Listen With Others

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Listener No 4484: Quiet Guests by Schadenfreude

Posted by Dave Hennings on 26 January 2018

The last puzzle of 2017 was very gentle fare from Jago. Would the first of 2018 likely to be the same? Unlikely I thought, being from the mighty pen of Schadenfreude. It was exactly a year (well, 364 days) since his last puzzle based on the logo and motto of The Times newspaper, “Honi soit…” etc. This week saw his 25th Listener, the first being way back in 1998, with its theme of Arnold Bennett’s Five Towns based on Stoke-on-Trent.

Here we had some cells being “crowded” with more than one letter. (Was this going to be based on another busy metropolis?) Entries without any such crowding would lead us to what would need to replace these scrunched words.

Progress on this puzzle was fairly slow, despite getting off the mark with 12ac ENCALMS which was two letters too long for its entry. If I had managed to get 13dn ADAMITE for Naturist worried about Dutch friend (5) the theme might have come together much more quickly, although I might well have wondered if we were dealing with Joy Adams, with Attenborough, Bellamy, etc to follow.

It was, in fact, well over an hour into this puzzle before I got 10dn Rope in leader of gang no longer gambling (4) giving JEFFING. I then saw the possibility of JEFFERSON and, with half of HARRISON and JOHNSON elsewhere in the grid, the theme of US Presidents became apparent.

Meanwhile, the message spelt out by the initial letters of the non-scrunched entries added to the initial letters of their clues seemed to be spelling out sequence together with incumbent or numerical order.

The preamble stated that there was one cell that did double duty. Now I knew that there were at least two Jeffersons, but there had also been two Bushes where 6dn and 17ac intersected. I was somewhat worried by this, and even more so when I scanned List of US Presidents and found that there had also been two Adamses, two Johnsons, two Harrisons and two Roosevelts. There was also that pesky blighter Grover Cleveland whose two terms as president screwed all the numbering up since each term gave him a separate number in the sequence. Thus Obama was the 44th President but only the 43rd person to hold that office. (I can’t bring myself to mention the current incumbent!)

Eventually, all was made clear by the exact message spelt out: Sequence of prime numbers. Thus it was only ADAMS at 2, JOHNSON at 17 and HARRISON at 23 that were the prime Presidents. The two Bushes were the two whose presidencies both had prime numbers, 41 for George HW Bush and 43 for George W Bush. (Why do Americans have this penchant for giving their sons the same name as themselves, normally with Jr or II, III, IV, etc after their name?!)

Thanks, Schadenfreude. Not particularly gentle fare, but good fun and a great start to the year.
 

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