Listen With Others

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24 Across by Merlin

Posted by shirleycurran on 3 Jul 2020

This was one of those puzzles where the endgame took us just about as long as the grid fill. The clues were generous, but they needed to be as some, to answers like THECLA , KILKENNY, ETHYLENE. OCKHAM and ADAM had two or even three misprints in them. Still, a pattern quickly emerged  placing those misprints in an 8 X 8 square in the centre of the grid, so we knew where we were hunting for them.

Of course I didn’t forget to check that Merlin earns his seat amongst the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Elite (as I see that he hasn’t compiled a puzzle for eight years) but he left me in no doubt. ‘Second drink knocked back – local dram (4)’.  We already had the G of RECOGNISANCE in place so GINS had to be the answer but we also needed a misprint and needed Chambers to tell us that a SNIG is a ‘drag’ locally.

Not far below, we found ‘Wallop barrel not used for full round (4)’. Again the W corrected misprint changed the ‘Wallop’ (that’s beer isn’t it?) to wallow and when the barrel wasn’t used we were left with just the ROLL of a barrel roll (a full round), but the intention was there – Cheers, Merlin.

A generous spread of anagrams led us fairly quickly to the theme and we found ELEANOR RIGBY at EIGHT DOWN. ‘Ecstasy taken by bleary Ringo ruined his maths number (12, two words)’ {BLEARY RINGO E}* had to be a number written by his matEs, Paul and John.  DOES EIGHT DOWN GIVE HINT TO THE THEME? was the question that emerged, and when we were told it was THE REVERSE, I had a vague memory that YELLOW SUBMARINE (of which we see a model in Liverpool’s John Lennon airport) was the flip side of the record (or was poor old Eleanor the flip side? It sounds as though the editors are continuing the isolation theme that has appeared in the Listener during Covid19 with nobody even going to the old maid’s funeral).

With a full grid and after a break for supper, the other Numpty left me struggling with the 14 clashes and a putative I, to work out what the other phrase could be. I do often wonder what solvers who do not have the wonderful TEA or some computer means of resolving anagrams do with just pencil and paper in such situations.

CHICKEN SANDWICH earned a broad smile, (well, it is ‘cryptically equivalent to a yellow submarine, isn’t it?) as did the phrase that the ten lines we had to draw in four separate groups would reveal something that could ‘cover’ either phrase. Indeed, despite the growing resistance to the use of plastic, cling FILM still covers any chicken sandwich that we buy (or ROLL, as in 24ac) – the title now made sense.

FILM also ‘covers’ the phrase YELLOW SUBMARINE. I liked the thematic unity of this compilation. Many thanks to Merlin.

We are, of course, happy crossworders as it has now been announced that the Enigmatic Variations series of advanced thematic cryptic crosswords is not coming to an end at the end of August (see Encota’s comments and hilarious anagrams about five posts down). If you are a keen Listener solver (and, like me, have already done all you can in the Magpie) there is always the Inquisitor in the I on Saturday, then the EV in the Sunday Telegraph – thoroughly recommended – and please comment on them if you can, as it was the ‘apparent’ lack of solver interest that almost sealed the EV’s fate.



One Response to “24 Across by Merlin”

  1. Alan B said

    (Being off-topic in a narrow sense) I concur with what you say about the EV and the Inquisitor as examples of other quality barred-grid themed puzzles away from the Listener. I started doing the Inqusitor in March 2018, but I picked up both The Listener and the EV at the start of the lockdown, and my full weekend and weekly fare now consists of those three puzzles and little else. I’m selective about them, though, and there have been a small number of them that I have not started, mainly because I can’t make sense of the preamble or am put off by it. (But that hasn’t happened recently!)
    I had two problems with this puzzle. The first was THECLA, the only clue I could not solve, and I got it by asking an expert solver to tell me the answer. I’ll add that although i apparently had three or four crossers, in reality all I had was ******, or possibly T****A. I’m convinced that CL for Sri Lanka is not correct. I had LK (knowing CL for Ceylon, incidentally).
    The other problem was that the theme was utterly opaque. The question and answer formed by letters from the across clues was not clear. ‘The Reverse’ is ambiguous, but even taking its more likely (and intended) meaning it was impossible to use the inferred statement as a clue unless one knows exactly what to look for or knows it already. I may be one of only a few solvers not to have found the two key phrases, but I’m not kicking myself for not getting them.
    As I nearly always do, I still appreciated the crossword for the quality of its clues and of its thematic design.

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