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Listener No 4597: Bunch of Fives by Brock

Posted by Dave Hennings on 27 Mar 2020

Only the third Listener puzzle from Brock, and eight years since the last with its Biblical misprint theme. What faced us this week was one of those grids that is almost impossible to describe in words although “lots of little pentagonal cells scrunched together in a roughly hexagonal shape” would probably do. The central cell was unchecked but needed completing in the endgame.

The answers, all clued, included five thematically-related sets of five. The preamble then proceeded to describe how the initial letters of clues would spell out an instruction, and the fifth letter of the fifth word would enable an ambiguity to be resolved. I always worry about the need to resolve ambiguities, especially if I complete a grid without stumbling across one.

The first set of five that I spotted were the stars, although I got some of them mixed up with asteroids, the next set I spotted. The stars were VEGA, SIRIUS, ARCTURUS, ALPHA CENTAURI and CANOPUS. I particularly liked the clue to number 4, True chaplain and a converted near neighbour? (13, two words) even though it was a straightforward anagram. The asteroids were CERES, VESTA, IRIS, EROS and PALLAS although the third and fifth were new to me.

So we had an astronomical theme, didn’t we? Well, no! The fish put paid to that with HADDOCK, PLAICE, SKATE, COD and HUSS.

All in all, my favourite clue, albeit quite complex wordplay was 58-47 Espresso? Head waiter, initially confounded, brings it in with milk (5) for WHITE — (E(spresso) H(ead) W(aiter))* around IT. The last one in, and not just because it was down the bottom of the grid, was 63-56 I amplify microwaves, keeping magnetic flux density lower (6) for IMBASE — I + MASE around B.

Finally, the other sets could be seen, with BLACK, ASOV, CASPIAN, WHITE and BALTIC Seas plus RING, INDEX, LITTLE, MIDDLE fingers and THUMB.

A bit of Google search finally uncovered what was going on. Asteroidea is the class of echinoderms, the starfishes which in turn led to sea stars, five fingers and, why not, fish fingers.

The initial letters of the clues taken in the correct order gave Centre and twenty-five others for the cells that needed to be highlighted. Fifth letters of fifth words in this clues, in a different order, gave Choose the rightmost S option. So, once the central P was inserted, all the PISCESes in the grid had to be highlighted to represent a starfish, with the S in the south-east corner being the rightmost one.

I must admit that I got a bit lost with all the sets floating around,, but I’m sure the published solution will make all clear, and probably more succinctly than I could manage it.

Good fun, thanks Brock.


Here’s hoping good health to all LWO readers and non-readers alike.


3 Responses to “Listener No 4597: Bunch of Fives by Brock”

  1. Richard said

    I’m still baffled by the finer points of the thematics, more so after seeing the solution notes. Why “brightest” etc, why fish and CHIPS, why seas connected to MOSCOW (they aren’t surely? Last time I checked Moscow was way inland)

    I’m impressed you spotted that the gods and goddess were actually asteroids.

  2. Brock said

    It seemed less elegant to use arbitrary items for the sets, so I chose either closed sets or specific items from the top of longer lists. There is more in the setter’s blog (on its way), but re: “Port of Five Seas” see (e.g.)

  3. Brock said

    Thank you Dave, for the solving blog. The two clues you mention among the easiest of the constrained ones to set, but I was quite pleased with the one for WHITE.

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