Listen With Others

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Listener No 4471: What Can the Matter Be? by Flying Tortoise

Posted by Dave Hennings on 27 Oct 2017

Last year’s FT (that’s, Flying Tortoise, obviously) had us cutting and pasting our grids into a representation of Galileo dropping balls from the Leaning Tower of Pisa. There didn’t seem to be any hint at grid mutilation this week, just a simple 12×12 carte blanche divided into four quadrants.

Moreover, the preamble was very mysterious about what went into the quadrants: one didn’t have any down entries and another had them reversed. Each quadrant had a different clue type: normal, misprints and extra/missing wordplay letters. Which went where was another mystery since we were presented with a single list of clues.

So, twenty-eight clues altogether and I solved a dozen of them on a slow pass through them. Alphabetical order of answers gives enough information to be able to narrow down the initial letters of remaining clues. However, for clues 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9 and 11, I had ALCINA, ANNATS and AVOCET followed by CARATS, CARERS, CARETS and CURATS and a couple of other C words. Something strange seemed to be going on here.

Alongside my list of answers, I had four columns, one for each of the clue types. I wondered whether the four thematic words would be spelt out by each column in turn, or sequentially across all clue types. My guess was the former. [Never guess in a Listener. Ed.]

My guess was wrong. [Told you. Ed.] This was finally revealed when I solved clue 1 Until Sabbath cleaves trees. It was a mystery which clue type this was: normal, with S splitting trees; cleaves becoming leaves; trees becoming threes; or until becoming untie! It was the second of these with AS FAR AS – S leading to AFARAS. This gave me a C letter removed, and I saw Choler spelt out by the clue letters in sequence. Checking Chambers, “one of the four bodily humours” was there for all to see.

The problem then was “What were the other three?” I could see that Melancholy was probably the second, but I confess that I needed to google to get the others, Phlegm and Blood (here bloody).

This enabled me to slot HUMOUR in the four circled squares, and I managed to slot words in where they fitted. I was sidetracked for quite a while by trying WOMERA backwards in row 3 of the south-west quadrant. That was before I sussed clue 10 Gentlemen bitten by striped carnivore — that’s gross grass for everybody, leading to COMMON.

It didn’t take long to see that EARTH and WATER were were in two of the entries, and then AIR and FIRE. A bit more reading revealed that these elements (the preamble even told us that) were associated with the humours, and this confirmed the placing of the quadrants, although the circled squares had already done that. The four humours were also used to determine an individual’s characteristics.

So, we had the EARTH quadrant in the north-east, with the same entries going across and down; WATER in the south-east, with entries going across and up; and AIR in the south-west with a normal mini grid with bars (not required).

That just left how to enter FIRE in the north-west corner. It obviously started with FIRERS and ended with CURATS. The others could then be placed one after the other with one letter changing to give the word below. However, although this seemed obvious, there was nothing that I could see that determined that this was the required solution.

All in all, an enjoyable and educational puzzle. Thanks, FT. I leave it to others to determine my humour!


One Response to “Listener No 4471: What Can the Matter Be? by Flying Tortoise”

  1. alanconnor said

    Ah. My logic for the FIRE section was based on there only being one configuration whereby entries (FARERS and CARETS) appeared in the diagonals too, a la EARTH and WATER quadrants.

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