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Listener No 4292: Going Out In Style by Homer

Posted by Dave Hennings on 23 May 2014

Homer’s last Listener was back in 2009, no. 4017 A Knotty Problem with a Gretna Green theme. It just predated my blogs at Listen With Others, so I don’t have a record of how tricky I found it, but I solved it correctly and don’t have Homer on my list of setters to be wary of.

Listener 4292In this puzzle, we had misprints galore. Thirteen clues led to a word that needed a misprint before entry, as dictated by the wordplay. The remainder had a misprint in the clue’s definition and were to be entered normally. To make things even harder, what the correct letters of the two types spelt out were not in the presented order of clues, but, for the diagram misprints, in alphabetical order of clues and, for the others, alphabetical order of answers. Lawks!

I started on the acrosses, and then proceeded with the downs. Forty minutes later, and I had solved six clues. They were all of the misprinted definition type. However, for one of them, 40ac Stoker arranged Lennie’s chores (6) TROKES, I had no idea what ‘Lennie’ was the misprint of, and for another, 8dn East Europeans called for ejections erections (5), I didn’t know whether the entry was POLES or POLLS. Lawks!

I’ve said in previous blogs that progress was slow, but here it was snail’s pace. Getting a foothold in the grid took a long time. Even the obvious misprints were tough for me. For example 7dn Pasha, Enver chiefly, stirring up with a nasty racial expression (8) was obviously ‘(with) a nasty facial expression’, but EVIL-EYED was far from easy — DEY (Pasha) + E (first letter of Enver, and a reference to Enver Pasha, an Ottoman military officer) + LIVE (stirring) all reversed (up).

43ac wasn’t helped by seeing that Oersted is the CGS unit of magnetic field strength which Chambers XWD tells me is, along with Hotel, H. The answer seemed to be HYDRATED with a misprint. I could see one aitch and a TARDY, so was it HD or EH at the end? Finally solving 35dn WHOSO (entered as EHOSO), enabled me to spot that OE was the symbol for Oersted, so it was OE + TARDY + H reversed.

I had a similar problem trying to resolve 32dn A dictionary game of old turned up eg ascites (6) for which I had OED···. Again, the answer, OEDEMA, seemed obvious with OED + AME reversed with a misprint. It turned out that the OED wasn’t at the start of the word, but at the end: A + OED + EO reversed with the O entered as M. Lawks!

All in all then, some really tough clueing from Homer. In hindsight of course, I should have got a lot of them much sooner, after all, they were without fault.

As I neared the end of the grid, however, I was nowhere near getting the theme and the two instructions spelt out by the misprints. I made two lists of the letters that I had in the relevant alphabetical orders. The WEDDING was fairly easy to see, but it needed Google to reveal MAIRI’S.

The instructional misprints had a few gaps too. After all, identifying the correct word wasn’t easy in 36ac Treated glass with lead, not old lead shot (6) even knowing the answer was NEALED; the misprint was ‘lead’ for ‘lear’. Plus having ‘rhyme’ for ‘thyme’ instead of ‘theme’ and not knowing my alphabet very well, I had Make rlees vfold sing rid play followed by what looked like sequence box. A few minutes later, and I had corrected my mistakes to give Make eleven folds in grid. Play squeezebox. Lawks… eleven folds! Thankfully the preamble says that we didn’t actually need to do the manipulation.

So what to highlight? Googling Mairi’s Wedding gave me the following from John Bannerman’s verse:

Gaol mo chridhe-sa Màiri Bhàn,
Màiri bhòidheach, sgeul mo dhàin,
‘S i mo ghaol-sa Màiri bhàn,
‘S tha mi dol ga pòsadh.

… followed by the English:

Love of my heart, fair-haired Mary,
pretty Mary, theme of my song:
she’s my darling, fair-haired Mary
and oh! I’m going to marry her.

Unfortunately, what we had to highlight consisted of 13 words but only 40 letters, that’s about three letters per word. Collapsing all but the first two and last two rows like an accordion didn’t reveal any snippets from the verses above, so I began to panic. I could see a failure looming, a failure to get back at me for last week, when my fully-shaded squares were marked correct after all!

It took me a few minutes to see the reference to Sir Hugh Stevenson Roberton’s words some way down the Wiki page:

Step we gaily on we go
Heel for heel and toe for toe
Arm and arm and row on row
All for Mairi’s wedding

I was home and dry, seeing the first two lines spaced out in the 13 rows of the grid, and nary a fold in sight.

Listener 4292 My EntrySo thanks, Homer… a really, really tough challenge that took me about 8 or 9 hours altogether. And apologies for no appropriate animation this week, but, as compensation, you’ve now been added to my list of setters to be wary of.


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