Listen With Others

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‘Nostrum’ by Mr E

Posted by Encota on 24 Mar 2017

Or should that read Nostrum by Mare, i.e. Mare Nostrum, ‘our sea’, the old name for the Med?  Or is Mr E of French origin and the E stands for Ed -> M.Ed?  Unlikely but possible.  No quack remedies here: enough of the Title and on to the puzzle…

What a fine puzzle and a great theme – thanks Mr E!

Alice in Wonderland – a favourite theme of many Listener solvers, I suspect.  For example, who can forget Sabre’s Listener 2613 puzzle from 1981, where 18 across…

         The ending of Alitji is certainly aboriginal! (5)

…had a one letter entry ‘i’ derived from the answer ‘iiiii’, where the only reference in which it could be found was in the Pitjantjatjara aboriginal language version of Alice In Wonderland?  And who said that Listener Preambles can sometimes be slightly obscure 😉


Back to the plot.  Mr E has very cunningly hidden the Mad Hatter’s phrase, “Why is a raven like a writing-desk?” in the Across clues – but without the nouns.  With a bit of investiGoogling I find four possible answers:

  1. The original: “I haven’t the faintest idea”;
  2. Mr D’s rather flat afterthought: “Because it can produce a few notes, though they are flat; and it is nevar (sic) put with the wrong end in front”;
  3. Better: “Poe wrote on both”
  4. Aldous Huxley: “Because there’s a B in both and an N in neither”

Now 4 really appeals to my sense of humour.  It’s a little bit like that piece of card in beginners’ Philosophy that on one side reads THE STATEMENT ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THIS CARD IS TRUE and on the other reads THE STATEMENT ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THIS CARD IS FALSE.  In Huxley’s case, like the card, it’s true but (at least partly) false at the same time.

So, as the hidden letters from the Down clues began to appear, I’m delighted to see that Mr E has picked option 4, as they seem to read THERE’S A B IN BOTH.  There’s also an additional B in two of the definitions – 15a and 9d – which need removing before solving.  I found the Down clues much harder than those Across but all seemed to fall into place ok, so I’m hoping I haven’t missed something significant.

So the two words DIRECTION and PLEASE that needed jumbling together to form new words?  Was I the only person to wonder whether ELECTION DESPAIR was a topical possibility, or LADIES RECEPTION, or INDELICATE PROSE, or several ruder options I won’t include here?  No.  Of course, given the checked letters, it meant they had to be SAILOR and CENTIPEDE.

With a grid filled I was stuck for a moment.  Luckily, when I mentioned the new question “WHY IS A SAILOR LIKE A CENTIPEDE?” to one of my sons, he immediately came up with BECAUSE THEY’VE BOTH GOT SEA-LEGS / C-LEGS and I was away again.  The title seemed to point to the Med, but that was only 13 letters not 17 as per the preamble.

I could see LEGS at the end of the central row, so maybe MEDITERRANEAN was hiding somewhere?  Like Listener 2613, 18ac did feature one ‘i’ but the correct one appeared in 15ac and the word formed a symmetrical letter C, centred on the very middle of the puzzle.  C LEGS and SEA LEGS – very clever!


All in all a great puzzle – many thanks again to Mr E!


Tim / Encota

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