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Listener No. 4325: Christmas Break by Poat

Posted by Dave Hennings on 9 January 2015

It looked like a topical puzzle this week from Poat, although one cannot be too sure about anything with a Listener. It was nice that the editors were being kind by allowing us an extra few days to get our entries to St Albans. I never know whether it’s safe to trust Royal Mail over Bank Holidays, especially Christmas. I always think that having my entry lying around in an empty sorting office is leaving it to the mercy of the postal gremlins.

Listener 4325In Christmas Break, two letters in each row had to removed, one to be entered in one of the end columns, the other to be used to make a thematic setting. It seemed obvious that I should start with the down clues. 2 ALS, 5 BLAST, 7 SITHE and 8 YEDE got me off to a fine start, but I knew that Poat was a setter not to be taken lightly.

17dn Girlie mag’s opening issue, 40 per cent off one for Scottish lawyers (7) was obviously MISS-something, but the ISH would have to wait till later. (In my first pass through the clues, I don’t use any reference books. Wait… that’s not true, I try not to use any reference books.)

We were told that 30 was in Collins Scrabble Dictionary. I don’t have this (in fact, I didn’t realise there was one), but I was relieved that it was a simple hidden reversal in ‘bacterIOSTATic’. 34 ELMY finished my down entries, and that gave me a good smattering of filled squares to start on the acrosses.

1 was PARCA and 5 was BOLSHY in the top row… they were unaffected by moving letters.14 Large vessel demanding papers for half-hearted vegetable? (7) was CAROTID, courtesy of the A, T and D from down entries. This meant that both moving letters came from 13ac.

15ac Whereby fragments of his ingested madeleine displace Proust’s regular routine? (7) was PHO[T]ISM although it was a bit of a guess to try that first instead of PHOBISM or PHONISM! Apparently, in A la Recherche… Proust uses madeleines to contrast involuntary memory with voluntary memory. A seemingly simple clue suddenly had loads of extra meaning. Sadly, 25 Andalusian site where Ballesteros has taken sick? (7) brought back memories of the late, great golfer Seve Ballasteros, who died back in 2011.

And so the solving proceeded with the sneaky 9dn Suitable for icy conditions etc, wall-heater with two jumpers? (10) ALL-WEATHER and 13ac Something of a trifle? About its fifth part, approximately (7) OL[O]R[O]SO being late entries in my grid. (I had been put off by the notion that anybody would make a trifle with only 20% alcohol content!)

Getting SILENT NIGHT along the bottom made me reread the preamble, and all became astoundingly clear. Was this crossword really built around the 1914 Christmas truce of the First World War?! Indeed it was, with the misprinted words SHORT-TIVED and ARMTSTICE sitting in rows 5 and 7. WLSTERN ERONT was also there, with the thematic activities CABOLS and SOCCAR in rows 1 and 3. Using RELIEF to replace BATTLE in these words gave their correct forms.

Finally, with the moving letters from the across rows, I had:


Listener 4325 My EntryIt didn’t take long to extract NO -MAN’S-LAND and slot the remaining letters in the left and right columns to give TOMMY in his FOSSE (trench) and JERRY in his BOYAU, representing the protagonists and their original positions.

What a superb denouement, and what a superb theme. Thanks, Poat.

I posted my entry on the Monday after Christmas, which meant that it should have arrived in St Albans before the New Year postal gremlins could spirit it away.


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