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Listener No. 4400: Three Steps to Heaven by Dysart

Posted by Dave Hennings on 17 June 2016

There was no Dysart last year, so I wondered whether he might have something dastardly in store for us here. I don’t think I’m giving too much away by saying that that was an understatement!

Listener 4400For a start, it was a carte blanche, but that shouldn’t be too daunting — we’re used to those. The preamble began innocuously: “Clues are given in conventional order.” After that, it got decidedly nocuous. Twelve answers would need modifying before entry, not necessarily making words… in three ways, four of each type… there would be some advice… but I’m not telling you its source… it will become evident… but I’m not telling you how! At the end, we would be required to rejig the grid so that it would display 180° symmetry… because it wouldn’t be symmetrical after the initial fill!

This was definitely time to have a cup of tea and a bit of cake.

A lot of cold solving lay ahead, starting with a clue I managed to get wrong, although I think I realised straightaway that 1ac Brilliant investigator in Florida backtracks (3) probably wasn’t the simple hidden DAB. A dab was an expert but not necessarily brilliant. Anyway, FORA, INSURER and ROSTI came next and I thought about pencilling them in the grid. However, I wasn’t sure exactly where, or more appropriately how, so I decided to scan through all the clues to see where that got me.

There were 50 clues altogether, and in under half an hour I had solved 14 out of the first 25. This would be easy, thought I. 20 minutes later and I had solved another 11, making 36 out of 50.

What’s more, clue number 27, about half way down the list, was DIABLE and that could be the first down entry coinciding with DAB (which I still knew was wrong). However, 28 was EONS and that enabled me finally to get DEF at 1. It looked as though INSURER would need to go in the top row or undergo some jiggery-pokery to fit at the beginning of the second row, followed by ROSTI. Of course, the second option would leave a large gap in the top row to the right of FORA.

I was now trying to work out what sort of modifications (three types, each affecting four answers) we might be dealing with. Jumbles, missing letters, extra letters, replaced letters? Nothing seemed obvious.

I solved a few more clues, and after about four hours, I had all but ten. EONS would have to become ENOS or ENSO (or perhaps even ENVIRONS or ENCRUSTATIONS) to fit with INSURER, but that still left a huge gap in the top right. My guess was that TIMOTHY (which I solved quite late… and well after the preamble’s reference to a source becoming evident had faded from my mind) would go down the end column, and with URALS and ATAP to its right, perhaps UBOAT would occupy the top row somehow!

A few clues still lay unsolved. These included 10 With case rebuffed, Peter perhaps gave up forsaken (6) and I wondered which Peter Dysart was referring to. 15 A number of particle physicists accordingly implicated in PR man’s admission (7) was also giving me problems. I had guessed that “a number of particle physicists” would refer to some sort of number, like π, but hey!, I don’t work at CERN.

At the end of the afternoon’s solving, I had managed to fit BRUTAL, DECO and STED somewhere in the bottom right meshing with LOUDEST, TYCHE and HALOED. I decided that a break would be in order (I’d actually had two or three already) and leave the puzzle till the following day.

At this point, I was also missing 48 Move up close to rival in low cunning (5). Despite ‘knowing’ that close to rival would be L, and that low and cunning would probably need to be treated separately, it was only as I was laying in bed that night that I realised what the clue was telling me. A quick reference to Mrs B the following day identified ‘early’ under low, and LEARY got slotted in the bottom right.

I was so relieved, that it took me another ten minutes to realise that I had TIMOTHY LEARY down the end column, and all became clear. I remember from an earlier puzzle (I’m guessing Loda’s IQ 1196, Seriously… back in 2011, although it didn’t seem that long ago) that Leary’s famous phrase (and book) was “Turn on, tune in and drop out”.

I was home and dry. Four words had ON reversed (IONS, EONS, ONSET and ONUS), four had words for ‘tune’ inserted (TUNE, MELODY, AIR and STRAIN), and four had OUT dropped (OUTLET, LOUTISH, OUTHER and OUTDID). A short while later and I had a filled grid, including 10 and 15, RENIED and ISOSPIN respectively.

Kudos to those who sussed the theme as soon as they solved TIMOTHY and/or LEARY, and also to those who got it from spotting the prevalence of ONs and OUTs in their answers.

Listener 4400 My EntryThis was a classic Dysart, and I couldn’t fault the clues. Having said that, I probably couldn’t have cold-solved 10 (Peter the Denier becoming RENIED) without going through Chambers word by word… several times. Eventually, my grid was redrawn, and I made sure that I had the requisite number of bars (56) and entries (44).

We’ve certainly had a few tough Listeners recently, so thanks to Dysart for another one that exercised my grey cells. Perhaps if I’d been on drugs I’d have got there sooner!


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