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Listener No 4346: Nonconformist by Towser

Posted by Dave Hennings on 5 June 2015

A brand new setter for the Listener again this week, and, as far as I know, not seen anywhere else either. Ten clues consisted of wordplay only, and, with the removal of an extra letter, they represented a “loosely-constituted group”. Hmmm… that sounded a bit vague, not to mention disconcerting.

Listener 43461ac Nothing lost in revolution of historic north-east (9) looked like a fairly straightforward anagram of “historic NE” without O, and with a bit of doodling I got CHRISTINE. Removing just the N left CHRISTIE, and it looked like we were dealing with serial killers (John Reginald) or detective novelists (Agatha). The title seemed to be more fitting for the former, but that would be a somewhat macabre theme for a puzzle.

7ac There is an old betting game involving a pair of clubs (4) was also easy, and this could be a standard clue or a wordplay-only clue to ECCO. Perhaps this was going to be Umberto ECO, but I don’t think he was really a mystery writer or, indeed, a serial killer. 15ac Six cracking a joke (5) looked like OVINE, and Barbara VINE confirned our theme. (Barbara Vine was the pen name of Ruth Rendell who, I have just discovered, died at the beginning of May.)

It’s not often that a simple hidden raises a smile, but 17ac Dunmow Glitch? There you’ll discover an Indian hero (6) had MOWGLI lurking, although the correct phrase is Dunmow Flitch.

Having made good headway with the acrosses, I decided to tackle some downs. (Actually, I’d peeked ahead at 1dn some time before and seen John Dickson CARR with an extra E.) TAENIATE, NAPOO, ENOW and CANINE were slotted in, followed by LEVEE at 11. Even with RE···E·P, however, the nice cryptic definition at 14ac Nocturnal activity under the covers? (8, two words) escaped me, and it was some time later than REM SLEEP revealed the covers to be eyelids.

The solving process went fairly smoothly after that, although I initially thought that 35dn Get embargo to include Iran (5) BAIRN was wordplay only, but “get” was the definition, both being Scottish for child.

As I made the list of letters not needed by the writers, I got to eight — NOANECLR — and despite the R being wrong (incorrectly superfluous to BAI[r]N), CONAN DOYLE could be seen trying to make himself known. The R therefore had to be wrong which left three more writers to find.

In the end, these were:

1ac Agatha CHRISTIE
15ac Barbara VINE
25ac Josephine TEY
45ac Edmund CRISPIN
46ac Edgar Allen POE
47ac Raymond CHANDLER
1dn John Dickson CARR
8dn Reginald HILL
12dn Dorothy L SAYERS
23dn R Austin FREEMAN

 
Listener 4346 My EntryWith the grid finally complete after about 2½ hours, all that remained was to find Conan Doyle’s associate cryptically at 27ac — ·ABRTTRESK·. It was pretty obviously an anagram, but certainly not of SHERLOCK, HOLMES or WATSON. However, if it were an anagram, the first and last letters would have to be the same, and quite likely a vowel. Luckily, I found myself trying two Es fairly soon, and BAKER STREET didn’t take too long to discover. The central entry was thus a cryptic representation of just one Baker Street Irregular. Cunning stuff.

All in all, this was an enjoyable puzzle, so I hope another is in the pipeline from Towser. Thanks.
 

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