Listener No. 4408: Child’s Play by Serpent
Posted by Dave Hennings on 12 August 2016
I seem to be constantly running late with my Listener solving, and I only got around to this on the Saturday a week after publication. It was 7am. It was also the day of our occasional Listener get-together in London, and I didn’t want to turn up without having cracked this puzzle. It was Serpent’s first Listener, although he’s had about half a dozen elsewhere.
The preamble told us that we had to deduce the location and entry method of the across answers, all of which were 6-lettered and apparently listed in a logical sequence. I decided to give them a quick once-over to see how easy they were. Despite getting 1 DENTAL and 2 LARDER, only another half dozen came forward. I wondered if there were common letters between successive answers, but knew that was unlikely to help identify their location.
Proceeding with the downs, these had an extra letter in the wordplay not to be entered in the grid. I managed precisely half (eight) on my first pass, including REPENTER and TASSELED in the left and right halves respectively. Moreover ANTE and NAAN in the bottom left meant that DENTAL could go along the bottom of the grid, and LARDER could follow with the L overlapping. (Personal preference re clue p Anna’s kneaded bread: I didn’t like the way the extra letter S was indicated.)
I must admit that the clues were a bit slow coming, but after about 90 minutes I had •n•••s•nd•add•rs, and knew we were dealing with the children’s game of Snakes and Ladders, or as Americans would say (always different, and hopelessly PC) Chutes and Ladders. I could leave for London feeling happy.
The following day, all the snakes and ladders could be utilised to fill the grid running logically from bottom left to top left. Entries overlapped when they ran consecutively. There were five ladders and four snakes on the way, not to mention some tricky clues to resolve. I particularly liked clue a The ultimate pair of cojones is framed by dog’s legs (6) with its sneaky definition for STAGES.
Thanks to Serpent for some entertaining childhood reminiscences. And not for the first time this year, I pitied JEG having to check that all the ups and downs were drawn correctly. Also, apologies for my somewhat pathetic drawings of snakes, but I’m sure Shirley will make up for it.