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In the Event of Fire by Flying Tortoise

Posted by shirleycurran on 6 March 2015

We downloaded this totally unsymmetrical and very small grid with its very few clues and brief preamble and muttered anxious comments. “This is probably going to be tough!” We discussed what one does in the event of fire – raise the alarm, get out fast, leave behind … etc. (of course, a flying tortoise would have an advantage over a conventional one!) but came nowhere near what was finally revealed when we had filled the grid.

I did a speedy check to confirm that Flying Tortoise was still a full member of the compilers’ tippling club and found only a rather sad bit of proof ‘A gargle less good when liquid is sour beer’ (A GARGLE less G* = ALEGAR – fine clue even if the  surface reading is somewhat unpalatable!)

More surprising than the mini, rather unusual grid were the clue lengths. We soon saw that we somehow had to fit a ’15, two-word clue into a light that had room for five letters. ‘Bang up defector in nick, caught for swindling’ was a generous compound anagram that gave us CONFIDENCE TRICK and cross-checking letters soon suggested that the CONFIDENCE was not going to be entered into the grid. Even worse, we had a seven-letter word to fit into a single cell and the same with a five-letter word

This pattern continued as generous clues, coupled with the words they crossed, suggested which words or elements of words were superfluous, like ‘Early pea hybrid in period of adjustment’ giving LEAP YEAR of which only the LEAP was confirmed by intersecting letters.

We solved happily, laughing at a lovely clue, ‘Vow to imprison regressive Communist in new devious cover for one’s lies’ (I DO + RED< in NEW*) It was the fine definition that caused the smile – EIDERDOWN!

Abandon hope! 001Then our grid was full and we gazed with perplexity at the words that seemed to be extra. We had (leap) YEAR followed by N(owhere) = YEARN,  (a)LONG, (omert)A followed by IM(agine) = AIM,  CONFIDENCE (trick), (sor)EX + PECT(in) = EXPECT, (gliom)AS + SUME(rian) = ASSUME and that very elusive potato DESIRE(e) (poor SIRE, drowned in the DEE!), then to confound matters, we had a double clue – two 10 acrosses leading to BELIE and F(ealty) = BELIEF.

CONFIDENCE, LONG, YEARN, IMAGINE, ASSUME, BELIEF, AIM and EXPECT. Head scratch, head scratch. What do they have in common? – something, obviously, and they have all been lost or removed.

There was a far longer grid-stare than usual and we tried anagramming all the letters that circled the grid. Then I gave myself a healthy kick. I studied Dante years ago and perhaps the best known line from the Divine Comedy is ‘ogni speranza lasciate, voi ch’entrate!‘ Obviously we were leaving behind or abandoning synonyms of HOPE. ‘ALL HOPE ABANDON YE WHO ENTER HERE’

Dante, guided by Virgil, told us that that injunction was around the portal of the Inferno, so it was now clear where our letters had to go and which ones we were to rearrange. A quick check proved that that was indeed what we were being instructed to do – reorganise three sides of our grid.

All hope abandon ye who enter here!

All hope abandon ye who enter here!

Just to be sure, I checked with my seventh edition of the ODQ and CONSTERNATION! There, in black and white, was a new translation that didn’t fit the bill at all. ‘ABANDON ALL HOPE YOU WHO ENTER!’ The preamble was clear that we had to rearrange a string of letters, to show in a thematically appropriate position, a quotation (using the word order found in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations) (my underlining). If I use the current ODQ, that is impossible as there is no U in that string of letters.

Fortunately we have some very old versions of the ODQ on the shelves, and the second edition, published in 1953 and a 1972 concise edition have the desired version of the quotation, but I do feel concern for any new, young solver who has a shiny latest edition and a dilemma. I wonder whether this was an editorial oversight.

Apart from that, the solving was great fun, so many thanks Flying Tortoise.




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