3960 Misprinted Choice by Schadenfreude

This was a puzzle which to all appearances was a fairly average Listener, but it held a trap for unwary solvers, reminiscent of A Decoy by Ark. We were told that misprints in some clues would spell out thematic material which would allow solvers to resolve clashing letters in the grid – all very standard Listener fare.

As it turned out, because of an ambiguity in the misprinted letter in one clue, the misprinted letters in clues spelled out either THE LADY’S NOT FOR TURNING, which comes from the famous conference speech Margaret Thatcher, or THE LADY’S NOT FOR BURNING, the title of a play by Christopher Fry. One set of clashing letters on the NW-SE diagonal spelled out MAGGIE THATCHER, and the other set spelled out CHRISTOPHER FRY. Therefore, solvers had to decide which set was to be chosen.

The key to making the correct decision came from careful reading of the puzzle’s preamble. We were told that the grid would provide confirmation of the correct choices. Examination of the grid showed that the letters in the SW-NE diagonal spelled out BIRTH CENTENARY, which allowed solvers to deduce that CHRISTOPHER FRY had to be entered in the NW-SE diagonal. The puzzle was timed to coincide with the centenary of his birth (18th December 1907).

Gregson wonders how many solvers will have made the incorrect choice of MAGGIE THATCHER, and whether or not Schadenfreude will be feeling malicious pleasure in their misfortune.

Misprints are indicated by square brackets.

1 Nuns [Nuts] are quiet after Mass (4)
MAST A (are) + ST (quiet), all after M (Mass)
Care is needed here as MASH also fits the wordplay
5 Busy party chief with no time to deliver a sermon (9)
PREACHIFY Anagram of PARTY CHIEF, less T (time)
13 Love goddess takes the place of mother in Man of Straw (5)
OATEN O (Love ie no score) + ATEN, ie ATE (goddess) replacing MA (mother) in MAN
14 Bold [Hold] golfer's not going round (6)
NELSON ELS (golfer), inside NON (not)
15 Potent dope found in small boat (6)
COGENT GEN (dope, in the sense of confidential information) inside COT (small boat)
16 Scots want [went] to wander idly round Spain (4)
GAED GAD (wander idly), containing E (Spain)
17 Is worn-out European a legendary Irish rover [lover]? (6)
ISOLDE IS + OLD (worn-out) + E (European)
Isolde of Ireland being the legendary lover of Sir Tristram, hero of Arthurian romances. She can be confirmed in Brewer if necessary
18 One daughter on returning is less thin [than] (5)
UNDER UN (One) + D (daughter) + RE (on), reversed
19 Disregard poet's work in Old English (7)
OVERSEE VERSE (poet’s work) inside OE (Old English)
“Old English” can also be parsed as O (old) + E (English)
21 Retired soldiers inhibited by worry about injections (7)
ENEMATA MEN (soldiers) reversed, inside EAT (worry), + A (about)
23 Smoke almost obscuring old comic's feet [feed] (6)
STOOGE STOGE(Y) (smoke, noun ie a cigar) minus last letter, containing O (old)
25 Three Tenors touring are shown [showy] articles of little value (4)
TATT TTT (T ie tenor, three times) containing A (are)
28 Without my backing enjoy more crazy fighting with spears (7)
REJONEO Anagram of ENJOY MORE, after removal of YM ie MY reversed
30 Is recurrent rage covering the face of Amir Khan? (5)
SERAI ‘S (Is) + IRE (rage), reversed) containing A (first letter of Amir)
31 Yankee leaving in good time is nobler [nobles] (5)
EARLS Y (Yankee, from the phonetic alphabet) removed from EARLY (in good time), + ‘S (is)
33 Charles Stewart, father to Queen Eleanor (7)
PARNELL PA (father) + R (Queen) + NELL (Eleanor)
Charles Stewart Parnell can be confirmed in Chambers, under PARNELLISM
36 Some laid [land] about, mostly sailors (4)
ACRE A (about) + CRE(W) ie sailors, minus last letter
37 Very old language incorporates the essence of Polish dialect (6)
AEOLIC AE (Very) + O (old) + C (language) containing LI (middle letters of POLISH)
39 Belted earl has to be seen in finest restaurant (7, two words)
TEA SHOP Anagram of E (Earl) + HAS, inside TOP (finest)
42 Duke relied on a tip [top] (7)
DREIDEL D (Duke) + anagram of RELIED
The anagram here is indicated by “on”, in the sense of on the way to being drunk
44 Athletic cat and active dog (5)
AKITA A (Athletic) + KIT (cat) + A (active)
46 Food for the castle [cattle] officer on account (6)
POONAC PO (officer) + ON + AC (account)
48 A Maori uses this for lighting [fighting] piece of tinder taken from desert (4)
MERI MERIT (desert) with T (first letter of TINDER) removed
49 A plant beginning without life-force (6)
ORCHID ORD (beginning) outside CHI (life-force)
50 A heathen parking a car in reverse (6)
PAINIM P (parking) + A + INIM (MINI, ie a car, reversed)
51 Bare [Bore] deserted enclosure (5)
DREED D (deserted) + REED (enclosure)
52 Low carbon volatile fuel (9, two words)
53 Close relative born on the third of March (4)
BRER B (born) + RE (on) + R (third letter of MARCH)

