Listen With Others

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Child’s Play by Serpent

Posted by shirleycurran on 12 Aug 2016

SerpentChild’s Play by Serpent? There was a moment of instant recognition – surely not Dysart under a new pseudonym producing another version of his Snakes and Ladders game that delighted us when we were just new solvers and bloggers? Wasn’t that called ‘Child’s Play‘? I remember drawing all those snakes and ladders that were spelled out by the remaining letters when we had deleted the irrelevant ones. (That was in 2009, have I really been blogging Listen With Others for seven years!) But Ilver has produced two versions of his demoniacal Child’s Play in the Magpie, Rasputin gives us difficult chess games for precocious children and Wan had that winning game of Ludo in the Magpie too, so maybe this is some other game.

Nothing to do but solve. Well, of course I must first re-establish Serpent’s membership of the Listener Alcohol Imbibers’ Outfit so I scan the clues for evidence and find a rather scanty ‘Drinkers may pull on these old hats (6)’ STRAWS, obviously, and ‘Several measures taken by Bohemian county once to protect king from the east (6)’ SALOP< round K giving POLKAS. Not much alcohol – I’d better look for some other obsession and oh dear! The evidence is alarming.

He starts with the underwear: ‘Change article of underwear to start to eliminate odours (6)’ gives SMALLS with E(liminate) for A giving SMELLS. Then we get the NUTS: ‘Aquatic plants and fish colonising nuts(6)’ AYU or AI in NADS (by this time our Editor would be telling me ‘We have to avoid offending the more sensitive solvers’). Serpent hasn’t finished yet: ‘The ultimate pair of cojones is framed by dog’s legs (6)’ STAG[S] (or dogs) round ES giving STAGES (or legs).  It gets worse: ‘American with dangly bits set saddle askew (8)’ SET SAD[D]LE* giving TASSELED (US spelling).

It would be unladylike to comment on ‘I must blow divine instrument (7)’ CELESTIA[L] dropping I to give CELESTA or on ‘Perhaps African does lap dances with maid (6)’ LAP + MAI[D]* giving IMPALA. Indeed, I am going to have to rethink the Listener imbibers’ club if our initial clue scan has to be a hunt for louche, lecherous, raunchy and scurrilous clues so I solve ‘Nude art represented nakedness (6)’ NU[D]E ART* giving NATURE, suggest Serpent get his coat and resolve to stick to the drinks next week.

With all those solutions in place and some fine gifts like ANTE, NAAN, PILLOW, EARS and DENTAL, we quickly establSerpent gridish that this is indeed a board game with the words entered boustrophedonaly, most starting on the square where the player’s counter landed as he shook a series of sixes and, obligingly, Serpent has confirmed this as SNAKES going downwards and LADDERS rising fill our centre column. That was a clever touch that left us with little doubt about the endgame (though we did wonder whether, in Dysart style, we had to search for snake names or ladders – but the only type of ladder seemed to be that STEP at clue g ‘Fuel blocks up stage (4)’ PE[A]TS<).

The preamble was clear – ‘The extra letters identify the thematic items, which must be drawn in the grid to complete the puzzle’ and reading the across clues in order gave us a clear sequence of game moves. Following those clues told us where, for example, we had to climb the ladder from the end of SALUTE to the start of POLKAS.

I thought my final grid looked rather a mess with all those ladders crossing but we did enjoy the theme. Thank you Serpent.

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