Listen With Others

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Co-star by Lysander

Posted by shirleycurran on 14 May 2021

“Who could Lysander be?”, we ask ourselves, as we gaze in shock at the words ‘All clue answers must be enciphered before entry in the grid’. I don’t think we’ve met him before.Of course, I scan the clues to see whetherwe are admitting a newcomer to the Listener Setters’ Elite Oenophiles, and, though at first we see some very gentle and solvable clues (in fact all but about half a dozen of them) and there is a splash of RED in a couple, prospects look pretty grim for Lysander.

‘Red mineral’s salability about halved (5)’ suggests BALAS to us, but we see at once that there are six cells to fill, so one of those five letters must be ‘replaced by two letters’. ‘At first collect Irish red earthenware with a glazed finish (4)’ gives us first letters CIRE, but again, there is an extra cell, so one of those letters will be replaced by two.

By a process of elimination, we have soon identified the eleven letters that are not going to be enciphered as two letters. They are the almost predictable A D E I L N P R S T and U, so while the other Numpty solves most of the clues, I complete an initial grid with, for example JJIGG, where JIG needs to be entered as five letters.

Our last four solutions (BULK, CION, SOGER and MELIC) take almost as long to solve as the rest put together but there we have a complete grid. Now what? It is approaching midnight when I finally understand that the grid in front of me is spelling out the enciphering. For example, at the bottom right, I am told that Z = DN (two of those eleven letters). The Q, at the start of Q-SHIP encodes to ER From the intersecting E of LEANY and the R of CIRE. The K of FOLKSY and BULK gives me just two possible letters, I and N and so on, because of where those words intersect with CARY and LIRAS.  So I now have to replace those double letter entries with the 15 enciphered sets of double letters, producing a rather odd-looking second grid. More head-scratching!

B has become NT, C = NS, F = LI, G = NI, H = IL, J = TL, K = IN, M = DI, O = EL, Q = ER, V = RI, W = SI, X = DS, Y = IP and Z = DN.

Each letter, in the enciphered grid, has to be replaced by one or two letters but in this grid number two, I have LENTIL, TELLER and ADITS, for example displaying their original letters. TEA comes to my aid. I enter 9ac LIELLINSIP as 1231124526 and it tells me the entry has to be REARRESTED – that’s six of the encodings solved. It is almost a pleasure to work out the remainder and ten of the original eleven letters go into new real words (including SARSA, DISPART, DESSE – some strange words, but I do realize that here we are dealing with a lipogram of 15 letters, not just one! Quite a compilation.)

I am left with LE?NE, SP?RES, and EST?RIL and U to encipher with the letter that will complete them – it has to be O. Full grid and it is well after midnight and the G and T glass is empty. Oh yes, the oenophiles. Of course Lysander continued that RED theme in his final grid – it’s flowing down the right hand column and there’s a SPIRIT too, in the penultimate row, so “Cheers, Lysander!” And the co-star? We wonder about the title that would back-solve to NSEL- NSEL. Is that telling us something?

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