Listen With Others

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Listener 4760: (Who’d Bee a) Queen by Rebel

Posted by vaganslistener on 12 May 2023

A warm welcome back to Rebel, aka Nick Hay, who last appeared in the Listener series in 2007 with no. 3947 “King”. Do we sense a theme here? That one was about Kafka – but … well, you never know, but the grid looks more like a honeycomb to me. Apart from that, though, the prelims didn’t give anything more away that I could see. 

And what were the two pre-filled cells all about? I have to admit that I still don’t know. I wondered if they were needed to resolve ambiguities in what must have been a tricky grid to set up, though I didn’t identify any. (On the grid, QXW has a hexagonal feature that was perhaps deployed but it would have needed all the entries to be “free lights” I think – quite beyond me.) The requirement for mirror symmetry covered the potential issues of the adjacent Os in column 2 and Ss in column 4 where an unspecified blank could have been left – and I did set off thinking I would try and keep track of the symmetry, but it was beyond me again as it wasn’t just a matter of bars but of overlapping clue-trails. Perhaps Shirley managed it with her coloured pencils. I must ask her. (EDIT: she did!)

Anwyay, it was time to get solving. This was a slow one, as being able to see and visualise the shape of the emerging word is a great help to me, and my varifocals didn’t like jumping around the grid to see where a word might be going. So it was mostly cold-solving at first, with serious filling only going on when I had got quite a lot of answers, and especially the ones that made up the frame. In Magpie grading terms the lack of specificity about location plus the letters latent upped the difficulty level, and there were some quite unusual words too. I hadn’t heard of the weaselly relatives the BEEECH MARTENS, a BOLD BOW at the front of a vessel, or EMPTYSIS for spitting blood, which did rather delay that frame. And as for the Canadian artist Ethel SEATH, the Wikipedia list of Canadian artists omits her, and a Safari search on “Canadian artist Seath” doesn’t find her and offers “… Death” instead (though oddly “artist Seath” does work. I rather like her work.

That clue was obviously one of the last I solved. Others that taxed me were 17a “Nurses within borders of Dungeness” (5) = <M>INDS where I missed the obvious “within” = IN while looking for more complicated answers; and 33a “Snatch camouflaged crystal in cells” (7) = RAPHID<E>, where neither RAP for “snatch” and HID for “camouflaged” came quickly to mind, and RAPHIDE was totally new to me. The trickiest part though, as I said earlier, was not solving the clues but just getting my eye in to how they were being entered, and while a glass of red helps with some puzzles this was one where it didn’t and the morning light was needed to wrap things up properly.

That left the endgame, and how to use the messages WAY IN TOP MID BEES DEFLECTING and TITLE BEE CORE OCCUPIERS. A honeycomb it was and once the penny dropped that it was the letter Bs that were doing the deflecting, a path was soon found that spelled out ERASE PATH TO ROYAL CELL, with the “title bee” QB in the cell of the last L, which was the central or core cell of the grid.

So why were the cells S and L pre-filled? I shall have to wait for a setter’s or other solver’s blog to find out.  Meanwhile, many thanks to Rebel for a novel puzzle and a good challenge.


One Response to “Listener 4760: (Who’d Bee a) Queen by Rebel”

  1. Encota said

    Great blog – thanks! I think the upper S was required to remove the (other) possibility of the two across clues intertwining DNA-like. Perhaps the L was added for symmetry? I’m likely to be missing something!

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