Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin

‘Common Acid Test’ by Stan

Posted by Encota on 28 Oct 2016


Isn’t The Book of Kells one of the most amazing pieces of artwork?   As many of you will know (and certainly by the time you read this) it’s on display in Trinity College Dublin.  I nearly got to visit it once – and definitely one for my list.  Having seen facsimiles of many of the plates I’d recommend a visit it to you all, if you are anywhere even vaguely nearby (same continent, perhaps?).

According to the TCD website (and I certainly wouldn’t disagree) the Book of Kells is Ireland’s greatest cultural treasure and the world’s most famous medieval manuscript. The 9th century book is a richly decorated copy of the four Gospels of the life of Jesus Christ.  One small sample attached here:


So, on to Stan’s delightful puzzle.  Once some of the across clues were solved then ‘Illuminated Manuscript’ looked a very likely candidate for the two-word description.  But the rest of the hidden phrase seemed much harder to crack.

For example, the final clue:
Poor relation, most excellent at first
really threw me initially.  I assumed correctly that the definition must be ‘Poor’: my first guess at the answer, which I then tried to ‘parse into place’ was MEAGRE.  Could I shoehorn ME (Most Excellent) + AGRE[E] in somehow?  ‘Agree’ and ‘relation’ are similar?  Answer: maybe but not similar enough.  When I then stumbled on NAN as the possible relation (yes, there’s no Def By Example indicator, I know, I know), then I foolishly thought ME [N]AN gave MEAN and I put N aside as the added letter.  When the hidden letters for the ‘something that must appear therein’ began to look like “…LARGEST C??N” I was stumped. COIN for Corner in a French illuminated manuscript, perhaps??  Eventually I guessed CELL, then spotted that this last clue was actually MERE and parsed as ME RE[L].

I’m not sure if it was last week’s Sabre, where every clue appeared to have an extra level of indirection in it, that meant I took time to get on Stan’s wavelength.  There were several abbreviations that I missed until I’d already guessed the answers and which look very clear in hindsight:

  • ap. for apparently
  • rel. for relation
  • cel. for celebrated

How did I get delayed by those?  Was it just me? (Probably!)

And was I the only one to pause over…

Inclination to get high put out near conclusion

…I wonder?  There seemed to be so many possible ways to parse it!  I tried UPEND but that didn’t quite work; I then tried TREND which again didn’t quite account for all the wordplay; and eventually I combined the two and went with UPTREND.

And finally, the Title?  I guess one of the most well-known ways of testing for acid is using LITMUS; add a bit of commonness, i.e. non-U, and this becomes LIT MS.
Illuminated (LIT) + ManuScript (MS) – simple, eh?

Loved it – thanks Stan!

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