Listen With Others

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Listener 4731: Whatsername (yes, “‘er”) by Ifor

Posted by vaganslistener on 21 Oct 2022

We can always be sure of a well-made puzzle and decent workout from Ifor, who ranges widely with his themes. What’s it going to be this time? Whats… indeed! Nothing was giving itself away so the solving began, watching out as usual for the emerging message from the extra letter, and keeping a note of the extra words for later.

Neither of these was going to help with the grid-fill though, so I was thankful for Ifor’s accurate and (at least sometimes) generous clues. With those solved it was time to look for the thematic items hidden in the grid, and DRILL, ROD, OIL, SHANK and CRANK stood out, suggesting some sort of mechanism. But what?

A Google search on those words and SONG wasn’t getting anywhere so I resorted to the old trick of putting quote marks round “SONG” to force it higher up the search algorithm, and there – though it took going to the second page to find it – was the THING – UMMY – BOB song most famously sung by Gracie Fields, which includes the lines:

I’m the girl that makes the thing that drills the hole that holds the
Ring that drives the rod that turns
The knob that works the thing ummy bob
I’m the girl that makes the thing that holds the oil that oils the
Ring that takes the shank that moves
The crank that works the thing ummy bob

It’s a ticklish sort of job making thing for the
Thing ummy bob especially when you don’t know what it for
But it’s the girl that makes the thing the drills the hole that
Holds the ring that makes the thing
Ummy bob that makes the engine roar

Following the song through we do indeed find the DRILL above the RING held in a HOLE, and beneath the rod is a KNOB turned to make BONK (we were warned by Ifor about thematic arrangements) and it in turn is above a thing – a CUP – holding (well next to) the OIL pouring over another RING holding a SHANK with a CRANK below. Phew, I *may* have got that right… I’m not comfortable about the OIL+CUP for “the thing that holds the oil” but CUP is confirmed by crossing entries and I don’t at the moment see an alternative.

At this point I would often just ink the solution in and send it off, but I’ve learned (not least with Ifor) to go back and read the full preamble carefully first. And of course Ifor generously tells us that not only do 40 cells need highlighting (check; done that) but seven entries differ from their clue entries – and I only have four. Ah – the CRANK is “moved”, and putting KNARC gives four new real words and fixes the problem, I hope.

And then there’s the “singular answer”. Back to the poem, and I see that the thingummybob “makes the engine [singular] roar” – and the odd clue message WHAT CAN HER GENERATION MAKE now resolves itself as an anagram instruction for its last three words! Clever: and a happy totally conclusive confirmation of that part of the end-game,

The triplets by the way, according to my analysis, were

GRACES        Favours, pardons, titles

TANS             Functions, browns, beats

FIELD            Speciality, competitors, battle

THIN              Meagre, narrow, poor

GUMMY        Sticky, tacky, toothless

BOB               Shilling, refrain, dock

… and Gracie Fields was indeed born Grace Stansfield. A decent workout indeed, and I was glad to finish it before we had to leave for a few days away early on Sunday morning. What will we be offered next, I wonder?

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