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Fast and Loose by Ifor

Posted by shirleycurran on 22 May 2015

Fast and Loose 001Of course, in retrospect, it is clear how the letters of extra words in down clues were ‘thematically’ used to spell out two instructions. We were lucky in that our initial guess that we were using the ‘sides’ of the words was going to spell out something and we had only solved half a dozen of the down clues when we were able to extrapolate ‘ERASE SOME LETTERS FROM GRID/ REORDER TO SINGLE WORDS’ as the two instructions that told us what to do with the final grid and how to handle extra phrases that were to appear in six across clues.

But I am leaping ahead. Naturally, as if I needed to, I scanned the clues to confirm that Ifor has the right to retain his membership of the Listener Setters’ and, of course he reassured us that ‘Clubs rarely alarm drinking parties (7)’ giving us C + AROUSE, and ‘Weaker, not with redistilled spirit (5)’ (w)EAKER* leading to RAKEE. Indeed, Ifor was in the spirit with that lovely original anagram indicator ‘redistilled’. Nice!

These clues were generous for Ifor; we were expecting a far more gruelling solve, and when we broke off for dinner, we had a full grid with a few fairly surprising words in it, PIECEN, ASUDDEN, SWEIRT, ABORE, and a number of likely phrases that we had to ‘reorder to single words’. Yes, ‘a number’, in fact eight! But there were supposed to be only six. Head scratching!

We had ‘to start with’ in 9 across, and that doesn’t reorder or anagram into anything very useful and we were convinced that there had to be something in the IONA clue as we simply couldn’t parse it (but we can now – what a delightful clue, ‘More than one railway separately stopped from leading across island (4)’ Of course, the leading ‘across’ clue solution gave DIVERSIONARY, from which we had to ‘stop’ or remove DIVERS and RY, leaving IONA.

However, ‘abject Sun‘ was rather obvious and obligingly gave ‘subjacent’ as an anagram, so we were at last on the right track. We were rather surprised when ‘can be just’, in 17 across, gave the same anagram solution, and even more surprised when ‘late par’ and ‘pearl at’ both resolved themselves to ‘apteral’ and ‘casual hope’ and ‘has a couple’ both gave ‘acephalous’. Chambers told us that these words meant ‘wingless’, ‘underlying’ and ‘headless’ and we knew from the preamble that ‘the results of this treatment suggest how the final grid differs from the initially-filled grid’.

Quandary! Each instruction appeared twice, so were we to remove the top, sides and bottom of the grid twice over? Thankfully, Ifor had used that familiar diagonal (OK – one step up on the conventional – he used the non-leading diagonal in reverse, just to make it a mite trickier) and there was PROMETHEUS, confirming that we had to do the unbinding just once.

Oh dear, surely not! I remember Shelley’s ‘Prometheus Unbounded’, a work I simply couldn’t get my head round many years ago, and seem to remember that Milton dabbled in Promethean literature too. We needed Google and it was a relief to find that only AESCHYLUS actually compiled works on both the Bounded and Unbounded Prometheus (or ‘traditionally’ is claimed to have done so – and what a delightful title ‘Fast and Loose’! Obviously AESCHYLUS was required below the grid. At least, I hope so.

Many thanks to Ifor. This was fair and fun.


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Listener No 4344: Fast and Loose by Ifor

Posted by Dave Hennings on 22 May 2015

One of the more prolific setters of recent years greeted us this week, although this was only his fifth Listener following on from Six Characters in Search of an Author theme last year, courtesy of Pirandello. An extra word in each of the down clues and extra phrases in six acrosses needed to be extracted. Themetically-placed letters in the down clues’ words would spell out something meaningful.

Listener 43441ac Distracting translation in personal record (12) was relatively straightforward, but I didn’t get it! I tried 1dn Either date a risk, and we only had a choice of four for the extra word, and ‘either’ seemed likely giving DARE for the answer. Back to 1ac and DIVERSIONARY got the thumbs up this time. I-BEAMS, REVERT, ORACHE and ASUNDER dropping down from 1ac meant that I was up and running.

