Listen With Others

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Bunch of Fives by Brock

Posted by shirleycurran on 27 March 2020

Our first reaction on downloading Brock’s puzzle was delight at the original grid. Then there was a moment of consternation as we read the repeated ‘five’, ‘five-letter’, ‘fifth’ etc – eight times in all, including the title. We were left with no doubt that we were going to find something to do with that number to highlight in our completed grid.

Brock’s clues were fair and clearly had to be unambiguous since we could initially place only the first and last letters of our solutions in the grid (- shape? It isn’t really a ‘grid’ is it?) and although HADDOCK, ALPHA CENTAURI, EXCESSIVENESS, ARCTURUS and TICKETLESS were among our early solves, we couldn’t enter them yet but just a few potential routes for those long words to take.

What we could do, though, was spot that somethng fishy was going on. We soon had HUSS, COD, HADDOCK, PLAICE and SKATE. Brock was giving nothing away. All but the fluke were clued with non-fishy definitions. Of course I did see Brock’s entry ticket for the oenophile outfit, ‘Tintin’s friend put on Rhenish drinks (7)’ We put ADD into HOCK (the HOCK ‘drinks’ the ADD – nice!) getting Captain HADDOCK, Tintin’s friend.

I love Rhenish wine so was rather surprised to read ‘Not much drunk (half leaving bottle) (6)’ Of course, I realized that Brock was already LIT so that half the BOT(tle) could go leaving the TLE, to give LITTLE (not much). What masterful cluing! Sadly, though, he now brought in the BEER. “Mix-up with beer in order of bananas (7)’. MUS with ALES giving us an ‘order of bananas, MUSALES. What a mess! But cheers, anyway, Brock.

Soon we had five seas, too: AZOV, CASPIAN, BALTIC, BLACK and WHITE, four of them disguised as a prince, excessively cold, bad luck, and coffee, and a set of stars: VEGA, CANOPUS SIRIUS, ALPHA CENTAURI, and ARCTURUS. The asteroids followed: CERES, IRIS, EROS, PALLAS and VESTA. It was the most obvious set that I saw last of all, the digits; THUMB, INDEX, MIDDLE, RING and LITTLE. However, it was only after working out the pair of messages that we saw how these groups, STARFISH, SEA, DIGIT and ASTEROID suggested four thematic synonyms. I learn something with every Listener solve; I had no idea that a starfish was an asteroid – ‘a member of the Asteroidea’.

With a full grid but no idea what to highlight, we could now read the first letters of each of those groups and were told what to highlight, CENTRE AND TWENTY-FIVE OTHERS. We had to read the fifth letter of the fifth words which gave us CHOOSE THE RIGHTMOST’S OPTION – that was to solve an ambiguity. Of course when PISCES appeared sending its five digits out, we saw that we had Ss in cells 57 and 53, and chose the rightmost of the two.

A dazzling compilation. Thank you Brock.

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