Listen With Others

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Impossible Construction by Serpent

Posted by shirleycurran on 6 Aug 2021

A carte blanche with the troubling information that ‘half of the answers (symmetrically placed) must be jumbled’. We had to identify and delineate a thematic feature and find four clues that would contain an extra word. The wordplay of those clues would name the feature and the four clues in question would define the feature. Then there was the surprising information that the final grid would contain only real words – 52 of them – even though we were jumbling half of them initially.

Quite a challenge that called for a stiff drink … Ah, drink! Does Serpent retain his entry ticket to the Elite Listener Setters’ Oenophile Outfit? He started well: ‘Song contains bar that supports champion (7)’. In the bar already! We put TUNE around RIB giving TRIBUNE. Next there was TANNIN – that substance occurring in wines (particularly red) and giving flavour: ‘This brought about coloration in natural hides (6)’. It was hidden in the clue, of course. Then there were cases: ‘People taking flight go to pack travelling cases (8)’ We anagrammed those CASES around PEE (for ‘go’), producing ESCAPEES.

Serpent hadn’t finished yet: ‘Overturn measure limiting American college break (7)’. Not sure what measure he was imbibing here but we turned the AREA over around US with C(ollege) and produced a CAESURA (break). To top it all off, there was another case! ‘Present case for having area raised and fenced in (5)’. We moved the A up in PLEAD giving PALED. Quite a lot of alcohol in this – “Cheers, Serpent!”

Generous clues and we soon had most of them solved but starting the gridfill was another issue. The words PROMISE TO SETTLE UP seemed to be likely wordplay for the thematic feature which clearly was not the Escher staircase that the title had led us to expect, but we had spotted the 6X6 word square before we made sense of PROMISE = WORD and TO SETTLE UP = SQUARE. (Indeed, a very impressive example of word squares will have appeared in the Magpie solutions by the time this solver’s blog appears.)

Fortunately the symmetry helped and those four solutions, ORCHARD, LAYETTE, PREFACE and MAGICAL defined the location of the thematic feature. What a delight to use the jumbled parts of entries to create six real words running in the two directions. Lovely, thanks, Serpent!

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