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Listener No 4417: HMS Arcady by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by Dave Hennings on 14 October 2016

Last time, Hedge-sparrow had us trying to remember the collective nouns of various creatures, and before that we had to draw a fairly accurate map of the Thames from Oxford to Kingston, courtesy Three Men in a Boat. This week we seemed have a nautical theme.

listener-4417Lots of things were missing from the clues: from all the acrosses, just one letter, but from six down clues, a whole jumble of thematic items. The across letters would spell out an author and a poem. Twelve items in the grid were provided by the Thematic clues, but they were in random order and clued in pairs. Finally, a Thematic word had to be written below the grid. A lot was going on here… no wonder it was a 14×14 grid.

Hedge-sparrow seemed to be very generous with his across clues. 6 JUDAS, 13 IRID, 14 ELBA, 20 ARNA and 21 RAFT were quickly slotted in. Frequently, I would blithely carry on with the across clues, but I couldn’t help but glance at the dropped letters from the five I’d already solved — J•HNM•S. Well, JOHN was obviously there, and I had a sneaky suspicion that MASEFIELD was the likely author.

Two poems from my school days immediately came to mind: The Listeners and Cargoes. The former was unlikely for two reasons: firstly, it was too long to fit with the number of across clues, and secondly, it was by Walter de la Mare! So Cargoes it was, and I wrote the remaining letters of Masefield and Cargoes alongside the corresponding across clues.

If I still smoked, I would’ve sat back in my chair, lit up and felt smug. As it was, I just felt smug.

As I took another puff on my imaginary cigarette, I tried to remember all the items in the poem. I stubbed it out impatiently after a couple of minutes as only five came to mind. (Well, it was over 50 years ago, and no, I won’t tell you which ones.)

After that, it was a fairly straightforward solve. Even the GALLEON and COASTER were easy to spot. However, I thoroughly enjoyed disentangling the six thematic items from the down clues:

1 Bird of prey pecks acorn for younger one in its nest (4) PEACOCKS
4 When we tweet, is it about fashion? (3) SWEET WHITE WINE
15 For Ivy, blocking free trade is not so sensible (6) IVORY
19 A codeword ready, trimmed in advance? (8) CEDARWOOD
25 French copper downloads a short film (4) SANDALWOOD
39 Sprawling seaport on island prominences (4) APES

QUINQUIREME was soon written under the grid, and I just needed to understand which thematic clues went with which of the other boats’ cargoes:

A Space age boys firing a pistol fight on Earth EMERALDS and IRON-WARE
B Retiring girl on date is little Rachel, wearing shades DIAMONDS and TIN TRAYS
C Cursory disguise concealing ancient lodge to North East in conifer plantation CINNAMON and FIREWOOD
D Advanced drunkenness — time for one sad old Rector to get thrown out of bar! AMETHYSTS and ROAD-RAILS
E Old man’s into cards: devil to play first TOPAZES and PIGLEAD
F Be lost in Rannoch pass over a wild moor-side TYNE-COAL and MOIDORES

All done and dusted in under 90 minutes. All that was left was to reread the preamble. Shock horror! I nearly missed it: “The thematic word (11 letters) associated with these items must be written below the grid, in the Chambers spelling” (my bold). I looked the word up in Chambers and found that it was spelt QUINQUEREME. Luckily I could change my second I to an E without too much trouble.

listener-4417-my-entryThanks to Hedge-sparrow for an entertaining, if easy, puzzle. Not for the first time, I had the suspicion that the subject of a Listener puzzle knew that his or her poem was going to be used as a theme — just look at the symmetry that H-s managed to organise in the grid! However, I look forward to a setter’s blog to explain the title.


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