Listen With Others

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Strange Requests by eXternal

Posted by shirleycurran on 28 Apr 2017

Fools’ errands

The preamble for eXternal’s neat little grid didn’t say very much to us and we shelved it (as we so often do with a preamble that thoroughly foxes us) deciding that all would come clear as we solved. I have a terrible admission – we had confidently filled our grid and double-checked that we had used all the thirteen words that had clearly emerged as ‘one word definitions for the 11 affected entries and the two parts of the sixth item’ before I was able to make very much of the preamble and piece it all together. In effect, we had a full and hopefully correct grid before that penny-drop-moment that brought a rueful smile to my face. Even those words ‘LONG WEIGHT’ had appeared in the obvious place, the leading diagonal: what’s more, they had helped us complete KIRN and CHIGOE, though they didn’t say much to us until I asked Auntie Google and she led me straight to ‘fools’ errands’.

It was the explanation of a LONG WEIGHT that suddenly shed daylight on my woolly thinking and I realized why we had found ELBOW GREASE, a GLASS HAMMER, the BUBBLE from a SPIRIT-LEVEL, a COPPER MAGNET and of course, STRIPY PAINT (Yes, I admit that I thought my favourite clue, ‘Stripy horse (5)’ Z???A was finally appearing in a Listener – but it was not to be.)

We had, as usual, run through the clues before beginning to solve and, of course, I had noticed the stripy horse clue ‘Tipple before breaking open some beer (5)’ A in PINT, producing PAINT, and, of course that confirmed membership of the Listener Setters’ Tippling outfit for eXternal, but what was more interesting was that the grid required a six-letter word and very soon STRIPY was the only one that would fit – to be confirmed by one of the extra words, ‘banded’ that emerged from a different clue.

That led us to check word lengths which happily pointed us at most of the suspect clues – in fact to all but one of them – the COPPER MAGNET where the two parts of the item were of the same length. That was what ultimately held us up in that top, left-hand corner but, of course the extra ‘bobby’ told us that COPPER had to be entered even though the clue, ‘Publication on lace – it’s attractive (6)’ had given us MAGNET.

And so it went on: we found that we were removing various words for fools from clues, leaving us the words that went into the grid. MAL(div)ES left MALES, confirmed by an extra ‘men’; (clot)HEARS was confirmed by ‘tries’; FI(shmo)NGER by ‘pilfer’; C(ass)OCKED by ‘upright’; BAL(loon)ING by ‘bundling’; and finally (mug)HUNTER by ‘watch’.

The additional extra words that confirmed our solve were ‘insubstantial’ for the BUBBLE, ‘marathon’ and ‘pressure’ for LONG WEIGHT and ‘mirror’ for GLASS.

We had realized at once that we were extracting a set of fools without drawing the obvious conclusion that they were performing the fools’ errands and collecting those six ‘items for retrieval’ of the preamble. So I suppose we were the fools, but thank you, anyway, eXternal. Quite a feat to fit those fools into words that symmetrically surrounded the grid.

The HARES – of course! A couple of them lurking in the grid, as usual, even if somewhat jumbled and scrunched up.

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