Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin


Posted by shirleycurran on 10 Feb 2023

Of course we notice at once that we have just a number – no title. Then we read the words ‘encrypted/ transposition cipher/ extra letters in wordplay/ jumbled/ ambiguities/ decrypting the ciphertext/ add bars’. “Oh dear” I groan. We are packing to leave for a week in the snow (now that Megeve has a metre and a half of the stuff after a wet, green Christmas and New Year. “This sounds like a long haul.” We suspect Sabre, or maybe Quinapalus or Mash, and suspect that his (or her) pseudonym will be part of the plain text that will fill that white space at the top.

This certainly calls for a huge gin and tonic – and Mr Anonymous is prompting us, though almost the first clue we solve is ‘One who abstains in Congress a lot, possibly to sway Opinions (10)’ That sounds like TEETER around TOTAL with an O coming out of the wordplay, so TEETOTALER – but shouldn’t that have two LLs? We decide to chew over it and it is a long time later, when we have the rest of those long perimetrical words (MARIONETTE/ ENGENDERED/ RESENTMENT) that we twig that the. abstaining in Congress is a US indicator. Clever clues this lot!

That ‘Huge gin and tonic without much ice could be bracing (10)’ gives us an anagram of TOUGHENING but there is no extra wordplay letter there so it has to be jumbled and a pattern of symmetrically jumbled entries is appearing. (And, of course,”Cheers Mr Anon!”)

The letters emerging from wordplay are spelling ANAGRAM MYSZKOWSKI. “Who or what?” I ask but the other Numpty has heard of the MYSZKOWSKI transposition cipher. (That’s the advantage of living with someone who is a bottomless mine of ludicrously trivial but very wide-ranging information.) However, we have almost all the solutions (but enough missing to make the task a nightmare) and some where we can’t decide whether to enter TEPEE as EPTEE, PETEE, or EETPE and where the Es and Ps of PROPERTY and EMPTIER have to go.

Of course, that was the decryption bit – the final struggle to find that those central letters (with EPTEE. PTERRIM and REYPEOPT) telling us that our encrypter (and huge gin and tonic drinker – see you at the bar in Bristol!) was Serpent, playing slithery tricks with a transposition cipher. Very clever – thanks, Serpent.


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