Never knowingly undersolved.

Enigmatic Variations No. 931 Pondlife by Jaques

Posted by twencelas on September 18th, 2010


Back to a complex preamble again this week. The solver is tasked with identifying 1ac and then must act as they would to correct a PONDLIFE deficiency – in the process providing 33ac. Then they must provide a second offering to fully destroy the thematic material in the grid and its own status. To add to the confusion, potentially, and enable the wood to be discerned from the trees, there are 8 misprinted definitions and some clues with incomplete (by one letter) wordplay. And yet again for one of my blogs pencil is recommended or, in my case, more than one copy and a nice pen is required. And for me anyway, there was a choice of endings!

Certainly many degrees harder than the previous few weeks. So starting with the useful, from a grid-fill perspective, bits of the preamble for solving the clues, before attempting to make sense of the “PONDLIFE” related details:

  • There are 8 misprinted definitions
  • Some clues have incomplete wordplay

A good selection of easy, medium and obscure clues and my initial pass of the misprints yielded HOEBILL. One letter short of the required octet. So I re-scanned the clues and decided 11ac could yield an S to make SHOEBILL, though on my first reading the clue did look misprint-free. A SHOEBILL is a type of heron or stork. The missing letters in the wordplay were OGL (though the preamble made no allusion to their purpose). Were they possibly a red heron?. Sorry could n’t resist.

What, then, was 1ac – by jove it was  JUPITER. 33ac was a straight clue, albeit using an unfamiliar to me anyway, abbreviation for a president prex., to yield REX.

So 1ac needs to provide 33ac. JUPITER provides a king? And how does a shoebill come into it. A quick google of these three terms, as this was not a tale I was familiar with, yielded the following from one of Aesop’s fables “The frogs asking for a king”. There are many differing translations available and the preamble has not defined a reference book for the definitive version! Now to attempt to explain my dilemma with the end-game:

Townsend’s translation (1887):

The Frogs Asking for a King

The Frogs, grieved at having no established Ruler, sent ambassadors to Jupiter entreating for a King. Perceiving their simplicity, he cast down a huge log into the lake. The Frogs were terrified at the splash occasioned by its fall and hid themselves in the depths of the pool. But as soon as they realized that the huge log was motionless, they swam again to the top of the water, dismissed their fears, climbed up, and began squatting on it in contempt. After some time they began to think themselves ill-treated in the appointment of so inert a Ruler, and sent a second deputation to Jupiter to pray that he would set over them another sovereign. He then gave them an Eel to govern them. When the Frogs discovered his easy good nature, they sent yet a third time to Jupiter to beg him to choose for them still another King. Jupiter, displeased with all their complaints, sent a Heron, who preyed upon the Frogs day by day till there were none left to croak upon the lake.

Now to apply this version of the tale to the grid: A log then an eel then a heron (shoebill).

Acting on behalf of 1A, solvers must make good this PONDLIFE deficiency, providing 33A as requested. Although this first offering completes some thematic material it is deemed inadequate. So solvers should try a second offering which will completely destroy this thematic material and, in doing so, its own status.

Well this was my first interpretation of the above with respect to the grid entries:

LOG is already visible diagonally in the completed grid, as is GOLIATH reading the other way, a type of frog, so the first offering I believed to be EEL to replace the REX at 33ac. The second offering is a heron – a SHOEBILL has a Latin name of Balaeniceps rex and putting this diagonally obliterates the LOG and GOLIATH and turns the EEL into SEL. My problem with this approach is that the second offering’s status was removed by the first offering i.e. REX became EEL and is really the third offering log then eel then heron.

