G & S by Pilcrow
Posted by shirleycurran on 13 January 2017
Carte blanche with just the bars in it. Are we going to convert this into a set of fancy Christmas decorations or have Rudolph, Dasher, Donner and Blitzen and all that lot prancing round our final grid? We expect something Christmassy for the Christmas weekend. With that in mind, I do that essential check to see whether Pilcrow is imbibing the Listener Christmas spirit It’s a fairly dry run to begin with: I spot some BOVRIL, ‘[Intriguing] extract from first half of dance entertaining Queen Victoria (6)’ BOL(ero) around VRI, and tease out PORTER from ‘Songwriter [refuses] liquor (6)’ (double definition) but then realize that Pilcrow is benefiting from a hidden bar, ‘Missing opening of Thespis, drag oneself along to find [hidden] bar (4)’ (TRAIL less T(hespis) – so all is well. Cheers, Pilcrow.
These are very generous clues, and, since we have colour-coded the solution lengths and matched them to the spaces in the grid, we know that we are hunting for a 10,7 couple of solutions that will spell out our song title of four words.
Our usual weakness is spotting extra words in grids but only one of these escapes us. Later, back-solving, we have to work out why ‘chamber’ is the extra word in ‘Overtures of Pirates and Iolanthe begin-old fashioned piped [chamber] music (7)’ giving P I + BROCH.
However, even though the first 20 clues we solve produce lots of encouraging Vs and Bs, we have half the solutions before a lucky intersection of PIBROCH and OBVERSE allows us to start our grid fill. That was a good hour of solving but things speed up now and soon we have a full grid (and have to take a dinner break with storm Barbara battering on the windows).
I was expecting the end game to be laborious but after listing those first and last letters of just a few clues in conventional order, I smile happily. JOHN CAGE’S FOUR MINUTES THIRTY THREE SECONDS, I am told. I don’t need to go to the Internet to know what that is telling me. Didn’t Cage instruct his musicians to play no notes? Nature’s sounds would be music enough?
Quite a few red herrings weren’t there? We found almost too many Gilbert and Sullivan prompts to be taken in, then expected another Simon and Garfunkel hit – say a ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ to be our theme but we were a bit more (or less?) highbrow than either of those with Cage.
I am left with ERASE EVERYTHING BUT THE NOTES IN CAGE’S PIECE. Am I really being told to send an empty grid or am I to leave ‘THE SOUND OF SILENCE’? Clearly the editors foresaw my dilemma, or Pilcrow did, since the preamble says very clearly that ‘the solver must alter all 40 entries to form the final submission’. Well, I can hear (not HARE but yes, the golden HARE is there in a straight line racing down column three!) my friends grumbling about having to send an empty grid but I liked it. Thank you, Pilcrow.