Listener No 4423: A Bit Up in the Air by Phi
Posted by Dave Hennings on 25 November 2016
Buried Treasure: Postscript
SCENE: The Editor’s office, less than a week ago.
There is a desk in the centre of the room. There is an in-tray on the desk. It has a habit of disappearing, but is currently just empty. There is a clock on the wall. It reads 11:00.
There are two chairs: a big one is behind the desk and a small one in front of it. Editor is sitting on the big chair and Sub-editor on the small one. Both are looking out of the window. The postman walks past and there is the sound of some letters being pushed through the letter-box. More letters follow, then more and finally more. They both go out of the office and return, each carrying a large bundle of letters.
There is now also an out-tray on the desk.
Sub-editor: I see the in-tray has got some company.
Editor: Looks like it might come in handy.
They put all the letters in the in-tray and sit down. Editor takes the first one, opens it and reads it. Sub-editor does the same with the second.
Editor: It’s somebody moaning about Poat’s Buried Treasure puzzle. He says that the solution is unfair, especially as he saw the hare in the preamble but decided that would be too bizarre, even for a Listener. (He puts the letter in the out-tray.)
Sub-editor: This one’s crying foul as well. She says that there is a hare running across the top of the grid in a series of knight’s moves. (He puts the letter in the out-tray.)
Editor (reading the third letter): And this one. He says he saw the hare in the preamble, thought that was very unlikely, and spent another 14 hours trying to find another one in a straight line. Having failed, he highlighted the preamble hare, but didn’t hold much hope. He says that “If you’re not 100% sure, you’re almost certainly wrong” didn’t seem to apply this week. (This letter also goes in the out-tray.)
Sub-editor (reading next letter): Somebody here lifted the LIFT in LIFT-GIRL and highlighted the HARE that then ran along row 5. (Letter goes in out-tray.)
Editor (reading next letter): This solver wonders whether highlighting the preamble would have been marked wrong if we had decided on one of the other ways of highlighting HARE in the grid.
DISSOLVE to clock which now reads 12:45.
Sub-editor (taking last letter from in-tray): This one is from a long-time solver who tilted the letters of HARE in SEARCH AREA in the grid and made sure they were in a straight line, thus fulfilling all the requirements of the preamble. That’s what Dave Hennings did. I thought it was far more stylish than the solution that we went for. I think I said so at the time.
Editor (sneering at Sub-editor): Yes, you did! But at least Dave wasn’t an all-correct having made that laughable mistake with his Yellow Submarine highlighting. Plus, he was a prize-winner with Hedge-sparrow’s John Masefield puzzle. Still, I’ll buy Dave a couple of pints at the next Listener get-together. That’ll make him happy.
Sub-editor puts the last letter in the out-tray, which slowly disappears. At the same time, another letter appears in the in-tray. Editor takes it.
Editor: It’s post-marked next January. (He opens it and reads it.) “Roger, Thanks for the drinks yesterday. I’m still not happy. Best wishes, Dave.”
Any similarity to actual events is just wishful thinking.
A Bit Up in the Air
The clueing was intriguing. Twelve clues contained an extra word which would somehow yield a phrase and an anagram, and eight clues led to two words differing by one letter, only one of which (obviously) would become the grid entry. (I say “obviously”, but in his puzzle, Poat had decided that both letters should go into the relevant square.)
I enjoyed this second clue type, since the wordplay was to the words without their differing letter. For example, 2dn Australian temple recipe used in function (6) defined STRINE and SHRINE with R in SINE for the wordplay. I got that and the crossing SHARING/STARING fairly early in my solve. I wondered if all the differences were H/T when I got 17ac Encourages busy store to stock unknown screws (7): EXHORTS/EXTORTS and STORE* containing X.
I had my eye on the diagonals early on, especially with ITER… running down the NW–SE (ITERATIVELY?). However, it was deeply satisfying to finally discard that, and discover that taking the first/last letters of the extra words in order gave HEADS OR TAILS (running upwards in the right half of the grid) and its anagram I HERALD A TOSS (running down the left).
Actually, I’m not sure that this was 100% fair. You needed to identify the theme ‘Heads or Tails’ in order to determine how to use the extra words, but you needed the anagrams from the extra words in order to identify the theme. (Only joking!!)
I had heard of these anagrams many years ago, but had also, like many things, forgotten them. Thanks to Phi for a fairly gentle and enjoyable puzzle. If you want to read his setter’s blog, it’s already available on his web site Phi Crosswords.