Listen With Others

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Listener No 4625: If P Then Q? by Mr E

Posted by Dave Hennings on 9 October 2020

Last year’s puzzle from Mr E had Samuel Beckett’s novella, Company, as its theme (“What an addition to company that would be!”) and before that, Lewis Carroll’s ravens and writing-desks, both of which contain a B!

This week we had extra words in clues with their third letters spelling out phrases to replace P and Q. Some down clues would need to be entered with a section omitted, exactly how many we weren’t told. The endgame would require us to do some drawing, but I was relieved that it was just straight lines so nothing too arty.

9ac Auditor’s rule put into syllabus that tellers can be taught (9) for TEACHABLE nearly went in the grid first, except that Auditor’s rule didn’t work for EACH. Luckily RAIN came to the rescue for TRAINABLE. 13ac Seaweed lives well on oak bark (9) would also have gone in swiftly if only I could remember what that weird seaweed was (turned out to be ISOKONTAN [IS + OK + ON + TAN]).

18ac Peaceful woman from Italy must convert to Islam? No end of scandal (5) looked like IRENE — or could it be IRENA? Annoyingly, the last letter was unchecked. I’d have to come back to that, but A went in temporarily.

The last across clue 37 Internet-era profanities ruined performer (11) amused me, with profanities being the extra word and a straightforward anagram giving ENTERTAINER. 11dn Curiously, most of East Anglia’s unemployed feeling no pain (9) was, sadly, unlikely to be true [(EAS(t) ANGLIA)*] in the current economic environment. And I wasn’t at all sure of the cause and effect of 17ac Drinkers frequently are sickly, being morally weak (5).

Rereading the preamble after my first pass through the clues reminded me that bits of down clues needed to be omitted. Thus 6 Conservative coming in near the middle (6) for CENTRY came first for CENTRALLY without ALL, and that was followed (not particularly quickly) by 19 Replace actor struggling with Early English (7 for REALLOCATE without the ALL [(ACTOR + EE)*].

Eventually, the grid was complete. But hold on! Was 18ac IRENE or IRENA? It took a bit of time to confirm that it was IRENE — I + RENEGATE – ‘-GATE’!!

The third letters of extra words spelt out All is not lost and Where is it? I needed a blank grid to plot all the ALLs, and from that it was obvious where the final ALL went. Not forgetting the bar that was required to finish the letter A.

Very satisfying. Thanks, Mr E.

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