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Unruly Characters by Somniloquist

Posted by shirleycurran on 15 Jul 2022

We’ve been finding Listener crosswords rather tough recently and were hoping for a gentle one of this sort of style: “The clues lead to answers of the given length that will be entered at the given number in the grid. Half of the solutions are thematic: solvers will see a symmetrical thematic item in the completed grid (16 cells) that they must highlight.” But it was not to be. What do we see?

Seven clues have an extra word. We must use those extra words ‘from start to finish’ to change characters in the grid. These will reveal a ‘survivor leaving the destination’.

In the rest a character has escaped either from the clue into the grid entry or vice versa: the resulting entries are rarely real words (my italics – expletive from both Numpties!) We are told that these escapees will spell out where characters first appear (in both a work and in the grid), their final fate and the work in question.

Double G & T needed. What did I say? Of course I scan the grid for the alcohol and Somniloquist, talking in his sleep or not, soon confirms his place in the Listener Setters’ Oenophile set-up.

‘Raises every empty in yearly carousal (4)’ (The annual setters’ dinner? See you there Somniloquist!) We opt for UPS E(ver)Y giving us an antique word for a carousal (UPSEY!) and take the Y from the grid to the clue.

‘Special hot wines producing rages (5)’ A bit of self-control please, Somniloquist! We remove the E from rages, giving ‘rags’ and enter SHREDS without that E (these were our first two solves and we are underway). He hasn’t finished! ‘Port in NY borough, after run loses beast (5)’ Now there’s a wonky surface-reading if ever I saw one, but we decide it has to be HARE losing not beast but east so HAR + BOR – the US spelling of a port (not a vintage Mediterranean one – so be it). Finally ‘Short butt marred new wine (repeat my above comment about surface readings!) We decide the STUM is the new wine and the short butt is a STU[b] followed by M[arrIed] so we get an I for our extra letter information, which by this time is saying THREE OPENINGS DESTROYED BY FIRE AT SWIM TWO BIRDS.

As an ex languages and literature teacher who had to plough through parts of Ulysses with reluctant students, this should say something, but I profess total ignorance. Fortunately we have Wikipedia which tells us that this is a rather boozy metafictional novel partly set in a Guinness Brewery. What can I say? Cheers, Somniloquist! Oh yes and the HARE! Maybe Somniloquist had to dock his tail but the little Poat hare is clearly back with us after his hols.

We have a full grid after several hours of solving.

THE RED SWAN HOTEL appears almost symmetrically in the centre of the grid and we have discovered that P00KA MACPHELLIMEY, JOHN FURRISKEY, FINN MAC COOL and DERMOT TRELLIS are four of the novel’s characters who converge on that place. A little searching is required to find three characters who ‘wend their way to the shared destination’.

Changing 14 letters allows us to put those characters into our gid, all converging on THE RED SWAN HOTEL and we find that ‘all affected entries become real words’ (a fine touch Somniloquist – that is undone by what follows). Wiki notes tell us that DERMOTT TRELLIS survives when the novel’s pages are burnt. Now we understand why we have those seven extra words AFFIRM, RISOTTO, ADULT, RECENT, OTHER, ELECTRICAL and DALI. Snaking at the bottom of our grid goes DERMOT TRELLIS once we have changed, for example, an A (of AFFIRM) to its last letter, M.

We haven’t quite finished. Finally we have to depict the fate of the characters within the destination. Well, I am told they were destroyed by fire when the maid burnt the book, so will it suffice simply to send them to oblivion and leave an empty burnt out space, or am I expected to draw three sets of skeletal charred bones or simply fill the hotel with flames? I think I’ll opt for the flames.

Quite a compilation, thank you Somniloquist and no, I am not going to read ‘At Swim Two Birds‘. I am re-reading Sense and Sensibility and suspect that Jane Austen will long outlive Flann O’Brien as an author.

One Response to “Unruly Characters by Somniloquist”

  1. Ben Bush said

    I went for leaving it blank. Will be disappointed if that’s marked incorrect as it certainly seems that elimination is about as fateful as you can get.

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