Listen With Others

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Listener No 4509: Disappearances by ’Eck

Posted by Dave Hennings on 20 July 2018

It has been 2½ years since ’Eck’s last Listener. That was based on Hamlet’s “…I could be bounded by a nut-shell…”. Before that, we had Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock, so I guessed that ’Eck liked literary themes.

Upon first reading of the title and the preamble, with its omission of letters in answers, erasure and replacement of letters, I wondered if ’Eck was Ifor in disguise after his Multiple Deletions two weeks previously! In fact, he is Ron in disguise, having set two puzzles under that pseudonym in 2012/13. [Not even Ron is his real name. Ed.]

So, no clue numbers or bars in the printed diagram, but clues in the right order, but not numbered. What could possibly go wrong?!

Well, what went wrong was in the top left corner. Failing to get the first across clue Maybe catch support vocalist (8, two words) — and I don’t just mean on the first pass through, I mean for about three hours — I incorrectly assumed that it started in the top left corner, as did INFANTAS running down. I had it as [IN][OD]C••(I failed with BAH as well!)•S. Its symmetrically opposite entry SOUBISE was also a long time coming which would have helped clear things up sooner. (The catch turned out to be ROCK BASS.)

All this meant that the grid fill, and consequently the various messages, were a long time coming. But what was more bizarre was that the grid was divided in two by the bar across the middle. Effectively we (for that, read “I”) had solved two separate puzzles without realising it. And one half, region B, had to be erased. Half the puzzle disappeared before my eyes!

As for the messages, I wondered if we were dealing with a Hitchcock theme or the three witches from Macbeth, before the various letters revealed what was going on. Having said that, the “original speaker” and “the reporter and the source” needed unjumbling first. There were some ambiguities, but, for region A, I had R F [A/D] E [I/N] D N A I, and a bit of doodling soon revealed FERDINAND. Google revealed lots of Ferdinands, mainly emperors and kings, but googling “ferdinand quotations” obligingly revealed him as a character in The Tempest. Ah, yes, that one. Of course.

That enabled the letters in region B, again with ambiguities, which were S A E R T [E/P] L [I/M] T I E P [E/P] T, to be disentangled to form the play and ARIEL. At least I’d heard of that character. The two sets of misprints were: Alternating hitch switch and In his third speech. It didn’t take long to track down “Hell is empty And all the devils are here.” This explained why region B, Hell, had to go bye-bye. Unfortunately, I had no idea what hitch switch was. A knitting term, I suspected, but googling didn’t help me. Unless PILEI wasn’t “fear wear of Romans’”.

Anyway, casually looking at the grid, I could see possible devils: MEPHISTO was partially there in row 3 of the top grid and BEELZEBUB in row 6 of the bottom. With a bit of guess work logic, I tried replacing alternate letters in the top half of the grid with their corresponding letters from the bottom, and there were INCUBUS & EBLIS in the top row, DAVY JONES in row 2, MEPHISTO, APOLLYON (row 5), BEELZEBUB, and finally SATAN & LUCIFER in row 7. What’s more, they were symmetrically positioned and we liked that.

And so a fantastic puzzle from ’Eck was finished — correctly, I hope. Great fun, thanks.

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