Listen With Others

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Listener No 4694, Follow the Directions Again by Artix

Posted by Dave Hennings on 4 Feb 2022

Artix’s last Listener had Pete Seegar, The Byrds and Turn! Turn! Turn! as its theme. The title of this week’s puzzle harked back to his 2017 offering Follow the Directions which had Westward Ho! as its theme. I wondered if the theme this week would have exclamation marks lurking. [Spoiler alert: No. Ed.]

I always approach an Artix puzzle with some trepidation, and I wondered if this week might be an attempt to whittle down the number of all-correct puzzles early in the year. That was reinforced by the two-part preamble, the first part having five lines of ‘Directions’ which the second part told us we would have to follow twice! (My only exclamation mark this week.)

I began to feel somewhat guilty for wondering if we were faced with an intractable puzzle since the clues seemed fairly forgiving. From word lengths, it was obvious that the entries crossing the central column needed to have it left blank.

A lot of the surface readings caused me to smile, especially 35ac Piece in Eye concerning Maggie’s slogan (6) for RETINA [ RE + TINA (There is no alternative)] and Market-garden needs change of content to make safe fencing (lots of it) (8) [M(arket-gard)EN around ENSURE].

My favourite clues were:

  • 19ac She’ll offer you some comfort if you lose first hand in rubber (5) [ERASER – first R (right hand)]
  • 24dn Straight flush — take most care over casino’s terms (6) [(flus)H (tak)E (mos)T (car)E (ove)R (casin)O]
  • 26dn In song, an epithet of first light tomorrow (6) [A VENIR — VEN in AIR, Ven sneakily referring to St Bede at one across (first light)]

The grid itself was thus completed fairly quickly (once I replaced SATIATE with SATIETY), and so to the endgame. We had to identify a down entry, the subject of a prize-winning performance, fill the central column with the associated title, change a couple of letters and highlight the player. Sounded tricky.

I guess there were a couple of ways of tackling this.

  1. Analyse the central column and identify possibilities to make real words for the new across entries, work out what that entry could be, do any googling necessary, highlight the character and player.
  2. Analyse the down entries and identify possibilities for the subject of the performance, do any googling necessary, highlight the character and player.

I won’t say which way I chose, but I did wonder if William PENN or Franklin DELANO Roosevelt were the subjects of some 70’s film. In fact, it turned out to be TRAVIS Bickle, the fictional character in TAXI DRIVER played by ROBERT DE NIRO. I also wondered if Martin Scorsese was somewhere in the grid, 36ac being MARGIN, but no.

Well that was the easy bit! Next we had to follow the instruction spelt out by the initial letters of the words indicated by the first barred off cell in the across entries: Change down for anagram of ringed letters. While ACROSS seemed likely given the reference to ‘down’, I did wonder if OSCARS might be another bit of deception. This was emphasised by my not being able to see anything of interest in the across entries.

After a while, I decided to check the possibilities for the central down entry, and it didn’t take long (well, a bit longer) to see that MASTERMIND was an alternative, and everything fell into place. I vaguely remembered that there was a taxi driver who won Mastermind some 40 years ago, but I needed to google to find his name. It was FRED HOUSEGO and his specialist subject in the final was the TOWER OF LONDON.

Thus we had ‘on-screen’, ‘performance’, ‘title’ and ‘subject’ changing what they referred to between the two halves of the endgame.

Excellent puzzle. Thanks, Artix.

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