1 Coots [Roots] caught hiding in seaside trees (6)
COCCOS C (caught) inside COCOS (seaside trees)
2 A greeting from a ranker [banker/tanker]? Yes, guarding house (4)
AHOY AY (Yes), containing HO (house)
BANKER and TANKER can both be types of vessel, with TANKER (the incorrect choice) being more familiar
3 Jock's pale yellow fiddle with echo, no depth (5)
STRAE STRAD (fiddle) + E (echo, from the phonetic alphabet), minus D (depth)
In Gregson’s opinion, the use of Jock to indicate Scottish is becoming rather hackneyed
4 This could bear the name of a local in New Cross (7, two words)
INN SIGN IN + N (new) + SIGN (cross)
6 Special dog has left for Sweden (9)
RED-LETTER RED SETTER (dog) with L (left) for S (Sweden)
7 Handled with tact this dodge could be the making of Claudette (5)
ELUDE Anagram of CLAUDETTE, minus anagram of TACT
8 Two pounds a tree (5)
ASPEN AS (pound) + PEN (pound)
9 Romeo abandons game on the lawn with society flirts (7)
COQUETS R (Romeo, from the phonetic alphabet) removed from CROQUET (game on the lawn), + S (society)
10 Black language interrupts the other service (6)
IBADAT B (Black) + ADA (language), inside IT (the other, ie sexual activity)
11 Fighter always returned on the horse [house] (4)
F (Fighter) + EER (always), reversed
12 A very big tree crushed girl, sadly out of line (8)
YGDRASIL Anagram of GIRL SADLY, less L (line)
17 Horrible German meeting King John turned up with a touch of yaws (6)
GROOLY G (German) + R (King) + OOL (LOO ie John, reversed) + Y (first letter of YAWS
20 At last we honour the big man (4)
ETEN E (last letter of WE) + TEN (honour ie an honour card)
22 Tongue pierced by leading edge of long metal plate (5)
THALI THAI (Tongue ie language) containing L (first letter of LONG)
24 Blind date with the ultimate in gentle touch [torch] (5)
TEADE Anagram of DATE, + E (last letter in GENTLE
The anagram is indicated by “blind”, in the sense of being extremely drunk
26 You can't have any fun with this dislocated in a head-on (9)
27 Big lie about Irish impressionist (6)
RENOIR ONER (Big lie), reversed, + IR (Irish)
28 A gang instantly acquired whiskey from two barmen in trouble (8)
RENT-A-MOB Anagram of TWO BARMEN, less W (whiskey)
29 Perhaps a wild canny [nanny] sailor taking heroin after all (4)
TAHR TAR (Sailor), including H (heroin) immediately after A’ (all)
32 Is a hot island group like some desert? (7)
SAHARAN ‘S (is) + A + H (hot) + ARAN (island group)
34 Rutherford's pocketing standard back handers [hinders] (7)
RETARDS RD (Rutherford) + ‘S containing RATE (standard) reversed
35 Old type party set? (6)
HAIRDO HAIR (old ie obsolete word for type) + DO (party)
38 Earthy oddly coloured ground (6)
CLODDY Anagram of ODDLY + C (coloured)
40 Less [lens] dynamic topic (5)
OPTIC Anagram of TOPIC
41 Obscene material for Spanish drama (5)
PORNO POR (Spanish word for “for”) + NO (drama)
43 Submit to one finally stopping brilliant run (5)
DEFER E (last letter of ONE) inside DEF (brilliant) + R (run)
45 Large vessel that is up river south of Cambodia (4)
KEIR EI (IE reversed) + R (river), after K (Cambodia)
“Up” and “south of” rely on this being a Down clue
47 Father has money for special box [bog] (4)
MIRE SIRE (Father) with M (money) for S (special)