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Listener 4327: The Alcoholic Baseball Player by Waterloo

Posted by Jaguar on 23 January 2015

And so it begins once more. As I write this we’re already three puzzles in to 2015, and this is the first in a series of three fairly easy ones to start the year rolling. Perhaps, after all, the editors do want to show a bit of mercy, after a tough end to 2014 (especially the Sabre).

LWO doesn’t usually do a “2014 year in Review”, although I’m going to buck the trend here a bit and say that I enjoyed a lot of what was on offer in 2014, with my particular favourites being, in no particular order:

  • 4312: Elementary Deduction by Rood
  • 4307: Spiral of Salami and Walnuts by Wan
  • 4297: Tetris by Aramis
  • 4295: Codebreaker by Zag

Perhaps one or more of these will be in contention for the Gold Cup? Only time will tell. Roll on 2015, and our opener is Waterloo.

Waterloo’s most recent offering came in 2013, with a delightful play on “Political Correctness”. Great fun at the time, and a quick glance at the preamble suggests a similar jokey-style puzzle awaits. Indeed, it wasn’t too hard, although I have to admit that there was more than a little back-solving of the various malapropisms, perhaps because I didn’t quite get Waterloo’s sense of humour. But never mind, as I did get to share the fun with my Mum, sat beside me as I solved this, and chuckling merrily at “The Midwich Cuckolds” or “The Lord of the Files”, among many others (oh, and “North and Southey”, which took us both ages…).

Nothing too threatening, then, and an entertaining start to the year from Waterloo. How clever, too, of him and the editors to throw in a tribute to last week’s puzzle at 10ac! What awaits us in 2015, I wonder? 4327

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Listener No. 4327: The Alcoholic Baseball Player by Waterloo

Posted by Dave Hennings on 23 January 2015

Listener 4327The first Listener of 2015, and it’s a puzzle from my favourite quirky setter, Waterloo. His last, no. 4254 Political Correctness Gone Mad had entries like redaughterant instead of resonant and auntared for uncleared! Those of you with longer memories will no doubt recall OO! Spectacles? back in 2005! This week, Waterloo must have been to the theatre to see Sheridan’s The Rivals as we had a puzzle based on the musings of Mrs Malaprop.

Out of 51 clues, 22 were based on her “misread, misheard or otherwise distorted titles” of books, plays and films. I play golf with someone who, intentionally or not, comes out with such annoying plays on words, so I felt at home here. I just hoped that none would be as tricky as the example given by the title of the puzzle (which probably had Shirley feeling even more at home).

A dozen acrosses and half-a-dozen downs had me off to a less than encouraging start, none of them being thematic titles. Bizarrely, we were given the number of letters and number of words in the wrong title, plus the number of letters in the entry.

The down entries that I did solve enabled me to see SINGIN’ at 12ac, with Sinnin’ in the Rain being the first themed title. This gave me IL, H and S in 5dn’s Shabby hobbyists (30;3;15) and PHILATELISTS seemed a good guess, but it needed some googling to find Ragged-trousered as the Philanthropists in Robert Tressell’s novel. I hoped that the other titles wouldn’t be as obscure.

In fact, most of them weren’t, and many produced a giggle or two. I particularly liked the folowing:

3ac The adolescent’s nightmare (16;3;9) The Scarlet Pimple
22ac Cowboys have a tea-party (21;5;8) Bunfight at the OK Corral
33ac A village of deceived husbands (18;3;7) The Midwich Cuckolds
40ac Adventures of a female furniture-restorer (16;3;8) The Lady Varnishes
20dn How someone incurred seven years’ bad luck (20;3;7) Threw the Looking-Glass

Slightly trickier were:

9ac A tailor’s unadorned tweeds and worsteds (17;3;4) His Stark Materials
36ac An appalling sporting event (12;2;5) Horrid Henley
23dn The boss in the office: (14;4;5) Lord of the Files
32dn The right choice at an outfitters (12;3;3) A Suitable Buy

Listener 4327 My EntryFor me, the trickiest was 38dn Why it is not worth learning to read (24;4;4). The entry was obviously USES, but The Uselessness of Literacy by Richard Hoggart took some researching!

