whomdunnit?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword – the blog that is updated far more regularly than the Listener Crossword site.  By the way – that site appears to be up to date again, and it tells me that this truly is Towser’s first Listener, so welcome Towser if you happen to stray into this darker corner of the interweebs.

OK – what have we here?  10 wordplay only clues, and an unclued thing in the middle.  Not a lot of extra guidance, but we could be in another week of real words in the grid, woohoo!

There is a 1 across… and it looks suspiciously like a wordplay only clue, most likely an anagram leading to CHRISTINE.  I wasn’t 350% sure on this one though, so I wrote it above the grid in case I wasn’t on the right path.  Though since it intersects what looks like another wordplay-only clue, CARE,R, TAENIATE and ENOW, then CHRISTINE looks like a good option.

I made a pretty good start on the grid and immediately went up a number of garden paths…

My set of CARER becoming CARR, CHILL becoming HILL and OVINE becoming VINE means that I’m definitely in the realm of comedians.  From the title, alternative comedians?  Was there another HILL besides BENNY?  Cue smacking bald guy on the head and chasing girls in nurses uniforms.  Members of the Comic Strip?

Didn’t Tim VINE win some joke award at the Edinburgh Fringe?  Joke of the year award winners?

I didn’t abandon this comedian thread until CHANDLERY appeared in the bottom row… aaah, it’s RAYMOND CHANDLER and BARBARA VINE.  They’re pseudonyms!  The rest have to be pseudonyms.  That doesn’t conform!

But it turns out DOROTHY SAYERS was her real name.

A bit of Googlyooglying brings up the DETECTION CLUB, but they weren’t all members.

Yes, dear reader, it took me that long to realise they were all mystery writers.  Actually it took all the way to a full grid, a list of names and getting the circled letters to read CONAN DOYLE (well – one O short since I didn’t know which letter needed to leave from TOEY) before I had the head-smack, rather than the penny-drop moment.

OKeydoke – now we are left with that middle entry.  Since it’s CONAN DOYLE we’ve got to be in SHERLOCK HOLMES territory, right?  A crypric clue for SHERLOCK HOLMES… maybe TRESS and IN somewhere…

?ABRTTRESK?

Huh?

A cipher maybe?  Isn’t there a Sherlock Holmes cipher?  Nope, that has something to do with stick figures, and the letters here don’t look like stick figures.

And stuck…

In fact, stuck until my blue pen ran out – it took a few days before I looked back at this to see if I could work out what on earth was going on with the middle row.

We haven’t used the title yet, since mystery writers who are not Thomas Pynchon seem to be conformists of the utmost degree, by the end of the book the case is solved and the detective is most likely still alive.  So what about CONAN DOYLE associates with NONCONFORMISTS?  IRREGULARS?  The BAKER STREET IRREGULARS… although maybe there’s just one in this grid, since if I add two E’s then there is an anagram of BAKER STREET.

Sly, Towser, sly.  And you created a puzzle where the last two letters took almost fifty times as long as the rest of the grid.

My working grid for Listener 4346, Nonconformist by Towser

 

Clues of note

I may damn with faint praise here, but Towser’s clues were gentle, to the point the only mess I made was in a wordplay-only clue where I had NOPE instead of PONE for “Open out”.  I’ve never tried writing a wordplay only clue, and maybe without having to worry about both parts it makes the surface easier to keep together but I was pretty taken by some of Towser’s wordplay-only clues

45 across:  Scotsman follows curling closely (8)  CRISP,IAN

I know plenty of Scots-Canadians (I lived in Nova Scotia for two years) who follow it religiously!

12 down:  One who sets the table on board? (7)  S(LAYER)S

This and 47 across were the only “wordplay-only” clues that didn’t strike me as “wordplay only” right off the bat.

Anyhoo – time got away from me while I was typing this, and it appears I have a correct solution, so Victory to George, and thanks for a fun debut that lead me all over the place, Towser – maybe the next one could be about alternative comedy and you can reuse some of the devices!

2015 tally:  16-0-3

Feel free to tell me that I have an unhealthy obsession with non-viable themes and see you next week when Elap rubs it in that I’m single.

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