Listener No 4432: A Sign of The Times by Schadenfreude
Posted by Dave Hennings on 27 January 2017
One of the crossword world’s more prolific setter’s faced me this week. (For those of you who don’t know, he sets his EV puzzles under the pseudonym Oxymoron.) His last Listener was based on Buridan’s Ass with its carrot-chomping donkey (no 4363 Demolition).
I don’t know whether maintaining the Crossword Database helped, but the first thing I noticed was that the The of The Times in the title had a capital T, so obviously referred to the newspaper. I’m sure there was a crossword way, way back that had The Times clock as its theme. That appears on the editorial page and reads half past four. Anyway, that hardly helped at this stage of the puzzle.
28 clues (out of 48) had an extra wordplay letter. In the remainder, the answer would not occupy all the cells and would need completing once the theme was discovered.
As expected, on my first pass through the clues I got precious few. (OK, OK… it was a multiple of 2!) I think I probably sped through them too quickly, as about half an hour later, EMPTIER and TRYP (for a 7-letter entry) plus TOPI and INURED meant that the top left corner was looking good. Musing on TRYP again, I found TRYPSIN shortly after it in Chambers, and the S would make INURED become INSURED. Moreover, in the top right, DIETERS could become DIMETERS. Meanwhile, the wordplay for 1ac, which was ENTREES was a mystery.
The top right was also developing well with MULSHES, STELA, MEDACCA and SCHOLAR, but the solve was far from speedy. The extra wordplay letters were also to no avail, being very sporadic… not to mention wrong for some clues! For example, 45ac Guarantees succeeded by being unconditional (7) I had as ENS + (s)URE + S rather than (p)URE.
Two clues that I only parsed when the grid was finished were that pesky 1ac Determined learner going over courses (7), being [b]ENT + SEER< and 2dn Nut in contact with navy fabric (5) for N + IN(t)O + N — I’d forgotten that n was another form of en, plus I thought the in contact with was given by ON. All in all, a bit of a pig’s ear!
It struck me that there was an awful lot of geography in the across clues, including Germany, Austria, Greece, Swaziland and Australia, plus, closer to home, Norfolk, Sussex and Barking.
Eventually I had Both literal parts of coat of arms spelt out by the extra letters. With help from TRYPSIN and the likely SQUIDS at 6dn, I managed to find the required mottos fairly quickly and, on picking up the Saturday copy of The Times, there they were staring out at me from the top of the front page: HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE and DIEU ET MON DROIT. My only disappointment was that there was no Lion, Unicorn or Buckle in the grid.
Thanks for an enjoyable puzzle, Schadenfreude. As expected, this wasn’t an easy solve and took me the best part of three hours for the grid and another ten minutes to track down the highlighting.