Anyway, great fun as always from Waterloo, and a gentle introduction to 2015.

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The Alcoholic Baseball Player by Waterloo

Posted by shirleycurran on 23 January 2015

WaterlooFirst of the year, and I didn’t have to read far down to justify Waterloo’s membership of the Listener Setters’ imbibers club – an alcoholic baseball player indeed!

Waterloo’s alcohol-inspired clues continued with ‘Wound string around bottles, initially, with unfinished wine (5)’ (S[tring] A[round] + B[ottles] + RE[d], giving SABRE) a bit of a clunky clue, but generous to the solver, as I feel the first of the year should be, especially after the difficult ones we have just struggled with.

The preamble, also, raised a Numpty smile as there was a catcher high on rye – I doubt such a drunkard would last long in a US baseball team, but we laughed at the device. We continued to laugh as solutions revealed themselves.

Some of the misunderstanding of this modern Mrs Malaprop were hilarious. We particularly enjoyed ‘Three Men in a Boot’ (A journey in an overfilled car), ‘Lord of the Files’ (The boss in the office) and ‘Knickerless Nickleby’ (A naturist at large).

The Turn of the Clue

The Turn of the Clue

Our complete list of malapropisms was: The Scarlet Pimple, His Stark Materials, Sinning in the Rain, North and Southey, Three Men in a Boot, The Den of the Affair, Bunfight at the OK Corral, The Midwich Cuckolds, Horrid Henley, The Lady Varnishes, The Thirty-nine Stops, The Code of the Worcesters, The Oddity, Pride and Perjuries, The Ragged-Trousered Philatelists, Immunity on the Bounty, Threw the Looking-Glass, Lord of the Files, Knickerless Nickleby, A Suitable Buy, The Uselessness of Literacy, and A Few from the Bridge. The word-counts of these misunderstandings were a great help: we might have had a lot more trouble had it not been for those.

This set of comical malapropisms provided a speedy and amusing Numpty solve with just the odd final doubt. That 4d clue had us scratching our heads: ‘Upright author appears from poem reading this (4)’. We had M?ST so clearly our answer was MAST (upright) but it took us a while to solve the wordplay. We had to read M ‘as’ T (poeT being switched for poeM, to produce our solution). This was a step up in difficulty from the rest of the clues but that was fair enough as there couldn’t be much doubt about the definition.

I thoroughly enjoyed this bit of fun and noticed, from comments on the Answerbank and comments that reached me later from fellow solvers, that a number of lady partners and relations of solvers thought this was great fun, while the men seemed to grumble, finding the titles obscure in some cases. When I remarked to the other Numpty that literature was perhaps a more feminine theme than some of the usual Listener ones, as we are perhaps the ones who read widely, while the men pride themselves on working out base 24 or (mis)understanding about the coincidence of clock hands, he accused me of stereotyping and claimed that he thought this one was ‘really good – different and much more fun than most’. Stereotyping or not, the truth is that we don’t see much poetry or literature in our Listener crosswords, so ‘Thank you, Waterloo’ for that romp.

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Listener 4326: Coincidence by Sabre

Posted by Jaguar on 16 January 2015

OK, so, to resolve the dilemma of what went in the middle column I’ve cheated and waited until after the solution was posted to find out what was accepted (in the end, apparently anything!). I’ve not checked my various replacements, though… anyway, I suppose I should go back to the beginning.

At the end of a long year of solving (and sometime setting) it’s finally the last 2014 edition of the Listener. Of course, those of us who made it to 51/51 might be looking forward to a nice easy one to keep that all-correct chain going. And naturally the editors were only too happy to oblige. So they gave us a Sabre. Hmm… So far I’ve attempted two of his Listeners and correctly solved neither of them. The knight’s moves one was too tough for me (and my final solution had KOHB not KOHb anyway), and apparently one silly typo cost me his somewhat easier 2013 effort, so I can’t say I was looking forward to this one either.

