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Listener No 4709: For a Song by Elfman

Posted by Dave Hennings on 20 May 2022

Elfman is not a regular setter, his last being four years ago with Hollywood tinsel (real and phoney) being its theme (no. 4489, Silent Movie). Three years before that, we had Elton John’s Rocket Man (no. 4350, Revelation of John). This week we had another song to unearth, courtesy of eight clues with answers entered in one of two thematic ways. Definitions of one set of entries were in the other set’s clues with the remaining definitions “appearing elsewhere”. Intriguing.

1ac Present time being short, part of space explorer is withdrawn (6) was the first clue I read, and pretty much the last one I sussed! [(TIM(e) + BUS)<] Luckily 5ac Type of irritant gas enveloping eyes affected pregnancies (5) came to the rescue [CS around EYES*] but needed to be entered thematically since it was too long for its 5-letter entry.

I seem to remember from previous Elfman puzzles that he comes up with a tricky set of clues, and so this proved. My favourite was 38ac Little woman with energy escaping opposite of cocky fellow (6) for JOHNNY [JO (from Little Women, I guess) + HENNY – E].

That said, I am at a loss as to the wordplay for JAR (becoming INNER, NEIN* for JA) at 4dn Rabble doesn’t have to fall over conflict (5).

And damn those “Numbers in brackets are the length of grid entries.” The simple clue at 10dn would indeed have been simple if it had been Actor Dan of Wicked (5) for FONDA. And as for missing out four lots of BANANAs in the first thematic set… well! Mind you, they did give some nice wordplay, with the definitions for the answers found in other clues, although that wasn’t really necessary to finish the puzzle.

  • 16ac Governor being obsessive and esoteric (4), extra word esoteric leaving BAN + ANAL + AND; definition Queensland found in the clue to 32dn
  • 40ac Temporarily transfer black solids in equal quantities (6, two words), extra word solids leaving SECOND + BAN + ANA; definition subordinate in 2dn
  • 8dn Choose a smoothed cinnabar after processing (8, two words), extra word smoothed leaving ELECT + (A CINNABAR)*; definition Pretty Things in 17ac
  • 30dn Crazy liberal found ballerina in bed (5, two words), extra word ballerina leaving BANANAS + L in PIT; definition ice cream treat in 42ac

I think it was looking at 5ac CYESES becoming CONES and 10dn FONDA becoming FONTEYN that finally nudged me in the right direction, although I thought it was simple reversals of the negatives, replacing the positives, rather than jumbles.

Of course, it didn’t take long for me to come up with a song involving yeses and bananas: Yes! We have no bananas. My first google brought up a lyrics site which gave the writers as Silver and Coon. Luckily, I read the Wiki entry and that gave them as Silver and Cohn. Seeing the VER diagonally put me on the right track to completing the endgame. ONLVER had to be restored to SILVER, followed by COHN. Both spellings of the second author can be traced in the bottom right. I went for COHN since SILVER COHN is symmetrical about the SW–NE axis of the grid.

Thanks for another fun puzzle, Elfman.


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