Listen With Others

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Listener No 4610: Tale of the Unexpected by Lath

Posted by Dave Hennings on 26 Jun 2020

A new setter greeted us this week, although part of me wondered if it might be a collaboration. An interesting device here in that five pairs of clues needed swapping with their first letters and their clue numbers leading to the location of a notable event which needed to be drawn in the grid. Moreover there was a dummy clue which would give two important men, presumably related to the event.

Clueing was relatively gentle, with acrosses 7 DISMAL, 16 BRED, 17 LEFTY and 19 NARIAL being slotted in quickly. Quite a few more went in on the first pass although I was aware that there could be some swapping involved. In fact, unless 9dn was DEBTS, either BRED or LEFTY would need moving — or 9dn SEBAT!

About half the acrosses were in before I started on the downs. Again, some went in quickly with 2 HEEHAW, 3 RULER, 4 IRMA and 5 KEEL leading the way. The FOGDOGS, SEGGARS and ROLFERs were new to me and 18dn was the dummy clue since Badge pair go in Derby again (4) did not lead to the unchecked YAWN. Soon the grid was finished and time for the endgame.

The clue swapping involved 1ac↔40ac, 12ac↔45ac, 17ac↔20dn, 21ac↔44ac and 13dn↔35dn. The initial letters of these gave D E P N S S O M W O. My first attempt at unjumbling them gave POW DOMNESS followed by PEMNS WOODS. As so often the case, it just jumped out at me — EPSOM DOWNS. I would have been mortified if I hadn’t got this since I was born and raised in Epsom.

It didn’t need a giant leap to guess we were in Derby territory, especially since, pre-pandemic, it took place early in June. Drawing the shape of the Derby course started at the end of row 3 and continued left, down and right in the grid to spell out DERBY, ONE MILE AND FOUR FURLONGS (what’s a few yards among friends). There were a few detours that could be made, especially around the ONE. I assume all would have been marked OK.

Now we had to decipher the clue numbers: 18 was the dummy clue, 40 1 the swap with the greatest difference and 20 17 the one one with the smallest. My first guess was that we were looking at the 1840 running of the Derby when Little Wonder came through to win his only race. Sadly the horse wasn’t findable in the grid, at least not by me. However, WINGS OF EAGLES was to be found sneakily hiding in the SE–NW diagonal. That was horse number 18 who won the 2017 running of the race at 40/1. Finally, unjumbling the dummy clue at 18dn (Badge pair go in Derby again) gave the jockey PADRAIG BEGGY and trainer AIDAN O’BRIEN.

An interesting trip into the world of horse racing — at least it wasn’t Cheltenham! Thanks, Lath.


5 Responses to “Listener No 4610: Tale of the Unexpected by Lath”

  1. Steve Tregidgo said

    I do hope you’re right about the marking — the paper says either N in ONE is okay, but I’m more concerned about the LEAN which can go either way around an H in the NW part of the puzzle. I went for the lower sequence as it meant the extra sticky-out bits can be drawn in (based on the maps I found of Epsom Downs), but all three of these blogs have gone around the top…

  2. Alan B said

    As with most of these puzzles, I enjoyed getting stuck into the clues – a process spiced up a bit by the need to look out for solutions that didn’t fit in the right places. With the grid two-thirds completed I had four of the five pairs, but I still needed the last pair to make the anagram. At three-quarters complete (the top right being mostly empty) I got my last pair of letters and made EPSOM DOWNS. It was at that point also that I became almost certain that 18d was the dummy clue, believing (correctly) that it would be one whose solution had no unchecked letters. I assumed that the ‘disguises’ were anagrams. (It was interesting to see the word ‘Derby’ in that clue, combining rather neatly with Epsom.)

    The top right corner was rather sticky, but I got there in the end, getting YAWN as the unclued light.

    I wondered whether to embark on the endgame, partly because it meant looking up stuff I didn’t want to know, but partly also because 43a (?OD) was unsolvable. Optimism took over, I’m glad to say, giving me hope that the N of ?OD would ‘come out in the wash’, i.e. be resolved by the theme. WINGS OF EAGLES was in fact the first thematic item I found after Epsom Downs. I looked it up and discovered it was the name of a horse, and it won a race at Epsom in 2017. When I looked up more information about it I found Padraig Beggy the jockey and Aidan O’Brien the trainer, accounting for the anagram at 18d. (I would call them ‘relevant’ rather than ‘important’, but in the narrow sphere of horse racing they must be regarded as ‘important’ also.)

    A well-designed puzzle. Thanks to Lath.

  3. I’m afraid I don’t know if any other options will be marked correct, Steve. I did spot your possibility, and also that the R of DERBY could be supplied by AUBERGE. I suppose a somewhat disoriented horse may take a more zigzaggy course, but then I guess it would travel more than the mile and four furlongs!


  4. Donald Macleod said

    As an expert in falling into Listener traps, including those of my own making – I wanted to share my experience with this puzzle…

    – the instruction to reveal EPSOM DOWNS was: take the first letters of 10 clues. Which I naturally misread as: take the first letters of their answers.

    The only feasible anagram of those letters is COVID LUNGS. The “notable event” at this location being the virus’ appearance in Patient Zero somewhere in Wuhan?

    Cue a short spell spent in the Listener ICU trying to reconcile this unfortunate event with the rest of the thematic items…

    Assuming this trap was unintended then I can only be impressed by the resourcefulness of this virus.

    I also thought the first significant man was Mark Twain (‘Badge pair’ read as a normal clue). Luckily I then stumbled onto the contents of the diagonal, and was duly cured.


  5. Steve Tregidgo said

    Ha, bad luck Donald on COVID LUNGS! Superb coincidence.

    I ended up including a note for JEG in my submission to this week’s puzzle, pointing out the other route in case it hadn’t been noticed before. The drive to get 52 correct submissions in a year is compelling, and so far I haven’t managed it; it’s annoying when I make a mistake, but I’d be pretty cross if an unconsidered ambiguity got in my way. In this case I stared long and hard at both routes trying to see which best matched the various maps of the course, and nothing jumped out as representing a trap, so it was a bit frustrating.

    (And it’s all just a bit of fun, and this is a first-world problem, but the weekly Listener is a hobby I take fairly seriously, and somehow the introduction of stats and records flips a switch in me and I end up with mild anxiety over a possible tarnished record…)

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