Listen With Others

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Listener No 4626: Pot Plant by Karla

Posted by Dave Hennings on 16 Oct 2020

I spy a newcomer to the ranks of Listener setters. Karla was head of Moscow Station in Le Carré’s Smiley novels and his real name is never revealed. Would our Karla be similarly secretive?

Here we had eight answers losing a word before entry. From the title, I had a horrible feeling that we were in horticultural territory and that’s not my favourite subject. The removed words are a thematic set. First or last letters omitted from the wordplay in twelve other answers will need arranging to give a three-word phrase.

The first thing I noticed was that there were a lot of two-word answers — eight to be precise. Would they be the thematic answers losing something?

1ac Viewer’s irritation about major UK road block (6) gave STYMIE so I thought I’d try the crossing down entries. 1dn was SCOFF and 2dn was TO LET. This last one couldn’t be thematic since the wordplay gave the full answer. Of course, I should have got 3dn Use of threats, a defence in bygone battle (4) sooner for BLACKMAIL, but heigh-ho.

I gradually worked my way down the grid and finally got the PINK PANTHER although sadly it’s not in Chambers. PINK was the giveaway to steer us towards the colours of snooker balls. The last two snooker themes were No 4222 27 from Mango in 2012, and No 4291 MAXON by Schadenfreude in 2014. Of course there was Chalicea’s billiard table earlier this year.

Although there were a couple of colours that could fit two clues, (BROWN/BLACK SHIRTS and BLUE/GREEN BERETS), they eventually resolved themselves to WHITE FLAG, BLACKMAIL, PINK PANTHER, BLUEPRINTS, BROWN SHIRTS, GREEN BERET, YELLOW CARD, RED LINE. The clue to WHITE FLAG was one of my favourites: Giving up standard part of stone floor (4, two words) for its nice definition.

Unravelling the letters omitted from the wordplay took a few minutes. Seven something and Four something were both tried, but a bit more jiggery-pokery gave us ONE FOUR SEVEN, the score of a maximum break in snooker. CLUE TIPS was an easy spot, and erasing the L gave CUE TIPS.

Good fun. Thanks, Karla.


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