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Listener No 4320: Shrive by Llig

Posted by Dave Hennings on 5 December 2014

Long-time setter Llig this week, his first Listener being over 30 years ago in February 1983. I don’t remember that one, but his last two were No 4095 Atom Smasher where letters from the first half of the alphabet clashed with those in the second half, and No 4132 Ups and Downs with its Isaiah 40 mountains and valleys theme. Here we had wordplay omitting two unchecked letters in thirteen clues which had alphabetical significance, and the definition for each of these entries was in a different clue.

Listener 4320Getting 1ac PLUS made me decide to work my way down from the north-west corner. 11ac Force exercise in Egypt (6) could be PE in ET, giving E·PE·T, with ‘force’ defining a word elsewhere in the grid. EXPECT seemed a possible entry with unchecked letters X and C. It wasn’t difficult to see that one was third letter from the beginning of the alphabet, the other third from the end. Had I solved it so quickly?! OK, the entry could be EXPERT with X and R unchecked, but my money was on EXPECT. It was too early to scan all the other clues to see if I could find the appropriate definition.

Unfortunately, it would be some time before I could confirm this idea, since none of the next dozen or so clues had the requisite wordplay. For me, the next one was 22ac Flexible ballet steps destroying tip of shoe (6). ‘Flexible’ made me think of PLIANT which in turn led me to think of PLIÉS. Minus the tip of shoE, gave P·L·IS and that could be PELVIS… or PALAIS. But PELVIS fitted my theory nicely, the unchecked letters being fifth from the beginning and end respectively.

I made a list of the relevant pairings, and was intrigued by what words could have J and Q in unchecked positions. It didn’t take long to pencil AQUAJETS in at 44ac. Of course that made 27, 36, 37 and 40 down impossible. When I reached 40dn Leaders of Sherpas taught you to climb once (3), that was obviously STY, so I had to rethink and it was quite a bit later that I got JACQUARD, the weaver, at 5ac.

Gradually the grid filled, and I matched the definitions in the clues with entries elsewhere in the grid. The only mistake I made with the thematic entries was thinking that 12ac was HOMILY rather than HUMIFY (slightly wet). The title, if you didn’t guess, was just three sets of the thematic pairings.

Listener 4320 My EntryI was surprised that we didn’t have to do anything else to prove that we had sussed the theme as with Mynot’s Delightful Punishment a month ago, where we had to put SUPERIMPOSITION under the grid. After all, most of the entries could be guessed (well, perhaps not BENDY and PRINK), and it was relatively easy to match up the definitions.

No matter, this was an entertaining puzzle, and I was left wondering why this theme hadn’t been spotted before. Thanks, Llig.


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