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Listener No. 4375: Five One-time Pads by Poat

Posted by Dave Hennings on 25 Dec 2015

Poat’s last Listener, Christmas Break, was almost a year ago and commemorated the Christmas truce of 1914. As Christmas 2015 approachced, the Hennings household was in turmoil with decorators ripping out my bathroom and making a hell of a noise doing it. Periods of quiet during the daytime were at a premium, so I ended up tackling Poat’s puzzle a full week after publication. And Poat can be tricky!

Listener 4375Since the preamble had “one-time pads” in quotation marks, I assumed that it had some significance, and a quick google revealed it to be an encryption technique. That was exactly what the rest of the preamble explained. I gave it no further thought… until later.

Only five unclued entries, but some encoding once the grid was complete. So, step 1… complete the grid. After about 40 minutes scanning the clues in order, I had a fair smattering of entries. These included 2dn Guy embraced by Nina Simone, which looked unsatisfactorily like SIMON, but a check in the back of my 2011 Chambers confirmed NASIM. I also liked the innovative 30ac Contra(di)ction that insanity delivers at intervals (4) for ISN’T, and 32dn Mark with a hard smack! (4), MWAH, simple and misleading.

I have to say that this wasn’t quite as tricky as I thought it might be, and solving continued apace. I was slightly perplexed by 1ac which was a “three-word phrase to be completed at 1ac, descriptive of the solver’s task”. This looked as though it was trying to be HUNT THE CARROT, but not even Google had heard of that.

I was pleased to get the delightful 37ac with only three letters to help me Lay with considerable success about Scots pollack and sole, extremely lemony (13, three words), and then couldn’t stop whistling ONLY THE LONELY for the next half-hour.

One mistake that I made was with 36ac Thematically, you’d get offer from patsy with these encouraging cries (5) where I stupidly entered YELPS instead of YELLS. Thus, when the grid was finished, I had the following encryptions:


For a few minutes, nothing jumped out at me, but as I wrote the last bit of encoding in my notes (from 36ac) — PATSY + YELLS = OFFER, giving NTMAC (not NTMEC), MACLEAN jumped out at me and I was home and dry. (Don’t ask me why I didn’t get it from BURGE or HILBY!) We were dealing with the infamous Cambridge Spy Ring of BURGESS, PHILBY, MACLEAN and BLUNT.

A couple more tasks before the puzzle was complete. First, I tried to identify the “associated talent scout” who was an anagram of 1ac which was now H·NT·L·CA·R·S. The first sentence in the Wiki entry I read was “The Cambridge Spy Ring were a ring of spies recruited in part by Soviet scout Arnold Deutsch…”, so 1ac was HUNT OLD CADRES, a cadre being a member of “a group of activists in a revolutionary orig Communist, party”.

Listener 4375 My EntryThe suspected fifth member of the group was John Cairncross, so a bit of highlighting of entries for Cairncross was required. CATTABU at 34ac was obviously the CROSS, which left the cairn to be identified. 5dn was CARE, so that could give CARE ‘n’ CROSS. Not very satisfactory. Of course, the preamble’s wording was important to resolve my problem: two entries “in the final grid” needed highlighting. I created a new much neater grid which would be my submission. CARE became CARR, which was even more unsatisfactory, but a check with Chambers for BARP, previously CARP at 33ac, revealed that to be the cairn.

Not unexpectedly, this was an excellent puzzle from Poat, so many thanks. And thanks too for having Roy Orbison running through my head as I wrote this blog.
Happy Christmas, everyone.

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