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Listener No 4613: Escape by Xanthippe

Posted by Dave Hennings on 17 Jul 2020

Xanthippe has had a fair few puzzles over the years, dating back to 1997 over at the Independent-that-was. Here we had Listener number 13 from him, last year’s being the one based on the Louis XIV chandelier episode from Only Fools and Horses, and good fun that was.

This week, an escape-the-room mystery faced us with riddles provided by extra words in some of the clues. At first glance, it appeared that each riddle would lead to the sticky-out cell added to each quadrant of the grid, but a second reading of the preamble indicated that there would be a single path starting somewhere and ending in one of the cells. None of that, however, would make any sense until the grid was done.

Solving started at a quick pace with OSSA, BEER, ICES, MARE and ANNA probably going in the top half of the grid. What would end up being 16ac Money for tribesmen with, we hear, set of beliefs (5) was a sneaky clue that I didn’t solve first time through, being CREDO sounding like CREE DOUGH, with being the extra word!

I also failed with the first 12-letter entry 17ac-to-be Potter cut pot plant in station, using middle of sickle for last plant (12, two words) (although it probably ended in (si)CK(le)), but a bit of time on 28ac Women who repay [young] fools holding very odd green earth (12) gave AVENGERESSES — ASSES around (V + GREEN* + E). Phew!

A few more acrosses got pencilled in, and with ODIC, BETCHA, GROWER, PROM and ADRY solved from the downs, the top half could start to be pieced together. Identifying the extra words in clues was sometimes a bit tricky with words like in, with, here and not lurking.

Eventually, everything was slotted together. My favourite clues were probably 5dn I’ll wager doctor [gets] the cab (6) with its straightforward anagram giving BETCHA, and 27dn Leaders from Kirkcaldy estate [don’t] expect lean Glaswegian tough (6) with its unlikely surface reading leading to KEELIE.

And so on to the riddles:

  • Where Tom’s in work with Potter but clay baked never gets
  • Always coming, not arriving
  • Tall when young, short when old
  • Barred cells here prisoners don’t enter

The last one was obviously CROSSWORD to be found in the SE quadrant, and working into the SW corner, we got CANDLE. On first reading, I guessed that the first riddle had a Harry Potter reference, but it took a few minutes to uncover CHAMBER OF SECRETS and then TOMORROW for riddle number 2. And wasn’t it Tom Riddle in one of the Harry Potter books?

Another read of the preamble, and we were told that the solver (U) had to follow the path, and above the T of TOMORROW was the U which then had to move to the extra cell at the bottom of the SE corner, leaving the other three extra cells empty. It would have been nice if one of the definitions of You in Chambers was “the twenty-first letter of the alphabet” as the preamble could then have said “solver (you)”!

Great fun. Thanks, Xanthippe.
PS A riddle I was reminded of this week: How does a deaf woman indicate to a hardware store worker that she wishes to buy a hammer?


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