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Vexatious Lipography by Pock

Posted by shirleycurran on 27 Jul 2018



What a short preamble! I thought it must be the shortest ever but was told that there was a shorter one in Listener 3849 Bengo Drums by Arcturus, published 29/10/2005. (No, I am not going to write a blog with no Ds – ‘Drums’ just preempted that!) That preamble simply consisted of the words: “Sir John provides an explanation.” “Pock?” we asked each other. He doesn’t appear on Dave Hennings’ Crossword Database but it was soon pretty clear that this was not really a débutant setter unless there had been a fair amount of editorial nudging and improving. Hah – afterthought – a real penny-drop moment, maybe this is by NoD.

Of course, there were many thematic hints to add to the preamble. A number of clues led to words that were one or two letters longer than the spaces allocated and that was where the lipography was going to be – well, one place, anyway. Maybe a letter was omitted from that mini preamble and the setter’s name. One penny had gone down.

I read through the clues to see whether this ‘new’ setter could qualify for an entry to a Listener Setters’ boozy knees-up and oh my! Did he qualify! He started innocuously with ‘More than one beer can start off nausea in infants (7)’. No problem there (except perhaps the underage alcohol). We added N(ausea) to TINIES and got TINNIES (mugs or cans of beer, chiefly NZ or Australia). Immediately afterwards he was into the whisky: ‘Leaves novelist most of whisky (8)’ giving GREENE + RY(e) = GREENERY. Reading on, I found ‘Real ales, extra rum bar opening – one means to get high (6)’ – He certainly does intend to get high with the ales and rum added, but we decided a LADDER was his means to get there and had our next penny drop moment.

Well, there was a monster hint wasn’t there? The lipography was clearly going to involve one of the letters of the missing word Down. Having solved RITUAL, LAYETTE, TUTU and AUTUMN among our first successes, I suspected it was the letter O but it was not to be. A double D had to come out of LA(dd)ER. However, we had the grid half full before the next penny-drop moment occurred and we realized why some of the clues were simply not making sense. Of course, Ds were coming out of the clues too, so that ‘In front of Queen ate pub meal (6)’ gave us Date + INN + ER = INNER. It all made sense and the grid filled – except for that ‘phrase from a quotation’. Who talked about missing Ds?

A fellow solver has told me that, within minutes of beginning his solve, he looked for quotations about PENCE lacking and found the Tennyson quotation. I had no such brilliant penny drop moment and had an almost full grid before getting: “I grow in worth, and wit, and sense,/ Unboding critic pen,/ Or that eternal want of Pence,/ Which vexes public men.

Rather amusingly, another solver, one from over the pond, mused that this had to be a comment on the American president and his aide.

Nice, anyway, Pock, or NoD. I think this was probably a crossword that snooty solvers will claim was easy for them but it was certainly not easy to create with such constraints and was nicely thematically unified – all those dropping pennies, the want of pence! Thank you, Pock.



2 Responses to “Vexatious Lipography by Pock”

  1. Roger Phillips said

    There’s less preamble in Listener 3391, Pas Si Ton by Kea, from 4 Jan 1997 (

  2. shirleycurran said

    It’s Alice who, when invited to have more tea, tells the Hatter that she can’t have more when she hasn’t had any. Are we moving into a reverse crossword Wonderland here?

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