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Listener 4311: Carte Blanche by Chalicea

Posted by Dave Hennings on 3 October 2014

Chalicea’s second Listener this week, following on from last year’s puzzle about Emily Davison and the 1913 Derby. Here we had a carte blanche grid which would end up partly empty and with no symmetry. Knowing where Chalicea lives, and also the meaning of ‘carte’ I had a sneaky feeling where we might be going.

Listener 4311For a bit of fun, I quickly scanned the clues to see if Chalicea had any Listener setter alcohol tendencies. At first, I could find none. However, further scrutiny revealed that the initial letters of the clues could be anagrammed to give six well-known wines! I was not impressed.

As far as I could see, there was only one way to approach this puzzle, and that was to work down from the top. Knowing that 38ac was SCRATCHCARD was unlikely to help much. As it was, I solved 4ac CAA, 1dn GANYMEDE, 2dn POTEEN and 4dn CANINE pretty quickly.

I felt I had enough to start working out the top part of the grid, and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was actually quite tricky. After 10 minutes doodling various options, I finally had them slotted in, with GANYMEDE the only entry starting in the top row. Having started off well, my solving speed slowed down markedly, and the clues were not as straightforward as I had anticipated.

At first I thought that 7ac Harsh sound gripping mad Titan (8) would be something like TITAN* in SANE (with an extra letter floating around). I finally got the French theme when I realised it was one of the clues without a definition: TITAN* in BR[A]Y to give BRITTANY in the top left. 6ac Type easy to use (8), on the other hand, took a bit longer to see NORM + [H]ANDY.

I was really on a roll with 15ac BA’s erroneous opening of itineraries involved flight fatigue (12). The nice surface reading hid an anagram of BAS ERONEOUS I[tineraries], and after unsuccessfully trying AIR-something, AERO-something enabled AERONEUROSIS to get slotted in.

The clues were certainly a bit more difficult than I had expected with the extra wordplay letters succeeding in holding me up. Eventually, however, the grid was filled with a good representation of a map of France, with the seven clues which lacked definition being locations, approximately in their correct positions: NORMANDY, BRITTANY, ALSACE, MOSELLE, LOIRE, ALPS and PYRENEES. NICE was also in the bottom right corner, but not quite in its correct position and so was clued normally.

Extra letters in the wordplay spelt out Shade abbreviated state and currency, six cells, the first being RF, the unclued 8dn, the second being EURO. All that was left was to do something with the blank cells… or nothing. I began shading the Channel and Bay of Biscay blue before realising that I had also similarly shaded part of Spain also. Moreover, the top right corner was Belgium, and the middle right Switzerland. These should be green, but I decided that I was getting a bit fussy, and I decided to opt for the alternative and leave all the blank cells unshaded.

Listener 4311 My EntryWith all the messing around with the map colours, I nearly forgot to shade RF and EURO in the second solution grid I prepared, but all was well in the end, I think. So thanks to Chalicea for an enjoyable and entertaining puzzle.

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