Listen With Others

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I-spy Choices by Xanthippe

Posted by shirleycurran on 23 February 2018

A carte blanche with that unusual opening of the preamble, ‘All clues are thematically similar’ and the additional comment that we are going to find nine clashes. The other Numpty has worked out what the thematic similarity is and is happily running off answers while I laboriously colour code my grid identifying the lengths of words and cells.

That device of listing clues by the opening letters of their solutions is a great help and when we spot PERSON-TO-PERSON ‘P Involving contact assigned to drunkard taken in by Prince Edward say (14)’ (P + ON TOPER in ER’S  SON) our grid fill can begin. And in goes the ‘drunkard’, the ‘toper, and a few clues lower, I find ‘Y Maybe Guinness but not C Clinton studied here (4)’ (Y + ALE) I don’t need to look further for confirmation that Xanthippe retains right of admission to the Listener Setters’ Toping Club.  Cheers Xanthippe – à Paris!

Once we have that initial P in place, the grid fills steadily, when the only two three-letter solutions giving us NAS and EGM and by a stroke of luck initially going in the right places. We have a couple of hiccups when we put URAL and DAHL in the wrong places  and struggle to fit ALBIGENSIAN (suggested by TEA), where we needed AMBIGUITIES but filling the grid is enjoyable because of those generous initial letters and soon we have a full grid. Now what?

The other Numpty almost immediately spots JAMES BOND and feels that his work is done. ‘I spy’ – “Well he does, doesn’t he?” He leaves me to look for Ian Fleming but, consternation. Who do I find? R. LUDLUM. Something very fishy is going on here. Then I find I.L.FLEMING and the plot thickens. Of course JASON BOURNE is hiding in those clashes too – so that is why the preamble said ‘their creator’ rather than ‘his creator’. Was that a subtle hint?

Both of these sets of ‘Spy + creator’ add up to 18 letters so which set do we opt for and highlight? We are told that a three-word phrase from a quotation appears in the completed grid, as does its source lacking a conjunction. ROMEO and JULIET must be the source. And so the grid stare begins (and takes just about as long as the grid fill! I took the problem to bed with me.)

Nothing for it but to re-read Romeo and Juliet (which I thought I almost knew by heart having taught the play more times than I can count, and what a lot of early Shakespearean long-windedness there is in it – of course, later Shakespeare would have avoided the retelling of the entire plot by the Friar in Act V). I was looking for some reference to exile in Mantua that puts Romeo beyond the BOURNE, or some comment by Friar Lawrence about the BOND binding the young lovers and as I reached the last Act and Scene, I had almost given up hope when the word AMBIGUITIES leapt out at me (particularly because we had initially entered ALBIGENSIAN in that light!)

Montague Seal up the mouth of outrage for a while,/ Till we can clear these ambiguities,/ And know their spring, their head, their true descent,… Act V Sc.III Lines 216 to 218.

Of course that obliges us to opt for the U of the E/U clash in AMBIGE/UITIES and, in effect, clears the ambiguities and spells out LUDLUM. What an inspired finish to the crossword. A superb compilation, many thanks to Xanthippe.

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