Listen With Others

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Listener No 4677: Variety Show by Enigmatist

Posted by Dave Hennings on 8 Oct 2021

Well here’s a setter I haven’t seen at Listener-land before, so it must be a new kid on the block! Except, of course, we know that it is the pseudonym, along with Nimrod, of the head honcho over at Inquisitor-land. Not only that, but the Crossword Database ( and also the Listener website ( both show that he has had one previous Listener almost 30 years ago — no. 3194, Prayfail. The title probably says a lot and I won’t give any spoilers here in case you want to dig out the puzzle from your files and give it a go. Suffice it to say, the preamble contains the following: “In this puzzle, five Playfair codewords are to be deduced.”

But what were we faced with this week? First of all, it was a large grid; in Listener-world, “bloody enormous” would be more appropriate, it being 17×13. As if that weren’t enough, it was a carte blanche. Below that, we had a 10-line preamble which talked about larger-than-life characters and an endgame that seemed to require us to erase a lot of the grid. Finally, 57 clues, some of which ignored a letter in the wordplay of the answer and some included an extra wordplay letter not to be entered.

If you were tackling this puzzle on Friday evening, a couple of extra glasses of wine would seem appropriate. Only one thing for it — tackle the clues.

However I were to describe my solving process, it would come nowhere near conveying how unbelievably tricky I found this puzzle. The whole concept of identifying the larger-than-life characters (obviously large letters) but then ignoring where they clashed with across answers which were to be entered normally, in the words of the Ella Fitzgerald song I was “Bewitched, bothered and bewildered”.

I reckon I got to the end over the course of several days and lots of visits, each of which inched me towards the finishing line. It is probably best to watch the animation above to see how this crossword knits together although my solving experience was nowhere near that logical. Sadly it is not one of my better animations — really just too much going on. Anyway, the stages given are as follows:

  • The blank grid;
  • The bars that you would end up with even though they weren’t needed in the finished grid — and which would have helped in getting the rest of the grid! In fact, having it as a carte blanche just seemed to add an extra level of complexity;
  • The skeleton down entries that clash with the acrosses and which would have given the theme if you were licky to suss it out this early;
  • The entries clued with an extra wordplay letter which spell out Only the descriptions;
  • The across entries to be entered normally clashing with the downs;
  • The final grid

To be honest, this was really a puzzle more likely to be seen in Magpie and I wonder what grade the editors would have given it — D or E? It would be remiss of me if I didn’t admit to making a major booboo in my entry. Initially thinking that Posh would be a FASHION IDOL, I blindly filled in the missing I and D not realising that that spelt out FASHION IDLE when it should, of course, have been FASHIONABLE. Even I had to smile to myself!

Thanks for a really tough workout, Enigmatist. I’ll be on the lookout for your next Listener, although hopefully not in 30 years time.


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