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Listener No 4693: Location, Location, Location by Agricola

Posted by Dave Hennings on 28 Jan 2022

Agricola’s previous Listener was no. 4588, Black Maria. It was nothing to do with the current Metropolitan Police investigation into Downing Street parties, but had the Russian and Chinese lunar space missions as its theme. (Time here to mention the fantastic achievement of the James Webb telescope which was recently launched and is currently in orbit.)

This week, we had an interesting preamble in that it was telling us lots about what to find in the finished grid, even telling us where to look for a surname and noun — the NW–SE diagonal. Normally we’d be told that “a couple of relevant thematic allusions can be found obliquely in the finished grid”. Still, who am I to complain?

1dn 2ac and 44ac 31dn would give synonyms of two locations. Extra letters in the wordplay would give descriptions of two foreign synonyms of a third location. Well, that was the title sorted, but all those synonyms had me worried that my brain wouldn’t be able to cope. Hopefully the NW–SE diagonal name and noun would help, although we had to find synonyms of them too. It struck me that the title should have been Synonyms, Synonyms, Synonyms!

2ac Milan team exhausted Juve in Turin, playing after United’s loss (5) was a straightforward clue, Inter Milan being a gift for we solvers [{J}(uv)E in (TURIN – U)*; extra letter J]. However, it had me worried that we were heading for a football match. I failed with 6 I have knocked back main Scottish beers (7) [(I HAVE)* + SE{A}< for HEAVIES], but 11 PC maker introducing “reverse copy” cursor (5) had I-BEAM slotted in [IBM around E{p}E]; not often you see IBM in the wordplay for a clue.

So the top left was off to a good start, and as the grid was gradually filling, I saw BECK••M in the diagonal. The possibility of David BECKHAM again brought back the thought of a football theme. Once the grid was finished, the extra letters in the wordplay spelt out Japanese car manufacturer and Maori festival at mid-winter. Neither seemed football related.

As far as the top left and bottom right corner clues were concerned, INTER for a BURY related park made me think of Gunnersbury Park, while SPURS was just short for Tottenham. Both immediately had tube station connotations for me, Gunnersbury being on the District line, while Tottenham Court Road was on the Northern & Central.

Googling the Maori festival soon revealed that it was Matariki and, lo and behold, that was also the Maori name for the Pleiades or Seven Sisters. Another tube station, if memory serves. Referring to my tube map app, I saw that SS is between Finsbury Park (fins being FIVERS) and Tottenham Hale (ROBUST). That finally explained the diagonal — not David but Victoria for BECKHAM and line for YARN, all three of our stations being on that tube line.

Of course, that still left the Japanese car manufacturer. A bit of Google Translate revealed that SUBARU is the Japanese word for Pleiades. Nice discovery, Agricola.

If only that were the end of the puzzle, but no! We had to find six of the seven sisters higgledy-piggledy in the grid, and write the seventh below as the missing name. Time for a neat version of my finished grid, and luckily it wasn’t long before I found ELECTRA, MAIA, ALCYONE, TAYGETA, STEROPE and CELAENO in the grid, leaving MEROPE to go underneath.

Thanks, Agricola, a straightforward theme, nicely camouflaged.

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