Listen With Others

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Listener No 4581: Transformers by Yorick

Posted by Dave Hennings on 6 December 2019

This was Yorick’s third Listener. The previous one was over three years ago and titled PQRST?. It required us to draw a Parallelogram, Quadrilateral, Rectangle, Square and Trapezium in the grid, together with a Rhombus to finish it all off. I seem to remember that it was quite a tricky puzzle, and after reading the preamble this week, I guessed this would be as well.

There were four groups of clues, each entered in a different way as revealed by extra letters in the wordplay in one of the other groups of clues. Two entries were unclued, but analysis of the number of each length showed that they were probably one 8- and one 10-letter entry. Since all the other clue lengths agreed with what was in the grid, I thought it unlikely that letters would be added or lost. And don’t forget there would be three misprints to find which would identify the transformation for the entries in that group.

The first part of this puzzle was basically a jigsaw since the clues in each group were in alphabetic order of answers. Thus nothing could be entered into the grid. The first bit of help I got was when the extra letters in wordplay from Group 4 looked like they would be Normal. Meanwhile, Group 1 had Eas.wes..lip and would fairly obviously be East-west flip. Looking at Group 3, where I had …o…u…, I guessed that could be North-south flip, although the flip was possibly something else.

A bit later, and the remaining extra wordplay letters from Group 2 looked like being Rotation — whatever that might mean. At first, I wondered if it meant letters moving from one end of the word to the other, much like “cycling” in clueing jargon.

More cold solving followed, and with about three-quarters of the clues in the bag, I tried a grid fill. Starting with the normal entries (from Group 1), I was amazed that everything else could also go in somewhere, albeit back-to-front or upside-down. Group 2 looked as though it was the east-west flipping group, but both CHOICE and HEATED only fitted by being inverted. But that couldn’t be right since FORNENST had to be one of the four 8-letter across entries.

However, the gaps in my answers could now be finished off. This enabled HO.T.TOIT in the first column to become HOITY-TOITY, and Yorick’s cunning plan suddenly revealed itself to me. Flipping applied to both across and down entries, such that east-west flipped down entries were flipped about their vertical centre, and north-south flipping was about each entry’s horizontal centre. Thus HOITY-TOITY could be flipped about its vertical axis and could also be a member of the normal group. Likewise, the top row had BEDOCKED, flippable north-south, not BEDUCKED which couldn’t also belong to the normal group.

And rotation meant each entry had to be rotated 180°!

All this meant that some letters like H and O could be flipped or rotated unchanged, whereas A flipped horizontally unchanged, but vertically or rotationally became inverted. But which group was which? Well, despite the first misprint I identified changed packing to backing in the last Group 2 clue, that wasn’t the east-west flipped group. No — the p↔b hinted at inversion. In Group 3, bad for dad gave east-west flipping (b↔d), and heads for heaps in Group 4 identified the rotational group (p↔d).

That was the easy part! Ensuring that I got all the flipping and rotating correct took almost as long. [Hyperbole! Ed.] Actually, it wasn’t too tricky — rotating the grid enabled those entries to be checked and looking through the grid from the back enabled the others to be checked, one with rotation, one not. I also made sure that my Ys were symmetrical. All in all, another week when St Albans had a tricky checking week!

A wonderfully inventive and entertaining puzzle. Thanks, Yorick.

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