Listener No. 4369: Golf… by Xanthippe
Posted by Dave Hennings on 13 November 2015
Xanthippe’s last Listener was his tricky Solitaire II puzzle (No. 4321 in November last year). Bizarrely, this one provided my weekend golf fix as I was opting out of the golf course due to a strained ankle. It would be interesting to see if it takes me longer than the real thing, and whether I win or not.
Here we had two groups of clues. The 18 ‘Hole’ clues were DLM (Definition and Letter Mixture), each with an extra word which would “contribute to a thematic phrase”. The 26 ‘Course’ clues were normal and in conventional order. Since the positions of the Hole clues were unknown (apart from 1 and 10), it seemed logical to tackle the Course clues initially.
Symmetry dictated that there were twelve across and sixteen down clues in the Course group. These turned out to be fairly gentle, with 1 SPRED, 6 TOTE, 7 STOT and 12 SPREE and over a dozen others. And not forgetting 3 Line up over putt initially, nonsense (4)CRAP (ARC< + P) in row 3 (yes, that would come back and bite me later). I soon had over half the clues roughly sketched into slots in the grid.
Now, if I’d checked the lengths of the Course clues against the grid, I’d have found that all the 5- and 6-letter entries were supplied by the Course and could be written in without delay. Unfortunately, that discovery would have to wait until later.
Turning my attention to the Hole clues, these were slightly trickier, especially since, the extra words could be in the middle of the LM part of the DLM clues. What’s more, they would need treating in some way before entry. I got 1 Golf [iron] fit for launch for LIFT-OFF, and with two Fs in the unchecked squares, it looked like these clues would just be jumbled.
A few minutes later, I had 8 [Well] paratrooper, in proportion (two words) for PRO RATA. Unfortunately, that had three unchecked squares, so there would need to be jumbling+, and it wasn’t clear what the + would be.
Luckily, it didn’t take too long for the penny to drop. To be honest, it dropped in two halfpennies. The first was that the O in each entry would move to the end to represent the hole, but it took a few more minutes for the second halfpenny to be revealed as the T moving to the front, representing — well, the tee. All the remaining letters were entered in the same sequence as in the full word.
I was impressed with the high percentage of golfy surface readings and entries. I particularly liked 1c Ted once before entering Stableford, taking out tense skilful pro (5) for SPRED (PRE in STABLEFORD – T – ABLE – FOR) and 8c Tricky special shot from golfer, close, inches away (6) for ELFISH ( ELS – S + FINISH – IN). Ernie Els had to appear somewhere being the only 3-letter golfer I know
With the grid complete (and CRAP replaced by PULP), it was time to work out who won the game. The extra words provided the score for the golfer whose honour it was on that hole, with the entry length for the clue giving the combined score for both golfers. This needed to be done carefully — indeed, I did it at least three times… four times if you include the time I got it wrong!
It turned out that I won holes 2, 4, 8, 9, 10, 13 and 17; Xanthippe won holes 1, 3, 7, 11 and 16; the rest were halved. Thus I won 2&1 (two up with one to play). If I’d ended up with Xanthippe winning, he would indeed have won, since I was wrong!
Finally, there was the case of the thematic phrase contributed by the extra words: iron seal abbot guns of over debt well asks low kids sees punk on iron loci eases debut. I stared at these words, circled on my copy of the puzzle. If I’d just written them out in a list, it might have been more obvious what finally dawned on me after about 30 minutes: “is a good walk spoiled” was spelt out by the words’ first letters — and completed the title of the puzzle. The comment is generally attributed to Mark Twain, but no-one’s sure.
All in all, a fine game of golf from Xanthippe, thanks, with an excellent grid and excellent clues. Is a rematch on the cards?