Listen With Others

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Listener No 4711: Cycle of Crime and Punishment by Aver

Posted by Dave Hennings on 3 Jun 2022

This week we had the second Listener outing from Aver, following last year’s Dream Match with its Nine Men’s Morris courtesy of AMND. Here we had a straightforward grid with the misprints and their corrections each (bar two) spelling out relevant information. First thought was that this must have been a right toughie to clue.

Not only that, it was a right toughie to solve! Not that I’m in any way denigrating the puzzle which I found to be enjoyable on every level. The top half was basically empty for quite some time with the bottom left coming together first followed by the bottom right. Getting COMPLIMENT, albeit in the last column, helped a fair bit.

Of course, not seeing for an absolute age that the number in brackets for the clue at 11ac Part of infanta’s youth in a fairy tale? (3) didn’t agree with its entry length 7, made a simple hidden wordplay not simple (FANTASY)! Having spotted it, I checked other clues and found that 12ac Woven bark frame of eaglewood (3) was similarly cunning (WOOFED).

Eventually, everything came together nicely with some fine clues on the way.

  • 5ac Christian came from abroad, dropping Indo-Germanic soul in France (8) for FORENAME [FOREIGN – IG + AME]
  • 32dn After date, maturity shows fortune favours the brave, perhaps (5) for ADAGE, with its reference to some of the endgame material;
  • 33ac O, it’s an honour depicting a man with a sword! (5) for OSCAR, again referencing endgame material in its definition of the Oscar statuette.

Finally, we had the two messages from the misprints and corrections. The correct letters, in clue order, could easily be seen: Two years’ hard labour in Berks prison, and that could only refer to Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde, who was incarcerated in Reading gaol in the 1890s.The misprints took a bit of jiggery-pokery to sort them into the correct order of grid entries, and revealed C33’s verse spread out in the other clues.

It didn’t take long to see READING GAOL in rows 4 and 5, but the initials of the condemned man took a bit longer. What were Wilde’s initials that we needed to find, given one needed changing in the finished grid? OMW running south-east from 12dn could become OWW, but that wasn’t really consecutive — or so I thought. OFE, in the same region, could become OFW, but I was still perplexed by all of Wilde’s other initials.

Luckily, a bit more online reading reminded me that the poem is actually about Charles Thomas Wooldridge, who was hanged in Reading while Wilde was there, and to whom The Ballad of Reading Gaol is dedicated: CTW. Thus CTO in row 8 could change to CTW.

And the pièce de résistance was in finding, in the unadulterated clues, all the words from one of the verses:

Yet 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!

Thanks, Aver; great stuff.

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