Shouldn’t this be the Listeno Xword?

Welcome back to George vs an inability to resist bad jokes!   OKeydoke – what have we this week – eXternal!  Usually good for a bit of fun.  Wordplay leading to extra letters, OK… lots of stuff about a brief that doesn’t make much sense.  Change, fallout… might have to wait until the endgame.  Does look like all real words in the grid, so that’s a plus!

OKeydoke – there is a 1 across for the first time in a while, and it’s a reversal of COIN in SER, extra letter C (a quote that begins with a C?) and we are away with SENIOR, woohoo.  Hmmm… and one of the crossing entries has an answer length of 6 and only four squares in the grid.  Even someone as dense as I knows there’s something up here – the answer is NOTATE and it isn’t the N that disappears.

I made pretty steady progress through the clues – helped out by getting the quote early on – it appeared the first word was going to be CERTAIN and so it looks like CERTAIN SIGNS PRECEDE CERTAIN EVENTS – CICERO.  Eh?  So is CICERO the brief?

SANDPIT gave me the way to the endgame without quite knowing what the endgame was about – taking AND out of SANDPIT gives a real word, SPIT – MOREL could be turned to MANDREL by changing O to & and the & would come on top of a DRAMA.  Above OPERA, SENIOR could become SENATOR (AT coming from NOTATE), before CENSUS a + (SUM from POSSUMS) and before CIRCUS, SATURN becomes SATURATION with a : (RATIO coming from OPERATION).

Great – an almost full grid, but why the big deal about the brief?  The letters removed for the symbols were I,T,O and R.  RIOT?  Those four letters appear together at the bottom left of the grid – ORIT?  Googling CICERO and ORIT doesn’t help.  Reversed would be TIRO… googling “CICERO AND TIRO” brings up Marcus Tullius Tiro – a former slave of Cicero who possibly invented shorthand.  Aaaaaaah…

Is there some sort of award for getting to a solution without quite knowing how?

My working grid for Listener 4330, Following the Brief by eXternalIn the end I was in complete admiration of the grid construction – given the parameters of locating the thematic material this was a masterpiece.  Is it a flaw that I got there without understanding all of the thematic stuff until the very end?

Clues of note:

I’ve solved eXternal’s puzzles both in the Listener and the Independent, and I am usually pretty much on the right wavelength to the point that I don’t have to unravel clues that much.  So I’ll save my admiration for the final few fiendish ones that eluded me all the way to the end – the sursolved clues.

32 across:  Maybe staged parking is characterised by formality (6):  P,HAS,ICE for PHASIC with the extra E.

The message had a lot of E’s in it, so eXternal must have had fun looking for different methods of burying E.  I thought from the definition this was PHASED and it held up that corner quite a while

19 down:  Nazi with one brown long boot (7):  HESS,1,TAN for HESSIAN with the extra T

OK, the real reason this nearly stumped me was I had PHASED rather than PHASIC.  Got to love that surface though!

OK, I think I can claim this one a slightly sheepish Victory to George and the year is still off to an umblemished (if unsubmitted) start.  Should really use a few of those stamps.

2015 tally:  4-0-0

Feel free to tell me that I should know my TIROs from my RIOTs and see you next week when Loda asks us to solve a puzzle con duit.

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