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The Listener Audience by Pointer

Posted by shirleycurran on 20 May 2016

Pointer endgameccwThe Magpie has just arrived (Magpie plug – six more Listener-style crosswords every month) and we groaned as we leafed through it, “Surely not three cartes blanches!” Imagine our reaction when we downloaded this Pointer and saw yet another grid with no bars. Yes, it had numbers, but the preamble didn’t exactly reassure us since we were told that solutions were to be entered ‘starting at a point to be determined and continuing at the beginning if the answer reaches the end’. It got worse: ‘six rows contain an unclued entry’.

Well, it was easy to establish, by a simple addition of clue lengths, that those six rows were 4,5,6,8, 10 and 11, and that the additional answers were all three letters long.

The other Numpty was solving furiously, almost in clue order, as these were very generous clues but, of course, I had to establish Pointer’s continued membership of the Listener Oenophile Society and he left no doubt at all about that with ‘Is it Lambrusco? See “Italy” on back (4)’ V + I + ON< = VINO. Further confirmation came in the down clues with, ‘Women in the middle of vineyard like its product (5)’ Indeed we do, Pointer – what a fine clue too! W IN + (vin)EY(ard) giving WINEY.

There were a few clues that raised a smile. ‘Leak in rear section of tent (3)’ gave a rather startling unhygienic image, then a chortle as we realized that this was (tee)PEE. Smart old waitress: “Pie’s off” (3)’ had us checking that, indeed, NIPPIE was an old word for a waitress and, sure enough, Chambers gave us ‘n (with cap; ) a waitress, esp one in a Lyons teashop (also Nipp’ie)’.

PointerOf course, with this sort of grid fill, the solver is desperately waiting for an obscure letter like a Z, an X, a K, a J or a Q, in order to be able to fit the words into the grid, and, obligingly, Pointer gave us three with J: ‘Vessel not needed in expeditions for old bits of silver (5)’ giving JO(urn)EYS,; ‘Judge to bundle up unisex cloak (5)’ giving J + BALE< = JELAB; and ‘Man collects uranium left for physicist (5)’ giving JOE round U L = JOULE. Of course I attempted the wrong pair first, but the error was soon evident and when I intersected the Js of JOEYS and JELAB, all was well and within minutes, all our missing solutions had almost solved themselves and we had a full grid with six rather strange acronyms in the unclued slots.

So now what? We had to ‘substitute one letter in each column to reveal new words … all examples of a keyword’. We had already wondered whether changing an E to a B in the fourth column (creating BROTH) would give us BBC which might link to ‘The Listener Audience’ but we didn’t make the obvious link to ZOOSH changing to HOOSH (even though I have a bit of an obsession with the Antarctic explorers of early last century and the HOOSH that frequently appeared in Scott’s accounts). Sadly BABOOSH exists and seemed like a convincing seven-letter substitution. But what has a heelless slipper to do with the BBC or BROTH?

We grid-stared for almost twice as long as the original grid-fill had taken us since I was convinced that those word lengths we were given were to be read in column order and that I had to find two nine-letter words in columns 12 and 13. We had a dinner break – fish, not soup – but a fresh start produced BORSH (yes, it was a red-herring and not the filets de perche we had just enjoyed and yes, it can be spelled that way) which suggested SOUP!

Now MADRILENE, PALESTINE, LOKSHEN (not borsh), GUMBO, DUCK, BISQUE, POTTAGE, PEA, PHO, HOOSH, OXTAIL and RAMEN were teased out of the grid, with the help, of course, of Mrs Bradford. How did we realize that we needed LOKSHEN and not borsh. Those letters that I mentioned earlier suddenly loomed large and we had that telling number of 26 letters that were ‘ALL’ involved in substitutions. “It’s ALPHABET SOUP!” one of us cried in triumph and, of course, the Internet told us what that had to do with all those three-letter acronyms.

TLA – three-letter acronyms, Chambers tells us, and we finally understand the title. That’s us, the TLA, The Listener Audience. Many thanks to Pointer for such a complete and accomplished challenge.

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