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Listener No 4318: Wordplay by Schadenfreude

Posted by Dave Hennings on 21 November 2014

This was Schadenfreude’s second Listener of the year, the last (No 4291, Maxon) being snooker-related with its 14×7 grid. A standard 12×12 grid this week but with a Definition to be entered in the space underneath. Twelve clues had wordplay missing a letter, while five were unclued and would be defined after a bit of endgame shenanagins which would also reveal how the across answers were to be entered.

Listener 4318I decided to bypass the across clues.

1dn Play actor suffered (6) was obviously HAMLET, and 2dn Arboreal creature died climbing a tree (4) probably had a sloth lurking and giving a tree. D + AI< with the third letter omitted from the wordplay would do the trick, except Mrs B gave two trees, DIKA and DIKA. What was the betting that each of the twelve special clues could lead to ambiguous entries?! Anyway, I had HD starting the top row.

I decided to try the across clues.

I know that the German for ‘that is’ is ‘das heisst’, abbreviated to DH, so 1ac A letter plate that is German (6) looked like it could be a Hebrew letter ending in DH and LAMEDH fitted the bill and would also fit 1ac if it were entered in reverse. Would this apply to all acrosses? 11 was unclued, but 14 Fire-power once encountered by the French in retreat (5) was METAL and could also be entered in reverse having LA at the start.

4dn MELEE, 5dn LILIAN and 16ac WEANERS came next, but 19ac Spain’s tenor to settle (4) could be either NEST or REST, the N/R fitting in an unchecked square. It looked as though my initial idea about the clues with wordplay minus a letter was proving correct.

After 23ac SINUATE was slotted into place backwards, the unclued 3dn, E··TREA, was almost certainly ERITREA, so it looked as though these would be countries. What the connection was between countries and words going backwards only time would tell. The only confusion that I had with the country entries was caused by my entering STRAIK (rather than STRAKE) at 20dn. It seemed more likely that a country would end with IA rather than K-something. SRI LANKA thus took a bit of unravelling.

The rest of the grid was filled fairly quickly. The twelve entries missing a letter in the wordplay were a mixture of different spellings of the same word (eg ANATTA and ANATTO) and totally different words with the same meaning (eg CHAD and CHAR). I reached the final stage of the puzzle with the following choices for the letters in each row:

A L K A D N A H E U* E S
O S T E R R E T I V* I Z

* I originally thought that the options for the boys name at 34dn were EOAN and EVAN, but Chambers (2011) gives EUAN, EVAN and EWAN. Either way, it didn’t take too long to extract ALTERNATIVES — “an appropriate word that could also be read as an instruction” to alter NATIVES in the grid. Luckily, NATIVES was a word that had been fairly late in my solve, so was immediately identified. I suspect that if I had solved it near the beginning, I wouldn’t have remembered it quite so quickly! Thus, altering NATIVES by “changing two letters” in the grid gave us NATIONS as both the new entry and the definition of ERITREA and SRI LANKA, as well as LIBERIA, TOGO and INDIA.

This also resulted in STERES changing to STERNS at 24dn, and a check in Chambers finds “vt to back, to row backward”. ROWS BACKWARD is therefore the definition to be entered below the grid, finally explaining the entry method for the across answers.

Listener 4318 My EntryIsn’t it pleasing when seemingly disparate aspects of a puzzle finally get resolved and take you neatly from beginning to end? This wasn’t a difficult solve on the Schadenfreude scale, but the construction couldn’t be faulted and was very satisfying. Thanks.


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