Listen With Others

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Hotfoot by Vismut

Posted by shirleycurran on 15 January 2021

The last Listener crossword of the year and what a pleasure to see that it is by a lady setter. We already saw Vismut at the start of the year and have also solved one of Skylark’s compilations, but ladies still produced less than 8% of the year’s Listener output. One has to wonder why there is this massive imbalance.

However, Vismut speedily qualifies for the Listener Setters’ Elite Oenophile Set with, ‘Wicked enough to get drunk [messenger] to mislay second letter (6)’. It is Christmas day so she has an excuse, maybe, and we remove the second letter of SKINFUL to produce SINFUL. She declares an alcohol preference with, ‘Spirits essentially short, unless mixed (7)’. We mix UNLESS with the heart of ‘shOrt’ and get ENSOULS. With that skinful of spirits, short or mixed, “Cheers! Vismut.

‘Hotfoot’. It’s an intriguing title (we wonder – are we going to meet Brer Rabbit or ‘The boy stood on the burning deck’?)  We are told that there are seven extra words in clues and that a word’s ‘position in the clue indexes a letter from the answer. These words and letters identify most of a work …’ That is Vismut’s special device that we have already met in her puzzles – a pleasant change from misprints and extra letters in wordplay.

We also have to find the ‘rest of’ that work in the grid and change it to identify a second work.

Ah but then we read that down clues will contain ten misprints of one letter in the definition (misprints after all, but only ten!) and that corrections will ‘spell out a hint to what else solvers must change in the grid, to reveal the second work’s creator’.

It is ‘jollity’ that gives us our penny-drop-moment. The other Numpty with his encyclopaedic knowledge of trivial detail says, “Jollity, Winged Messenger, Magician, Mystic? Those are Holst’s Nicknames for the characters in his Planets Suite.” and Wiki produces the list for us. So we spotted ‘Old’ and ‘Age’ in two more clues, even in the order they appear in the list, though War and Peace were not there.

  • Mars, the Bringer of War (1914)
  • Venus, the Bringer of Peace (1914)
  • Mercury, the Winged Messenger (1916)
  • Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity (1914)
  • Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age (1915)
  • Uranus, the Magician (1915)
  • Neptune, the Mystic (1915)

Of course, we understood when ‘Copper’s village emptied before star shown around (5)’ gave us V(illag)E + SUN< which spelled VENUS “That’s a reference to copper in alchemy,” proclaimed the erudite Numpty. We had to find MARS and there was the Bringer of War hiding at the left of the grid. We saw HOLST there too, down the leading diagonal – naturally!

The corrected misprints spelled out TITLE ODDLY, and we wondered, for a while what we were going to do with the PLANETS SUITE but then realized that the odd letters of the crossword title HoTfOoT spell out H to T. What a delightful endgame. We change the H of HOLST to T and TOLSTOY obligingly appears so we need to change MARS and VENUS to WAR and PEACE. Most satisfactory, thank you Vismut!

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