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Listener No 4294: Trio by Bark by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by Dave Hennings on 6 June 2014

Hedge-sparrow’s last puzzle was a murder mystery where we had to identify the murderer and the successful detective (housemaid and Father Brown respectively). Following on from the recent Schadenfreude grid representing a snooker table, another rectangular grid this week that looked a little bit like—oh, dear god, no—a football pitch! Luckily Trio by Bark didn’t ring any football bells, but then I’m no expert on the thing and the World Cup was looming fast.

The preamble had a couple of vague terms that I thought a bit sloppy: “A word (or in three cases two adjacent words)” and “The first and fourth letters of most of the single extra words” (my italics). Now, did “most of” refer to 26 of the 51 clues, or 50? Obviously somewhere in between, and only time would tell exactly how many. (Spoiler alert: it was 30.)

Listener 42941ac Vain doctor, perhaps, imbibing fizzy pop [elixir] (7) and 6ac Fish [terrine] starter for dinner — great service (4) were quickly solved: FOPPISH and DATE respectively, with their extra words leading to nice surface readings. 9ac Alewife imposes on people (but not if old) (4) and 12ac Third part of comic opera in substituted setting (6) both eluded me at this point (to be HUMS/[Alewife] and MILIEU/[opera] respectively), but 13 Bass beers in [disposable] packages (5) BALES came to the rescue.

I decided to work my way down the left side of the grid, and got 15ac URAO and 20ac URN which, with their two Us seemed to indicate that one of them clashed with 1dn. 2dn PIANOFORTE came next, and the left side was well under way. Finishing off with 46ac Adhesive spots seen periodically in girl’s nursery (4) GLUE, I turned my attention to the right hand side where 19 MALL, 22 SEPTA and 26 ZINC (thanks to XWD for Z=impedance) enabled me to get SELF-CENTRED at 11dn, although it was a fairly easy anagram of ‘end reflects’.

On the subject of 19ac [Rosser’s] beat — historical alley (4), and also 1dn Prosperous [car-maker] showing off (11) for FLOURISHING, I was surprised that these double-definition clues each used two definitions from the same Chambers entry. I thought this was frowned upon, but I guess that they are significantly different in everyday English (especially ‘beat’ and ‘alley’) that they are evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

After a couple of hours, the grid was filling nicely, and it was time to make a list of the 1st and 4th letters from the extra words in the clues, leaving appropriate gaps where clues were unsolved. It seemed that the message would start Extra word, but the letters from the middle range of across clues didn’t seem to be making much sense. The same went for the second half of the down clues. A short while later, when then the grid was finally complete, I had the following stream of letters:


I thought I saw a ‘bicycle’ lurking near the end, but eventually managed to discount that and disentangle the letters to give the full message as:

Extra word pairs at clashes define Thames towns. Use first and last letters.

I didn’t really need much more of a hint since, with the title now being clear, it meant that we were in Jerome K Jerome country and his Three Men in a Boat. The sloppy wording of the preamble now became clear! The extra words that did not form part of the message above were to be used to define twelve Thames towns that the three men visited. Where there were two clashes within the same word, the clue contained two extra words, one for each clash/town. The three men could be found in the grid, JEROME in column 4, GEORGE in column 12, and HARRIS in row 8. The party was completed by MONTMORENCY, the dog, who had to replace the entry at 6dn, giving new words where appropriate. The full list of towns, in order downstream, was:

Clues Extra Words Town
15ac-1dn steer car-maker OX-FORD
23ac-24dn dung-beetle city DOR-CHESTER
27ac-2dn bricks drift WALLING-FORD
30ac-2dn work round GO-RING
42ac-16dn pain stream PANG-BOURNE
38ac-32dn feud pit WAR-GRAVE
31ac-32dn chicken meadow HEN-LEY
29ac-8dn damage moo MAR-LOW
34ac-18dn girl brain MAIDEN-HEAD
38ac-35dn turns gold WINDS-OR
43ac-14dn measure aqueduct WEY-BRIDGE
40ac-11dn pieces weight KINGS-TON

I was disappointed that Hedge-sparrow hadn’t included COOK-HAM, where I now live, as one of the towns in our little journey. It sits between Marlow and Maidenhead and, like those two towns, has a lock and enabled JKJ to go into much description about the origin and development of locks on the river.

All that was left was to shade the Thames going through the twelve towns to be indicated in the grid by their first and last letters. They took care of the 12 cells which the preamble gives as ‘places visited’, but what were the remaining eleven cells which were ‘thematic representations’? All those Rs were the giveaway, indicating the River Thames flowing through the towns.

Listener 4294 My EntryI had built a grid for my animation on the right, and I gave it a once-over to make sure everything looked OK. Thank goodness I did because I had entered MH, a customary abbreviation for Maidenhead in this neck of the woods, instead of MD. I can’t emphasis enough the need to check every detail in a Listener puzzle if you want an all-correct year.

So thanks, Hedge-sparrow for a really enjoyable puzzle with its far from sloppy preamble.


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