I went back for some across clues and 13 was EVOVAE and 15 Dubious creed abject Sun editor backed (7) seemed to give RECEDED, but ‘abject Sun’ seemed to be my first extra phrase intruding into the clue. It looked as though it might be an anagram, but of what proved problematic. Similarly, 17ac Shared mobile can be just for one who loads tones, possibly (6) didn’t seem quite right for SHADER. It took a few minutes for me to realise that ‘can be just’ was both superfluous and also an anagram of ‘abject sun’… or rather both were anagrams of something else. 20 The best possible start to enterprise? Extremely casual hope (5) had a superfluous ‘casual hope’ if the answer were to be EVERY.

At this point, I’m afraid that a bit of anagram help seemed appropriate, and ACEPHALOUS for headless and SUBJACENT meaning bottomless seemed to be trying to tell me something.

And so, after 45 minutes, I was well into the solve, and the thematic letters in the extra down words were obviously their heads and bottoms, and so far I had most of Erase some let…, and it didn’t take long to identify ters from grid, followed by Reorder to single words from words in the remaining down clues. This last bit told me what I already knew, namely that the superfluous phrases in the across clues needed to be unjumbled.

From there on the grid was finished pretty quickly. The six phrases from the acrosses gave two APTERALs, two ACEPHALOUSes, and two SUBJACENTs. These mean ‘wingless’, ‘headless’ and ‘bottomless’ respectively. This reflected that all the entries could become new words if they lost the letter that strayed anywhere into the perimeter.

It didn’t take long to see PROMETHEUS lurking in the main SW–NE diagonal with E and T filling the two barred-off cells. The two related works required by the perimeter were thus Prometheus Bound (Fast) and Prometheus Unbound (Loose), works attributed to AESCHYLUS who was promptly written under the grid.

Listener 4344 My EntryIt thus became necessary to erase the letters of each entry that strayed into the perimeter. Indeed, with the meanings of the six phrases, the whole of the perimeter was erased, thus ensuring that the grid was headless, bottomless and wingless.

Although this was a relatively easy puzzle from Ifor, it was nonetheless very entertaining as have been all his Listeners. Many thanks.

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Listener 4343: Bear, Bear, Bearing by Chalicea

Posted by Jaguar on 15 May 2015

“Hope you are willing to blog next week as I won’t be able to.”

So it is that Shirley lets me know that this week she has her setters’ hat on as Chalicea makes her third appearance in the Listener series. I guest-blogged the first, way back in 2013 and all about Anmer, the famous horse who struggled to win a race that one time because some woman got in the way apparently; and last year saw her produce a map of France. That one held me up rather, with the grid being a Carte Blanche, not rectangular and a sneaky little single-cell at the top that held me up for a while. And of course she’s a regular in the EV and Magpie series as well, so I’ve run into her puzzles fairly often. Generally not too difficult but with some fun packed into the grid as an expected but always welcome reward. Oh, and I’ve had such a tiring week (first time for everything!) that I was half-hoping for a Listener that wouldn’t keep me too occupied. So, on with the puzzle!

After an almost 8.00p.m.  finish at the office my attempts on Friday to get going didn’t really go too far. Indeed, for a while I was staring at clues and making very little out of them. Or, at any rate, not being able to work out the answer to reasonably obvious wordplays. Clearly anagrams at 30ac and 41ac, for example, but ALBUMEN didn’t find its way into the grid until Saturday, and DON’T SAY was about the last entry I fit into the grid (maybe last but one). Also I figured that 45 was probably a hidden word but “hérissé” I’ve not heard of before so that would have to wait as well. An inauspicious start, anyway, but a start all the same and I didn’t look at for much more than half an hour before calling it an evening.

So, roll on Saturday. The Today Programme on the radio, talking about the 100th Anniversary of Gallipoli, and so thoughts turn towards the Great War and other 1915 anniversaries. Including the death of Rupert Brooke just a day or so previously, whose name adorns a list of the dead Fellows of King’s College, Cambridge, in a small room on the south side of the chapel. His involvement in Gallipoli was not extensive, dying of malaria before even arriving. Perhaps he was the lucky one, and he is buried famously in an olive grove on the Greek island of Skyros: “some corner of a foreign field that is forever England”, in his own words of that famous poem.