OR Jacob’s translation (1894)

The Frogs Desiring a King

The Frogs were living as happy as could be in a marshy swamp that just suited them; they went splashing about caring for nobody and nobody troubling with them. But some of them thought that this was not right, that they should have a king and a proper constitution, so they determined to send up a petition to Jove to give them what they wanted. “Mighty Jove,” they cried, “send unto us a king that will rule over us and keep us in order.” Jove laughed at their croaking, and threw down into the swamp a huge Log, which came down – kerplash! – into the swamp. The Frogs were frightened out of their lives by the commotion made in their midst, and all rushed to the bank to look at the horrible monster; but after a time, seeing that it did not move, one or two of the boldest of them ventured out towards the Log, and even dared to touch it; still it did not move. Then the greatest hero of the Frogs jumped upon the Log and commenced dancing up and down upon it, thereupon all the Frogs came and did the same; and for some time the Frogs went about their business every day without taking the slightest notice of their new King Log lying in their midst. But this did not suit them, so they sent another petition to Jove, and said to him, “We want a real king; one that will really rule over us.” Now this made Jove angry, so he sent among them a big Stork that soon set to work gobbling them all up. Then the Frogs repented when too late.

Now to apply this version of the tale to the grid: A log then a stork (shoebill).

Acting on behalf of 1A, solvers must make good this PONDLIFE deficiency, providing 33A as requested. Although this first offering completes some thematic material it is deemed inadequate. So solvers should try a second offering which will completely destroy this thematic material and, in doing so, its own status.
Based on the above with no eel mentioned at all, was to just simply replace the diagonal with BALAENICEPS  causing the REX to become SEX, but then the solver has not made good the PONDLIFE deficiency by provided the first offering, the grid-fill did (or am I being too pedantic?). How about making the REX into LOG first to make SOG when adding part of the latin name for the shoebill, but that too seems superfluous as LOG is already visible in the grid-fill.
My dilemma then is what did “make good” the deficiency mean and how should 33 across be provided, under the grid as “LOG”? – or was the aim to supply a new 33ac or just supply the king as defined by 33ac? The fact that the preamble refers to only 2 offerings and the missing wordplay letters yielded an anagram of log made me think that a version of the fable without the eel transformation was the one to support the intended solution (backed up by the 2 offerings referred to in the preamble)

In my opinion, all three approaches yielded real words, but neither quite met the preamble  – as a result  I can’t decide which is correct, though I personally prefer the first approach, or is there another interpretation I have not thought of?

Certainly grounds for debate or correction, but an enjoyable mental foray all the same, but on this occasion I must admit to failing to fully understand Jaques’ intent.


