Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin

Transformers by Yorick

Posted by shirleycurran on 6 December 2019

At first sight this wasn’t too threatening, even if we saw a carte blanche and read, in that relatively succinct preamble that there would be a pair of unclued lights, clues entered in four different ways and three misprints – but that was a long, long time ago! This puzzle has taken us far longer than any other so far this year. We had cold-solved all but five of the clues when the other Numpty, after a grumpy growl, tipped his second coffee (accidentally) over his messy solution grid and stomped off to bed – well after midnight – muttering that Listener guidelines for setters tell us that no more than half the clues should require cold-solving before we get an inkling about filling our grid.

Of course, I had checked that Yorick with his first clue ‘Ethnic criminal seizing heart of Adriatic region of Italy (7)’ giving us CHIANTI, qualifies for his oenophile setter’s seat near Stratford next year. He had more alcohol, ‘Nick Nolte’s name before trendy acid/alcohol combo (5)’ where we extracted the T as an extra letter, ‘nicked’ the N and were left with OLE + IN. No wonder we got a ‘tipsy old fool’ (WIGEON) ‘Judge that is tipsy old fool (6)’ WIG + [I]E ON in that third set of clues – after mixing the Chianti and Olein! Cheers, anyway, Yorick – see you at the bar.

We realized that those three misprints were going to tell us which of our sets of clues were going to be entered with an EAST/WEST FLIP, a NORTH/SOUTH FLIP, in ROTATION or NORMALLY and I had surmised by a lucky long-shot that the first group would be normal and started to slot some of those in but I abandoned in despair with two misprints found but no idea what Dad for Bad, and heaPs for heaDs were telling us. I glanced at the Cheaters and Bleaters website and saw that one solver was announcing that he had completed the puzzle, and saying how he had appreciated it. I would have to sleep on it.

Isn’t the mind a wonderful thing! T’other Numpty woke me this morning saying “A lower case D is an east/west flip of a lower case B isn’t it? … and a D rotates a P” so set three must flip east/west and the last set rotate. We have to find a similar misprint in set one or set two and we have the mode of grid-filling.” One of our five missing clues was the SMEIK clue (My uncle lived in Arbroath and Arbroath smokies were part of my childhood but I don’t think I ever heard of the SMEIK that was used to smoke them!) Of course the misprint was there, ‘Modest enterprise by family packing preserve, as for fish in Arbroath (5)’. The KI[N] were Backing, not Packing in their SME – just the misprint we needed, so the third set had to have a north/south flip to convert a p to a b.

Home and happy! You must be joking. I seem to have a blind spot when it comes to spinning or upending letters. We were actually the test-solvers of a recent Magpie crossword that required the same and I had the solution notes but still managed to get it wrong. The normal ones were easy; thank goodness they were numerous, and the group requiring an east/west flip went in with only a little reflection but putting a north/south flip into REINS, OLEIN, FORNENST and PLEON was a real head-scratcher even when I had a mirror handy and the groups colour-coded (as in the grid I have inserted above). Of course I sent poor Mr Green a normal one but I wonder what sort of a headache marking this one will give him!

The bloggers on Big Dave’s website give stars for enjoyment and difficulty. Whilst I really admire the skill that went into the compilation of this grid, I can only give Yorick a generous ** for removing our happy solver smiles and a bulky ***** for filling half my weekend.

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