Listen With Others

Listener No 4487: Doing a Sort by Elgin

Posted by Dave Hennings on 16 Feb 2018

It had been nearly six years since Elgin’s last puzzle. That was based on Kipling’s The Ballad of East and West, and before that, Wallace and Gromit’s The Wrong Trousers. I remember this last one as being a lot of fun (with it’s Batman and Robin red herring), and hoped we were in for some more with this one.

Down answers had to lose a character and have the remainder jumbled before some more anagrams had to be made from the letters in the squares marked with * and + symbols. I decided that the acrosses were a good place to start.

With 11 ENTERATE and 12 AUNTIE going in fairly quickly, I was up and running. Mind you, I wasn’t really sure of the wordplay for 12 Relative acceleration on horse that is dropping second (6) since I couldn’t see where the S for second worked; it turned out to be A + MOUNTIE – MO. A smattering of other entries around the grid led me to give the downs a go.

I started noting the likely letters to be dropped alongside each clue as solved. However, with the grid over half full, I wondered if it was more appropriate to note them above or below each column. Although the unching of the down entries was fairly generous, exactly what letters needed to be jumbled wasn’t particularly straightforward.

All in all, there were tough clues, especially the acrosses, since they weren’t directly cross-checked. 24ac and 47ac took some analysis for me. 24 Fallibility when information is organised in emergency without them (7) was EMERGENCY – EM (them) with RAN (organised) replacing GEN (information) to give ERRANCY. 47 Shift temperature in excess: the answer? (8) was an &lit. clue with the T (temperature) in OVER (excess) THE A (answer) shifted right to give OVERHEAT.

This turned out to be a long solving process, but eventually the grid, apart from most of the top and bottom rows, was finished.

The squares marked with + gave TIOLETTRODHTES and would give an instruction (2,4,3,5). THE looked like the 3-letter word and, having toyed with — and dismissed — TS ELIOT and his TOILET, I tried TITLE and was rewarded with TO SORT THE TITLE. The jumble of DOING A SORT was, unfortunately, not immediately apparent.

The squares marked with * gave CEMEYGANIDANOL, and I was again lucky to see COMEDY as a possibility there. AN EALING COMEDY was soon revealed. The two best known are The Lavender Hill Mob and The Ladykillers. The latter promptly got slotted into the grid.

With that in place, I revisited the down answers to see what letters needed to be dropped. Hey Presto! Courtney and Harvey went along the top of the grid, being dropped from the first word in each column. They were two of the ‘villains’ from the film. Two others were Robinson and Lawson which were dropped from the second down entries in each column. The only one left was MARCUS, played by Alec Guinness, and there he was in the middle of the grid.

I often find that a bit of rough doodling of letters to be unjumbled works a treat. Here I stumbled across GADOOSTRIN and GOODS TRAIN jumped out at me. The two words could go at the beginning and end of the bottom row with GO and IN two of the squares to give SARGO and CAROTIN as the down entries.

And there was still more. “A final thematic adjustment must be made, leaving some cells empty (no two in the same row or column)…”. If MARCUS dropped into the goods train, those letters were all from the same row. I flummoxed around for a bit, probably getting on for an hour on and off. Eventually I spotted the SIGNAL running diagonally above Marcus. In the film, this dropped into the stop position thereby hitting Marcus on the head and causing him to fall into the goods train below. Spotting the signal took me nearly an hour — penance for having been fairly quick with the anagrams.

What a fantastic puzzle, and even better than Wallace and Gromit! A sheer joy to solve. Thanks, Elgin, and please don’t leave it so long till next time.