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Listener 4340: Red Shift by Nudd

Posted by Jaguar on 24 April 2015

Red shift? A physics one, maybe? Perhaps a bit too obvious a title if so, but Nudd has used the title to describe an amusing little device — words in the wrong place. Fairly sure it’s not original, but whatever “Red Shift” refers to, at least it’s all linking up thematically. Time to get started…

The best place to start here seemed to be obviously the downs, extra letters being not too hard to work through usually. And there were a couple of generous anagrams, too, to get us going, at 1dn FOOL’S PARADISE, 5dn CONES, and also 9dn TYRANNOSAURUS — and a few hidden words at eg 12dn MEM and 34dn ETYMA. All of which helped to get the grid-fill going and focus on those tricky-looking acrosses.

Long story short, the grid-fill came first (and in general fairly quickly, with most of the remaining clues having fairly generous wordplays), and only then the sorting out of what words moved where. Nudd seemed to have some obsession with Eastern culture as SIJO, OTAKU and LIKIN appeared in the grid — and, as it turned out, that yokozuna word is a term for a particularly MASSY sumo wrestler.

All of that juggling, though, and out popped the messages from the down clues “Decode Carroll cipher, NE to SW”, and “key is an author’s name”. Which author? Alan Garner, possibly… never heard of him, but wikipedia assures me that he wrote Red Shift so there’s the title link sorted out. No physics after all. But the disappointment doesn’t last too long as in its place wanders that ingenious cipher invented by Carroll. Well, actually not, but never mind (not even by de Vigenère, who I thought came up with it, but predates both by about 300 years). With enough text it’s relatively easy to break, but the principle is nice — essentially, it’s just a shift cipher, but different shifts on each letter over the length of the keyword. A quick check to make sure that you use the whole keyword ALANGARNER and not just the unique letters ALNGRE or something, and then I mock up the code, decode the NE to SW diagonal, get “theowl”, find that Alan Garner also wrote The Owl Service and we’re done. May as well finish the decoding anyway, and indeed it does work, producing a new set of real words.

Luckily for Nudd, ALANGARNERALA as a key has the lovely advantage of not changing five letters, meaning that he only needed to find eight words/ word pairs that fit, but still a tricky thing to make work I can well imagine. So well done Nudd for that, and a fine construction all the way through, everything linking together at the end.

For completeness: The across clue replacements are 7 inept ->13 obsolescent ->32 eastern->11 hybrid ->30 amaryllis->16 Mozambican ->45 keen -> 7; 12 Urumqi -> 22 effort -> 46 appetite -> 44 yokozuna ->12; 15 nest -> 42 runway -> 38 seat ->15; 18 testimony <-> 29 notes; 20 armoured <-> 40 smooth. Shame it wasn’t a perfect 18-cycle, but never mind. Thanks Nudd.


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