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Listener No 4623: Tears by Oxymoron

Posted by Dave Hennings on 25 Sep 2020

Every now and then, before seeing the weekly Listener, I wonder who the setter might be. This week, I wondered if it might be Tiburon, Ferret or Shark. Imagine my surprise to see that it was none of those but instead Oxymoron. I wouldn’t have guessed that in a month of Sundays since that is the Sunday Enigmatic Variations pseudonym of our late departed Schadenfreude. I wondered if this was a present from the guys at EV where Oxymoron may have been scheduled to appear after the now-averted closure of that series.

Here we had a grid containing clashes in some cells that would give thematic items that would eventually need replacing. The replacement would be given by an extra word in some clues to non-clashing answers that had only one letter in common with their entry, a technique originated by this setter, I believe.

As usual, the clues were generally tricky but fair and the clashes were slowly eked out. Unlike some other puzzles, the clashes weren’t jumbles, but spelt out the thematic items in sequence of across/down or down/across letters. Thus, HEAVEN, STAR and GOSPEL were easily uncovered.

Unfortunately, none of those, nor SHINER, RANGER or RIVAL, gave me any inkling as to what the theme may be. With most of the grid complete, I decided some ODQing was required, and chose “gospel”. Luckily, there were only six entries, and the first gave “Four for the G. makers   Anon 19:7”. (In an older edition, it was under Songs, spirituals, and shanties.) This is The Dilly Song featuring “Green grow the rushes O.” So Tears = Rushes as in speeds along!

With that, I could finish everything off. However, I was a bit concerned about 33ac Hard growth on west-facing tree (6). The wordplay seemed to give CORN + RE<, but surely the tree was CORNEL. The entry for corner didn’t help, so a bit of reverse engineering was required to see that under tree was “to drive into a tree, to corner (also fig)”. So CORNER it was. (Mrs B would also have helped.)

All done and dusted, with the extra words revealing that the number was to replace the thematic entries. In reverse order, 12–1: APOSTLE, HEAVEN, COMMANDMENT, SHINER, RANGER, STAR, WALKER, SYMBOL, GOSPEL, RIVAL, BOY, ONE.

Farewell again, Oxymoron. Enjoyable as always.


One Response to “Listener No 4623: Tears by Oxymoron”

  1. Alan B said

    I trust I can again add a comment on my own experience of a Listener puzzle.
    I had more time than usual for this one, and I needed it! Thanks mostly to a couple of careless errors, and only a slow realisation that the clashing cells could contain a large number of letters, my grid was about three-quarters complete before I could relate one clash with another and thereby suss the theme. That helped greatly with finding the remaining clashes and solving the remaining clues.
    23a SOCIETIES was made tricky by having to decide whether ‘good’ is surplus or not (the clue works either way), so that we know whether the letter O is to be one of the collected letters or not. Eventually, of course, we decide that NUMBER is what we want, not NOUMBER.
    I mistakenly collected L from ‘old’ in 3d UGLY, but in that one the setter artfully used ‘frightful’ for ‘ugly’, which is an ‘old’ definition, and ‘old’ is therefore not surplus.
    Until now I have not seen the trick of using ‘sixteen’ when referring to that clue number, and it’s not one that I would use, but 6d SHEEN came readily enough from the wordplay, and I cannot complain that the clue was unsound.
    It took me a long time to get 14d SYMBOLIC and 28d TELECOMMAND, in both cases for no better reason than that they were long (and yet 1d APOSTATIC had come more easily).
    I wanted CORNER to be CORNEL, but as reported more than once already the clue works only with the former, as the BRB confirms.
    I made a problem for myself by looking up the rhyme online, where ‘eight’ represented April rainers, not bold rangers. No excuse – I have the ODQ at home, and it is a new volume, won this year in a crossword competition!
    This was a high-quality, challenging puzzle, and I was both surprised and glad to learn Oxymoron is (was) Schadenfreude, whose puzzles I always enjoyed.
    Thanks to Dave, Tim and Shirley for their (as ever) interesting contributions.

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