Listen With Others

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Family Man by Duck

Posted by shirleycurran on 10 Jul 2020

Dave’s Crossword Database tells me that this is Duck’s 24th Listener puzzle and that he has been setting them since 1989. What an achievement! We download the puzzle and there are delighted comments when we see a preamble that is not quite four lines long and read that EVERY clue leads to the answer with an extra letter that is not entered in the grid – not just ‘some of the clues’. No silly gimmicks – just an honest puzzle where we are going to be given a clue – doubtless a cryptic one – and have to find a two-word name associated with the answer that is split over two sites. Intriguing!

We can expect elegance and accuracy of cluing as Duck produced his invaluable Crossword Manual way back in 1986. It has now run to its fifth edition. I read it from cover to cover when I was starting to set crosswords and can (and do) thoroughly recommend it to anyone who is keen to begin compiling or simply to learn about unching, ninas or crossword grammar, for example.

Our grid fills steadily. The nearest I can get to alcohol is 37ac. “Dude,” I scoffed, “religion for the masses?” (6). “That has to be OPIATE”, we both said, “religion is the opiate of the masses.” But we had to back-solve to find our extra letter. “The dude must be a FOP, since ‘I scoffed’ gives I ATE”, we decide, so we have an F.

It was the clue produced by those letters that began to appear first: AFTER HINT OF SPRING LIFE STUDY ……… However, that was too subtle for us and we had to hunt for the two-word name. THOMAS M..N had to be THOMAS MANN and he loomed into sight after exactly an hour of solving but we had to finish our grid-fill to complete the clue. We struggled over the very last letter of FLOWERS IN A BOO?  We were sure it would be BOOK (well, it could have been a BOOT in the German or English sense, I suppose, but that didn’t seem likely – flowers in a boot or a boat?) Eventually, we understood that the top two honours were Ace and King and, with ANC turning up, that gave us the K and one of the two abbreviations we had been warned of – CNAA (Council for National Academic Awards) with D Theol. at 14d as the other.

I studied Death in Venice and The Magic Mountain at University so confidently looked for a clue that would lead to some aspect of those two well-known works, or maybe Doctor Faustus, but found myself desperately grid-staring. Buddenbrooks indeed! I wonder what prompted Duck to opt for that one. I hope he will tell us. Of course, having seen the novel’s name in two sites in the grid, we could back-solve to the clue: BUD gives us a ‘hint of spring life’; DEN is the ‘study’ and the ‘flowers’ produce an R…S (Rivers) in a BOOK

Well, Wikipedia showed me how ignorant I am and explained the amusingly relevant title ‘Family Man’:

Buddenbrooks [ˈbʊdn̩ˌbʁoːks] is a 1901 novel by Thomas Mann, chronicling the decline of a wealthy north German merchant family over the course of four generations, incidentally portraying the manner of life and mores of the Hanseatic bourgeoisie in the years from 1835 to 1877. Mann drew deeply from the history of his own family, the Mann family of Lübeck, and their milieu.

It was Mann’s first novel, published when he was twenty-six years old. With the publication of the second edition in 1903, Buddenbrooks became a major literary success. Its English translation by Helen Tracy Lowe-Porter was published in 1924. The work led to a Nobel Prize in Literature for Mann in 1929; although the Nobel award generally recognises an author’s body of work, the Swedish Academy‘s citation for Mann identified “his great novel Buddenbrooks” as the principal reason for his prize.[1]

Thank you, Duck, for our Friday challenge and for educating me about a Nobel-Prize-winning novel!



2 Responses to “Family Man by Duck”

  1. Don Manley said

    Thanks to Shirley for getting me involved in this. Duck actually goes back to 1976 though (46 Ducks, 4 Duck and Hens — so far!) Duck

  2. Alan B said

    I’m getting acclimatised to these Listener puzzles by now, I’m pleased to say, and here was another very satisfying one. There were some tough clues, but I managed to complete the grid and form the additional special clue from the extracted letters. That special clue was the only clue I failed to solve.

    I avoid grid-gazing as a rule unless I know what I’m looking for, but as that was the only way to proceed I got going and was pleased to find both BUDDEN and BROOKS quite quickly. Having got the answer, I then understood and solved the special clue!

    One of the highlights was the clue to ‘TO A T’. It was concise and uniquely brilliant. It is not a transferable clue because it is designed to produce an extra letter, S, so it has to be kept for posterity only with this puzzle!

    The clue-in-a-message was a great idea, which I have not encountered before.

    Thanks to the setter and bloggers here for thier interesting blogs, and to Duck for what I described above as a very satisfying puzzle.

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