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Listener No 4322: Stiff Listener-like Special by Radix

Posted by Dave Hennings on 19 December 2014

I’m probably not alone in being surprised to find another Radix Listener puzzle this week; I assumed that No 4286 No Robbery! was his last. Once I’d read the preamble and found that some clues would “require calculations systematically related to the clues treatments”, I knew I was in for a tough puzzle. (Little did I know how tough!)

Listener 4322With half the clues being double clues, each requiring a letter added, deleted or duplicated, I thought that concentrating on the ones which were obviously not double clues would be the way to start. (28dn Commander and reporters weigh men in Hood (5) tripped me up for a long time since I assumed it was obviously not a double clue!)

I was surprised at how quickly I managed to rattle off some of these singles. The acrosses 6 SOFA, 10 SOPPIEST, 12 PAILS and a few others could be entered, although their unchecked letters had to be withheld since one of them needed changing to produce a new word. Most had two or three options. Even SOPPIEST could end up as HOPPIEST, SOAPIEST or SOUPIEST, none of which I have ever used in a sentence in my life, despite drinking London Pride, washing up with Fairy Liquid and eating Crosse and Blackwell!

The down clues also gave me half a dozen entries, so I was feeling confident.

However, the double clues proved to be an absolute nightmare!

The first one that I got was 7dn Dirk’s like in Ed’s bar: drink fortified wine and do something Amis put in shot (6) — at least, the second part of the clue was SHERRY, with ‘Amis’ changing to ‘amiss’. The first part was crying out to be CREASE (dagger), but AS (like) in CREE (?) didn’t seem to fit. Mind you, the entry seemed to be OSIRIS. Moreover, adding CREASE to SHERRY didn’t give any real word. Taking SHERRY away from OSIRIS didn’t work either.

I decided to try and finish the single clues in order to reveal the source of a quotation with one word changed. 6ac SO·A had a lot of options, but most others just had two or three. 2dn ARIES and 3dn TOTTERS, however, could only be ABIES and TOTTERY, giving BY so it looked like we would also be given the author of the quotation.

The last word GYTE could be GYBE, GYRE or GYVE, and GYRE looked the obvious choice giving R for the last letter of the author’s name. Luckily for me I have read a bit of sci-fi in my time, and it wasn’t too long before I put the M of AMMIRAL with the V of GYVE to see ASIMOV as the author. A quick check in my ODQ gave “The three fundamental rules of Robotics” from I, Robot ‘Runaround’. Changing Robotics to Mathematics seemed to fit the smattering of letters I already had associated with the last few double clues.

Well… all that was the easy part of the puzzle. The remaining many hours were spent trying to unravel the double clues. I realised after some considerable time that they would need to be added, subtracted or, yes, multiplied to give the entry. These corresponded with the extra letter, deleted letter and duplicated letter. I should have wondered why duplicate letters was a feature of some clues, rather than just being an extra letter. Whichever two were used in the clues meant that the third would be used on the two words to give the entry. Thus, FRUITION times GREEN BAN gave PLASTRON. However, all this meant that there was a huge amount of cold solving ahead of me, and I wouldn’t be happy until every clue and entry had been verified. (Yes, I’m a masochist!)

It’s a great shame that there’s no phrase ‘very eventually’, because getting to the end of the grid took hours and hours. Moreover, I was running up against the deadline; it was Tuesday afternoon. I was also getting worried about the “Real title” of the puzzle. It was obvious that it was cryptically defined by the given title, Stiff Listener-like Special. Early in my thoughts, I sussed that Listener-like meant ‘thematic’, and that fitted very well with ‘mathematic’. I was doomed! No matter how much I tried, I couldn’t get that out of my head. I tried all sorts of things in Chambers Crossword Dictionary and Mrs Bradford, but nothing seemed to work.

Until, under stiff, I saw ‘prim’ and checked words beginning with that in Chambers. PRIMORDIAL jumped out, and I was ecstatic to see that audial was a word meaning “relating to hearing or sounds”. Add an S for ‘special’, and I was home and dry.

Listener 4322 My EntryIt wouldn’t be wrong to call Radix’s last puzzle a ‘tour de force’. Fitting all the necessary words together in a grid that was symmetrical in so many ways was magic. I suppose this puzzle certainly sorted the men from the boys, and I was left wondering what was the fastest solving time achieved.

Thanks again for all the enjoyment over the years, Roddy.


6 Responses to “Listener No 4322: Stiff Listener-like Special by Radix”

  1. Jaguar said

    Sadly primordials doesn’t quite work as there’s no extra homophone indicator for the audial -> ordial change.

  2. Nick said

    Radix didn’t do things that don’t quite work. He was of the belief that homophone indicators, like anagram indicators, aren’t necessary in titles.

  3. Jaguar said

    I had understood the correct answer to be Robotics, from rob+otic+S, which is much more convincing. Which is why primordials doesn’t quite work.

  4. Thanks for your comments, guys… I’m just back from drowning my sorrows down the pub! The only thing that I will add is that, whereas ‘primordials’ relates to the ‘fundamental rules’ of the puzzle, ‘robotics’ doesn’t. In fact, it is actually what’s missing from it.

  5. Nick said

    My mistake, Jaguar, I do apologise, I misread that completely.

  6. Richard said

    Having been drowning my own sorrows (though I’m not sure that London Pride is the hoppiest beer!), I have a lot of sympathy for Dave. I too had fixated on “thematic” as being “Listener-like” – surely this had to result in “mathematics” somehow. My forlorn bid was to think that the “ma” was suggested from (ma)stiff. I would echo Dave’s thematic point: the puzzle has no actual relationship to ROBOTICS, apart from the specific change of the word “robotics” in the quote to “arithmetic”. But I would say that this very change supports the argument that the real title could be “mathematics”. All the thematic activity in the puzzle (apart from that involved in getting at the corrupted quote) is actually mathematical. And isn’t RADIX itself a mathematical term?!

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