Listen With Others

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Listener No 4668: Impossible Construction by Serpent

Posted by Dave Hennings on 6 Aug 2021

Serpent’s previous Listeners have had snakes and ladders, alopecia, Margaret Thatcher and Ulysses as their themes so I think it’s fair to say that anything could crop up this week. The title was certainly intriguing and given that we were faced with a carte blanche grid I dreaded some tortuous endgame although no artistic endeavour seemed to be required.

Of course, difficulty number one was that half the answers had to be entered jumbled. At least they were symmetrically placed although I wasn’t sure whether that was with 90° symmetry like the grid or just 180° — or indeed mirror! I guessed the first of these but only time would tell. Difficulty number two was to work out how the forty clues we were given would translate into the 52 entries that the preamble told us would be in the final grid.

All would no doubt reveal itself, so I proceeded with the clues. They were fairly tricky as I expected from Serpent, so I was happy to get a few acrosses — ROBUST, TANNIN and ORCHARD — to start the ball rolling. I was pleased to get the last of these since it was one of the four clues with an extra word, in this case promise.

Getting the entries in the right place in the top left was also a bit tricky, and it took several attempts to be happy with the layout. The location of the 9-letter entries was also somewhat problematic, especially since they were jumbled.

All in all, this was a slow solve and the abundance of Es and Ss in the middle of the grid seemed like Serpent was playing with us! Eventually, however, courtesy of CRY and AGE on the left of the grid, I realised what we had to do to resolve these entries. Dotted around the central region were an awful lot of 3-letter words and it was unlikely that was accidental.

The superfluous words in four clues ended up as promise to settle up and this provided the wordplay for the feature that the grid would provide. After playing with IOU for a few minutes, word square finally popped into my head and that enabled the rest of the central area to be finished post haste. The four entries simply defined the boundary of the word square.

So a careful drawing of the bars around the central area was required, and my entry was squared off nicely. Finally, the title was resolved since the top row and left column of the word square were CIRCLE, and we had neatly squared the circle despite it having previously been proved impossible!

Thanks for a neat and enjoyable puzzle, Serpent.

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