Listen With Others

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Listener No 4585: In this World of Sin… by Pointer

Posted by Dave Hennings on 3 January 2020

There are some setters who get me worried whenever I see that the week’s Listener is from them. Sabre and Ifor are certainly two of them. And Pointer is a third that comes to mind. Most of his puzzles appear in Magpie, and most of those are graded D on their difficulty scale, with the occasional E thrown in for good measure (as last month’s). His previous Listener was nearly two years ago with its Ship of Theseus and Trigger’s Broom theme.

Here we had a carte blanche with an interesting clueing device: each consisted of definitions for the two words in each row/column together with a jumble of the two words together. In addition, the two words were cyclic and could start anywhere in the row/column. I noted that there was an extended closing date which I hoped was just because of the Christmas post rather than the difficulty of the puzzle! Mind you, the end game seemed to have ‘tricky’ written all over it.

In hindsight, the clues should also have been labelled ‘tricky’. Even with 1ac SOUPED-UP/SOBA and 1dn STRIPE/BIKE, the permutations for their cyclic entry were daunting. It needed a few more clues to be solved before any semblance of a grid could be guessed, and this certainly helped with the last few clues to be solved — I forget which they were now.

Four clues had an extra word or phrase which could be taken as the answer to wordplay provided by each line of the chorus of a carol. I hoped that the title, with its religious nudge, would help. A bit of googling revealed “but in this world of sin, where meek souls will receive him still the dear Christ enters in”. OK, so no help for me there really. The four extras were rats, free rein, groan and Echo. The rising star and jumbled organ seemed a way in to the carol, but yet again, I was left perplexed until the grid was complete.

Scanning the grid, HOLLY was in row 6, so I guessed we were dealing with The Holly and the Ivy carol. We also had the bottom row which could have one letter changed to reveal ILEX ET HEDERA, also Holly and Ivy. So that was stage 1 of the end game sorted. The full chorus reads:

O the rising of the sun
And the running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing of the choir

These gave the wordplay for “rats” (STAR<), “free rein” (FREE + REIN (a rare word for reindeer)), “groan” (ORGAN*) and ECHO ((th)E CHO(ir)).

Next came identifying a “certain dictionary definition” through which we had to draw a decagon. I must admit to wondering why this was referred to as a certain definition. I assumed it was in the sense of all or some of “confident”, “reliable”, “inevitable”, probably in that order. Checking the BRB’s definitions for “holly” and “ivy” got me nowhere.

I scanned the grid and noticed FOR WISE in rows 2 and 3. Whether I would have got any further if I hadn’t entered the first word of 5ac, defined as stands, as RACKS instead of RANKS, I don’t know. There was also CASK and BARREL reversed in rows 8 and 9. Eventually, courtesy of Mrs B under Barrel, I looked up wood in Chambers and all was revealed: “the cask or barrel as storage for wine, etc”. Stage 2 done and dusted.

Finally, we had stage 3. I soon spotted the TIARA above the HOLLY, and they needed highlighting. The nine words of a kind were fairly straightforward, but excluded the VAT and PAN containers that I had initially thought needed enlooping. LEMON, SAL, BAY, ASH and ACER came first, followed some while later by TAWA, RATA and finally ANTIAR. Hold on! Only eight there. It took me a few minutes to realise that the ninth was what I had already highlighted — the HOLLY!

Thanks for a fairly tough puzzle, Pointer. Thankfully, it wasn’t an E grade!

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