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Listener No 4297: Tetris by Aramis

Posted by Dave Hennings on 27 Jun 2014

A new setter this week in the shape of Aramis… and Tetris pieces. A blank grid, apart from twelve clue numbers, gave every indication that a fair amount of cold solving would be required. Across clues were either single clues or two run together. Shape clues, with answers entered as one or two of the seven Tetris pieces, had one or two misprints, depending on whether they were for 4- or 8-letter answers respectively. I liked that the misprints determined the shape that answers would take in the grid.

Listener 4297It was obvious to start with the across clues since their entry positions were known. In fact, I spent longer than normal trying to cold-solve them compared to the time I normally spend on my first pass through the clues. Having done that, the grid was far from filled with most of my entries being in the top half. I wasn’t 100% sure that double across clues were given in the order of entry, but felt that the absence of “either clue may come first” made that likely. Thus 1b NOES, 2b TERSE, 3 OSIER & SUITS and 4a SCLATE gave me a reasonable start at the bottom.

I got the first three shapes: SAAR (as a Tetris O), ZEST (as an I) and CHOU (an L) but really couldn’t be sure where they went. I also decided to make another assumption, namely that pieces didn’t have to be rotated and moved left or right to fit under an existing shape such as a T or an upside down L — not that I had anything in place yet.

Shape 5 Coaxed protectively and admitting old bad idea looked like it should be ‘coated protectively’, and ANODISE was fairly straightforward with ‘idea’ needing to be changed to ‘ides’. These double clues with two misprints looked like they might be extra tricky — or triple tricky if I didn’t know where to place them.

I decided to go back to the first part of 1ac At length I would be so offensive, moving one to front. It looked as though the definition was ‘at length I would be so’ but that led to nothing. A quick look in Chambers Crossword Dictionary helped me on my way, giving ‘odious’ for ‘offensive’, which Mrs B fails to do. Moving the I to the front resulted in IODOUS, and ‘I at length’ for Iodine became clear. Surely this wasn’t the work of a novice setter!

As I managed to slot some of the shapes in place, I soon discovered SANCHO PANZA in the bottom row. That meant that we were in Don Quixote country, the name adopted by Alonso Quixano in the book by Cervantes. That didn’t seem to give enough letters to fill the rest of the perimeter, and I wasn’t sure where either name would end up sitting.

So, slowly, I worked my way up the grid. This was hard going, but gradually the missing across entries and the devious little shapes filled their allotted spaces. However, neither of the endings of the left and right columns — ERODE and IGURA — seemed to be giving anything relevant. That is until I got as high as CABALLERO and FIGURA, and I decided that a bit of googling was required. Thus I got EL CABALLERO DE LA TRISTE FIGURA down the columns, with DON QUIXOTE along the top.

A bit more work, and the grid was complete. I had been expecting to see TILTING AT WINDMILLS for some time, and there it was, not surprisingly in the shape of a windmill’s sails.

There were some excellent and often misleading clues that I met on my quixotic journey. As well as 1ac, there were these:

7ac PROSIMIANS Those following a career in military intelligence answer “aye-aye”, etc
PROS (those following a career) + I (in) + MI (Military Intelligence) + ANS (answer); reference to the aye-aye lemur
Shape 13 TRANNIES CVs TVs are sent in misspelt with English messed missed
(ARE SENT IN – E (English))*
Shape 17 ENORMOUS Outside Outsize type hero zero in counter claim
NORM (type) O (zero) in SUE< (claim, reversed)
Shape 27 DETOXIFY Hid Rid poison from here, unruly adolescent holding pan pin suffering relapse
(YO (here, as in signifying presence) + TED (unruly adolescent) containing FIX (pin, vb))<


Listener 4297 My EntryAnd not forgetting Shape 24 Modern-day team a cat managed, first in table. For ages, I thought this must be an 8-letter entry but RANT was the only word unaccounted for in the grid. I toyed with ‘term a cat’, ‘tear a cat’ or ‘team a car’ as the corrected misprint, but it was looking up rant in Chambers Crossword Dictionary (not Mrs B) that alerted me to the obsolete phrase ‘tear a cat’, otherwise I’d never have dreamt looking that phrase up in Chambers itself (under tear1)!

Were these really the clues of a novice setter? I may never know, but I found this a tough little nut to crack. I’m not sure whether the method of entry is considered thematic purely because Tetris is an anagram of Triste, but it was enjoyable… in a masochistic sort of way! Thanks, Aramis.

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