Listen With Others

Listener 4756: Soldier On… by Demoniacal

Posted by vaganslistener on 14 Apr 2023

After two easier weeks the pressure gauge is rising again, as we see how much is going in this puzzle from Demoniacal. But who is she/he/they/it? Dave Hennings’ Database and the Internet offer no clues. (Note to newer solvers, it sometime helps to look the solver up and see what their form and favourite themes are…) Perhaps it is a collaboration – with the queues being on the long side I’ve certainly enjoyed a couple of such joint exercises. Are MANIAC and DOLE the joint setters? Or even ACE, DON and MALI? Or is just a single COLA MAIDEN disguising her identity? I’m getting nowhere, so let’s look at the preamble.

The extra-letter gimmick will be straightforward enough (a touch of “famous last words there” as Demoniacal handled it rather neatly). I’ll need a column down the side to keep track of the alphabetical use, but the 13 consecutive ones spelling out the “restriction” (whatever that is) should be spottable and offer a bit of a can-opener in the middle of the solve. The two jumbles are likely to only become clear towards the end-game but should confirm the solve, before we start erasing letters. (John Green must have slipped the setter a fiver so he can have an Easter holiday …) The word exchanges are going to slow things down, though, with a lot of light pencilling-in in the earlier stages of the grid fill.

I did of course do the maths and work out that there would 14 doubles and 11 singles, though that wasn’t a great help. What helped rather more was realising that as there was only one eleven-letter word it could be inked in as a singleton, and anchor some of the other answers. And what a clue 20a was. After a fair bit of head-scratching I was able to parse it as a vacant H(app)y + PL(ace) + W(ith) + NO POMP (for lack of ostentation) + I(n) C(harge) – so HYPNOPOMPIC, that everyday word for “Relating to a state between sleep and wakefulness”, plus W as the extra letter. Next time I am trying to tell a bad dream that that’s only what it is and can I wake up now please, I shall try and remember it.

The ”soldier” in the title made me think of the Good Soldier Schweik/Švejk, but a Z appearing in the “source” suggested not, but half-rang bells. For a bit of fun I asked Google’s new AI engine BARD for a list of seven-letter plays and operas with Z in them. The results showed that the engine still has some work to do:

The Z by David Mamet

Zion by Ngozi Anyanwu

Zeta by Mark Norman

Zyzzyva by David Ives

Bard also flatly said that, “There are no plays [or operas] with seven letters involving a soldier with titles that include a Z. Sothat’s that  then. Except a bit of more human digging came up with Georg Bge0orge buchnerüchner’s Woyzeck (the big W in the grid?) and as more letters emerged that proved to be what wanted.