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Listener 4714: Run to Seed by Phi

Posted by vaganslistener on 25 Jun 2022

It’s over a year since we last saw Phi in the Listener (the queue seems to be getting very long) but this is his 51st contribution to the series: quite a total! A Guardian interview last year adds in 150 Inquisitors, 60 EVs, 1500 Independents and 300 in the BBC Music Magazine. Wow. In real life Paul Henderson also manages to be a mathematical analyst for criminal justice systems and has written a paper on black holes.

So welcome back Phi, and with such a broad output and not much given away in the preamble, I’ll have to start solving to discover your theme this time.

In fact it emerged rather quickly. The clueing standard is high but not too hard (thanks!) and since I didn’t really understand what was happening with the double clues’ answers I started with the ordinary ones – and after four or five and a word-pattern search I found the wonderful OUANANICHE as the unclued down entry. Salmon then – and (looking at the pattern of those unclued acrosses) how about a SALMON LADDER? I tried a few clues in the bottom left corner and SALMON was looking likely, so over to Mrs Bradford to note down lots of 6-letter words for the fish and see if they would fit.

Fit of course they didn’t, as they were going to overwrite some but not all of the downs that crossed them, and eventually I realised (a) that the answers to the double-clue pairs would anagram to a pair of salmon words, and (b) that we needed the information given that the words were adjacent in the ladder to sort out the order they would come in, as the letters involved in the clue answers were rather similar. I did note the wonderful BAGGIT (a ripe female salmon that has failed to shed her eggs, poor thing) as a possibility for 16a, and so it proved.

The final ladder for reference was

LADDER

KIPPER

BAGGIT

SAMLET

LIGGER

GRILSE

SALMON

You’d think we ate nothing else. (Actually I love it and that would be fine, though PETA – who do have a particular position on this – do warn that only two servings a month can mean you have difficulty recalling information you learned just 30 minutes earlier. That would be me then.)

Just three clues proved difficult for me:

14a “Without gathering, Scottish cattle lay as before (4)” where with KY, KYE and KYNE all available as Scots words for cattle I got caught in the headlights of uncertainty, until crossing letters led me to AYRE for “lay” in the sense of a song. And the cattle were in fact AYRSHIREs with SHIR for “gathering” removed. Doh!

6d “French artist’s enclosure including head in elevated style (7) where definite letters before the substitutions were ?E?A??? which wasn’t much to go on. With the substituted letters in place I had DEPAINT which was at least a real word, but that didn’t add anything to job of finding the original entry. CEZANNE would fit if “French artist” was the definition, but the wordplay took me a lot longer to spot than it should have done: NAZE for “head(land)” in ENC(closure) all “in elevated style”, i.e. upside down. Nice one, Phi!

16d “Joyful girl, in short, having endless smile (3)” was tricky because it was going to be based on the meaning of a girl’s name which was then shortened, and with only ?E? as a secure pattern. Crossing fish gave BEA and Beatrice is a bringer of joy, so that will do – and I remember that not all the crossing words get changed, A final check of the grid shows that just six have been, so all looks OK.

All in all it was a game of two halves, since filling the ordinary parts of the grid and finding the ladder words were pretty independent of each other, but they did then need to be used together to get the final version of the grid right. And while it was one of the quicker solves, the construction round the ladder was very nicely done, and OUANANICHE is one to remember. I see some fun clueing possibilities in it too. Thanks Phi! We know there’ll be more!

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