A quick look back at the partial grid, with FAUTEUILS (Fau(st) + util[i]se*) at 2dn, and IZARD ((w)izard[r](y)) at 7, and the two unclued entries on the top read “F?????? ?I???”. Foreign field fits in just perfectly, and there’s the theme sussed nice and early. A quick scan of the title suggests “Rupert” the Bear, “Brook” (bear [vb]), + E (bearing East), just to confirm. As a final check, a quick scan of the partially-filled south-west corner of the grid reveals several letters that could spell out “for/eve/ren/gland”, clearly no coincidence.*

An hour later, and a tour through the grid from bottom-left, through to top-right, before finishing in the corner with the tricky-ish DYAD (not D[a]y + ?? but (Day + [e]d)< ), and then it’s off to grab the highlighter to pick out “A RICHER DUST”, along with the more obvious BROOKE running down the middle. All in all you could count 52/169 cells, or just shy of 31% of the grid, as thematically fixed, so another typical Chalicea grid with plenty packed in to a small space.

With no Shirley  blog this week, I suppose it’s up to me to check whether Chalicea has “confirmed her membership of the Listener setters’ oenophile club”. Apparently not, and if anything she’s trying to stop all this drinking nonsense! 4dn “Limit supply of alcoholic drink in desert”; and 31ac “Taproom, before noon, providing no sustenance”. Take note, future setters, as oenophiles will be frowned upon!


Epilogue: A glance back through past war-themed Listeners reveals that I’d predicted this theme about ten months ago. Is this a record for the earliest PDM for a Listener puzzle… ?

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Listener No 4343: Bear, Bear, Bearing by Chailcea

Posted by Dave Hennings on 15 May 2015

I wrote my blog on Chalicea’s last Listener by the pool of our hotel in Portugal following a round of golf. The temperature was about 27° (81° in old money), but it’s not quite that warm here in Cookham as I write this (9°C/48°F)! A fairly straightforward puzzle this week with just extra wordplay letters and some endgame highlighting. But first…

Listener 4343… is Chalicea fond of an alcoholic tipple or two? There was a reference to limiting its supply in the desert (very wise) and trying to get some food (yeah, right) from the taproom, but it looked as though she was trying to convince us she was not fond of a G&T or glass of Malbec. Trying just a bit too hard I feel!

Having unclued thematic entries at 1 and A across was a bit annoying, so I tried my luck with the downs. 1 could have stumped me if I hadn’t thought of ACTS straight away (RE[D]ACTS – RE), and 2 brought back memories of schoolboy French with that lovely word for armchair, FAUTEUILS.

I was up and away… -ish. This was by no means the usual stroll in the park from Chalicea with some devious definitions and tricky wordplay. 13ac, for example had Horrible true story, axing a rook, one that hunts marine reptiles (7) giving tru[E]* + TALE – A + R for TURTLER; and 17 My people abandoning regal ceremony (3) was CO[R]ONATION – NATION, although I’m not sure I’m a fan of taking away more than you’re left with!

After about 30 minutes, I had the top row looking as though it might be FASHION GUILD. Two minutes later, with RATION finally being slotted in, it was obviously A FOREIGN FIELD and we were in WWI territory again with Rupert Brooke’s The Soldier.

If I should die, think only this of me;
  That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
  In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
  Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s breathing English air,
  Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
  A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
    Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
  And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
    In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Only time would tell how this poem would manifest itself in the extra letters or what three things would need highlighting in the final grid, so I soldiered on with little additional help. I do enjoy a puzzle where I start at the top, drop down the right hand side, along the bottom and finishing with the left. It is particularly helpful if I manage to solve all the clues along the way!

21ac Humming Great Balls of Fire endlessly (4) obviously made me chuckle, being BOLID[E]S (a large meteor or fireball) without its ends, and I loved the definition in 36ac With Rear Admiral cunningly drag out ship’s Health & Safety precaution in port (8) leading to RAT-GUARD (RA + DRAG[O]UT*). However, I’m not really sure that the E-VE[T] at 40dn would be much help!

Listener 4343 My EntryEventually, the extra wordplay letters gave The corner. What is concealed in thirty-six fourteen. Poet, 36 14 being RICH EARTH. It didn’t take too long to discover FOREVER ENGLAND in the bottom left corner, A RICHER DUST in the leading NW–SE diagonal, and BROOKE himself in column 7.

As for the title: Rupert Bear, Brook (=Bear), e (Bearing). He died 100 years ago on 23 April as a result of one of the great killers of the 20th century… the mosquito.

