Listen With Others

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Listener No 4305: Not a Blocked Grid by Lavatch

Posted by Dave Hennings on 22 August 2014

Lavatch’s last Listener had Swift’s Afric-maps as its theme, and I finished my blog with: “So, a real toughie, but well worth the struggle. I will add Lavatch to my list of setters who send a shudder down my spine.” That was No 4252: Carte Blanche. This week’s puzzle had all the bars, but was a 14×14 grid and, not surprisingly therefore, a fair few clues… 54 to be precise. Some long answers and some clashes would result in two letters in some squares and would reveal what to do in the endgame.

Listener 4305My first pass through the clues confirmed my suspicion that I was in for a fairly long solve. 12 was TEAR, 18 was PRE and 25 was SIMA. There were a couple of others, but with clues like 47 I put in order in court to use symbolism (10) for EGO in ALL RISE, I knew a bit of lateral thinking might help. I did notice that we were given the word lengths of the overlong answers rather than just the entry length, so a bit of assistance there.

I had pretty much the same lack of success with the down clues although 2 Cheat stops when in difficulties (4) was delightfully short and to the point, and 3 Feels silly meeting duke that’s inbred (6) gave SELFED, which was new to me. 7 TEREK and 8 SNARES at least gave the top of the grid some meat with which to work.

[It’s a sign of something (suggestions on a postcard) when I can’t solve a lot of the answers to a set of clues when preparing this blog two weeks after completing the puzzle!]

Anyway, after a couple of long, persistent sessions, the grid was nearly complete although I only had thirteen cells containing two letters. I wrote them down anyway:

? ? T D R N T R S O F U C J O ?
? ? N E O T H E A F L I T I A ?


At first, I thought I must have gone horribly wrong as nothing jumped out particularly quickly. I think it was the J in position 14 that, probably not in the middle or end of a word, enabled me to see TRAFFIC and then LONDON and JAM before and after that.

This left the instruction ENTER THE SOLUTION, and the CONGESTION CHARGE was, at least for me, an easy final step. I was also able to finish the grid with LEASES at 1ac, TOOTSY at 5ac and 43dn Dash shaking over motorway, almost run over (4) for BRIM… another tricky definition. All that remained was to highlight Red Ken in the eighth row.

Listener 4305 My EntryNow, I say I finished off the grid with LEASES at 1ac, which became CEASES in the final grid. However, it took me a few minutes to convince myself that it wasn’t LEASED/CEASED. The clue was What may be for instance covered by “country fields” (6). I read it as an &lit clue with AS (for instance) surrounded by LEES (country fields), leases4 being pasture.

So thanks to Lavatch for another testing puzzle, and what a delight to have two London-centric themes in a row 😉

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