Listener No. 4372: Seldom Seen by Piccadilly
Posted by Dave Hennings on 4 December 2015
This was Piccadilly’s first Listener since April 2004. Since then, he has primarily been an EV setter, and I’ve tackled many of his puzzles there. Despite that, I didn’t know whether I was in for a tough or easy ride here. Everything that was going on centred on just nine clues: their wordplay had an extra letter, and the answers themselves needed to be replaced thematically on entry.
Starting at 1ac, and CAPSTAN was an easy solve, so it seemed logical to try the crossing downs. 3dn was AO DAI, the third time in about a month I’ve had that (not just here), except this time it was thematic with an extra E in the wordplay. Interesting theme… Asian women’s clothes.
Half hour later and another dozen downs had been solved. The central row –C—M—L—X looked like a strange Roman numeral. Moreover SOU’WESTERS and CHATELAINS (one of the longest hidden words ever … retained by Neuchatel a[s] inspectors) didn’t seem to have much in common with their crossing grid letters.
APOSTROPHE was the obvious entry at 20ac, and with the I from PASTRAMI, all became clear for 30ac as CIRCUMFLEX. We had accents and other things (SPACE, APOSTROPHE and HYPHEN) that we normally leave out of crossword entries, despite being in Chambers.
All was done and dusted in under an hour. Well, almost. The answer with an umlaut at 17ac Nanny takes married woman back after cutting countess (6) took 20 minutes on its own. Even though I knew of ‘graf’, the female GRÄFIN was new to me.
So what was the 9-letter word that told us how the grid should be filled. A bit obvious really? Not quite! It took 5 minutes of doodling OWASLERCE to get LOWER-CASE. Isn’t this the sort of situation where the preamble should include “solvers are advised to use a pencil at first”? But I suppose that would give part of the game away.
A nice simple idea for an enjoyable puzzle. Thanks, Piccadilly.