Thanks to Chalicea, as always, for an enjoyable puzzle, remembering one of the great poets and poems of English Literature.

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Listener 4342: Triskaidekaphilia by BeRo

Posted by Jaguar on 8 May 2015

BeRo has been setting Listeners since before I was born, and today’s puzzle therefore marks the passing of another from the “old guard” of crossword setters. This would be the fourth time I have attempted a BeRo puzzle, and all four have been brilliant (even though I got none of the last three right in the end). Truly an inventive setter, and the crossword world will certainly miss him.


As to the puzzle itself, I wanted to start with a cautionary tale. As I opened this puzzle up and read the title, “Triskaidekaphilia”, which my minutes of training in Greek allowed me to translate as “three-and-ten-love” or “love of the number 13″, it took no time at all to guess the theme number. Further signs confirmed that, eg the clue numbering system 1, … , 9, A, B, C, 10 — ie base 13 — and then Z = 20 (= 26 in base 13), and so on. But still, I wanted to be sure, and so I went off to check the prime factors of 4342 and 2015.

And disaster! My first hit on Google was this site, which assured me that 4342 = 2*2171 and 2015 = 5*403 and that 403 and 2171 are therefore prime numbers! What?! And thus began five minutes of frantic head-scratching as I tried to confirm that the prime-factor calculator on that site worked. Turns out that it does work most of the time but for whatever reason thinks that 403 is a prime number despite giving 390 = 30*13 and 416 = 32*13, and then obviously 403 = 31*13. I can only assume that there is a bug in the code such that a number has to divide by 2,3,5 or 7 in order to be considered “not prime” — as a remarkable check of this you can try 121 (=11^2) on that site and it will confidently tell you that this square number is prime! Ho hum… Don’t use that site. Thank goodness I believed BeRo enough to not trust the result, although really I should have just checked that 13 goes into 2015 and 4342 myself.

Headache over, it was on to solve the puzzle itself. With plenty of endgame promised, BeRo was kind enough to give us normal clues and in general they were not too hard either. Probably the trickiest thing was keeping track of the clue numbering as Crossword Compiler insists on sticking to decimal numbering. More than once I was puzzled by clues not fitting before remembering they had to go elsewhere… but with clues like 36 ac SLEDGED (S(trauss) +(Be)l(l) + edged), with its surface reading evoking memories of the 2006/07 Ashes Test at Adelaide, to enjoy, it was worth the pain of switching between bases.

Eventually, then, the grid fill was complete, and the 13 consecutive 13th letters starting from 21ac gave “SIX x NINE ADAMS”, with the famous answer 42 as revealed in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. 42 in base 13 is 54 in decimal numbers, as some clever people spotted… but not Douglas Adams, as it turns out.

I also noted that the middle row so far contained only the letter A, and there was an abundance of A B C D E letters in three corners of the grid.  This was spoiled rather by a possible O due to one clash, and a G and N nearby, and of course the bottom-left with no apparent pattern at all. So what was going on, I wonder.

At least the clashes led naturally enough to GEORGE ORWELL, although having still read none of his works I wasn’t necessarily further forward. The problem turns out to be that I wasn’t really thinking cryptically enough, stuck on the idea that the sequence was made of 169 individual numbers (or maybe 13 separate sequences of 13 numbers), both ideas of course going nowhere until it dawned on me that “additionally” meant ” by adding [the numbers in each shape]” and “multiple” meant … well, multiple — as in 13, 26, 39 etc. rather than multiple separate sequences.

This hurdle crossed, it was easy to complete the middle row entirely with A’s, check that the total of a 5-5-3 shape in the top-left corner was 26 if you chose E rather than O, and following the logic around allowed all clashes to be resolved into numbers 13, 26, 39… 169. Goodness only knows how much work went into setting up the letters in the grid to make that work, and BeRo can be easily forgiven for allowing a few non-words to creep in.

Which left me with the “striking thematic example” to sort out. This, too, turned out to be what it meant literally rather than “a thematic example that is particularly noteworthy”, as 1984 opens with some reference to the clock “striking” 13. Converting this into B98 and we’re done.

BeRo’s last Listener, then, and one that joins Shackleton’s recent effort in setting the benchmark for 2015’s Gold Cup. Wonderful stuff.

Readers may care to note this blog contains 793 words, a number also divisible by 13.


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