Listen With Others

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Listener No 4499: Silent Movie by Elfman

Posted by Dave Hennings on 11 May 2018

Elfman’s last Listener, Revelation of John was nearly three years ago and I think it caused a few headaches. I managed successfully after some head-scratching, the John of the title being Elton John. Rocket Man was the theme with TEN, NINE, EIGHT… ONE appearing in the rows. I hoped that this week’s puzzle would have a slightly easier endgame, which revolved around a version (?) of a 14-word quotation.

It looked as though there was some generous unching, so I was optimistic for a reasonably quick finish. I started with the acrosses, but wasn’t getting very far after five minutes, so switched to the downs. After another five minutes, INSTRUMENT PANEL at 15 was straightforward… except it didn’t fit into the 9-letter grid entry!

A few clues later, and I had an extra clue word, title, and the unclued 11ac ended in WO•D so I guessed that we were dealing with Christopher Isherwood. 5dn PLAT soon put paid to that, but led to HOLLYWOOD being a far more likely entry, given the puzzle’s title.

A spate of entries and I eventually reached 34ac How may all mini gazettes be presented (9, two words) which looked as though it could be LITTLE MAGAZINES. And so it was, although I had never heard of that phrase before but Chambers defines it as “a small highbrow magazine”. It looked as though the four thematic answers had to loose the letters of SILENT from their outsides. Or so I thought!

The grid was eventually complete, although not reasonably quickly after all. But I just had to justify 17ac Support force losing two separately bringing up the rear for a former French leader (6). The answer was LEBRUN, but it took me an age to see that the UN wasn’t the support force or that two Is had to be ditched. It was, in fact, just LE(g) BRUN(t).

And so to the endgame. Five words of the quotation were given by “choosing one letter from each across clue”. Well, you couldn’t get more vague than that! OK, which letter was hinted at by the three extra words in the clue: like title actors. Unfortunately, it would be some time before their significance dawned on me.

I decided to resort to Google, and keyed in “Hollywood silent”. [That probably won’t help you! Ed] For half an hour I went round in circles. Eventually, Silent Movie really indicated an anagram, and I finally saw that it was the letters of TINSEL that had to be removed thematically: Strip away the phony tinsel of Hollywood and you’ll find the real tinsel underneath. Hurrah!

It then took me at least another thirty minutes to see that the letters which spelt out “strip away the phony… of” were provided by the silent letters in the across clues. Some, like the “r” of “utter” struck me as a bit odd, hence, I guess, the preamble’s “(with a number of liberties, some would say)”.

I found this puzzle really good fun… in hindsight. Everything came together in a nicely thematic way. Thanks, Elfman.


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