At least there wasn’t anything gimmicky in the clues, and actually they’re not too hard a set (at least, not for Sabre). The massive amounts of clashes proved a pain, but gradually the answers came to me and I was after a few hours staring at a full-ish grid. That middle column looked like it would have something to do with MINUTE HAND, with something looking vaguely like HOUR HAND running in the same cells, so at least we also have the theme sorted — times on the clock when the hands coincide. Which two times, though?

And so began a long, painful process of sorting through the various options, teasing out a three here and an eight there, and this entire exercise probably took as long as the clue-solving before I was staring at a pair of notably precise times (down to elevenths of a minute, even!). Some devious trickery included hiding one or two of those letter swaps in unchecked cells, and on occasion you’d have to find a third letter to resolve a clash of two different letters. My goodness, this was difficult! The “NOON” highlighting helped things on the way a bit…

But, eventually, I was there, leaving only the middle column to sort out. That’s not too bad, just put two letters per cell for the first eight cells, and there are the two hands running side-by-side. Sorted.

But then, suddenly, drama! Don’t the two hands lie on top of each other rather than alongside? Indeed, the hour hand is underneath and might not be visible at all! All of which leaves three options to pick from, two of which are particularly convincing, one less so, and god knows which we should choose… thankfully, for me at least, this was only the difference between 50/52 at best and 49/52. I plumped for superposing the two letters, hoping to goodness that a note justifying it would count in my favour.

Luckily for us all, the editors were generous. I expect Sabre is shaking his head, sadly, that the solution he intended wasn’t regarded as unambiguous after all (I expect he preferred just MINUTE HAND in the middle column, since just because a letter was changed in PREACH (U/N)P before entry doesn’t mean you then still have to enter all the letters; my counterargument to that was that the hour hand is rarely perfectly hidden, as it’s usually fatter than the minute hand.)

At any rate, I breathed a sigh of relief that my choice was accepted. Barring the inevitable typo, of course. And so, 2014 comes to an end and, having had a couple of hiccups, I’ll have to try again next year. Roll on 2015…

My crossword programme doesn't do writing letters atop one another...

My crossword programme doesn’t do writing letters atop one another…

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Coincidence by Sabre

Posted by shirleycurran on 16 January 2015

Sabre coincidences 001Now why would the editors give us a cutting stroke from Sabre as the last crossword of the year? Are there too many ‘all corrects’ out there somewhere? I have to say, though, that we were expecting to see Sabre’s name as we downloaded this one, as he hasn’t appeared yet this year but with all those Christmas guests and the heap of leftover turkey, stuffing and what not, this was not the most welcome solve for me – and I was still saying that twenty-four hours later – I believe that this, for us, came second to Mash’s Klein bottle in duration of solve, which I calculate to have been about fifteen hours, of which something like ten went into alphanumeric calculations of letters, turning the grid upside down, inside out etc. and considerable cursing of it.

Of course, though I knew in advance that Sabre has long since earned his season ticket for the Listener Setters’ Imbibers Club, I did a speedy check to confirm his membership, and, after a few false starts with a ‘gallon of tea’ and ‘fermented sterol’, he produced his tipple ‘prime quality aged rum’. Cheers, Sabre!

Ironically, the initial solve went fairly quickly and we were remarking, with astonishment, that this might be like the Tibea solve of earlier in the year, when setters of difficult ones produced something relatively gentle. Yes, OK, it knocked very close to half of us out of the competition. I was a TAPU/TABU offender, as were most of the solvers I know! We were to be disillusioned by the last few clues which left us scratching our heads.

We were alerted by that remark in the preamble that ‘Lengths in brackets refer to grid entries’ to the fact that there were going to be some longer entries to fit in and when a helpful anagram produced BROMHIDROSIS – Monsieur’s horrid BO is compounded by this (MS HORRID BO IS*) we made the logical assumption that the unclued centre column was where the extra letter would go. With the IO of EXPIRATION added there and the TH at the end of ACANTH, ‘A slang term for spinach plant that’s dead (5)’ (A + CANT + (spinac)H giving us an obsolete or ‘dead’ plant name) plus ND appearing at the end of the column, one Numpty saw that HOUR HAND and MINUTE HAND were likely candidates and that they, of course, produce a number of ‘coincidences’ in the course of their twelve hour rotations around the clock.

