 18ac and MULTITUD[e] at 43 that put me on track. The thematic words were all words for ordinary people. hoi polloi (yes, I should have got that first) defines it best in this context as ‘(derog) n the many; the masses; the rabble, the vulgar’; grass roots also includes the phrase ‘rank and file’, used in the preamble.

Although the puzzle wasn’t tough, it wasn’t particularly easy either. I liked the way that most of the LL clues lost more than one letter on entry, especially the three Os in HOI POLLOI and three Ts in THIRD ESTATE. The clues were all spot-on as well, with the likes of 19dn Article on education was blooming written in Elizabethan verse! (5) where the last four words were used to indicate a ‘(Spenser)’ word.

And as for 25dn Rafael regularly, having missed baseline stroke, holds following service (8) for the thematic entry R[i]FF-RAFF: RFE (alternate letters of RaFaEl) holding F (following) RAF (service) with the bottom stroke of the E removed… sheer genius. And not the work of a novice, if you ask me!

For some time 27dn Built in, with one side turning to the other (7) looked like it it was WRECKED, but that seemed unlikely, since neither the wordplay nor definition was there! It turned out to be ERECTED (built) with ELECTED (in) changing L for R.

I was close to filling in my submission grid, and part of me realised that I wasn’t entirely happy with 6dn TABU. It took a bit of time to wonder if there was another word TA·U, and a quick run through the alphabet led me to ‘what fills a bath being a TAP, and TAPU is a Maori word for ‘taboo’.

Listener 4289 My EntryAll that remained was to enter the three words formed by the Letters Latent under the grid: More like this, a phrase that can be read in one of two ways, depending on the stress. Coincidentally, and courtesy of the QI elves and a tweeter called @Grammarly:

“I never said she stole my money” has seven different meanings, depending on the stress.

And so thanks to Tibea for an excellent puzzle. I hope you gang up against us again in the near future.

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3 Responses to “Listener 4289: Popularity Contest by Tibea”

  1. georgethebastard said

    Great minds think alike when it’s time to write a scene!

  2. In case anyone is wondering what George is on about, pop along to his web site, George vs The Listener, and you’ll find out.

  3. Jaguar said

    I think I managed to find TAPU — it’s in my saved solution, although who knows what silly transcription errors I might have made?

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