Listen With Others

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Progress Report by Tibea

Posted by shirleycurran on 31 January 2020

I had forgotten that Tibea was a combination of Tiburon and Kea (and we saw Tiburon just three weeks ago with that lovely little tangram hare didn’t we? (Ed. “Surely you mean Christmas tree?”) Had I remembered earlier, the title would have been an excellent prompt about the theme and the preamble a real give-away. We had to go back three decades or so, that takes us to January 1990 and, of course, with about 520 Listener crosswords in a decade, that’s over a thousand and a half Listener crosswords. Ye Gods! We numpties have been seriously solving them for around thirteen years and probably average around five hours – for the two of us – that comes to approaching 7000 man hours. “Get a life!” I hear you say.

“Do we really want to continue doing this?” said the other Numpty as we read the preamble with more than a degree of consternation. We learned that two blocks of 4×4 letters were going to give us a message read row by row and ‘In clues for the affected entries, the wordplay leads to the mutilated form, and the definitions have been randomly exchanged among these 18 clues’. That word ‘among’ was worrying (not even ‘between’) – randomly 18 definitions were not going to match their wordplay and we had to enter 18 solutions somewhere in the grid using wordplay only.

The 4x4s were symmetrically opposite, so we knew, when the top right-hand corner of the grid filled up with RETROVERT, OILPAN, THALAMI, EXPO, OSIER and IGNITION, that we could look for normal entries in the bottom left, SIDEARMER, CRISIS, LAVAGE, GURAMI, POPADOM and those 4×4 squares had to be in the other two corners.

That was the real test – making wordplay like ‘Gums open wide with wine knocked back (7)’ into YAWN + RED reversed – DERNWAY – not even a real word! (Ah yes, but I hadn’t forgotten to check the two editors’ right to remain in the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Outfit – not as if they could be expelled from it – and they had already been ‘Concerned with non-drinker outside Rover’s Return (9)’ in the very first lovely clue, producing RE + ROVER< in TT + RETROVERT. Cheers, Tibea!)

We were lucky in that sussing the ‘six-word announcement’ cut short our agony. LAST OF LINE UNDERNEATH THIS MASTHEAD. “Surely that’s referring to the moment the Listener was taken over by the new ‘masthead’, The Times?” I said, and he went off to finish cooking dinner and prepare the G and Ts, while I performed the relatively easy task of sorting those 32 letters into new places according to the 18 definitions (Silky cotton = VELVERET, sure to work = FAILSAFE, Fine shawl = PASHMINA, Gums = ANIMES and so on). That was rendered easier too, by the message that began to appear: THOUSAND AND A HALF THE TIMES LISTENER. What a stunning feat of construction! Many thanks to Tibea.

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