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Listener No 4572: Don’t Tell by Poat

Posted by Dave Hennings on 4 Oct 2019

Last year’s Poat was based on PG Wodehouse’s Unpleasantness at Buddleigh Court. (“The fascination of shooting as a sport depends almost wholly on whether you are at the right or wrong end of the gun.”) I expected a fairly tough workout this week.

Here, we had seven clues that needed to be treated according to a literary technique before solving. I think it safe to say looking back, that I hadn’t a clue what that could possibly be. I just highlighted it and started solving.

A full run through all the clues, and I was none the wiser. I was, however, surprised at how much of the grid was filled — I’d say about 30%. (OK, I’m easily pleased!) It wasn’t much later that 4dn Moped around part of church in total control (5). VESPA looked likely for the Moped part, and APSE< for part of church. That just left the V, which could easily come from middle of service a few clues further down at 8dn.

So clues had bits swapped around? If so, the literary technique still completely passed me by. Even without being affected, some clues needed some thought to be sure my answers were right. Even 1ac At hospital see my heart stop (3), which was obviously HOA, took a bit of time to realise that the my referred to Poat — H + (P)OA(t)!

Also worthy of note was 28dn Common accompaniment to pain? (6) giving BEURRE. In daily Times speak, this was a cryptic definition, although I don’t think they appear very often in the Listener. Here, pain was French bread. Bizarrely, beurre appears in Chambers, but pain doesn’t, except in the guise of pain au chocolat!

I think the rejigging of the clues gives:

23ac/25ac Running behind with elite guards leaving site of ancient culture (6, two words) LA TENE
25ac/4dn Poet’s to go off Australian in total control (7) EMPAIRE
34ac/26dn Little creations Paul Bocuse endlessly whipped up (8) OPUSCULA
4dn/8dn Moped around part of church after middle of service (5) VESPA
8dn/14dn Regarding unfinished public toilet on the throne (6) REGENT
14dn/23ac … Scottish one’s turned sick during sea voyage (7) LILLIAS
26dn/34ac Vessel over in Russian capital must be unloaded on the wings (7) MUDSCOW

With grid complete, the circled letters gave, top to bottom, RUSRBGUOH and it didn’t take long to unravel BURROUGHS. I assumed this would be the William S who was a somewhat (for want of a better phrase) off-the-wall author in the middle of the twentieth century. The initial letters of the answers to clues affected by the chopping around gave one of his partners, which I initially assumed was in a professional sense. VRLLEMO, however, was easily unjumbled to give VOLLMER, one of Burroughs’s wives.

More Wiki revealed that Burroughs had a “cut-up” period and that explained what was going on. All that was now left was to identify the musical work that we were required to highlight. At 13 letters, I assumed that it would be one of the diagonals, but I would need to treat the two columns and then two rows thematically before that may or may not be confirmed.

I stared at the grid for a few minutes wondering what to do. The left hand column seemed a logical starting point. Whether Poat was being deliberately helpful, I don’t know, but KENT at the bottom could be replaced by RING from column 11. And blow me down, TAPEWORM would then become GAPEWORM, which I’d not heard before.

Columns done, now the rows. LACKED now appeared to the right of row 10 and that could replace LEGMAN in row 3 to give CHADDAR, RECENT, TEEMING and EDDA in the north-east, with TECHY, DEGREE, DEBARRING and BERGANDER appearing in the south-east corner.

Identifying THE BLACK RIDER in rows 2, 3 & 4, not one of the diagonals after all, finished it off… I hope! (I should add that cracking the endgame didn’t take the five minutes that this blog may indicate!)

Thanks for a pretty tough workout this week, Poat.


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