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Listener No. 4333: In the Event of Fire by Flying Tortoise

Posted by Dave Hennings on 6 March 2015

Listener number two from this setter, number one having the stage show Wicked and Defying Gravity as its theme. This week, we were faced with a small 10×10 asymmetrical grid and a quotation to be found with which we “solvers of Listener crosswords might identify”. The only other thing to look out for were some “grid treatments that affect some entries”.

Listener 4333Starting on the across clues, I failed on 1, but got 6 WANE, 9 AMPLY and 10 BELIE. This last was followed by another clue 10, and that had a length of (6)! I proceeded to check the given lengths of other clues and found thirteen more that didn’t match their entry lengths. Of these, 21ac and 30dn consisted of just one square. That made 14 out of 35 that needed “treatment”.

I failed with the second clue 10, which was a shame as it might have helped me with the north-east corner a bit more quickly — since BELIE didn’t appear in the finished grid at all! 12ac LEAP YEAR was the first entry that I could see would definitely need treating, but exactly how would have to wait.

17 Universe’s underlying principle introducing destiny and origin (3) looked like it should be DAO, and we were told it was in the ODE. Well it wasn’t in mine — mine went from Danzig to dap. It had Tao, but then so did Chambers and with an etymology of “[Chin dào way, path]”.

I reached 21 Murphy’s father drowned in the river (7) which effectively had six unchecked letters. (Even getting the checked E later on, it would stump me for ages.) 23 was another that needed treatment, and SUMERIAN also had to lose half its letters.

Reaching the down clues, it was a relief to be able to enter BALLADEER and EYE-OPENER without the need for any jiggery-pokery, and 2/18 gave OMERTA and IMAGINE and it looked as though A and IM would be dropped.

Thus, with the two 9-letter entries in place, the rest of the grid gradually came together, and I wrote down eight words formed from the bits of words which had been dropped from various entries: BELIEF (a delightfully sneaky use of the two 10acs), YEARN, DESIRE, ASSUME, AIM, EXPECT, CONFIDENCE and LONG. 21ac DESIREE was the last clue I solved, even though it didn’t need to be, since EYE-OPENER provided its solitary E.

And so to the endgame.

The eight words thus revealed seemed to have a similar sort of meaning. I decided to use Chambers Crossword Dictionary and found that aim, expect, confidence and long all had ‘hope’ in their list of synonyms, and hope itself had all eight of the dropped words.

A quick hop, skip and jump led me to hope in my ODQ index, and from there to the quotation from Dante’s Inferno “ABANDON ALL HOPE, YE WHO ENTER HERE”, except my ODQ has “…YOU WHO ENTER”, not YE and not HERE. It didn’t take too long to find all the letters around the outside of the grid if YE and HERE are used: hence the unusual “using the word order” given by the preamble, although I didn’t feel it was a strong enough indication of a missing word. The original Italian is “Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate”, and that doesn’t include ‘qui’ (‘here’) either.

And what about the letters being arranged to show “in a thematically appropriate position”? Well, I’m sorry, just around the outside of the grid didn’t seem right somehow, especially since nearly every picture of the words are written above the entrance to Hell.

And so to my dilemma: “in a thematically appropriate position” didn’t resolve the ambiguity as I currently saw it:

  • Did “Abandon all hope ye who enter” go clockwise round the grid starting near the bottom of column 1?
  • Did “Abandon all hope ye who enter here” go clockwise round the grid starting in the bottom left square?
  • Did “Abandon all hope ye who enter [here]” go anti-clockwise round the grid; after all that wouldn’t be against Listener rules, would it? (Well, that did seem unlikely.)
  • Did “Abandon all hope ye who enter” go somewhere else in the grid?
  • Where was Hell in all this?
  • Why were we told to use the ODQ when “Abandon all hope ye who enter” is in the Quotations section at the back of Chambers?
  • What exactly was that “thematically appropriate position”?

I spent time on and off (mainly off, thank goodness) over the next week trying to find the correct solution and see if I was missing something. I decided that around the outside of the grid just wasn’t the appropriate position, although I could see that it could be the appropriate shape for the entrance to hell. I had found DIS diagonally in the main SW–NE diagonal early on, although it looked somewhat innocuous.

At 3pm on the Tuesday before the deadline, I was resigned to putting ABANDON ALL HOPE, YE WHO ENTER HERE around the outside of the grid when, with a bit more jiggery-pokery, I had ABANDON ALL HOPE, YE WHO ENTER replacing POEYE / ENAW N H TOOB / BALLADEER HN anti-clockwise in the perimeter. The final HN would go up the SW–NE diagonal to meet DIS and thus disappear into Hell.

I was home and dry, wasn’t I? Well, no…

Fast forward four days to the Listener Dinner in Harrogate. Pretty much everyone I spoke to there had the full quotation going round the grid from bottom left to bottom right. No dilemmas for them, just rearrange all the letters and plonk them in the grid.

Listener 4333 My EntryFar from resolving the ambiguity, the preamble had actually forced me down what was the wrong (or at least, unintended) path. Thanks, but apologies to Flying Tortoise; it was a good idea, and I loved the disappearing hope… which somewhat echoes my own feelings for an all-correct run this year.

3 Responses to “Listener No. 4333: In the Event of Fire by Flying Tortoise”

  1. Jaguar said

    Shame you found what appears to be another accidental red herring. I was puzzled, as were a few people, by the appearance of “wish” in the final grid, as well as “aim” running diagonally nearby, both of which could be thought of as synonyms for “hope”, and so could have been removed. — but apparently were not supposed to be. It’s a shame that there are such extra features that appear entirely unintentional in the final grid, and I hope that not too many solvers met the end of a long solving run this week.

  2. shirleycurran said

    I, too, feel very sad for you, Dave, since you went that step further and found a plausible alternative while the rest of us mindlessly accepted that those letters anagrammed to whatever we found in our version of the ODQ. As, I said, my mother-in-law’s old ODQ (1953) didn’t have the word order that appears in the official ‘solution’. However, I have been down the track of an ambiguous ODQ quotation in a crossword (a misspelled name on which I based a grid!) so am alerted to double-check these days.

  3. Thanks, Jaguar and Shirley. I think what annoys me the most is that the “thematically appropriate position” was totally superfluous to the preamble. Whatever quotation you chose had its letters rearranged… exactly those letters in exactly the same place. OK, it was certainly in a nice shape, but so what! It certainly didn’t resolve everybody’s ambiguity with HERE.

    Mind you, in hindsight I do accept that my solution was a bit weird!

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