Listener No 4349: Black or White by Pilcrow
Posted by Dave Hennings on 26 June 2015
Three years since Pilcrow’s last outing with its Arsene le Wenger / Arsenal Manager theme. Before that we had a thoroughly entertaining puzzle with its 16×16 grid but only seventeen clues!
This week, we had to find a series provided by five of the unclued entries. The clues provided misprints aplenty and wordplay omissions afew, although some omitted two letters. I noted with interest that a hidden thematic nine-letter word was descriptive of “said” five entries.
There were a couple of long entries running down the left and right edges of the grid, so I decided to give them a try. 1 was Third-rate mathematical genies? One probing asteroid reduced local distance over period (12, two words). This had a somewhat obvious misprint — “Third-rate mathematical genius”, but I shuddered to think who it was that Pilcrow was besmirching in this way! Surely not Isaac Newton or Stephen Hawking! (It turned out to be a JUNIOR OPTIME, someone I’d not heard of before.)
11dn Political analyst, Liberal going through tortuous hoops on point (12) on the other hand was the slightly easier PSEPHOLOGIST. Having watched the election coverage in the 60s and 70s, I was familiar with the swingometer gurus like Robert McKenzie. (This clue also contributed PE to the thematic person.) It didn’t take long to slot in 10ac RAP and 16ac GITE, although none of the other words ending in this right-hand column were as easy. I decided to have a go with the acrosses on the other side of the grid.
9ac Flounder about with metal beneath tower support (10) would have to wait until later as I was unsure if the misprint was for “flouncer” or “towel” or, indeed if it were a non-misprint clue. (It took some time to realise that it was an anagram of FLOUNDER + OR!) 13 looked as though it would be an anagram of O (old) STONES and could be one of the incomplete wordplay clues, but adding an F to give EFTSOONS would have to wait till later. 14 was more straightforward, with IRON (archaic word for safety curtain) – R for resistance to give ION. Another three letters got slotted in. I was getting somewhere, but very slowly.
17ac Sward on cliff (5) OSCAR came next. I particularly liked the latter’s surface reading and misprinted “award”. Answers were indeed coming slowly, but there were some excellent surface readings on the way to admire. I particularly liked Ships follow this current south and escape across the Atlantic (5) at 29ac which should read “Shias follow this” for ISLAM with I S + LAM for the wordplay.
Some misprints were relatively easy to suss, such as “Terrorist rung” for “Terrorist ring” at 32ac, and “Daftly lay about” for “Deftly lay about”. Most however were tricky to say the least. Even “Reads pulp…” at 28ac was neatly deceptive, with “Reeds” being the definition with PAP for pulp being the first part of the wordplay for PAPYRI. And as for 12dn Perhaps fitted to Lord Archer’s conclusion supporting former American leader (5) giving IN-CAR for “Perhaps fitted to Ford”… well! I also liked “drop from treadle” for “drop from treacle”.(Many years since I’ve had Golden Syrup.)
Eventually the grid was nearing completion, and the unclued JOHN PAUL and BENEDICT told me we were dealing with Popes. This tied in with the title which, I assume, referred to the black and white smoke that indicates whether the CARDINALS (in row 5) had decided who would be the next one.
The corrected misprints gave Lord make me an instrument of Your peace, courtesy of St Francis of Assissi. Francis was thus nominally relevant, the current Pope Francis (spelled out by the wordplay omissions) being, surprisingly, the first with that name.
There then followed fifteen minutes of bemusement. I had completely forgotten about the note to myself on reading the “said five entries” in the preamble. Although EYOT was fairly obvious in the lower left and SIXTINE (given for SISTINE in the OED) down the middle, the others had more than one option, and homophones didn’t immediately jump to mind.
Of course, reading the preamble a couple more times, with its reference to Francis’s three predecessors, finally made all clear: WON, TOO, FORE, EYOT, SIXTINE for 1, 2, 4, 8, 16. How neat that we had had John Pauls I and II, and Benedict XVI immediately before Francis I. It’s almost as if it were deliberate!
All was done and dusted, and many thanks to Pilcrow for a fine puzzle. A nice theme and, above all, excellent clues.