Listen With Others

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Cycle of Crime and Punishment by Aver

Posted by shirleycurran on 3 Jun 2022

What a pleasure to see ‘Aver’ at the head of this puzzle. We have fine memories of his ‘Nine Men’s Morris’ crossword of last year. We were less happy when we saw how the clues were numbered here, and that there were going to be misprints in 33 of them, realising that that was going to lead to a lot of to-ing and fro-ing as we solved, but we saw the original gimmick that a message was to be extracted from 31 of the corrected misprints in clue order, and all 33 misprints ‘in order of grid entries’. Quite a challenge for the setter! (And solver – I drew up a list of clue numbers in grid order, to record the misprints as we found them and my usual coloured stripe down the side of the clues for the other message.)

We wondered about the difference of two between the 31 and 33, but, of course, this was later resolved when we saw that those two were clues 11 and 12, which, curiously, seemed to have the ‘wrong’ word length in brackets. The Listener editors are too meticulous to allow a word-length error to appear so why did we have that 3 3, where we should have 7 6? Yes, the ‘misprints’ resolved it but, to my mind, it was verging on a ‘Poat HARE situation’ to have the misprint in the word length. (But how else could Aver have produced C33? Clever stuff!)

Ah, the alcohol? ‘Not sparkling and yet each may provide definition (5)’ gave us a relatively easy first clue and we didn’t even suspect, at this stage, that those rather bulky ‘other clues’ – those that, like this one, were entered with no misprint and no cycling – would have a complete stanza of The Ballad of Reading Gaol hidden in them. What a feat! But the alcohol? It was not sparkling, so ‘STILL’ which is a Chambers’ paraphrase of ‘yet’. There was ‘bitter’ in another of the ‘other clues’. ‘Grey lines around Nancy’s face contorted with a bitter look (10)’. We anagrammed GREY LINES N(ancy) to give SNEERINGLY (and, of course, later spotted the ‘bitter look’). Fortunately for Aver, the ‘red’ appeared in ‘Possibly Aran native primarily knits undergarments and skirts in red (4)’. We had to cycle that one, spot the Aran/Iran misprint and use the skirts of ReD to give us KURD. There’s an amusing surface-reading here with one of those Aran knitters producing red knickers – but it is lost when she becomes a Kurd! Still, just enough alcohol to say “Cheers, Aver!”

The thematic sentence TWO YEARS HARD LABOUR IN BERKS PRISON prompted us to look for READING GAOL. OSCAR had appeared somewhat appropriately at 33 down and we highlighted the ‘thematic location (11 contiguous cells). The other Numpty reminded me that Wilde was prisoner C33 in Reading Gaol.

We still had to find the initials of the condemned man (three consecutive cells). To do this I needed to work out that the misprints gave me C33’s VERSE SPREAD OUT IN THE OTHER CLUES and now I realised that we had ‘Each man kills the thing he loves, By each let this be heard, Some do it with a bitter look, Some with a flattering word, The coward does it with a kiss, The brave man with a sword.’

I need to consult Wiki to find the name of the ‘condemned man’ in The Ballad of Reading Gaol. It gives me:

“The Ballad of Reading Gaol” by Oscar Wilde tells of Wilde’s experiences in prison and his observations of another prisoner condemned to die.

The poem begins with the story of Charles Thomas Wooldridge who murdered his wife. The man has been sentenced to hang and goes about his life in prison wistfully. Wilde, and the other men, are jealous of his attitude as he has accepted his fate and is the better for it. In the second section Wooldridge is hanged. He meets his death bravely while the other men cower from even the idea. Wilde spends time describing how the monotony of jail is only broken by the terror of it. 

We saw CTO in the grid and needed to change the first letter of Oscar to the W of Wilde to give CTW. What a fine compilation, Aver!

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