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Listener No. 4374: A Tester Laid Out by Salamanca

Posted by Dave Hennings on 20 December 2015

Oh dear! A couple of days late this week, predominantly due to Christmassy stuff, but also one wedding and a funeral.

Listener 4374If memory serves me right, Salamanca is one of those quirky setters, up there with Waterloo. You’ve only got to look at the title of his last Listener to agree with me, I think. That was no. 4174 back in January 2012: The Dentures of Sherlock Holmes. (There was also an EV back in 2009 with the title Spinneroosms.)

This week, we had a title that was obviously an anagram, and Shirley was to be at home with an ‘asti-related’ theme. Four equal-sized groups needed to be identified, and I wondered how big those groups would be. Well, Group A consisted of unclued entries, and a quick check of the grid revealed that there were four, so sixteen thematic variations in total. Group B consisted of wordplay only, Group C needed adjustment before entry, and the Ds needed pairing. Remaining clues had an extra wordplay letter that would help in some way.

1ac Mom saw her son off (12, two words) was pretty obviously part of Group B, but, along with 3 and 17, it wasn’t in Chambers, so I guessed an anagram solver wouldn’t help. (Also, 36 was in earlier editions, so was either a first name or one of the notorious greyed out entries that were accidentally dropped in the 2014 edition.)

A dash through the clues, and six acrosses and six downs were slotted in, including INNER TUBE and UNRATTLED. Additionally, 24 SOT and 31 SOLE were Group D clues since definition and wordplay agreed, although what the two words could have in common (apart from S and O) was a mystery.

I didn’t zip through this puzzle quite as quickly as a couple of recent Listeners, but the solve progressed at a steady pace. EUPHEMISM and TAUTOLOGY were the first unclued entries to be identified, followed shortly after by HYPERBOLE. So they all seemed to be words for figures of speech, with only 1dn eluding me for the time being.

I finally resolved 3dn and 4dn. The former (not in C) Some vacuous design heading for album’s liner notes? (5, two words) was SIDE A; it took some time to realise that most of the clue was the definition, with S[E] + IDEA being the wordplay. 4dn was good old WC (Fields) + S (succeeded). These two enabled me to decipher the anagram at 1ac as MEN’S WASHROOM. Together with LOO at 22ac, that gave me three toilets. THUNDERBOXES at 40ac would eventually prove to be the fourth. It was at this point that the penny didn’t drop.

Two more appeared with the Group D clues: SOT, SOLE, TIT, TILE, paired to give two anagrams of TOILETS. Still no penny drop!

It is a shame that I haven’t got a smutty mind. Oh, wait… I have. But sadly TS Eliot didn’t pop into my head. That would have to wait until the message spelt out by the extra letters from wordplay: Take and read even letters of title: a TeSt ErLaId OuT. (Sadly no asti, Shirley.)

Listener 4374 My EntryNearly there. 1dn MEIOSIS was the final unclued entry, which Chambers gives as ‘understatement as a figure of speech, litotes (Rhetoric)’ which explained the relevance of that group, ‘litotes’ being another anagram of the author. Moreover, the Group C clues (RAITAS, STAITHS, ENMITY, OOBIT) were where I had to obey the asterisked clue at 31dn and STOLE ‘IT’, the final anagram.

And of course the title to be entered under the grid was Four Quartets, one of Eliot’s best known works (together with his Cats).

All in all, a fun and enjoyable puzzle from Salamanca, thanks. Didn’t I say he was quirky?!
 

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