Listen With Others

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Listener 4711: Cycle of Crime and Punishment by Aver

Posted by vaganslistener on 3 Jun 2022

It was a pleasure to see Aver’s name in the by-line (his third puzzle in weekend barred crosswords here in the UK I think), and given his background as an Aussie lawyer, the theme was no surprise. But as his last Listener a year ago had a literary theme that’s not the only shot in his locker. I wondered where this one would go. “The man who memorialised” suggested it might be literary again”, but with no more to be gleaned at this stage, I dived in.

After about ten clues had been solved, enough corrections were emerging to make “two years hard labour” part of the thematic sentence. At that point the Oscar Wilde penny dropped, and The Ballad of Reading Gaol looked like a likely theme. Despite having a degree in English I can’t say I was very familiar with it, but St. Wikipedia kindly came to aid, and as a few more clues were filled in I could see READING GAOL to highlight, which helpfully pinned down some of the cycling, and knew I was to look out for CWx further down the grid.

Progress after that was steady but rather slow. Perhaps it was just the sunny weather, or the effect of the cycling along with the misprints. The clues were absolutely fair and well written. But of course the inclusion of so much thematic material did make some of them a little more roundabout than usual.

And so to that thematic material. Once the grid was full I extracted the misprints and wrote them at the side of the grid. At this stage I just had C S at the beginning, but further help from St W enlightened me and the two 3’s went in as misprints in the enumerations of 11 and 12 (cunning dog, that Aver; it also explained the 31/33 of the preamble) – C.3.3 being Wilde’s cell number and code-name in the Gaol and the nom-de-plume under which the Ballad was first published. A further exchange with Wiki (we were getting familiar by now) gave the relevant verse in full, and at that point I marvelled at how every word of it had been smuggled into the “normal” clues and as part of them too, not as extra words. That was a tour de force, and must have been a fun if hard challenge in setting. Now CTW could be highlighted and the job was done.

Aver has a neat way of turning a clue and some tricky but excellent ones were:

1ac “Not sparkling and yet each may provide definition” (5) which was exactly what it said on the tin, a double definition of STILL, but it was the last clue I parsed. Very clever.

31 “Hold sack [> back] from crude obscenity, having cancelled broadcast once” (5, two words), which worried me as my command of crude obscenities is not great, but it proved to be a subtractive anagram with “broadcast” (anagrammed) ONCE removed from “crude” (ditto) OBSCENITIES to give SIT BY for “hold back”.

7 “General Medical Officer keeling over, DOA [>DNA], completely dead” (5), where GENOM is an obsolete (“dead”) form of genome, a complete account of some DNA, made up of GEN(eral) + M(edical) O(fficer) reversed – all very neatly packaged with a surface reading that led in quite a different direction.

Many thanks to Aver, and I expect we will be seeing more of his excellent work.


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