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Rod and Bill by Stick Insect

Posted by shirleycurran on 20 October 2017

We start, of course, by attempting to anagram Rod and Bill but that gets us nowhere, except to comment that they are short forms of men’s names. We take note that there is to be a thematic modification and soon begin to spot the clues where that will occur as two of our earliest solves (‘Troubled séance about dead can upset rare dominating influence (9)’, and ‘Handle pop ration to dole out fair share (5)’) give us obvious and generous anagrams for ASCENDANCE and APPORTION, both of which are too long for their lights. Soon afterwards we find yet another anagram, ‘A rich myth, woven without pattern (6)’ which clearly gives us ARHYTHMIC, again too long for its light, and further on still one more anagram, ‘Tube transports do bless loves in turmoil (9, two words)’ which gives us BLOOD VESSELS – three extra letters there. Surely not another anagram? ‘Take stock of resources of poor statesmen (8)’ gives us MEANS TEST.  I get into trouble for over-using anagrams but I counted fifteen whole or partial ones in Stick Insect’s 51 clues – I think he wins this year’s anagram cup. That being said, his device, where we had no indication of the actual definition of the word to be entered after ‘thematic modification’, meant that his clues had sometimes to be rather generous (which we always appreciate) – and they were.

‘Soar up rows (4)’ giving OARS, ‘Revised abandoned diet (4)’ giving EDIT, ‘Second pensioner’s Bronx pay-off (4)’ giving S + OAP = SOAP. There was the rather surprising ‘Italian company XI’s goodbye (4)’ that had to be CIAO but it was the first time I had seen the Roman 11 (XI) used as O. That’s a clever one to remember (and poach!). Stick Insect had us slightly worried as, with such generous clues, there had to be a dastardly end game in store. Our grid filled and soon we had the habitual Numpty head-scratch when APRON seemed the likely word to enter where we had APPORTION, and BLOODLESS where we had BLOOD VESSEL.

‘Vessel’ – Ah yes, have I forgotten to check Stick Insect’s continued membership of the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Outfit? No, that was easily confirmed some time ago with ‘Bar game in British Museum (4)’ LOO in BM = BLOOM, ‘Perhaps bring onto board old port company heads (5)’ CO + O PT = COOPT, ‘City spirit’s ancient warning (5)’ LA RUM = LARUM and ‘Drinks dispensers corrupted nature society (7, two words)’ NATURE* + S = TEA URNS. OK, the last was tea but that was sufficient evidence. “Cheers, Stick Insect! I hope we’ll meet at the bar at the next Listener setters’ dinner in Paris”.

Those initial letters had spelled THEAETETUS and Google obligingly supplied the rest – well, most of it. We learned that Plato, in that dialogue, using the sophist PROTAGORAS, said that ‘Man is the measure of all things’. Right, so we were replacing ‘measures’ with ‘men’. We found a substantial list of measures in the Big Red Book and worked out that

DANCE in ASCENDANCE had to be replaced by SION (a Welsh form of John),

PORTION in APPORTION was to be replaced by RON,

FOOT in FOOTLE by RAY,

RHYTHM in ARHYTHMIC by TOM,

STRAIN in RESTRAINT by LEN,

VESSEL in BLOOD VESSELS by LES,

PIT in CAPITA by BRETT,

MEANS in MEANS-TEST by CHAS,

SIZE in RESIZES by DAN (yes, it could be CAL, short for Calvin, producing RECALS. CAL is not in the Chambers list of names, but neither is LES of 47ac. I’d be surprised, though if anyone opted for that!),

and SING in CASING by ROB.

A full grid and the conviction that we were going to find the letters of PLATO somehow providing an image of 16 cells in four straight lines. That was surely going to be Leonardo’s Vitruvian man. We hunted and we hunted, then, by a stroke of luck, saw that a couple of chevrons appeared in the grid, spelling respectively AOEA and ORAS. That couldn’t be by chance!

It was some time later that light dawned and we used the second of those to give us a slightly less muscular and elegant man in the form of PROTAGORAS.

Thanks to Stick Insect for a challenging introduction to a text we are not familiar with. (No, it isn’t at the head of my Christmas wish list!)

Poat hares galore!

What about Poat’s hares? Of course they were there en masse, gambolling amongst the cowpats and Vitruvian man’s legs.

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