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Listener No. 4361: Two for the Price of One by Monk

Posted by Dave Hennings on 18 September 2015

Nearly four years have passed since the last Monk Listener with its Morecambe and Wise / André Previn theme. However, if you enjoy this puzzle, he can frequently be found elsewhere, including The Independent and Financial Times. This week, we were treated to a crossword based on the Train Tracks puzzle which appears in the Saturday edition of The Times. I enjoy that little diversion, even though it never takes more than a few minutes. I have often wished they would do a larger grid than the 8×8, and this week Monk provides it.

Listener 4361As the preamble says, the first puzzle is a crossword, although some needed specail treatment to fit in the grid. 1ac Keep sight of tug of old on ground, then harbouring it (15, four words) looked as though it should be easy with its (15, four words), but it was not to be. 13 Chairs damaged spine (6) came to the rescue with RACHIS and some of 14’s first letters provided IAGO.

1dn Cheat, getting nettle, not about to reveal “three of a kind”? (8) with its second letter as R looked like it would be TRI…, and a little peak at Mrs B provided TRIM for cheat and the BRB gave me TRIMURTI (the Hindu trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Siva). I was off, and determined not to use Mrs B again this week.

Because of that (probably) the rest of the grid was comparatively slow to fill. A lot of my problem lay with Monk’s sneaky clues, like 1ac above where “keep” isn’t a verb, and “diamonds on top of this” refers to MOH’S SCALE. My favourite clue was probably 12dn Old Scandinavians run into neutral territory, avoiding capture (6) with R in NO MAN’S [LAND]. The one that I found toughest to parse was 29ac Family famous for hangings turn soft, confused about losing last vestige of hope (7) — GO (turn) + B (soft, as in pencil) + SENILE< (confused) – E (last letter of hopE).

It became evident fairly early on that some cells needed to contain two letters, and they were compass points indicating which sides needed to be connected by a track come the endgame, which didn't present me with too many problems since, as I mentioned above, I complete the puzzle most weeks in The Times. It’s a fairly simple exercise in identifying those cells which must contain a track, and those that cannot. The former are either marked with the required track, or, if the exact type is unknown, with a dot; the latter I mark with a cross. Take the bottom two rows in the grid:

Listener 4361 Example

We are told the bottom row has only two tracks, so these must be vertical north-south. (In fact, these do not need to contain N/S since the track starts and ends at these two points, but by convention these two tracks are given at the start of the puzzle.) All the other cells in row 1 can be marked with a cross. Those immediately above the tracks can be given a dot, but it is not clear yet whether they are straight or curved.

Listener 4361 My EntryThe puzzle is solved by repeated use of this and other tricks. For example, a track cannot be surrounded by three crossed cells (a dead end), and if there are the same number of empty cells as the number given for that row or column, then all of them can be marked with a dot.

Thanks to Monk for an enjoyable couple of puzzles, and I hope the size of the graphic (nearly 2mb) doesn’t cause anyone a problem!

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