I’ll see your Hamlet in a nut-shell and raise you a Prince Albert in a can

Happy New Year everyone!  I hope everyone is feeling as wrecked as I am – for some reason my town didn’t do the usual fireworks at midnight so I had to do the countdown in a bar and break out the bubbly when I got back.  Then there was some form of board games and it appears my place didn’t get destroyed and there’s nobody dead in the living room so no harm no foul, woohoo!

We are into the final three Listeners for 2015 – how’s your record looking?  Mine hasn’t been that great this year, though I did stop submitting (I know, I know).  I’m planning on getting back to submitting in 2016, I can probably bury the hatchet with Azed and pick up a few HCs in his competitionthing.

So what does ‘Eck have in store for us?  Lots of clue modifications – adding and subtracting and some unclueds that provide a hint to the theme.  Real words in the grid, and no bloody Playfair in sight for two weeks, so let’s see how this one goes.

There is a 1 across!  And it’s nice and juicy – regular listener solvers will jump for joy at the sight of a French Farm which is a MAS so this is O(MAS)A in there is an extra L in the clue.  Big win on the 1 across test!

This intersects one of my favorite Yiddish terms, MAZELTOV – which can, in true Australian fashion be shortened to MAZEL, MAZ or MAZO, and we are well and truly away.

It seemed there were a lot more extra letters in clues than removed letters, so I guess the location is short and the subject is long?  I had about half the grid finished when it became apparent that INFINITE SPACE was a possibility for 45 46.  That sounds familiar… Googling it suggests a video game for Nintendo DS, which sounds better than The Times Crossword Challenge for Nintendo DS, but I don’t think the Listener team is ready for a puzzle based on a Japanese video game.  I could test them by submitting a puzzle based on Yo-Kai Watch and go for the fastest rejection in Listener history!

OK, so what else about infinite space – 27 ends in G.  Why does A KING OF INFINITE SPACE sound familiar?  Oh, because it’s from Hamlet, silly (it also appears to be the title of two equally-dire sounding self-published books).  Hamlet could be bonded in A NUTSHELL – which does appear to be forming there in the top half of the grid – at least ANU??SHELL is.

This leaves a little sursolving – but it was a very strange retroactive process – since I knew the theme, I could now gather what the hints were – LITTLE PIG was already there, as was GREAT DANE, but MOUSETRAP WRITER (the play Hamlet wrote in Hamlet was called “The Mousetrap” which went on to run in the West End for 76 years) was not fully-formed, nor was the missing letters message ACT TWO SCENE TWO.

The final piece of the puzzle – 17 down that looked like it should be TRAIL, is actually T-RAIL with the dask indicated in wordplay.  Very clever, a nice companion to the puzzle a few weeks ago where punctuation marks formed the theme.  We have a grid!

My working grid for Listener 4376, Trapped by 'Eck

This was all finished in one fairly long session, so on the easier side, but I liked the theme and I liked the clues a lot.

Clues of note:

1 down:  Mark stood behind son, drinking weak, stale pints (6)

OWCHES: W in OCHE, S.  Extra T in definition – since OCHE defeated me in a Times puzzle a few months ago and it’s popped up three times since!  You can’t beat that surface.

17 down:  Prat receiving short stroke finally tenders for part of track

T-RAIL:  Extra letter S at the end of tenders.  TAIL containing -,R(last letter of tender).  I don’t think I’ve seen a piece of punctuation clued as a wordplay element before.

So a Victory to George and another in a stream of very fun puzzles from ‘Eck (the artist formerly known as Ron).

2015 tally:  41-2-5

Feel free to tell me that I should really brush up on my Shakespeare and play fewer Japanese video games and see you next week when Rasputin puts a gun to our heads.

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2 Responses

  1. Hi, George. It seems that you are meant to finish this off by putting HAMLET into his nut-shell. Great respect though for your consistency over the months. Regards, Tony

  2. Whoops – I forgot to put that in the write-up, but I have changed the letters inside the nutshell that need to be changed, Both letters are in the cells in the grid I scanned.

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