Listen With Others

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Classicist by Gorrag

Posted by shirleycurran on 30 Jul 2021

We read the preamble with dismay. There seemed to be rather a lot to take in; seven words from titles from the published work of a writer who died this year, thematic items of the same length added mathematically to each of those to produce the grid entry and in all the other clues, a letter omitted with 15 of them to be inserted to the solution word in the grid and the remaining ones giving a hint to the thematic items.

We haven’t encoutered Gorrag before and initially suspected that he (or they) must be a newcomer but that suspicion was soon dispelled – a couple of old hands here. Could they remain in the Listener setters’ oenophile outfit? ‘Like a go with patient type not finishing bottle? (6)’ It wasn’t much of a bottle! We put VIAL after the unfinished ‘patient type’ JO(b) to give JOVIAL and decided that was ‘Like a god’ giving us an initial D for our message.

Things improved with the next clue, ‘What a surprise to receive first of rewards in Spanish town for win (5)’. JEEZ went round the R of rewards and we had a town for wine (not win) JEREZ, giving us an extra E. We found ‘red’ (Jarool – that timber) and a lot of Scots (surely malt?) later in the clues – ‘Manly nurse in WWI for a lot of Scots (6)’ We already had an I in that light when we added CAVEL (mainly the nurse CAVELL who was executed in WWI), producing the Scots word for a lot cast. It sounds as though Gorrag reserve their place at the bar. Cheers!

The writer we were honouring gave us the penny-drop-moment. Of course, I had already searched Wikipedia with the words REASON, ENIGMA, FORTY-FIVE, SYMPHONY, SAFARI in titles by an author who had died this year – and drawn a blank, but as we coloured the letters we were squeezing into those words R T BAXTER appeared and crossing that name NIBOR – the pseudonym of our good friend ROBIN, the Listener setter who died this year.

Dave Hennings‘ Crossword Database didn’t give us titles containing all of those words and we realized why. Nibor was setting as long ago as 1975 and the Listener site gave us 19 crosswords beginning with REASON and finishing with SAFARI in 2014. We last met him and his wife, Stephanie, at the Listener Setters’ Dinner in Windsor (he very kindly drove us back to London where we were staying, close to his Balham home, with our son).

We still needed another hint for the Classicist and when those 15 letters had said R T BAXTER RIP, we were left with the letters DEATH WHERE IS THY STING. Sting? That was why we had managed to tease out HORNET, DIGGER, CUCKOO FLY and RUBYTAIL from the mathematical calculations. (We had also found BUM-BEE which is a stinger, but fortunately those thematic items’ letters, OX UNDER LORRY, insisted that we use BEMBEX, which, like the others and the MASON and GOLD, is a wasp). What a fine tribute. Thank you Gorrag.


4 Responses to “Classicist by Gorrag”

  1. Good puzzle, lovely tribute but…

    When I spotted ‘Nibor’ in the grid I sussed what was going on, but then I’ve been doing the Listener for 30 years and more. How would anyone new, or even relatively new, get this? This smacks of the kind of esoteric insider knowledge that deters rather than encourages.

    If any new or relatively new solver would like to say I’m wrong then I’m very happy to be corrected.

  2. Brock said

    Agree completely, even as an experienced solver. I was not happy about the nature of this crossword with its multiple ambiguities and requirement for internet list reference breaking many of the rules required of setters usually. I can see it is a very clever tribute, but I did not consider it fair.

  3. Jonathan Broad said

    As a new solver, this wasn’t my favourite puzzle, though I can appreciate it was a lovely tribute. I ended up virtually back-solving it – an inspired guess as to the sort of writer we were probably looking for, plus a couple of the perimeter clues and some research on a few handy websites (which provided the answers to the remaining perimeter clues as well) got me the setter’s name and pseudonym and gave me a huge helping hand into the puzzle. Even so, I found several of the clues really really stiff and unyielding.

    I appreciate there needs to be a range of difficulties across the year, but I’m personally not sorry when Listener’s appear which aren’t as difficult as this one.

  4. NormanL said

    Relatively new post-retirement Listener solver here – just a few years – despite being an Azed solver from when he was still Ximenes. I too agree with Andrew. A puzzle where the end game required googling and a large amount of luck in doing so, unless you’re in a very small band of devotees who keep all their solves on file, is hardly going to dispel any feelings that these puzzles are for a niche group.

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