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Listener No 4630: Tip-top Condition by Twin

Posted by Dave Hennings on 13 Nov 2020

This was Twin’s second Listener of 2020, the first transporting us to the world of Superheroes and their alter egos. A few months before that, we had the Captain’s Mistress / Connect-4 puzzle. This week we had a load of down clues where the wordplay gave us a wrong letter that had to be entered into the grid — initially.

The first thing to notice was that the two unclued across entries were both 13 letters. What’s more, every letter was checked. Now if I’d counted the number of down clues I’d have found there were 25 and, lo and behold, 13 is just over half of 25 so perhaps the wrong letters coincided with one of the unclued entries. Unfortunately, that’s not what crossed the mind of this solver

Instead, I made a swift start with the acrosses, and TROMINO, NORN, CEE, ECHE (or would it be EECH), ETNA and SUES were slotted into the top of the grid. Tackling the downs, soon gave (with a wrong letter) CLEP-CLOP, RHENE, SHCRTS, SHLNE and SMETE.

Now it has to be said, that when I resolved the definitions in each case, I only saw one answer: evidence of horse?, &lit. for a river, clothing, cast light, smite, unite closely, work. This was partly because, for example, cast light, which could be present or past tense, I saw as SMITE rather than SMOTE. I don’t remember which clue finally enabled me to see the light, but luckily it was fairly early on. Consequently I was very happy to find that CLOP-CLOP was an alternative to CLIP-CLOP — I’d only ever heard of the latter.

Knowing all this, helped me with one of the affected clues, 7dn Ran rings round cops, finally outwitted (6) FOSLED which I finally analysed as FLED around (O + (cop)S) with outwitted as the definition. This gave FOILED and FOOLED as the two possibilities.

Three other clues caught my eye. 37ac Songs about religion, excluding Sabbath and holy ceremonies (7) was SPIRITUALS – S – PI to give RITUALS. 2dn Stays base jumping, accepting affliction it may result in (6) was the sneaky ABVDES (with its wrong letter) derived from BASE* in VD (it being, well, you know, it!). As for 39ac Two thirds of a mile, approximately — hard, like those in the country (8) with YOKE LIS (a couple of lis) + H! I think I’d get short shrift if I went into my butcher and asked for “a yoke of sirloin steaks”!

I had deduced the upper unclued entry before the grid was complete: EVEN CLUES’ ENDS with the lower entry as UNAMBIGUOUSLY. The ends of the even clue numbers gave odd clues’ opening letters. Lawks! This was beginning to remind me of Loda’s In Clue Order, On and On way back in 2009 where there were about half a dozen messages to uncover before drawing a large ∞ symbol in the grid.

So the first letters of the odd clues gave us The Listener no. in binary. Having worked it out by hand, I double-checked with my favourite mathematical website WolframAlpha. For a bit of fun, I also asked my computerised assistant (yes, I’ve got one) and all was confirmed. Once that was slotted into row three, all ambiguities were resolved.

Great fun. Thanks, Twin.


One Response to “Listener No 4630: Tip-top Condition by Twin”

  1. Alan B said

    I’ve attempted most Listener puzzles since I started in March, and I regard this as one of the best. What I particularly liked and appreciated, both while solving and when looking back on it, were:
    – the extremely well-chosen pairs of words like FOILED/FOOLED that are clued using the same definition;
    – the fact that every clue was forced to have a fixed first or last letter and yet showed not the slightest sign of any strain because of that;
    – the original and entertaining way in which the solver is led from the third row of the grid via two passes of the clues and finally back to the third row to give it a unique value.
    And to cap it all the clues were excellent, with generous helpings of ingenuity and wit.
    Solving the four consecutive Down clues beginning with 2D ABVDES/ABIDES/ABODES pointed me to the clear possibility that ‘just over half’ of all the Down clues would be those (13 in all) crossing that third row, which had no unchecked letters. That was when I had filled half the grid encountering no rogue Down clues anywhere else.
    Seeing I and O continuing to be the two possible replacements all the way along made me think of digits, but I was in doubt about that until near the end of the round-the-houses journey twice through the clues. (The word BINARY was hardly needed by the time I got there!} It was a very satisfying way to resolve the third row ‘unambiguously’.
    Thanks to Twin for a masterpiece of a puzzle and to the bloggers for their blogs (which incidentally I shall continue to read, although I shall comment only rarely if at all from now on).

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