Conversion by Samuel

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Listener crossword 4069: Conversion by Samuel (2010-01-16)1

“All answers must be amended prior to entry.” It’s the kind of rubric that sends a shiver down my spine: misprints (but only in some of the clues), answers to be amended, and mysterious references to “professions”, a “workplace”, and multiple “conversions”. But these things usually become clear in the end, so let’s get started:

These two would intersect if EFFABLE were amended (e.g. by jumbling or by rotation to the right by one or two letters) so that one of the “F”s was in the fourth cell.

ASSET intersects with the first letters of SEBAT and SEASHORE, but only if the two letters “S” are in the third and fourth cells. Let’s suppose that every across answer is rotated by one cell to the right, so that its last letter moves to the front. That would make 5 across, “Bowled out for 7, Boycott’s ruptured earholes?” O_ _C_ _ _ _. I don’t fully understand the clue but it seems to be an anagram of BOYCOTT with B (“bowled”) replaced by something clued by “7”. Maybe a reference to 7 down? Anyway, the definition must be “earholes”, so maybe it’s OTECTOMY, with the question mark indicating a punning definition (the holes are the ones left by the removal of the ears).

Let’s fill in what I’ve got so far, assuming that down answers are amended by deleting one letter.

So far, all the down answers that I’ve been able to enter have had their second letter removed. Also, I have across misprints *O*DS*O*T* and down misprints *R*O*NDO*KE. The across misprints could start SECOND. Is it SECONDS OUT ROUND OKE? That can’t be right! The misprint at 32 down must be N: a cactus is a “spiny plant”, not a “spiky plant”. So the misprints spell SECONDS OUT ROUND ONE. The subject of the crossword must be a boxer (maybe ALI that I can already see at 23 down?), and his “workplace” mentioned in the rubric must be the boxing ring.

So I’m instructed to take SECONDS OUT of the down clues, and move the across clues ROUND ONE. Let’s apply the instructions to everything I’ve got so far. See right.

7 down is OUTCASTE and 5 down is ST KITTS, but neither fits. It must the case that OTECTOMY is wrong, which is a relief because I didn’t understand how the clue works. Aha, “7” clues the obscure Roman numeral S, and the answer must be OTOCYSTS. This word is missing from the 2003 edition of The Chambers Dictionary. (FAT FARM too.) Maybe it’s time to buy the 2008 edition?

I don’t fully understand either of these. In 13 across, it looks as though I’m supposed to reverse “I”, “start to see” = S, “conveyance” = SAC, but where does the A come from? In 14 across, the definition is “targets for firing”, i.e. CLAYS in the sense of “clay pigeons”. But the rest? Either “bank owners” = CAYS and “without a pound” means “around L” or else “bank owners” is something like CALLAYS from which “a pound” = AL has been removed. But neither possibility seems right.2

Nonetheless, both of these answers must be right because they reveal CASSIUS CLAY across the middle of row 3. And there appears to be a BATTERFLY in column 3—indeed much of Ali’s famous quote FLOAT LIKE A BUTTERFLY, STING LIKE A BEE can now be seen going anticlockwise in a square, with a couple of errors where it intersects with CASSIUS CLAY. I guess we’re going to end up fixing those errors in the final step of the puzzle.

15 down is FOREMAN. Here is one of the “professions that was found wanting”. The other must be COOPER, and sure enough, it slots in at 40 across.

Now the grid is complete, what about the final step? The rubric says, “On locating the subject of the puzzle in the grid, solvers must carry out a conversion (the source of which was itself a conversion). This completes, in the shape of the subject’s place of work, a thematic quotation that must be highlighted.” So what do I do? A further application of ROUND ONE to CLAY would get the L into the right place, but it looks as though I would need to apply ROUND THREE to CASSIUS to get the U into place, and there’s no justification for this. Maybe I need to apply the instruction SECONDS OUT in a different way, by removing the letters “S” from CASSIUS CLAY before rotating. That doesn’t work either.

Maybe I need to pay attention to the repetition of the word “conversion”? Cassius Clay was a convert to Islam, and when he converted, he famously converted his name to MUHAMMAD ALI.


  1.  On the Listen With Others blog, Samuel describes the setting of this puzzle.

  2.  Derek Arthur and John Grimshaw explain that “from” clues À (“as in Thomas à Kempis” confirms Chambers), and that “bank owners” are BARCLAYS, from which “pound” = BAR is to be removed.