Listener No 4436: Clean-up Operation by Aragon
Posted by Dave Hennings on 24 February 2017
2015’s Aragon puzzle was the one about Nancy Mitford and her sisters. Before that, we had Henry VIII and his wives. This week’s preamble smacked of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with a domestic job, a warning and a perpetrator. Only time would tell if my early suspicions would bear fruit. [No they won’t. Ed]
The slightly worrying aspect of the puzzle for me was the reference to knight’s moves in the preamble — not my favourite puzzle feature. Luckily, the trail was only nine letters long and would mostly be revealed by seven clashes.
This was a week for a quick run through all the clues in order. I was lucky with 1ac Deputy Officer Commanding in Highlander’s tall hat (5), being OC in LUM, even though I’d never considered a LOCUM as a deputy, more just a stand-in. Next came 16 PAWK and 18 Go nude at revels? Not in Roman’s habit (8) for UNTOGAED, which the preamble tells us Chambers doesn’t have… nor any other dictionary I tried! Still, Chambers does prefix its list with “Some words formed with the prefix un-” (my italics), so I guess almost anything goes. Here, the answer was fairly obvious.
I liked the misleading clue at 23ac Faraway call from Stratford area of London (4), where the answer looked like SOHO, but needed a check in C to see that the second meaning had Stratford referring to Shakespeare. However, a fairly shabby ten across clues solved, followed by even fewer downs. I was confused when I got to 42dn which was clued as (6), even though it only had four cells in the grid. A reread of the preamble indicated that this might be the one further clash that needed to be resolved symbolically. (Unfortunately, it was much later in the solve that BARDOT came to my aid.)
Half an hour in, and less than twenty solved. Still, the top of the grid was looking pretty good with five entries dropping down from the top row. Mind you, I couldn’t really understand working in 3dn C-shaped bit, working? (6) for C-HEWED.
The grid was finished in about 1¾ hours, more quickly than I had expected after my first run through. So now it was time to reread the preamble and see what was still left to be done. For a start, there were the letters dropped before solving. First we had to Erase all trail clashes and then arrange the Down trail clashes and use them to replace consecutive letters in one column.
The seven clashes made it fairly easy to home in on the DOORSTEP in the bottom row, and only a minute or so later, the POSTMAN running (walking) in a SW–NE direction. The clashes themselves, with across letters on top, were:
If I had worked my way up the grid, DARK BROWN would have probably stood out more, but it didn’t take long to see that. The D and N were provided by the Doorstep and postmaN, respectively. The remaining letters were IPONATT which needed rearranging — POINT AT, TO PAINT, NOT A TIP? Or indeed, just a jumble?
Our help with the second part of the message was given by the preamble — “…all entries in the final grid may be read as real words or names.” With the clashes erased, I had BOHE in row 11 and NAAS in column 10. I thought neither were real words until I checked Google for place-names. I had, in fact, come across NAAS before, a town in Ireland, but had forgotten it. That left BOHE that needed to be changed in some way.
I think I was helped with having tried to resolve 3dn and seen chewet underneath chew. With INWEAVE unlikely to become a different word, the letter matching its replacement proved to be its N, and WET PAINT ON soon appeared in column 3. Finally, Brigitte BARDOT came to the rescue with the clash resolved symbolically: with the DOT clashing with the I of TEPID, we had an exclamation mark!
Thus the full warning was spelt out as WET PAINT ON DOORSTEP!
One last read of the preamble and I would be done. Well, everything was sorted… except “across entries set the tone for the work area.” The work area was the doorstep, and the across clashes had given DARK BROWN. Did that mean that my usual light coloured highlighting needed to be interrupted by a darker colour? I mused on it for a few minutes and decided that it did. After all, preambles don’t normally indulge in idle chitchat! Although most doorsteps are a darker colour to hide footprints and mud, I personally think Aragon should have coloured it DARK GREEN.
I found this a really enjoyable and amusing puzzle, with a novel theme which was ingeniously implemented. Thanks, Aragon.