* (anagram), Underline = definition, DD = double definition, rev = reversed

Missing letter Misprint ACROSS
1 See preamble (7)JUPITER
8 Drama is certainly not ‘A Taste of Honey’ (3)
no + h (start of honey) = NOH
S 11 Travel router dodging inertia on railway (9)
Travel routes dodging inertia on railway (9)
(inertia)* + ry = ITINERARY
12 Tribes prepared pigment (6)
(tribes)* = BISTRE
H 13 Lair of animals and birds not poorly lit inside (5)
Hair of animals and birds not poorly lit inside (5)
coaltits – (lit)* = COATS
14 British Academy start to harbour an expression of contempt (3)
ba + h = BAH
15 Women greeting the French to pass time leisurely (5)
w + hi + le = WHILE
17 Quasimodo finally mixes freely in one-sleeved garment (6)
(o + mixes)* = EXOMIS
19 Take in nothing and shrink in Perth (4)
r (take) in nil = NIRL
O 21 Wild animals’ stories (5)
DD anas = ANOAS
23 Retributions from complete changes of direction, giving Royal Navy the slip (4)
u-turns – rn = UTUS
25 Like bird’s behind? (6)
as + tern = ASTERN
26 No longer cares about old pranks (5)
O 28 When it’s dropped from basket, get a flour covering (3)
When it’s dropped from basket, get a floor covering (3)
Trug – t (it) = RUG
29 Man’s to give over Poet’s country (5)
lin (give over) + us = LINUS
E 30 One aged after regressing the smallest degree — bonus! (6)
One aged after regressing the smallest degree — bones! (6)
Rev(bit) + I +ae (abbrev for aged) = TIBIAE
32 Enlists as irregular though without a blemish (9)
(enlistsas)* = STAINLESS
33 President disposes of prince to become king (3)
prex – p = REX
34 Pauses in music absorbing for example John’s records (7)
Rests around eg = REGESTS (John Milton)
B 1 Trinkets only half taken up a kind of room (3)
Trinkets only half taken up a kind of boom (3)
Rev (Bijous – ous) = JIB
2 Sorcery throwing military ruler almost into confusion (8)
Shogun – n in pie (confusion) = PISHOGUE
3 Paint I’m applying on the inside for innermost coating of organ (6)
Hidden (int im a) = INTIMA
G 4 Designating the Exchange Rate Mechanism an interference in money (7)
erm in tin (money) = TERMING
5 Before reports of one that’s succeeding (3)
Homonym (heir) = ERE
6 Old bloodhound’s hard on endless track (4)
Race – e + h = RACH
I 7 Nothing to smile about for an American peer (5)
Nothing to smile about for an American pier (5)
Grin around o = GROIN (Us spelling of groyne)
9 Too much pea-plant for carnivores (6)
Ott + ers (plant) = OTTERS
10 Making a fast buck, almost hoax 50 in con (8)
Hum (hoax) – m + l in sting = HUSTLING
14 One who tricks nearly showing consciousness of sin getting in beer (8)
Guilt – t in beer = BEGUILER
16 Uniforms of French lost in distributions (8)
Deliveries – de = LIVERIES
L 18 Durable wine, no good at the end (7)
Asti + ng = LASTING
20 Maestri playing without music to begin with, they’re found between the flutes (6)
(maestri – m)* = STRIAE
22 Second item of furniture is standing firm (6)
s + table = STABLE
24 Lightly fried if military greeting’s left out (5)
salute – l = SAUTE
L 27 Ruder king in Channel Isle gets to the top (4)
Ruler king in Channel Isle gets to the top (4)
Sark with k (king) to top = KSAR alternative spelling of czar
30 Local area of common land for match (3)
L 31 Better existence burning off some energy (3)
Letter existence burning off some energy (3)
Esse – e = ESS

4 Responses to “Enigmatic Variations No. 931 Pondlife by Jaques”

  1. Dave Hennings says:

    An excellent blog, thanks. All I can say is that I’m glad it wasn’t my week on duty as I totally failed to see what was going on! (I’m still not in the habit of keying apparently unconnected words into Google and seeing what comes up!) Looking into your two options a bit more, it seems that most variations on the fable have just two kings, the log and either a stork or water-snake. Brewer’s mentions the fable under the entries for King LOG and King STORK, so I’m guessing that’s the justification used by Jaques.


  2. bb says:

    My take: the entire SW to NE diagonal read RANA GOLIATH (“largest living frog; up to a foot and weighing up to 10 lbs”), which had LOG embedded going the other way. So you JUPITER supplying a LOG to be a REX to the RANA GOLIATH. Then JUPITER supplied BALAENICEPS, replacing the LOG and wiping out the “frogs” in the process. I think REX becoming SEX was not relevant to the fable, but left a real word in the grid. In both cases the “deficiency” was a lack of a king, so LOG and BALAENICEPS both made good on the deficiency.

    At least, that’s my story, and I’m sticking with it.

  3. twencelas says:

    Thanks Dave and bb for spotting the full name of the frog. I suspect the solution is the much simpler replacement of the diagonal.

  4. twencelas says:

    bb – spot on – extract from EV solution:
    “On first solution RANA GOLIATH (a large African frog) appears running up SW to NE in grid, with the yellow shaded squares containing LOG (given by letters lacking in clues to LASTING, ANOAS, and TERMING), JUPITER’S first offering of a king REX (SW corner). His second offering of a King was a stork or SHOEBILL given by corrected misprints in 8 clues, hence BALAENICEPS (REX) replaced the diagonal by devouring his subjects.”

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