Listener No 4427: Shut That Door! by Bandmaster
Posted by Dave Hennings on 23 December 2016
Bandmaster’s last puzzle was the phenomenal Duet for One back in July 2012, which justly won the Ascot Gold Cup for that year. Basically, it involved solving a standard barred 13×13 grid, converting it into a 13×13 blocked grid with BUY ONE, GET ONE FREE in the two diagonals, and then highlighting BOGOF in the original grid.
This week, joy of joys, a carte blanche with lots of two- and three-word entries. Many cells contained thematic groups of letters which needed to be replaced with numbers. I think I should have sussed what was required at this stage. Sadly, I didn’t.
Clues for entries where no thematic letters occurred contained an extra word whose initial letters would spell out something to help with the central isolated two squares. The first across clue Oily swimmer lands chief in trouble (10) was a straightforward anagram and, once FISH had been removed, the CANDLE was fairly easy to spot.
I decided to look at the first down clue Clean-timbered, I initially may be cut rough? (10). My first task was to look up clean-timbered in Chambers, which gave “adj (Shakesp) well-proportioned.” If I’d played around with CANDLE-something, I may have solved it. Sadly I didn’t.
The second across clue One girl embraced by another? Fantastic! (9) made me try Mrs B, but to no avail. Chambers Crossword Dictionary, however, enabled me to pencil in IMAGINARY. Concentrating on the first few down clues, I got FLAMBE and possibly SEAL for Otary? Notary’s close (4), although I wasn’t 100% happy with the reference to ‘Notary’. (It turned out that was an extra word.)
Next came ORCHIS, followed by MAGICALLY, which I should have noticed had four letters in common with IMAGINARY. Sadly, I didn’t.
However, when REPRESENT and PRESENT DAY were revealed, about 45 minutes into the solve, everything became clear. Whole words were to be entered into the thematic squares. Up to that point, I had assumed that letters dropped from an across entry would merge with those dropped from a down, giving something thematic. What’s more, it was fairly obvious that we were dealing with an advent calendar.
After that, it was plain sailing, and you know what that means… about another three hours! But what a pleasure it was. Discovering JOSEPHINITE crossing with NOT FOR JOSEPH and DE QUINCEY (not WORDSWORTH) crossing PETER QUINCE was great fun.
The clue to CANDLE-TREE Clean-timbered, I initially may be cut rough? (10) turned out to be a superb &lit. — (CLEAN-TIMBERED – I M(ay) B(e))*. Among other fine clues, I particularly liked Wessex, for instance, clearly includes Dorset (4) (extra word Dorset) for EARL and, obviously, Nudists look terrible, initially, bare (5) (extra word Nudists) for SCAN.
In the final grid, the alphabetic position of the each thematic word’s initial letter had to replace the word. The initials of the extra words spelt out Advent calendar not opened, and 24 needed to be entered into the two central squares to represent Xmas Eve.
Thanks go to Bandmaster for a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle, especially as we weren’t required to actually open the windows.