Listen With Others

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Listener No 4680: Manhunt by Shark

Posted by Dave Hennings on 29 Oct 2021

Oh dear! After the recent Poat and Enigmatist puzzles, I wasn’t expecting another tough cookie so soon, but knew that’s what I would be in for here when I saw Shark facing me. It has been a few years since his excellent Quads puzzles, but last year we had a puzzle celebrating National Butterfly and Hummingbird Day (in the USofA) and before that, Ben Franklin being (almost) hit by lightning. I wondered if we would have another American theme this week.

We had a nearly carte blanche here with only vertical bars in place and no clue numbers. To make up for this, some cells would contain two letters separated by a diagonal line, and one of these from each row would feed the isolated column to the right of the main grid. Clues to unaffected entries would give a clue as to what was required to decode the grid. This had ‘tough cookie’ written all over it.

Or so I thought! 1ac Black eye after back in bat (9) was REARMOUSE, but since that had to fit into just six cells, three would require double letters. 2ac Drove husband east behind ancient weapon’s point (5) gave HORDE and that had to fit into just three cells. Three clues later and 5ac Late transport almost stuck in concrete — that’s a performance before the big day (9) led to REHEARSAL and I was settling down for a quick solve.

Or so I thought! Although I solved a few more acrosses and quite a few downs, fitting them all together proved fairly tricky for me. That top left corner took some time to get fixed, primarily because I had forgotten that a new ball was a CHERRY. This grid really needed solving from top to bottom and, although progress was somewhat slow, I made good progress through to the final grid fill, diagonal lines and all.

I looked forward to talking about the climate crisis at the revivified Listener quarterly gathering on the 30th so that I could bring clue ‘o’ into the conversation with Earth with extermination of last of bird and fish? (7). At first I thought this gave LANTERN [LAN(d) + TERN] but that didn’t really work with the second ‘of’. It proved to be ECOCIDE [E + COC(k) + IDE; & lit.]. I struggled a bit with clue ‘c’, Gangs of New York’s trash, inferior to Bones? (4) which I was convinced was MOBS but took an age to see BS for bullshit below MO for bones! I was amused by 13ac Small figure of tailless dog bearing earlier body art (9) with its image of a wee terrier covered in tattoos.

And so we had the extra words in the clues to normal entries giving Wheatstone two needle telegraph. A bit of research gave a Wiki article about the development of the telegraph as well as, thankfully, a description of how it had been used to apprehend John Tawell for the murder of Sarah Hart. The start of a message was given by taking one of each of the double letters in the grid: A/R M/O U/S O/R D/E R/E H/E A/R S/A G/A T/U, etc. Although I could see that it started “A murder has”, it was the Wiki article that gave the full message as “A murder has gust been committed at salt hill and the suspected murderer was seen to take a first class ticket to london by the train which left slough at 742 pm he is in the garb of a kwaker with a great coat on which reaches nearly down to his feet he is in the last compartment of the second class compartment.” It was the limitations of the telegraph that forced “gust” to be used instead of “just”, and a bit later “kwaker” for “quaker” and SALT HILL appeared in rows 4 & 12 of the grid.

Indeed it was GARB OF A KWAKER that ended up in the right-hand column, and TAWELL himself finally appeared once HILL was changed to HALL.

Another phenomenal outing, Shark, with loads of thematic material. Great puzzle, thanks.

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