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Listener No 4442: Got Me! by Towser

Posted by Dave Hennings on 7 April 2017

Here was Towser’s third Listener. His second was Awful which was an (unsuccessful) attempt to take the Listener down-market with its pun on the old joke “My dog’s got no nose…”! This week there were extra words in eight across and eight down clues, with their first two letters spelling out something helpful. There would also be clashes in five cells that would need resolving and finally extra bars to add to the grid.

1ac Possibly fancying Kate Moss, being rejected after small ball, is stupid meddling (9) looked as though it could be MODEL< after a small ball, but the BEAD for BEADLEDOM would have to wait. However, it didn't have to wait long as BRESCIA went in at 1dn (Italian city cooked crabs, that is (7)), courtesy of Chambers Crossword Dictionary, followed by AUFS at 2 from Forgotten changelings regularly eat up fish (4) (regular letters of eAt Up FiSh).

Next came 3dn DRAPPIE and 4dn LAC, and I was feeling happy. It was fairly evident that symmetrical entries would not in themselves give a symmetrical grid and would form part of longer words or need to be truncated somehow. However, that could be dealt with later.

5dn DISA, 7dn CARLS and what looked like USNIC at 9dn but that wasn’t in C. (I really must learn to mark clues for words that the preamble tells me are not in Chambers.) With the top coming together fairly quickly, I worked down the rest of the grid methodically, although not quite as fast as the top. What’s more, after an hour’s solving, and an almost full grid, I didn’t have a single clash!

Meanwhile, despite having identified many of the extra words in the clues, they didn’t seem to be spelling out anything meaningful.

Nonetheless, the grid was completed another forty minutes later and all the clues were understood. I particularly liked the extra word in 11ac Drug for blood Y-chromosome disease above absolute minimum (7) — I bet Towser was glad that he didn’t have to construct a clue containing yclad, ycleepe, yclept or ycond. (Mind you, I’d have preferred to see ‘uey’ used insetad of UEFA at 21ac!)

With the bottom right corner nearing completion, I had already seen GARGANTUA trying to peak through, and there in column 5, PANTAGRUEL confirmed my guess at the theme. FRANÇOIS RABELAIS provided two more of the unclued entries in the final grid, and as I inked in the required 34 bars, it was satisfying to see the new words being revealed.

The ODQ provided the quotation from the extra words in across clues: Fay ce que vouldras (Do what you like). However, it needed some googling to reveal PANURGE as another character in the work and Alcofribas Nasier as an anagram of François Rabelais and also his pen name. (Who’d have thought they had anagrams in 16th century France?!)

The central cell still needed completing, and the SW–NE diagonal gave the basis for METAGROBOLISE (not -ize) with an O in the central position. Chambers gives this as “vt to mystify; to puzzle out. [Obs Fr metagraboulizer (Rabelais)” and oddly, not -iser!

I must admit that I hate having to draw bars in the endgame as it is so easy to miss one. At least we were told how many, and how many words were in the final grid. It still meant that I had to check and double-check my final entry. And, of course, I had to check the diagonal, only to find that it had to be spelt METAGRABOLISE, to be given by RABELAIS and some extra letters.

Many thanks for a very enjoyable puzzle, Towser. It was a fascinating construction, and great fun uncovering the theme and seeing the final grid being revealed — especially the central O A.
 

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