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Listener No 4513: Lost in Translation by Ottorino

Posted by Dave Hennings on 17 August 2018

Two years ago, Ottorino’s last puzzle had Alexandre Dumas’s Three Musketeers battling it out with Verdi’s La Traviata. Before that he took us into the far from uplifting world of Dorothy Parker’s Resumé.

Here we had across clues in conventional order and downs in alphabetical order of answers — is there a word answerbetical?! [No. Ed.] There were thematic removals from all across clues and one down plus a message from the initial letters of the downs in conventional order.

TOMTOM, ORIGINATE, BRIGADE and SEELS soon went in across the top half of the grid with the clues losing X, W, J and K respectively. Lots of lesser used letters there. Finally, a Y was dropped from Features devoid of iron[y] at being re-edited right for legalists (4) (FEATURES* – FE – AT) and another lesser used letter bit the dust.

A little while later, the downs were gradually revealing an instruction which eventually came out as Insert one cl•ue number. The • represents the one clue that had thematic removals, and what a great clue it was: Eg, Jess and Ken, Ruby Wax off tele… star cast! (7). This had loads of lesser used letters which needed to be dropped to give Eg, ess and en, rub a off tele… star cast! (7) resulting in LETTERS.

A quick check of missing clue numbers would have made that 21dn, and we were dealing with 21 letters after J, K, W, X and Y were ignored. But what was the theme? Scrabble was the first think that came to mind, but since Q wasn’t in our list of exclusions, that seemed unlikely. Next I thought of the old rotary telephone dials and the letter groupings on them. Again, no luck.

I think it fair to say that without Google, I’d have been lost. Yes, I could have jumped ahead and discovered the four letter changes required, but that would have deprived me of a lot of angst. Google revealed a fact that I hadn’t known, namely that the Italian alphabet only has 21 letters. My first thought then was that just labelling LETTERS with a 21 failed to show that the theme had been fully identified. But what was that in the next column? ITALIAN. Perhaps we would have to label that as 21 so that we had ITALIAN LETTERS!

Anyway, on with changing four letters “to form a word whose thematic form is a grid entry.” And so, some grid-staring began. My first thought was that we needed to swap four letters somewhere in the grid for other, perhaps thematic, ones to give a word which then lost thematic letters to give another grid entry. [Well, I’m confused. Ed.] Well, that was obviously (in hindsight) a hopeless task.

Even having seen the five rogue letters in column 6, it took me far too long to replace them to give new words across and ITALY down. So that showed that we knew what the theme was with its thematic form (ie without any Y) as ITALIA at 9dn. Meanwhile, it was just LETTERS that got labelled 21dn. Thank goodness I got there in the end.

A nice puzzle, thanks Ottorino, and I can’t stress enough how much I loved the rogue down clue!
 

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