Listen With Others

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Listener No. 4376: Trapped by ‘Eck

Posted by Dave Hennings on 1 January 2016

The first ‘Eck Listener was Renewable Energy last October with the theme of Graham Green’s Brighton Rock and was certainly tough (tricky, not hard to eat). Here we had two types of clue: those requiring a letter to be added before solving, and those requiring a letter to be removed. The former would supply a ocation, the latter clues to the identity of the puzzle’s subject.

Listener 4376One extra problem I had was that I was starting this on the Monday before Christmas — a wedding, a funeral, shopping and golf got in the way the previous week. I just hoped the endgame wouldn’t be too tortuous.

I was somewhat relieved that 1ac OMASA and 5ac IMPRISON were soon slotted in at the top of the grid, together with 6 of the 10 crossing downs. I partcularly liked 6 One that’s fathered at rook’s tower (5) with ‘fathered’ for ‘feathered’. Back to the acrosses, and WATER BIRDS and LACUNAE came next, then BUSES and NUNSHIP down.

At this point, more family commitments intervened, and with an hour’s solving under my belt, I thought this would be done and dusted in another hour the following day.

Well it wasn’t! Three hours were needed to polish off the grid due to some clues that worked hard to mislead me. Selling primarily Vegemite, run out of other extract (4) didn’t lead to 26ac beginning with V, but had V and R removed from BOVRIL to give BOIL (swelling). That Astrologer’s fierce at liberal gambling game (3) was the simple cat LEO. And then there was 30dn Number to champion setter, maybe (5) with its missing W!!

That pesky hyphen also took a bit of fathoming in 17dn Prat receiving short stroke finally tenders for part of track (6) (almost cocking a snook at Piccadilly’s Seldom Seen a few weeks before). For ages, I was convinced that ‘prat’ would become ‘rat’. I made a mistake with 23ac Ben hates tree’s easily removable leaf (9) which delayed me with the ‘location’ message. I thought the missing letter was D for ‘bend’ rather than (the more obvious) T for ‘bent’. Thus Act two, Scene two was a bit late arriving.

Of course, ‘Eck must have used Mousterap writer as a deliberate red herring to try and get me scurrying off to read the script for Agatha Christie’s infamous play! However, what was alluded to by the other extra letters — Little pig and Great Dane — got me looking at Hamlet in the ODQ:

O God! I could be bounded in a nut-shell, and count
myself a king of infinite space were it not that I
have bad dreams

Okay, okay, it was looking up INFINITE SPACE in the ODQ that revealed all! 27ac was A KING, A NUT-SHELL was running counter-clockwise around SAD/ERM (bad dreams) in rows 4 and 5, which in turn became HAM/LET. And I decided that 1dn Mark stood behind son, drinking weak, stale pints (6) just had to be OWCHES, despite that referring to ouch1 ‘expressing pain’ rather than ouch2 ‘brooch’ (for pin).

Thanks to ‘Eck for an enjoyable solve, and for filling those four hours before Christmas when I wasn’t otherwise shopping playing golf down the pub occupied.

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