Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin

Gallery by Phi

Posted by shirleycurran on 14 Dec 2018

With some surprise, we downloaded a circular grid, though we have memories of Phi’s unusual grids, in particular when he celebrated his own fiftieth birthday with a double L grid. We know that editors are not over-fond of circular crosswords, partly because they tend to leave too many unchecked letters for the solver to work out, but this one, with a mere thirty-nine clues had (we discovered as we solved) the astonishing property of confirming every letter except for that repeated one from the radial entries that interrupted some of the circular solutions.

We noted that we were going to find just one single extra letter in the wordplay of one of the circular clues and the these were going to establish a scoring system in some form of game where the ten inward solutions were competing with the outward ones. We guessed from the title that we were going to be shooting at a target or maybe playing darts. Well, there would be a few glasses of beer consumed during either of those matches though the clues didn’t contain much alcohol – just a landlord and some Ecstasy being pocketed, but cheers, anyway, Phi.

That clue, ‘Youth estranged from much of society immediately pocketing Ecstasy’ gave us our first p.d.m. as we put NEXT round E and produced our NEET with an extra X. Could our scoring system be Roman numerals? (Thinking back to Phi’s Fifty crossword, that seemed plausible). ‘Recipient of goods no longer let down with busy person about’ put a BEE round VAIL, giving BAILEE and we had our V for five, so we hunted for an L in ring 4. That was tough (but Phi’s clues sometimes are, aren’t they?).Eventually we found that PLAT is an ‘American plan’ and reversing that gave us TAP, the espionage activity. We found the C with less difficulty, ‘Expert taking care of brittle cracked bitumen gave us A[C]E round BRITTLE* = ALBERTITE. D emerged from ‘SE[D] PAL’ for ‘Part of flower’ and I from (c)ADD[I]S, ‘Attaches braid without a hint of colour’. Those values worked from the outer circle to the inner one so we decided that a bull’s eye would have to score M or a thousand.

We slowly filled our grid, grateful for all those intersecting letters, then colour-coded our team of inward players and outward players and carefully added up their scores. Of course some of them (OPEN SEA, TAMARAO, SANTERO and OILLETS) had scored bull’s eyes, extending beyond the six cells allocated to the other words, but that was MM for each team so we had to carefully calculate the shots in the six rings. We had some doubt about the shared ‘hit’ where EL NINO and ALECTO might both have put their bullets into the same hole or one of them might have missed (which would justify that figure 16 in the preamble), but decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and to add DD to the score. Inward seemed to be the more accurate shooter scoring MMDD CXVVII (3122) against Outward’s MMLXXXV (2085). Inward is the winner!

What fun and what a clever idea. Thank you, Phi.


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