Listen With Others

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Hefbeet (AKA Pangram) by Yorick

Posted by shirleycurran on 20 November 2015

Yorick“Yorick,” we said, “are we due for a bit of Hamlet?” A quick scan through the clues yielded a few solutions and we smiled with relief for we are over the pond caring for a very chatty and lively toddler while his new sister is coming into the world. This looked easy, ‘Origins of blood-moon lunar eclipses are rarely indistinct (5)’  (first letters = BLEAR). “Here’s a pushover, we’ll devote a couple of easy hours to it.”  Little did I know that I would be beginning my Listen With Others blog over twenty-four hours later. This almost rose to the difficulty level of Sabre or Mash (on one of their generous days).

A quick check on Dave Hennings’ Crossword Database tells me that Yorick is a relative newcomer with just one advanced cryptic to his name so I anxiously scan the clues to check that he has earned his admission ticket to the Tipsy Listener Setters Fraternity. No cause for concern – he performs with good taste; ‘Dante’s past indeed – whisky in spree (10)’ gives RYE in YES TEAR = YESTER-YEAR.

Yorick follows up with ‘Vintage wine raised direct from reserve (5)’ giving EX< RES = XERES. “Membership duly confirmed – see you in the bar at the  Windsor setters’ dinner in March, Yorick!”

So far all is well and we race through almost two-thirds of the clues duly noting that 26 clues must have their first letter misprinted (suspicious number that 26 – must be something to do with the alphabet) and that the remaining 18 clues ‘each contain an extra word that must be removed before solving; these words’ initial letters spell out how to derive the grid entries from the answers to these clues …’ Of course, I suspect that we are to be faced with those odious jumbles and snarlingly attempt to fill the grid.

Consternation! It just doesn’t work and a clue whose solution is CUSP (Cubic space lacking one [strong] point) already has EEAH in its light. That is no jumble and a Caesar cypher won’t work either. How can C and U both be converted to E? Mystified, we concentrate on the messages and the one from the extra words is teased out to give CODE USING MISPRINTS.

I try computing the letters that share cells, like the Q of QUAIL and the J of JUSTS but, of course, that merely adds to the confusion so frustrated and jet-lagged, I sleep on it for a few hours. It is quiet in California at 4 a.m. except for those wonderful trains that whistle down the line but that code nags until I get up and make sense of it.

Only the first letters of the remaining 26 clues are going to be misprinted so I insert ?WO-SEATERS, ?ERDANT, ?ENTAMETER, ?ESTERYEAR, and so on and slowly but surely work out which letters will map to others. There is a pdm. when the misprints message suddenly makes sense. ‘These letters spell out a six-word description of what they have replaced’ – as we suspected at the outset, ALL THE LETTERS OF THE ALPHABET.

By dawn on a glorious last Saturday of October, I am almost there and this is becoming a pleasure. By using TEA, I am able to find those evil solutions that have so far escaped me; TRAM-CARS, CAECA, EXTOL, HASSAR and last of all that sneaky little word in the centre of the grid. TEA tells me that [jqtz][abcru]?[abcru] is JUGA, the plural of JUGUM (little pairs of leaflets). There’s my new word to drop into casual conversation this week.

One thing left to do. There’s the title. Yes, it unjumbled to ‘The Beef, but the beef about this puzzle was short lived, so we do a little bit of reverse mapping and find a most appropriate title. Of course it is a PANGRAM.

What a challenging and impressive debut, Yorick. Many thanks.

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