Listen With Others

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Listener No 4557: Choice Words from Serpent

Posted by Dave Hennings on 21 June 2019

Listener No 4557 was from a getting-prolific setter! Previously, we’ve had No 4459, Shock Therapy on the subject of alopecia, and before that No 4408, Child’s Play with its snakes and ladders.

This week, adjustments to answers before entry (ten of them) and adjustments to clues before solving (another eight). The dropped bits from the acrosses could be arranged to form a 20-letter phrase, and those from the downs gave someone who was a proponent of said phrase. Exactly how big the bits were was for us to discover but two or three letters seemed likely.

Of course, it turned out that most of them were longer. In the acrosses, 12ac Original sin lacking appeal on vacation strangely for young men (4) led to SIGNORINI which had to be entered as SIGN and 13ac Intrepid learner takes space for parking in vain (3) giving [VAPOR]OUS. The downs were equally deceptive, especially in 7dn Players caught in opening of Greco-Roman wrestling get flattened essentially (5) where Greco-Roman eventually got truncated to Oman.

It soon became clear that the bits dropped from the acrosses gave far more than the letters required for the 20-letter thematic phrase. Similarly, the downs for the 16-letter mystery individual. As usual, I decided to carry on until the grid was filled and all the missing bits had been identified.

I particularly liked the clue to 35ac Giant tailless rodent giving up front of den to rest (4), which looked like ENORMOUS but needed a bit of head-scratching to reveal DORMOUS(e) having D(en) replaced by (d)EN. Also, 17dn Pan(orama) losing focus to fashionable circle by complaint (8) for SWINE-POX — SWEEP with middle E replaced by IN + O + X. 16ac Craft clerical role with nothing for established church (4, two words) had me confused for a bit, pondering whether the clerical role was PRIESTSHIP or PRIORSHIP (in fact it was RECTORSHIP). I was lucky to double-check my entries as I originally scrawled RESOURCE in at 19dn Secure And[orra] or disrupt freedom to return (8) instead of RECOURSE.

The abundance of ORs in the dropped bits of the across answers and all the ors in the down clues was apparent fairly early on and pointed us in the right direction. Well, sort of… they needed to be ignored. I decided to try and identify the individual from the downs: T H GREC T TER AMA RA R initially led me to Graham Ratchetter who was close enough for me to stumble across Margaret Thatcher. Unfortunately, her 20-letter phrase eluded me, mainly, I suspect, because I lived in the States for most of her time as Prime Minister.

The across bits dropped from answers gave INI VAL ROT E T H SH E TER OR and it wasn’t too difficult to wonder if alternative was lurking. A bit of play with the remaining letters gave there is no alternative. Despite having come across this as TINA in crosswords quite a few times, I had never associated it with Thatcher. Well I do now.

Thanks, Serpent, good fun.


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