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Variety Show by Enigmatist

Posted by shirleycurran on 8 Oct 2021

I howled in disbelief as I downloaded a 17 X 13 carte blanche grid with just ‘Clues‘, by Enigmatist. We are used to a Telegraph Toughie struggle every second Friday and know that this will be no piece of cake after last week’s gentle ringing of the Bow bells and the slightly more challenging Vismut orders of bell-ringing the week before.

The ten-line preamble leaves us somewhat mystified (if only I had read it more carefully – but don’t I always say that and never learn?) We did understand that we needed two coloured stripes down the sides of our 57 clues (one solver has said to me “How on earth are they going to fit that into the space in the Times?”) – one for 24 letters ignored in wordplay, that were going to be used ‘along with the (larger-than-life) characters’ to stand for ‘certain letters’ in down entries, and the other for extra letters in wordplay – just 19 of them – that would tell us what to keep in the grid ‘erasing the rest’.

The second set eventually spelled out for us that we were to keep ONLY THE DESCRIPTIONS and the pre-ramble defined those by ‘the characters’ unchecked down cells must be filled to complete descriptions (synonyms of the usual ones)’. That was almost the straw that broke the Numpty camels’ back, as we were still struggling to create or find those synonyms nearly 24 hours after the theme had emerged.

It took long enough for the theme to emerge. Initially I had gleefully realized that INBY, IMPESSED, NESTS and BESTSELLER would conveniently start a corner of the grid , but, of course, we needed to understand that ‘across clues are entered normally’ but down clues ARE NOT! They split up and fill the spaces. Fortunately, we kept a record of those ignored 24 letters (even the 2 Ys in AYE-AYE and both the C and O in ICEBOUND) and eventually, when they all fitted into just five of the columns, understood that we had SCARY, SPORTY, GINGER, VICTORIA and GEMMA – the SPICE GIRLS. The extra five-letter word to be added and the ring prompted us that this must be a Spice Girls cover.

The VICTORIAN clue held us up for a while with just the N in the wordplay. (It shouldn’t have done! I instructed for four seasons in the Mt Buller Ski School and every Wednesday, the boys from Geelong Grammar School came up for ski lessons. It was the school where Prince Charles spent a year. We instructors were invited down there for dinner once a season and on one memorable occasion, a roo bounced on the car bonnet as we drove down. He bounced off again but left a mighty dint!) I have fond Geelong memories.

Enough! We were almost abandoning for want of those synonyms and they were staring at us. But have I forgotten something? The oenophiles! Of course Enigmatist has to qualify – he is due to organise another York gathering of sloggers and betters in October and we know where to find him in his favourite York pub. It was the other Numpty who decided ‘Drink in matter cryptically (5, two words)’ had to be SUP UP and it was in the ODE. So cheers, Enigmatist and thank you for what was probably the most challenging Listener we have ever solved.


One Response to “Variety Show by Enigmatist”

  1. Andrew Shields said

    Spice #5: Emma not Gemma…

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