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‘Hit and Run’ by Ifor

Posted by Encota on 10 November 2017

I recently mused, after several of the last few weeks of Listener puzzles being on the easier side, that perhaps it was soon time for a more challenging puzzle – and then L4473 ‘Hit and Run’ appeared.  With two extra letters in each wordplay to be removed to find the definition and (personally my biggest challenge) no clue lengths, this definitely wasn’t going to be for the faint-hearted!

I’ve had just enough experience of Ifor’s puzzles now – in the Listener, the Magpie and elsewhere, to know that the clueing may be complex but is always scrupulously fair and with never a word out of place.  And so it proved here.

However, when it comes to clue difficulty level then it does appear that the gloves are off.  Let me give you the first clue as an example:

     Speculative selling intended to lower price discount slowly

The clues are ordered alphabetically by their answers, so with 40 clues available this may well begin with an A or B?  If it means Speculative then I guess ABSTRACT (and one or two other longer words) might be possible; if it means Slowly then the only word I could think of was ADAGIO.  But where’s the wordplay?

This was one of the last clues I parsed: AGIO, meaning discount, preceded by [R]A[I]D, with RAID’s meaning of speculative selling to lower price being used, and R and I being the extra letters.  AD+AGIO – simple, eh?  I confess to needing the BRB to check both halves of this wordplay!

I needed to solve just over half of the clues before I could fit some into the grid with any certainty.  One of my earliest solves was the answer ODDS AND ENDS for:

Rum old hospital: “Doesn’t hurt keeping dead bits left over” (three words)

It looked like it began ODD (rum) SAN (old hospital), so it only needed a bit of detective work to see if the answer was going to be ODDS AND SODS or ODDS AND ENDS.  This one used one from Ifor’s large collection of inventive anagram indicators, namely hurt, so it parsed as ODD SAN + D(ead) in D[O]ESN[T]*, with O and T being the extra letters involved.  Very clear once you’ve solved it!

There were only two places for an 11-letter entry – the top and bottom rows – so I added it to both in a blank grid then waited to see which one appeared to allow the most checked letters to match with other solved clues (and then rubbed one out).  Eventually (after 22 of 40 clues cold-solved), with TABOO found as the answer to:

Banned boost by advertising following letter from Haifa

… Hebrew letter – here TA[V] – followed by BOO[M], to boost by advertising, then I opted for this being in the bottom left corner and at long last I could start entering something into the grid.

As an aside, the most impressive feature for me in this puzzle was the two instructions hidden back-to-back in the extra letter pairs, in order A-B and B-A.  For example, these might have read SOLVE ME: CHECK THIS FIRST and CHECK THIS FIRST: SOLVE ME.  If they had both been the same length Instruction then it might have been quite pedestrian.  However, we are given 21 letters that form one of the instructions so, given 40 clues in total, the other must have 19 letters.  This offset overlap allowed for some very enjoyable deductive steps, copying letters found in one version of the message into the other.  In one case, for example, the letter in one message needed to be T or D; from the other it needed to be N or T. So it was T – that sort of thing.  Letters could be found in one message, copied to the second, so clarifying which letter was in which message, then copying the new letter deduced back into the first version of the second message and so on – sometimes with up to five such steps (that luckily was easier to do than to describe!).  Delightful!  I ended up with  the attached analysis:

L4473

The messages eventually read:

  1. READ ONE ROW IN REVERSE, and
  2. INSERT TWO ENTRY NUMBERS

Once the grid was filled it didn’t take long to spot that obscure Pope,

RIEKA OTTO the 10th, backwards in Row 11.

OK, though I’d like it to be, that’s just not true: I meant EDWARD EAGAN in Row 2.  Auntie Google then helped out with explaining that ‘Eddie’ is the only man to have ever won Olympic Gold at both the Summer and Winter Olympics – in boxing and in bob-sledding.

That left deciding which way round to insert BOBBING and BOXING in the remaining two spaces, with the BB going into one cell.  Adding numbers to the grid soon provided the answer – 20 was BOXING, since he won that in 1920 in ANTWERP.  Similarly, 32 was BOBBING, which he won at LAKE PLACID in 1932.  A very neat way to end a superbly constructed puzzle.

Was anyone else misled by the two tennis players and the numerous drug references, banned substances etc?  I did wonder at an early stage if the puzzle was going to be about drug cheating in tennis.  Was ‘Hit and Run’ going to be some form of ‘take drug + do sport’ reference?

And with clues like this around I like to think I could be forgiven for my mistake:

Tennis player in retirement, farewell being overshadowed by suspect gender

Very witty!  I had written in the margin, “Is this B[V] in GE[N]DER*?” but only truly believed it when it eventually fitted into the NE corner of the puzzle.

Returning to the Theme and the Title, Hit and Run, fortunately the theme was much friendlier: the Hit was from Boxing, and Run from the Bob-sledding (as in Cool Running) 🙂

Loved it!

Many thanks, Ifor

Tim/Encota

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