Listen With Others

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Choice Words by Serpent

Posted by shirleycurran on 21 Jun 2019

Serpent is a regular participant at the three-monthly gatherings of Listener aficionados (editors, solvers, setters and the marker) that take place in Farringdon, London, and I regularly see him with a glass in his hand so I was astonished to find what was apparently a TT set of clues but, of course, he had tricks in store and by the end of our solve we were staggering drunkenly as he produced example after example of our local rather rich wine (the vin d’or –, so he retains his place in the  Elite Listener Setters’ Oenophile Outfit. Cheers Serpent, see you at the bar in the Sir John Oldcastle!

I said ‘by the end of our solve’. We were really flummoxed as we filled in our first 20 or so solutions, MATCHBOX, ROPILY, FLIP SIDE, INTAGLI, TWINGE, etc. SNIPER, SHIP and RIDER seemed to fit in that north-east corner but the clues didn’t quite work. ‘Original sin lacking appeal on vacation strangely for young men (4)’ spelled out that we must anagram ORIGINAL SIN less AL, and that gave us SIGNORINI – but which four-letter real word should we enter? NORI or SIGN?

SNIPER seemed to be the ‘critic’ of ‘Reporter is upset about northern critic (6)’ ( IS< round N + REP<) but REP is not ‘reporter’ in Chambers so we had those extra letters ORTER to explain. We argued about RIDER with the other Numpty insisting that DRIER had to be ‘cycling’ (but that doesn’t give RIDER) but then light dawned. TORRIDER is also more dehydrating and also had that extra OR, as did HORACE. We were removing OR and using the remainder of the word for the RIDER solution, for example, and to produce a T for the ’20-letter phrase’ or, with HORACE to give us an H of the ‘proponent of the phrase’ and ACE = A which we added to PSIS to give us APSIS.

‘Choice words’ now made sense (is OR used in computing for ‘alternatives’?) and our grid filled. There had to be no ORs and who said THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE? (Am I allowed to say that a US solver friend commented to me that there seem to be rather too many ‘alternatives’ in the current Brexit situation and that Mrs May hasn’t been able to wield an iron handbag in that respect?) Yes, it was Margaret Thatcher. We knew what our twenty letters had to anagram to and who our sixteen-letter proponent was, and TINA was climbing in the fourth column of our grid, but the tussle to actually work out the wordplay of those eighteen ‘OR’ clues took us almost as long as the gridfill.

SWINEPOX was the most difficult of all. ‘Panorama losing focus to fashionable circle by complaint (8)’ That is real ‘Listener’ for me. We removed the OR and used SWEEP for the PAN but that had to exchange an E for IN (yes, I hadn’t realized that E = focus), so we had SWINEP, followed by ‘circle by’ = OX and AMA – three of Mrs Thatcher’s letters. What can I say? Brilliant, Serpent.



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