Listen With Others

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Listener No 4659: Me and My Puzzlers by Wan

Posted by Dave Hennings on 4 Jun 2021

I was surprised to see that Wan’s last Listener was over 2½ years ago with A Tale of Two Cities, nothing to do with Dickens, but Aristophanes and his play, The Birds. Wan’s puzzles are always entertaining so I was looking forward to an enjoyable solve. (I really wish that we could use the word ‘solvation’ in this context, but it has already been nobbled as “the association of the molecules of a solvent with solute ions or molecules.”)

Anyway, on with Wan and his puzzlers. Most clues had an extra letter which, after some highlighting, would explain what said highlighting represented. The initial letters of the remaining six clues would provide a thematic hint. I knew that Wan was one of the more tricky cluesmiths, so onwards and upwards.

1ac Note second that runt breaks wind (7) and 6ac Wild boar by opening to hut take shelter (6) weren’t solved on my first pass, but I thought it amusing that they both had (before extra letters removed) porcine references — [N + OTHER around R] and [U(t) + BOAR* + R]. 11 and 12 got me going though, with AMOROSO and SALINE. 12 didn’t seem to have an extra letter, so that was noted, but the endgame would shame me into not realising what might have been going on here (not that it would have helped me much).

A smattering of answers came next, but not without thinking how strange was 31ac Groom’s amnesic, muddling letters, though not N or M? (5). Yet again it needed the endgame for me to realise that I had, some time ago, heard of the thematic reason for the clue structure.

As expected, the clues were a mixture of easy, tricky and amusing. 19ac Ring[o] hampered Beatles in essence and took a subservient position (5) [KNEL(l) + (Bea)T(les)] and 38ac Mas[k]s and cape out of Batman’s last jumble (4) [M + NESS – (Batma)N] were certainly amusing, and with 3dn Terry said he really wants to win (5) I wondered if there was a Terry somewhere who wasn’t a TRYER! I also liked 29dn Races ruin my shoes when the middle of e[i]ther splits (6) [(MY SHOES)* – (et)H(er)] and eventually sussed 27ac Couple send back equal parts of [w]age (4) [TIME with TI and ME both reversed].

With the grid complete, we had extra letters in clues giving The author and works in plain clues thematically and the initial letters of plain clues egbnar. Thus, the works were evident for all to see: Peril at End House, N or M, Murder Is Easy, Unfinished Portrait, Endless Night and Towards Zero, all novels from the prolific pen of Agatha Christie. So she was the puzzler in the title, not Wan.

OK, now what? The thematic hint could only be banger, but that seemed a bit odd, until of course I checked in on my ODQ where the entry under Christie revealed not only “little grey cells” making a mention but also “I’m a sausage machine, a perfect sausage machine” from a biography by GC Ramsey. Could SAUSAGE and MACHINE replace two adjacent entries? Damned right they could, at 1ac and 11ac, with down entries changing accordingly: NAUTCH → SMUTCH, ROKERS → UCKERS, TRYER → SHYER, HORN → AIRN and RORIE → EERIE. Excellent!

All that was left was to find the meat being extruded from said machine. That was a bit tricky, but eventually SALAMI, WIENER, PEPPERONI, KIELBASA, MORTADELLA and SNAG got highlighted snaking their way down the grid.

Great stuff. Thanks, Wan.

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