Off We Go with Phi
Posted by shirleycurran on 2 January 2015
A mildly daunting preamble as we are told that there are going to be five misprints and that we will also encounter clues where we have to remove two or three letters ‘always leaving words or abbreviations, but generally leading to a loss of surface sense‘. (The italics are mine!) We have to complete the grid with those adapted clues, then erase those groups of two or three letters from a contiguous section of the grid. There is a lot going on here but it does sound like fun and someone is clearly ‘going off’ (sadly, not through consuming an excess of alcohol, though, as I did my usual scan through the grid, just to check that Phi still qualifies for the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Coterie and, to my amazement, found not one alcoholic clue, except for a stinking barrel full of decomposed matter). I know he made it all the way from NZ to the last setters’ dinner and don’t imagine he consumed only water there, so I am not over-anxious, and get down to solving.
Solving is great fun. We are clearly in the hands of a master conductor as clue after clue resolves itself with a smile. No, a chuckle! ‘Obsessively detailed male proving reversal of identical sequences of solar observations (9)’ (giving us ANAL + M in SAME< = ANALEMMAS); I’d picked up two males in meadow, leading to difficult choice (7)’ (there aren’t many female Listener setters, two or three active ones, I believe, in over a hundred – it’s a male-dominated pastime – but wouldn’t that clue have been more appropriate if it had come from one of us! – I’D< + MM in LEA = DILEMMA). We have a transvestite too. ‘Man in dress seen embracing Unionist (5)’ (“Crikey!” as”Tony Blair might have said – clad ROUND U giving us CLAUD). Then we have ‘Front of car den[ts] woman (5) (C + LAIR – at least it isn’t that male conviction, disproved by all insurance statistics, that it is a woman who is likely to dent the front of a car – the car is denting her). We have a boob appearing too; ‘Loops and fastenings surrounding boob (8) (TIES round ERR = TERRIES). Hmmmm!
With a fair smattering of nuclear science and even CERN in the solutions, as well as marine demolition, a hermaphrodite, bridge, a ferret, some genetics, some linguistics and a strong smell, there’s a delightful range of clues here and, as I ferret out the misprints, BAND/HAND, CELL/CALL, PASTE/PASTY, CHIME/CHIDE and BEST/NEST (spelling HAYDN), it all suddenly makes sense. ‘Off we go’ indeed. Isn’t there the Farewell Symphony where each member of the orchestra, player after player, with the exception of Haydn and one other violinist snuffs out the candle and leaves with his instrument during the last movement.
The symphony is there, nicely balanced in the grid with the stage and audience symmetrically above it. This is the kind of grid I particularly like, with a story told in it and a graphical representation filling the grid.
Sure enough, just as Radix always insisted, the theme is echoed in the clues: we remove them, little by little, from the grid, clearing the stage in front of the audience, and soon there is only the one H left in the position of first violin. How daring of Haydn and how magical of Phi. This was sheer pleasure from start to finish.