Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin

playgroup by Ifor

Posted by shirleycurran on 20 Jun 2014

IforIfor again! We have just very much enjoyed a challenging Ifor Magpie C crossword which will still be active when this blog appears, so my Magpie plug will have to stop there!

Rather a sweet little title ‘Playgroup’. Were we going to be in toddler land with Inky, Pinky, Lala and Po, or whatever they are called, or were we going to conclude Ifor’s ‘Playgroup’ in Stratford with some thespian group? We were told that something was going to leave every answer and that ‘Part of a title’ described that. There was a rather worrying statement that ‘only across clues are real words or phrases’ and, finally, that ‘An appropriate number of down clues contain an extra word or phrase defining an item derived from what has left.’

‘Derived from’ – those were warning words pointing us to a probable jumble or anagram (and, in fact, after completing our solve, we had a difficult hunt for RACHES – hunting animals, SACHER – hotelier, ESCHAR – Slough, what delightful piece of misdirection in cluing that as Slough council! – , odd jobs – CHARES, spans – ARCHES and one following – CHASER). Six anagrams of SEARCH. But that was a long way off.

However, that CHASER confirmed Ifor’s right to renew his ticket for the Listener Oenophile boozy knees up. There was some ‘free spirit’ too and ‘Product from oranges, wild sort, boiled and fermented after peeling (9, two words)’ What a clue! We had to peel all those words then anagram or ferment them producing an anagram of IL OR OILE N, which gave NEROLI OIL. The read through of the clues produced some rather interesting preoccupations with a ‘sultry sex worker’, ‘Remove clothes’ and a ‘mad social round’. Hmm, Ifor!

We got down to the serious business of solving and slowly and laboriously peopled our grid. There was some really tough cluing here. The word play led us to words we didn’t know, like SCANSORIAL (Criminal succeeded, ran social climbing (10)’ (S + R + SOCIAL*) and ARVINCOLE ‘A vole in endlessly rich novel, like Ratty (10)’ (A VOLE IN RICh*) and, intersecting the across solutions with the down solutions suggested to us that we were systematically omitting the same letters, the SIX CHARACTERS that appear in SEARCH. Penny drop moment!

I spent ten years studying Italian, my favourite language, and Pirandello’s ‘Six Characters in Search of an Author‘ was one of the texts we studied. (Not as magic as Ignacio Silone’s Fontamara, or my all time favourite Manzoni’s I Promessi Sposi – which has nothing to do with leaning out of train windows – but very entertaining all the same).

Once we had realized what was going on, progress speeded up. But where was the rest of the title? Oh how devious – there it was in the preamble. I wonder how many solvers are still hunting for it! The final step was not too difficult as PI(ra)ND(e)LLO had to appear somewhere in the grid and years of experience have taught us to look down or up the diagonals first – especially the leading diagonal. And there he was.

What a complex and clever compilation. Many thanks, Ifor for a most enjoyable challenge.

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