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Listener No. 4388: Cycle 20% More by Smudge

Posted by Dave Hennings on 25 March 2016

Spoiler alert: This was one tough nut to crack!

OK, so it’s not really a spoiler since, if you tackled it, you would know exactly that. This, was, apparently, the work of a new setter. With my detective hat on, it seems that it was. And what a stinker stunner.

For a start, the preamble was, to say the least, convoluted. It seemed that we were destined to find Creators (going their separate ways), a Plot, a Contest, a Title and a secret Sign. Describing the clues in a nutshell also proved tricky, but here goes…

Listener 4388Acrosses had one letter travelling between words, one of the words needing to be ignored to solve. The downs had words travelling between clues with minor modification of “a section of one or more letters” on the way. I presumed this meant that ‘setter’ could become ‘letter’ or indeed could become ‘solver’ (but I wasn’t sure too sure about that). One of the differing parts would eventually need adding to the top row. The across letters spelt out the Creators, but were otherwise entered normally. Down answers needed to be entered according to a discovery which resolved the Plot.

I suspected that Smudge had been honing the preamble for several years.

The 12-letter entry across the top had no unches. Unfortunately it had no clue either. 13ac Northern Irish rustic cared, wanted Scots pinched (6) looked like ‘cared’ could become ‘carted’ with ‘wanted’ becoming ‘waned’ and, with ‘wanted’ being discarded, we got NIRLED. I had to check that ‘to cart’ meant ‘to lead’; in fact, under lead1 we had ‘cart (dialect)’. All that took nearly 5 minutes. The next few failed, but 17 Lawfully gobbed spot of alcohol, 50% proof? (3) became Gobbled spot of alcohol, 50% proof? (3) and led to ATE from A + TE[ST].

I thought I’d give the down clues in the top left corner a go.

I soon came back to the acrosses having failed miserably! After about 40 minutes, I had gone through them once. Although I had only a few actually solved, I had made a note of letters which could be the culprit in each clue. Some eluded me, but already I had T•ebli•s•wassu•li•a•. It didn’t take too long to pick out Gilbert (OK, in reverse) and Sullivan.

I was over the hill and half way home. Except I had no idea how that was going to help me with the down clues, or indeed any other part of the puzzle. (In hindsight, I was probably only 10% of the way there.)

Time to give the down clues some serious attention. 19dn Pairing complex Fourier analysis with positive entropy for nearly all (8) seemed a good place to start, with S, N and I already in place. This looked like an anagram of ANALYSIS with AL replaced by PS (S = entropy). SYNAPSIS tumbled out, and ‘Fourier’ needed dropping.

That ‘Fourier’ looked suspicious, especially with ‘five-bar gate’ next door at 20dn. And don’t forget ‘batwoman’ at 33dn. Exactly how these were transformed into words that were needed by their partner clues eluded me. There were even words like ‘light’ at 3dn which could become ‘eight’. My brain was beginning to hurt, and I was already two hours into the solve with no end in sight.

Here, one of the problems was trying to deduce what words needed adding to the downs to enable the clues to make sense. That was equivalent to jogging up to the starting block and then having to run the race, without knowing whether it was going to be a 100 metre sprint or a 1500 metre. (I’ll ignore the marathon for now.)

Back to SYNAPSIS at 19dn: the I that I had was in the sixth position not the seventh, so presumably we were looking at anagrams with both Ss in the unchecked squares. Well, it was a start.

I was solving clues gradually as I teased out wordplay, definition and word/letter movements. 6dn League must quit [from suit in 35dn] fold after German assent; I’m not moving (7) gave J’ADOUBE which I’d not heard of before — JA + DOUBLE (fold) – L (league). 10 Sailor with line cutting mast head up once covering wound on head (6) enabled TURBAN to be slotted into place without needing to resolve the wordplay!

