The Glady Marsh by Salamanca

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Listener crossword 4070: The Glady Marsh by Salamanca (2010-01-23)

This was a perfect lesson in how to hide something in plain sight. The first clue I solved was 14 across, “Become ‘A Study in Scarlet’ (6)” and I thought, what a brilliant clue! as I filled in the answer REDDEN. But it wasn’t until a couple of hours later that I realised that this clue had given away the whole theme to the puzzle.

After the misprinted clues and amended entries of the last couple of Listener crosswords, this was a welcome respite, with nothing to do but solve the clues and enter in the answers. And there were some cracking clues this week. “Sleep under church ground thus? (12)” was a great anagram &lit for ENSEPULCHRED. “Terrain is uneven: does this make it _______? (7)” was a very pleasing composite anagram &lit for SIERRAN.

There were some good words too. “Speaker of seditious words causing panic in Greek animals (12)” is a perfectly transparent clue: we’ve got to anagram “Greek animals” to get a word meaning “Speaker of seditious words”. But I needed nearly all the checking letters before LEASING-MAKER was revealed.

Some of the clues were pretty tough. “Hill in SA: one of Scotland’s hill’s round (3)” clues KOP. I could see that it’s a South African hill, but it took a long time to work out that it’s “Scotland’s hill” ↦ KIP, with “round” ↦ O replacing “one” ↦ I. The wordplay eluded me even longer in “One doing piecework who requires time to start off (6)” ↦ TASKER: the smooth surface had me completely fooled. In fact, it’s utterly simple: “who requires” ↦ ASKER, with “time” ↦ T placed beforehand.

Anyway, with the grid filled in except for the four thematic entries, here’s how the rubric stood: “The answers to askerisked clues”—ANGEL, LIND, LAR, SOPH, NEST, PEAR, BETS, WAND—“along with the title are in the fashion of that indicated by the _ _IT_N_O_THE_ALL in accordance with the theories of _ _EGSON and L_S_R_DE (making their first appearance).” The latter suggested LESTRADE, the police inspector from Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’ stories. Making his first appearance? That would have been in A Study in Scarlet in 1887, where a key element of the plot is the mysterious message left by the murderer at the scene of the crime:

I have remarked that the paper had fallen away in parts. In this particular corner of the room a large piece had peeled off, leaving a yellow square of coarse plastering. Across this bare space there was scrawled in blood-red letters a single word—

RACHE.

“What do you think of that?” cried [Lestrade], with the air of a showman exhibiting his show. “[… I]t means that the writer was going to put the female name Rachel, but was disturbed before he or she had time to finish. You mark my words, when this case comes to be cleared up you will find that a woman named Rachel has something to do with it. It’s all very well for you to laugh, Mr Sherlock Holmes. You may be very smart and clever, but the old hound is the best, when all is said and done.”

Holmes was unimpressed with this theory.

“One other thing, Lestrade,” he added, turning round at the door: “‘Rache’ is the German for ‘revenge’; so don’t lose your time looking for Miss Rachel.”

So we are looking at the WRITING ON THE WALL, which LESTRADE and his colleague GREGSON believed to represent an incomplete woman’s name. And sure enough, the asterisked answers might have been interpreted by these policemen as ANGELA, LINDA, LARA, SOPHY, NESTA, PEARL, BETSY, and WANDA. The final instruction was, “Solvers must show their understanding of the theme by writing the full title for the puzzle in the space at the foot of the grid.”