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Listener No 4458: Difficulty by Chalicea

Posted by Dave Hennings on 28 Jul 2017

Here we had one of our more prolific setter’s, both under this pseudonym and others, as well as in cahoots with cohorts of other setters. The first thing that I noticed was that, like some early Listeners, the preamble needed to have a lot of clue numbers replaced with their entries in order to make sense. The second thing that I noticed was that “The Chambers Dictionary is the primary reference” was missing from the preamble. Shock! Horror! We’ll be having indirect anagrams next!

And so, having earmarked my Big Red Book for the charity shop as no longer required [You’ll be sorry. Ed.], I set to with the puzzle. But first, I had to check Chalicea’s membership of the Hardened Alcohol Requirement Entourage, and was shocked to find Steeped in beer, elderly beau died dancing (7).

Reading through the single list of clues in sequence, the earlier ones were a tad slow in coming and I wondered if Chalicea was testing us with one of her trickier oeuvres. Luckily, the bottom half of the grid was more forgiving and it filled out nicely. Working my way back up the grid, LEAR at 12 got slotted in within the hour. This was followed by the OWL (here entered as NIGHT BIRD) and the PUSSY CAT at 15dn and 36ac. They SET SAIL in a boat (green) and took some money, honey and a guitar to which the owl sang “O let us be married, too long we have tarried; But what shall we do for a ring?” But ring had they none, and the grid was equally bereft of Os.

Everything was resolved with the ring-nosed PIG selling his ring for the princely sum of a shilling, and A RING being entered below our grid. All was done and dusted, but…

Hasn’t there been an Edward Lear puzzle already this year? Indeed there has, with Dysart’s Jumblies going to sea in a sieve. Nobody can say that Lear didn’t repeat his themes. (Nor, it would seem, the Listener Editors!)

A careful checking of the grid was required to ensure that all the Os in the perimeter quotation had been omitted correctly. But wait! A finally scan of this puzzle revealed that not only was the grid bereft of the letter O, but so was the preamble and, even more amazingly, all the clues. And, of course, that explained why “The Chambers Dictionary” was missing from the preamble and why there were no Down clues.

Retrieving my Chambers from the bag destined for the charity shop [Told you. Ed.], I marvelled at this puzzle’s construction and hoped that I wasn’t required to write this blog without an O.

Excellent entertainment again from Chalicea, thanks.

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