Listen With Others

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Listener No 4523: A Tale of Two Cities by Wan

Posted by Dave Hennings on 26 Oct 2018

Wan’s previous Listener was two years ago (no. 4416, Up to 10 Items?) and was about spanakopita, crappit-heid and a few other (less interesting) food items. This week, we had quite a long preamble, which wasn’t surprising since there seemed to be an awful lot going on in the grid. Two cities represented, some clashing cells and extra words in some clues. My first guess was that we were dealing with Sodom and Gomorrah.

I can’t believe how long it took me to solve 1ac Fairy about in El Salvador’s forests (6)! The fairy was obviously PERI, but I didn’t suss in as wordplay fodder (as opposed to indicator) for some time (PERI about IN + ES).

Although the Weasly in 6ac was almost certainly RON, HONORARY would have to wait. However, 18ac Feral rats vie for scraps in Scotland (4) led to TAIVERS which obviously wasn’t a 4-letter word! So clashes were multiple letters. In fact, what took a bit of time to realise was that the contribution of one entry in a clash was frequently just one letter. Thus, PINERIES clashing with TETRADS resulted in TETRADS surviving intact and giving 1ac as PITIES.

And what with a few extra words to contend with, not to mention Wan’s tricky and excellent clueing, progress was pretty slow. In all, I found a dozen extra words, which were all jumbles of thematic words. I think low was the first one that I identified since there aren’t too many anagrams of that. Owl was the culprit and an examination of the other extra words that I had identified (OK, there was only one — Wan’s for swan) meant we were dealing with birds.

What’s more, the clashes could also be unjumbled to give birds, such as tern and heron in row 1. In full, they gave Tern Heron Emu Barb Ibis Rail Diver Smew. CUCKOO in 8 stood out like a sore thumb, but I wasn’t too sure what to do with it. It needed the first letters of the birds unjumbled in the clues to point me in the right direction, and it wasn’t Alfred Hitchcock: Ani Rhea Icterid Swan Tarsel Owl Pyet Hagden Avocet Nhandu Eyas Soar giving Aristophanes and his play The Birds.

Reading Wiki revealed the two cities involved: CLOUD CUCKOO LAND and ATHENS to be found, respectively, in a squashed U shape across the centre of the grid and in the bottom row. Thus it contained above it all the cells with clashes.

Finally, the interloper ISIS had to be moved outside (below) the city walls to replace GRIP at 35ac. Even more finally, ATHENS had to lose its thematic HEN in the grid. DEAL, FAT, COURS, UNDER were the new words revealed by these final movements. My favourite clue in all of this was Pet fish whip the cat when scrapping I [hear] (6) for CODDLE, especially since I hadn’t heard of the expression whip the cat (for IDLE) before.

Thanks for a very enjoyable puzzle, Wan.


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