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I almost tripped over him. My thoughts were elsewhere, mostly pondering how it was possible for my niece Stephanie to be so excited by her new job as editor of the obituary section of our local newspaper, so I didn't see the man lying in the street until he was practically underfoot!

I was so shocked I almost became a casualty myself. My first thought was that I had found some new business for Stephanie but a second look revealed that he was breathing and, in fact, trying vainly to struggle to his feet again.

I knew that people are supposed to take it slowly after a fall and I was concerned. I knelt down to talk to him. Here's how I remember hearing the conversation.

ME: What happened?
HIM: Terrible chop for...

He lay back, gasping. I was afraid he was delirious. I tried to talk to him again.

ME: Where were you going?
HIM: Westward. Turn cross entry-
ME: (Interrupting) How many fingers am I holding up?
HIM: Seven

I was only holding up three fingers. I reached for my phone to call an ambulance, only to find it was missing! Fortunately, Stephanie appeared that very moment with my phone in her hand. I had left it on her desk. I called for help while she comforted the man, who was an acquaintance of hers. She told me his name and profession. I should have guessed the latter.

I visited him in hospital the next day. He had suffered a stroke but was doing much better. We even laughed about our misunderstanding of the day before. He wasn't delirious, merely confused and... overly professional.

What was his profession and what was he trying to tell me?
The answer will explain the missing tag from the title.

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This man

is a crossword setter that works at the local newspaper with Stephanie.

He is characterized as "overly professional" because

he insists on speaking in cryptics.

The fact that the narrator explicitly mentions his memory of hearing the conversation suggests

that he is not confident that his memory is accurate. In fact, he has misheard some of the words uttered by the fallen man.

Although the narrator hears "for",

the fallen man actually said "four", the enumeration of his first clue.

And when the fallen man utters "seven",

he is giving the enumeration of his second clue, rather than saying how many fingers are being held up.

Regarding the missing tag,

the cryptic-clues tag would give away the conceit, which is why it is being withheld.

The two clues are:

Terrible chop (4)
Westward turn cross entry (7)

The solutions are:

FELL and DOORWAY (see Deusovi's answer for more explanation).

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  • $\begingroup$ My apologies. I intended to write "the conversation as I remember hearing it." I have edited the question. You are on the right track. $\endgroup$ – Hugh Meyers Feb 5 '17 at 6:57
  • $\begingroup$ @HughMeyers You don't do indirect anagrams, do you? $\endgroup$ – Sid Feb 5 '17 at 15:13
  • $\begingroup$ @Sid I didn't do any here. $\endgroup$ – Hugh Meyers Feb 5 '17 at 15:15
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    $\begingroup$ In view of Hugh's recent change, is it possible that there are actually two clues here, "Terrible chop (4)" and "Westward turn cross entry (7)"? (I haven't attempted to solve either. The first seems like it would have to be a double def and nothing comes to mind.) $\endgroup$ – Gareth McCaughan Feb 5 '17 at 16:42
  • $\begingroup$ @GarethMcCaughan: I'd thought the same thing. To chop also means to fell (as in "to fell a tree") so maybe that's what he's trying to say with the first clue. $\endgroup$ – Deusovi Feb 5 '17 at 16:44
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Silenus is right about the job:

The man is a cryptic crossword setter.

And the things he says are

two cryptic clues, though some of the words have been mis-transcribed by Hugh.

The first, "Terrible chop (4)", is a double definition for FELL, answering the question "What happened?".

The second, "Westward turn cross entry (7)" is a clue for DOOR + WAY<. He must have hit his head on a door he was trying to enter!

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  • 1
    $\begingroup$ I upvoted you but ticked Silenus because he was most of the way there. I hope that's ok. $\endgroup$ – Hugh Meyers Feb 5 '17 at 18:04

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