Listen With Others

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Listener No 4645: Fire Alarms by Chen

Posted by Dave Hennings on 26 Feb 2021

Another new setter this week, and without being racist he/she/they sound Chinese. Some interesting jiggery-pokery on the clue-solving front by the look of it: four normal clues leading to thematic answers, but extra letters (also thematic) needing to be added to the wordplay for eleven others, with the remaining clues needing the good old extra wordplay letter not being entered.

The across clues didn’t allow me to get many entries in the grid, although LACILY, UPCURRENTS, NAOS and ELSE gave a few that should help when it came to the down clues. DAMPENED, WELLINGTON (normal clue therefore thematic — footwear?), MOSAIC and IDEALS (needing AL to be added — metallic footwear?) finished off the acrosses.

The downs were another matter and were slotted in almost as quickly as I could read the clues. 1dn Breed of sheep we’d seen in Kent? (9) SW[AL]ED[AL]E confirmed the AL theme as did 12dn Possesses SW Asian currency (7) for H[AL][AL]AS and 14dn Stale beer (7, two words) for P[AL]E [AL]E.

All that gave me seven of the eleven AL clues, but I still only had one of the normal thematic ones in the grid. However, another sweep through the remaining clues gave HALIFAX at 5ac International entering half cut in Maine’s provincial capital (7 which had nothing to do with Maine, USA but Halifax, Nova Scotia (I in HALF + AX), plus LANCASTER and STIRLING. So the theme had something to do with WWII bombers.

Looking at the clock, I saw that only 50 minutes had been required to fill the grid. My favourite clue was probably 37dn Expressions of repugnance gushing, “In, out, shake it all about” (4) for UGHS — (GUSHIN[G] – IN)*.

The speed of finishing and many of the clues reminded me of one of my fellow bloggers here at LWO, who sets under the name of Chal…. Hold on a mo… she could be the first two letters CH of our setter today! And the suspicious side of me (which is quite large) wondered if our other resident blogger could provide the EN if this was indeed a collaboration. Of course, it could be a collaboration between Charybdis and Enigmatist!

Meanwhile, the extra wordplay letters gave Chaff deployed. Shade added AL grey. Together with the bombers, this pointed the way to those things ejected from aircraft to confuse enemy radar. Well that tied in with the unclued entries RADAR ECHO WAVES. And the signature in the preamble presumably referred to a radar signature. A bit of googling was required.

Wikidom has a whole article on Chaff which describes how the idea of giving false echoes had been suggested a couple of years before the war. However, the idea of using aluminium strips had been developed by… well, what do you know?… one Joan Curran in 1942. Now I may be talking tosh here but it all seems too coincidental! And what a shame that ‘upcurrents’ isn’t spelt with an A.

So, whoever you are, thanks Chen. I’m expecting a setters’ blog on Sunday.


One Response to “Listener No 4645: Fire Alarms by Chen”

  1. Ed said

    Assuming what I do assume about Chen’s mysterious double identity, I’m pretty sure they have Listener drinking rights in perpetuity…

    This was a lovely puzzle – nice idea with a lovely implementation and gimmick. “Stale beer” particularly raised a (much-needed) grin. Thanks, Chen – I really enjoyed it.

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