Listen With Others

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Forgotten Middle Rows by Encota

Posted by shirleycurran on 3 Mar 2017

encota-iain-m-banks-001Encota is a new name in the Listener but we have just struggled to the end of his numerical crossword in this month’s Magpie and, of course, he is our fellow blogger on Listen With Others (and no doubt equally frustrated to have to rewrite blogs that we wrote during the last three weeks because of some crass, imbecile of a hacker who wiped out our Word Press work together with that of thousands of others). I know that I began my comments on his ‘Forgotten Middle Rows’ with my usual search for his right of entry to the Setters’ Dinner Tippling Club (though I didn’t need to as we sat at opposite sides of the same table last year) but he reassured me with his first three words ‘See red liquid risen above the surface (7)’. That wasn’t just confirmation of Encota’s place at the bar, it was a first hint of what the thematic treatment of clues was going to be. We had an anagram here – ‘liquid’, but were being given only six letters of it and clearly needed an extra M to give EMERSED.

There wasn’t a lot more alcohol, just a MUG in 14ac, a BARREL in 35ac, a STIFF in 41ac and a BAR SOCIETY in 2dn. but cheers, anyway Encota.

However, as we scanned the clues and solved ‘The quality of being male of female produces a ting (3)’ Obviously SEX that has to produce [M]ating, then ‘Rat is on the telephone port near [M]ed (5)’ CAD + IZ (“is” heard) we realized with delight that we were adding an M to the wordplay of every clue. We happily worked our way down the clues finding places where we could add an M – some easy: ‘Fine area paired with [M]other Asian city (7)’ = OKAY + A + MA, and some not so easy: ‘Woman, alive and prospering, roughly in As[M]ara’s skirts (5)’ = A(smar)A around ISH, giving AISHA who, we are told in the Chambers ‘some first names’  appendix is ‘Alive and prospering’.

Onto the down clues and consternation, as there weren’t many places where we could add an M. However, it soon became clear that here, we were removing an M. ERS had appeared as the solution to ‘Emprise regularly provides fodder (3)’ but that is EPRISE regularly. The task is easier here (though it must have been a challenge for Encota to find all those Ms to add or remove without giving too much away to the solver). We steadily continue our grid fill and soon have enough letters in place to spot THE ALGEBRAIST and SURFACE DETAIL, two of the across clues that have no definitions. That rings a bell and Wiki confirms that they were written by Iain Banks . ‘Iain Banks (16 February 1954 – 9 June 2013) was a Scottish author. He wrote mainstream fiction under the name Iain Banks and science fiction as Iain M. Banks, including the initial of his adopted middle name Menzies’.

We have a few of his novels on the bookshelves but I had never realized that some had the middle initial and some didn’t. Of course, completing our grid is rendered easier now.  A check of his works tells us that MATTER was a sci-fi work and we are given COMPLICITY, STONE MOUTH and CANAL DREAMS as mainstream fiction. Clearly we must do what the preamble tells us and treat those thematically, omitting the M. We learn that the ‘adopted’ middle name, MENZIES was forgotten by his father when he was registering the child’s birth. We have to remember to highlight it but that is not too difficult as there is only one Z in the grid, prompting us to that upward diagonal.

hares-001Nice one, Encota, that teaches us something we didn’t know. Thank you.

Oh yes, the HARE! Well he must have found a mate and done what hares do, as there were a number of candidates in Encota’s grid, even if none of them were in straight lines.

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