Listener No. 4414: Quads II by Shark
Posted by Dave Hennings on 23 September 2016
Shark’s last Listener was Quads which had us turning one quadrant of the completed grid to overlay another and then filling the empty cells with all the original entries’ initial letters. Here we had no. II, and the preamble seemed to indicate a somewhat entertaining endgame. The clues, however, didn’t seem to hold too many surprises with the wordplay not indicating one of the letters of the entry. We were even told how many such letters there would be (15) but that might mean that thirty clues were affected.
The only real problem seemed to be that we were faced with a carte blanche, so I decided to start my attack in the north-west quadrant.
I failed with the first four acrosses, so moved on to the downs and was rewarded with 1 Fractions shift ground (6) for FIFTHS, so one F wasn’t wordplayed, but which one. Both were checked, so time would tell. In fact, only a minute later told, with 1ac Starved following drunk losing weight (6) giving FASTED (intact) and 12ac Reads about DJ’s controls (6) for FADERS (without its F). Actually it needed SEDANS at 3dn to help with FASTED (F + WASTED – W).
The remainder of the NW corner was finished pretty quickly. The south-west wasn’t quite as straightforward. However, I enjoyed the clue to 24ac After knocking back fizz I’m behaving like a schoolgirl (7), even though it would be some time before it was revealed as MISSISH.
I also made faltering progress with the north-east corner… oh, and the south-east as well. In the NE, I liked 11ac Flipping toffs’ mode of transport (4) for SHAY and in the SE it was 27dn Hard area of Liverpool, ultimately not so hard (6) that caused a smirk. I would probably still be struggling to understand that clue were it not for Ken Dodd, with KNOTTY ASH – AS (so) H (hard).
However, no prize for guessing which was my favourite clue since you should know how my mind works by now: 18ac Wall Street office would be protective if attached to New York (4)! The trickiest clue was probably 32ac Upset about condition of upper storey (8) since only three letters were given by the wordplay: ATE< from DEMENTIA. There was also the reference to Harry Potter in the clue to SNITCH at 6ac — something to do with Quidditch, I think.
I finished Stage 1 of the puzzle in about 2½ hours. The 15 letters not given by wordplay were FOURTH DIMENSION and I scoured the grid for DOCTOR, TARDIS, MASTER and DALEKS to no avail.
Stage 2 required us to black out 40 cells, keeping the 15 letters intact and with the grid having 90-degree symmetry. 60 cells could instantly be marked as remaining, and it didn’t take too long to identify the rest, especially with words like DISCUSS and THEISTS which could be due for topping or tailing later.
Stage 3 just required us to divide the grid into four pieces of the same size and shape and keeping real words. It seemed that we were given a choice for the two letter entries that would be left in rows/columns 2 and 11. ITA, EMO, RET and OBI could become IT, EM, ET and BI, except that ET wasn’t given its own entry in Chambers, only as part of a phrase. That left TA, MO, RE and OB to be left as the two-letter words.
Nearly home, and Stage 4 required us to change two letters in each quadrant to reveal four thematic words. On first reading of the preamble, I had thought this might be the tricky bit, but it didn’t take me long to see that WIDTH, HEIGHT, LENGTH and TIME needed to appear inwards along the diagonals. My biggest d’oh moment was trying to work out what the hell MODELT meant!
Great fun as expected from Shark, and a fascinating concept for a puzzle. I look forward to another Quads in the near future but hope that it hasn’t given Sabre an idea for Quins or Octs!