I think I can say that, for a novice, Smudge’s clues were incredible, and used devices that I hadn’t come across before. Take 1dn Painters missing bits of basins (4) which needed a word based on ‘Fourier’ to be added. The answer was fairly obviously PANS, and it looked as though it was progressive elements of PaiNterS. In fact, ‘Fourier’ became ‘tier’ to give Painters missing bits of tier basins (4). OK, it doesn’t make any sense, but it wasn’t meant to. The answer was PAINTERS – the letters of TIER.

It was as I was concentrating on the bottom right corner that all those As finally hit home. We weren’t dealing with simple anagrams, but even simpler movements of letters A to the end of their answers.

At about the same time, the top row was beginning to take shape with the numerical value of letters, or indeed just numbers, being added to their true letters. So far, I had TH••RA•D•UK•, and The Grand Duke by Gilbert and Sullivan finally revealed itself to be the theme. I won’t go into the plot in detail here; as with many G&S operettas it is tortuous. Suffice it to say that part of it deals with a statutory duel which replaces dangerous swordplay with the drawing of cards, the man with the lower card losing. (Go here for Wiki’s description of The Grand Duke.)

So all those As at the bottom represented Aces which beat, or at least didn’t lose to, the opposing card which was added to the top row. This seemed the wrong way round to me, but another piece of the jigsaw was fitted. I still had about a dozen clues remaining to either solve or rationalise the wordplay for.

Needless to say 15 and 16ac were two of these, since the answer to 10dn wasn’t TURBAN but TULBAN. Thank goodness the L was checked. This enabled 15 to make sense [Every] one of Highland kin kine in a state before … (5) with the … representing what came next and giving KYLOE.

The last clue that I rationalised was 7dn Earl, not baron, in one of four including wealth (4) which gained a modification of ‘Aden’ in order to make sense. Seeing a word lose a number (eg ‘sleight’ giving ‘sly’) was easy; realising that there was a word which worked the other way was trickier, and here it took me ages to work out that ‘Aden’ became ‘adenine’, despite having known the answer was EASE since very early on.

Finally, what was the secret sign? Wikigoogle tells me it was a sausage roll, so we had to find anagrams of types of sausage in the grid. They turned out to be LORNE, BALONEY, SAUSAGE, CORN DOG and SAVELOY. LORNE and SAVELOY could each be entered in more than one way, but only one way gave STATUTORY DUEL running NW–SE in two of the diagonals.

Actually, that wasn’t quite ‘finally’. The wiki article tells us:

Ludwig and the Princess are about to go off to yet another wedding party, when Ernest, Rudolph and Dr Tannhäuser burst in. The Notary reveals that the Act regulating statutory duels specifically lays down that the ace shall count as lowest, so Ludwig did not win, was never Grand Duke, and cannot have revived the act. Within seconds, the Act expires, returning Ludwig to the living. All dance off to get married — Rudolph and the Princess; Ernest and Julia; and Ludwig and Lisa.

Thus, the Aces are correctly placed at the bottom of the grid. You also get a flavour here for how convoluted and bizarre the plot is!

Listener 4388 My EntryI breathed a huge sigh of relief as I finished this puzzle on the morning of the Listener Setters’ Dinner in Old Windsor. I just needed to work out the title, but that eluded me… and still does.

What a phenomenal puzzle, and dare I hope for another tour de force from Smudge again sometime. Thanks for the challenge.

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3 Responses to “Listener No. 4388: Cycle 20% More by Smudge”

  1. David Mansell said

    The Grand Duke is set in a country called Pfennig-Halpfennig which could be translated into English as “Penny-halfpenny”. In Victorian times a penny-halfpenny could also be six farthings. If you subtract 20% from six farthings you get five farthings which could be translated as a penny-farthing, which was a (bi)cycle.

  2. Thanks, David. Thank goodness we weren’t required to explain the title in our solutions!

  3. Gail Busza said

    I didn’t understand the title either until David’s comment above (thanks David!), but actually you have to ADD 20% to the five farthings to get the six farthings, therefore 20% more than the penny-farthing bicycle.

    Sorry to be pedantic! 🙂

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