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Singles Only by Twin

Posted by shirleycurran on 1 Jul 2022

I’ve glanced back at Twin’s puzzles on Dave Hennings’ Crossword Database and see that in his previous ones for the Listener and Magpie, the difficulty has steadily increased, until he became the Listener Ascot Gold Cup winner in 2020, so it was no surprise to see an alphabetic jigsaw, then read that several cells were to contain two letters. There was the encouraging information that wordplay in every clue was going to give us an extra letter, then gloom descended when we read that these had to be read ‘in order of grid entries’. That meant that we would have to cold-solve almost every clue before we would get an inkling of what was going on – which was going to involve the replacement of the contents of ‘most of the remaining cells’ at that stage, and then doing something else. Ouch!

Of course I had to hunt for proof that Twin retains his entry ticket for the Listener Setters’ Onophile Elite and his title, ‘Singles Only’ was pretty reassuring, though his clues had just the disappointing ‘wine gums’ in them. A rather lame “Cheers, Twin!” But I was delighted to see that the little Poat HARE is truly back with us: ‘Pass hare from Inverness Firth, say (5)’ We put COL for the pass, and RIN for the Scottish version of HARE (a speedy one) and when we had removed a letter R, we were left with COLIN and decided he had to be ‘Firth’ (not a nod to the setter’s forename?)

Speedy hare

I colour-coded the lengths of lights in the grid and the word-lengths and found the troubling lack of correspondence. We had seven 9-letter solutions and only one 9-letter space and the colours didn’t tell me where the other six were going to fit either.

Colour-coded grid

Solving was tough, too, though an early SKA and SKEGG and a potential NEIGH suggested what might start the bottom left-hand corner. After an initial twenty or so clues, we despairingly added two or three an hour and simply couldn’t solve all the 9-letter ones, with no prompts in the grid to help us. This was a real Listener E Grade and I was almost abandoning when HERONSEWS, SERRICORN and SALTANDO finally opened the way in (over twenty-four hours after I had down-loaded the puzzle). Suddenly the grief was converted to pleasure when the grid filled at lightning speed and the message “CLEAR AND SHADE THESE COLUMNS AND ROWS” appeared.

Clear and shade these columns and rows.

Of course, we still had a long way to go! We could now use those extra wordplay letters and had to work out what they told us, as well as extrapolating the few that we hadn’t managed to suss (the wordplay of ARABIN – that wine-gum ingredient, which now seemed to give O, and how we got an I from the TOED clue). But we did read LETTER’S FIRST POSITION IN ITS CLUE’S LETTERS/ ERASE TEN PLUS. That was fairly cryptic. Surely we weren’t solving another numerical: four a year in addition to twelve annually in the Magpie are sixteen too many for me!

We decided that we had to take the extra letter (D for example) and go to the clue for that letter and observe the position of the first occurrence of D in the clue. That number would become the grid entry (and remarkably the numbers were the same for the across and down clues!) We would leave the letter if it didn’t appear in the clue at all. We were instructed to ERASE numbers that were 10 or PLUS.

So I carefully counted the position of 81 letters in their clues and groaned in dismay at what emerged. Far too much of my life is devoted to crosswords and I have a personal rule to give a wide berth to sudokus and those Wordle things all my friends are boasting about. Surely we were not being instructed to COMPLETE SUDOKU. There was nothing for it! After all those hours spent reaching this point – sudoku rule broken.

And it had to have those rows and columns shaded.

What a remarkable compilation! Many thanks to Twin.

One Response to “Singles Only by Twin”

  1. gillwinchcombe said

    Love your hare – and the previous one!

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