Listen With Others

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Listener No 4702: Tunnel Vision by Chalicea

Posted by vaganslistener on 1 Apr 2022

Good: a Chalicea. First stop as always with her puzzles is to check that she is still in the Oenophile Club. Alcohol (3d), whisky (25d) and yes, a whole “large cask with red” (9d) will do nicely!

Now to play my usual game of Guess the Theme. My OH used to teach tinies so the journey with five obstacles made me think of picture-book stories, and I plumped for “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” where the protagonists face grass, a river, mud, a forest and a snowstorm before they meet The Bear. But as soon as I marked the unclued entries it was obvious that the lengths were wrong. Ah well, on to the clues.

Out of habit I started in the NE corner and made quick progress. When 12a LEONIAN gave me 20a LEO I switched tack and decided to concentrate on teasing out those unclued entries to try and reveal that theme. APPLE, PEARS and PLUMS popped out and I decided a kids’ book might not be so far off the mark after all, and the wonderful VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR soon came to mind.

At this point: problem. The caterpillar follows up his progress through the three fruits mentioned (were we going to be asked to punch little round holes? I don’t think we’ve done that before…) with strawberries and oranges, before gorging on everything else in the larder. ORANGE could fit, but the strawberries? No way. Had I fallen for a big Red Herring?

There as only one thing to do and that was to attack those two other entries. ORANGE duly fitted nicely and the fourth one turned out to be LOLLIPOP – part of the feast that on this occasion had sneaked into the healthy living section.

After that it was a matter of filling in the grid and finding the message, with only a few tricky clues to hold me up. (Even though professionally I’ve actually used the abbreviation ang. for “English” I was far too slow to see the wordplay for 8d, and “annoyance” in 21a just didn’t spark off IRE for me, but Chalicea’s clueing is always fair and usually straightforward thank goodness. There’s a place for the setters who offer us mental gymnastics but I’ve reached an age where I need a breather between the exertions…)

As soon as ORIGIN and EMERGES emerged from the message the penny dropped that we would be highlighting the stages of the caterpillar’s life, and indeed we were asked to SHADE TITLE [VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR] HIS ORIGIN DORMANT STAGE AND WHAT EMERGES.  And there in plain sight were the title in the outside columns (I was so focussed on the solve that I hadn’t noticed it!), EGG and PUPA, and snaking across the centre the eponymous CATERPILLAR. Hooray.

One last agony though. Was it coincidence or a TRAP that where the caterpillar bends the R and L were both doubled on an adjacent row? What should we highlight? In the interests of keeping the caterpillar alive and satisfying bug-lovers everywhere I went for the continuity option; fingers crossed. And thanks to Chalicea for another cheerful and solvable puzzle to start the weekend.

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