Listen With Others

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Listener No 4506: Multiple Deletions by Ifor

Posted by Dave Hennings on 29 June 2018

Last year’s Ifor puzzle noted the achievement of Edward Eagan and the coincidence of his two Olympic wins for boXing and boBBing. Without jumping ahead too much, this puzzle delighted us with an even more fascinating coincidence.

I’ve always thought of Ifor as the deletions king. For example (from another puzzle): Revamped department after sacking rogue and seductress (7) leading to DEPARTMENT* – AND* for TEMPTER. So this week, he was in seventh heaven with clues and entries having deletions galore. I was somewhat worried that 20 clues would lead to non-word grid entries, but hopefully things would be definitive.

It took me some time to get my head around the different clue types: all of them had an extra letter; 20 clues were normal, nine had definitions for the entry but wordplay for a longer word, and nine had definitions for a longer word but wordplay for the entry. I decided to highlight entries in the grid according to their clue type: yellow for normal, green for entry given by definition, and orange for longer word given by definition. I won’t show you my worksheet since I got the colouring wrong a couple of times and it looks a mess!

I failed with 1ac Contents of noisy show shot during filming (8) and 6 Tricks on University senate going wrong, taking in Academician by agreement (13) looked like CONSENSUAL or some variation; it turned out to be CONSENTANEOUS — CONS + (ON U SEN[a]TE)* containing A. 13ac Poe paid him to shift large river creature (9) looked like an anagram of Poe paid him but with an extra letter. It didn’t take too long to see HIPPO, but I needed C to reveal HIPPODAME, which was new to me. Mind you that had to go into a 6-letter space.

After a pass through all the clues, I had solved precious few. Even the straightforward normal clue at 24dn Sounded like a horse we hid[e] craftily outside pub (8) WHINNIED couldn’t be entered as the letters needing to be dropped for a 6-letter entry could be any of them. It did, however, enable me to mark its symmetrically opposite entry 3dn as a normal clue.

Progress was very slow, almost as slow as Sabre’s from the previous week. All the clues were up to Ifor’s high standard but, even so, some were tricky to unravel. For example, 15ac New zoo that unveiled trick flying after acquiring one group of sparrows (11) led to ZONOTRACHIA — (N ZOO [t]HAT (t)RIC(k))* holding A. There were also some far-from-everyday words, such as SCINTISCANNER and HIGH-MUCK-A-MUCK.

The message finally spelt out by the extra words in clues was nothing to do with Winnie the Pooh (“I am a bear of very little brain”) but I am a little world made cunningly of elements. Even then, it took a couple of seconds for it to sink in: the letters that were in the grid were all the single-letter chemical symbols. Thus there was no A, D, E, G, J, L, M, Q, R, T, X or Z. The quotation was from John Donne: “I am a little world made cunningly / Of elements and an angelic sprite”.

The final tidying up was spotting that Nadal becoming nada was the “change in capitalisation” in the preamble, and working out what some of the longer words were before being reduced. 14dn PIC was reduced from its longer word DEPICTED (described minutely), and 23dn Let down hammer of Colt — in rearming must prepare to shoot with bow (8) wasn’t UNCOCKED but TURNCOCK: rearming became rearing and we had C (Colt) in RUT< (must) + NOCK (prepare to shoot bow) — now that's the devilish clue of the day!

The last step was to work out the deletions that needed to go beneath the grid. This wasn’t all the letters in the list above, but just those from [D]ONN[E] HO[L]Y SONN[ET] FIV[E], and they spelt out the best BGM (Big Grin Moment) for many moons: DELETE!

Once again, I was amazed at the foresight of authors and other famous people of yesteryear who have been used in Listener themes. John Donne could have written Holy Pentameters or included these lines in Holy Sonnet Four, but no, neither would have enabled DELETE to be spelt out.

Thanks for a really tough challenge, Ifor. Phew!


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