Listen With Others

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Ambidexter by Opsimath

Posted by shirleycurran on 14 June 2019

We have seen Opsimath in the pages of the Magpie, in a first EV and a first IQ and now welcome his first Listener. I know that he enjoys his local ales and fine wines so don’t really need to worry about his entry to the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Elite but he leaves little doubt with a lovely clue, ‘Tangled balm tree lacking the first bit of leaf is what’s kept under glass (7)’ BA(l)MTREE* produces a smile and a beermat.  We haven’t solved for very long before we have spotted that this crossword has an Italian theme so are not surprised to find ‘After six, not one Italian drink (4)’ (obviously not just one but several) giving us VI + NO = VINO. “Cheers Opsimath”, or in your local idiom, “Şerefe !”

These were generous clues and soon the corrected misprints (unusually in either definition or wordplay) had given us ‘I STOOD IN … BYRON’ and ‘Perhaps indulges in rice and deergrass alternately (4)’ produced that V that we needed to have Childe Harold in his Pilgrimage standing in Venice – what sort of vegan chooses between rice and deergrass? Far more likely to entertain some Vice (he ERRS – alternate letters of ‘deergrass’), so we knew that we were hunting for the BRIDGE OF SIGHS in the grid, and there it was, helping us to complete our solve.

We had to go the Internet to find that he had ‘a PALACE and a PRISON on each hand’,

  I stood in Venice, on the Bridge of Sighs;
  A palace and a prison on each hand

and we were able to complete the unclued lights and almost complete our grid, and, of course, understand the title of the crossword, Ambidexter. Just 12 more cells to find to allow us to highlight two further features of the scene – and they had to be in a symmetrical arrangement – and there, beautifully placed between the Palace and the Prison and flowing below the bridge, was the RIO DI PALAZZO.

How I enjoy a puzzle that produces a visual depiction of its theme and has a device that contributes to the solving process so that the whole process is enjoyable. (Yes, I have been muttering  lately about puzzles where the entire grid has to be filled before the help in the clues can be arranged in grid order, or in alphabetical order of the answers, to produce the message – that’s just giving the solver work for the sake of it and, to me, irritating) so many thanks and congratulations, Opsimath.

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