Listener No 4430: G&S by Pilcrow
Posted by Dave Hennings on 13 January 2017
Last year Pilcrow’s Black or White was all to do with St Francis of Assissi and Popes, and before that (in 2012) we had one all about Arsène Wenger (one of only two football managers whose names I know). This week, Gilbert and Sullivan (or Gold and Silver) were giving us a hint towards the theme (or not).
Here we had an aphabetical jigsaw, with the added complication of two entries being unclued and the rest having an extra word which needed to be removed from each clue before solving. That was the bad news; the good news was that it was the Tuesday after Christmas, so all the kerfuffle was over for another year.
A quick tot up of grid and entry lengths showed that the two unclued entries were of 7 and 10 letters. Unfortunately, the only clued 10-letter word was no. 11 Amaryllid worn by Archibald initially, virile fellow (some women suppose), so elegant (10) and was so convoluted that I temporarily gave it a wide berth.
Starting from the beginning, I solved 5 of the first 9 and then 7 out of the last 15. In the middle was a horribly long gap of 14 unsolved clues, from FIACRES to RIA. Luckily with these alphabetical gizmos, the basic framework enables gaps to slowly get filled in, and after about two hours I had all but a few clues ticked off.
Even though there were some clues still to be solved, I decided to try some grid filling. The 3-letter word RIA could have FIACRES crossing if it went in the top-right corner, and putting BELIEVE in row 4 seemed to work with either DENVER and KELVIN crossing in column 9. It looked as though I had made some lucky guesses since the top row soon looked as though it could be THE WORLD OF.
Another short while later, and it was THE SOUND OF SILENCE that went into row 1 and column 5. So not Gilbert and Sullivan, but Garfunkel and Simon! The grid was soon finished off, and all that was left was to disentangle the first and last letters of the extra words to reveal another work and some sort of instruction which would affect all 40 words in the grid.
First, the extra words had to be arranged in conventional clue order to give:
My first attempt to derive the messages got off to an appalling start, with Erase everything but the forty-three seconds followed by John Cage’s four minutes… and then rubbish. Luckily, I had heard of the bizarre piece by Cage, and soon had:
John Cage’s Four minutes thirty-three seconds
Erase everything but the notes in Cage’s piece
Now it took me a few seconds (minutes?) to get my head around “Erase everything but nothing”, but in the end I had… nothing! This tied in with having to “alter all 40 entries to form the final submission”. (Mind you, every entry contains one or more notes of the form A–G, so who knows!)
So I’m guessing that this was another attempt at a 0% error rate. Stick Insect’s Reductio ad Absurdum two years ago had a large number of entries but nearly 20% got it wrong! Better luck with this one, Pilcrow, and perhaps JEG had time to put his feet up this Christmas.