Listen With Others

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Listener No 4489: Ocean-going Vessel by Pointer

Posted by Dave Hennings on 2 March 2018

Soup was on the menu for Pointer’s last Listener two years back. I remember the endgame being really tricky and wondered if I’d be all at sea this week as well.

A pretty small grid faced us — just 13×7 without symmetry — and a puny twenty-five clues, some of them to be entered going off one edge and continuing at the start. Knowing Pointer, I guessed that they would be on the tricky side. In the endgame, it seemed that all entries would have to change.

Well, I was wrong with the difficulty guess. Although I got only half-a-dozen on my first pass through the clues, the remainder came together fairly quickly. In fact, the grid was filled in just over an hour. Mind you, I suppose that with so few clues it was still a relatively average solve.

On to the endgame, where SKIP OF THE SEAS had to have a letter changed to be more in line with the title. Well, SHIP OF THE SEAS was more appropriate, and the non-word it produced, LASHETS, then had to have another letter change to make a word down, but a non-word across. These changes continued until every entry had had two.

I wondered if we were actually meant to start at 2dn or at another word, and it struck me that FATWAHS couldn’t have too many variations. FAT CATS came to mind, but that was two words and we were specifically told that a new word would be created, so I guessed that was ruled out. Also, at 1dn, SPINATE didn’t seem to have too many options, SPINETS being the obvious.

Back to LASHETS then. It seemed that LASHERS was the likely change, follwed by DESIRE, HEADSET and PATENT. A few more changes, and I reached 14dn where PELF could become PALE, PALL, PALM, PALP or PALS with the crossing word ?AWN intersecting with the W of FATWAHS and needing a letter change.

So, if FATWAHS needed two letters changing, I had no idea what that word could be. After some time cogitating, I decided to give it a break and go down the pub!

The following day and it was time for a bit of a cheat, I’m afraid, and both NORSELS and FATWAED were proposed as likely candidates and I managed to make further good progress until I came to FAUCES changing to SAUCER and SESAME changing to…? RESAME stared at me for a couple of minutes before I realised that the central phrase needed to change to reveal SHIP OF THESEUS and give RESUME.

The grid was complete, every entry having had two changes, including the middle row. It was at this point that, for some reason, I looked at fatwa in Chambers, only to discover that the past tense and participle wasn’t fatwaed, but fatwa’d. I checked my Chambers iPad app and, luckily, that gave the ‘e’ version so I felt easy again… sort of.

All that was left was to unravel the object to go under the grid. Each down clue contained a sequence of three letters made from the replacements in its entry and its contribution to the object. TRIGGER’S BROOM soon came out in the wash, a reference to Only Fools and Horses where the question of whether it was the same broom if it had had so many changes of head and handle. A similar question was raised by Plutarch regarding a ship that had been restored by replacing every single wooden part.

I wondered whether I had been lucky with the replacements I had made or whether other solvers had spent hours with letter replacement dead ends. Still… not my problem!

All in all, good fun thanks Pointer, and not too tricky this week.

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