Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin

How? by Twin

Posted by shirleycurran on 28 December 2018

This didn’t look too daunting on first sight: a rather generous grid with an unusually large number of totally open lights that may well solve themselves if we manage the intersecting solutions, a short preamble and the promise of a couple of messages to decipher once we have changed a letter in each of the thematic extra words in the down clues. That sounds like an original and intriguing new device.

“Well”, we say, “obviously we will have to solve the across clues first”, and we start … and there is instant consternation. ‘Is it lost at sea side twice a year (12)’ gives us {IS IT LOST}* = SOLSTITI + side = ALLY so we begin to enter SOLSTITIALLY … and run out of space two thirds of the way through the word. Something is going on! A quick check establishes that it is the words that end or begin in the centre of the grid that have these extra letters that we must, somehow, double up. DISC CAMERA is our next over-long word and by a stroke of luck, we recognise that the SC can also be used for TRANSCENDS, so we are underway.

Of course, I spotted that little HARE who obligingly appeared in the very first clue, ‘What’s flatter when taken from head of rabbit over hare? (8, two words)’ This hare was in a RUSH, and the rabbit was just CHAT but we had to use Chambers to find that a CRUSH HAT is a collapsible opera hat.

Twin had a few clever clues like that in store for us: ‘Two supporters – pair following the lead of Nottingham Forest supporter? (8)’ gave us a smile and PRO + PRO + the 2nd and 3rd letters of NOTTS to give us a supporter, or PROPROOT (yes, we needed Chambers again!)

I didn’t need Chambers, though to establish Twin’s continued membership of the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Elite. ‘Droids pull barrels into background (6)’ was the second clue we solved, putting B into ROOTS to give ROBOTS. ‘Rat out of vat, lose it outside of vintage bar (6, two words)’ moved from barrels to a vat, and shortly we were in ‘Orwell’s bar’, ‘Seats all filled up, Orwell’s bar bodes well (3)’ There’s standing room only now  and soon ‘One’s worried about splashes over cork (6)’ (the splashes are WETS< so our worried one is a STEWER). No real cause for worry, “Cheers, Twin! No doubt see you at the bar in York.”

It was GALLIFREY, Doctor Who’s planet of origin, that came next and we understood that we were creating a Tardis in our grid – BIGGER ON THE INSIDE than it looks and that phrase TIME AND RELATIVE DIMENSION IN SPACE helped us to complete our grid fill but we had to do a bit of Numpty head-scratching to see how to adapt those extra words in the down clues. QUACK had been an early find (from QUICK) but I had thought we were going to find a flight of birds (COB from CUB, GULL from PULL – how wrong one can be!) Of course, INTERS gave us INTERN, JAWBONES gave SAWBONES, DEALER gave HEALER and that delightful PAD gave PhD, and the message confirmed that our object to highlight was the Tardis with its article (A), the light on top. TWO HEARTS, we were told (I am not a Doctor Who addict but do know that the Doctor has a second heart and that solves the problem of that single I in the heart of our grid), so we obligingly doubled the I in GALLIIFREY. Yes, I muttered about MATINESSES (I suspect the editors did too – MATINESS is not a countable noun, even if Chambers allows one to pluralise it, but Twin has performed an astonishing work of art in managing to make double letters in words like OPTICAL MASER and OPHTHALMIA intersect, so a bit of setter’s licence is in order – and, as the other Numpty said, at least we were not instructed to submit an audio recording of those elephant sounds the Tardis makes as it takes off.

Delightful, thank you, Twin.

A post script: when I had finished my blog, I went onto our site to read the ones on Oyler’s Scumbag College that went up last night and was struck with horror on opening Dave’s blog. “Oh no”, I thought, “he has done that unforgivable thing we are always afraid of doing – accidentally publishing his blog before the puzzle is closed”. Looking a little more closely, I realised that it was simply that Dave had done a bit of time-travelling, seen Twin’s solution at the end of December, and decided to feature it when he wrote his blog before Twin’s puzzle was even set. Nice, Dave!

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