I invariably plan to have a three-monthly break from solver blogging when the detested numerical comes up. (Yes, I know that statistics demonstrate that they lead to more entries than the verbal ones but I cannot imagine what weird outer space invaders make four visits a year and fill the things in and mail them). However, with that thing with its little goggly eyes sitting by my computer and staring at me, I was constrained and had to relent.

“Keep Your Distance” indeed. We had “Isolated in May” a couple of weeks ago and now we are being given a Covid19 instruction. Will it be called “Wash Your Hands” next week. (A friend’s son who is back in school complained that they did nothing but wash their hands all day – seven times in all!)

The name Pandiculator seems to be a new one in the Listener files (but do we trust appearances or is this some sort of SciFi pseudonym for an established setter?) Can he be admitted to the Listener Setters’ Oenophile outfit? Hmm! I looked long and hard and was almost despairing of Pandiculator’s chances until I spotted Chambers’ definition of ‘prime’: ‘to bring into activity or working order by a preliminary charge (eg people by giving them liquor…)’ Well, well! Prime appeared eight times in those clues so what can I say? Cheers and welcome Pandiculator! (You must be the first Listener setter ever to have got away with not just one but five double unches so there are a few ‘doubles’ too!)

We are into week ten of our lockdown and winds were howling outside and rain hammering down so tempers were becoming frayed when the mathematical Numpty went up his second blind alley and abandoned to do the Times and Telegraph, and handed over to me, the infinitely less mathematical Numpty. I didn’t improve things by using the sum of digits in one clue rather than the product and it was noon on Saturday before P, r, V, y and A all gelled and we were confident that we were on the right track but we still had to work out the solution to the asterisked clue.

We had digits that added to something like 370 (but I managed to get a different total each time I laboriously added them) and H had to be an even number so the asterisked number was probably going to be in the twenties. Clearly (or so we reasoned) we couldn’t opt for a number that was a factor of any of the pairs of digits as that would give us a zero remainder and no letter. We tried 27 and 24, which both led to gobbledygook but fortunately, the other Numpty persisted beyond the first four letters with 25 and we read PCN O X DD DIGITS EVB HIGHLIGHTED K NISHIKADO – what must be done in the final grid and the themtic creator’s name. (‘Odd digits highlighted Nishikado’ – with that gobbledygook scattered amongst the words but fortuately we had been instructed to look for 3,6,11,9).

I admit even NISHIKADO was gobbledygook to me but he, at once, said SPACE INVADERS and sure enough, my faithful friend Wiki produced the goods and there was that goggly-eyed little monster. I am looking forward to what Pandiculator will tell us about how he managed to not only get that message into the grid but also space those odd digits so that his monster appeared. Quite a feat – thank you Pandiculator.