NOON was clearly a four-letter candidate for the word to be highlighted and we could see that appearing as clashes in PENNON with UPSHOT, LIMO and RAZMATAZ gave us PE N/H  N/O O N/M. Those clashes were intriguing, as they evidently established where clues were going to have one letter replaced by another BUT (big BUT) there weren’t enough of them for us to adjust every solution in the grid.

Those ‘head-scratchers’? I believe the last clue to be solved is often the same one for a whole range of solvers and the Answerbank has confirmed that 17ac ‘Rounded, narrowing bodies seen in all of Dior dresses’ (7 two words) (URNS in TOUT = TURNS OUT) and 9d ‘This ancient knew following close to mobsters would get you mugged (6)’ (WOTTED which with (mobster)S would give SWOTTED or ‘mugged’) were the last for other people. They were ours: but, after a cold turkey break, we had a full grid and that grid staring began.

We fed those clashing letters into TEA (oh, yes, I will use any solving aid – Quinapalus’ wonderful resources, Crossword Compiler’s provisions or any on-line Playfair solver and cock a snook at the purists who stick to brain and pencil!) and intriguing words appeared if we ignored the centre column. We got TEN TO TWO and MINUTES TO EIGHT, as well as MINUTES PAST THREE. Those were clearly part of coincidences but that is when my despair almost set in. Truly, after seven years of weekly Listener solving (and yes, I have never been the winner out of JEG’s bag – how does that tally with statistical probability?) I had finally decided to write a ‘fail blog’ and return to the Sun Numpty Coffee Break Easy Solve and never look at another Listener.

No messages giving ‘two examples of coincidence’ would appear from the clashing pairs of letters, and, even more disconcerting, we had words like SATRAP and SPACE CADETS where we had no clashes at all, and intersecting words like CRAIC and LASHES where there was only one available clash, so we couldn’t replace a letter in both.

The other Numpty created a table of times when clashes occur as the two hands go round the clock and all of them contained fractions with 11 as the denominator, (yes, I realize it was available on the Internet, too) so I had something to work on, but it was finding those expressions in the list of clashing letters that was the downer.

Sabres most unkindest cut of all 001Enough! I am sure I am not the only solver to have spent an inordinate amount of time struggling before realizing that the solution had to be in the unches and (oh the deviousness of it!) using the replacement letter and/or the original letter to create the two separate messages. This was typical Sabre advanced thinking and way out of my league. So we take the X of EXPIRATION to give us ‘SIXTEEN AND FOUR ELEVENTH MINUTES PAST THREE’ and we convert it to an E, thus producing a replaced letter in E[E]PIRATION and permitting us to find TWENTY-ONE AND FOUR ELEVENTH MINUTES TO EIGHT (and so on, for the E of TERPINEOLS, that becomes TERPIN[T]OLS etc.)

What about (in two cases the letter and its replacement are identical)? Is that a contradiction in terms? Apparently not. I have to use the E of LASHES and the E of SPACE CADETS for both of the messages.

What can I say. I am supposed to have enjoyed this solve, but, in fact, was plunged into the slough of despond by it. But that is what the Listener is all about isn’t it? We bemused and dim-witted lower level setters and solvers have to simply gasp in amazement at the productions of the Mashes, Quinapali, Keas and Sabres of the upper echelons so many thanks again, Sabre!

Post script: I posted my entry a couple of days ago, as did most of my friends, I believe, but one of them has just alerted me to the fact that ‘the numbers in brackets refer to the grid entries’ and, of course, since I have entered both my hour and my minute hand in the grid, I have twelve letters, for example, in clue 4ac, where I have BROMHIDROSWS and the number in brackets says (11). The minute hands in some clocks lies over the hour hand (not in the one I am looking at where the hour hand has pretty little rings on it and I can clearly see both, right now, as they coincide!) No, surely Sabre and the editors wouldn’t eliminate entries for that, after all the hard work that went into solving. Such a dilemma makes me almost relieved to have been out of the ‘all corrects’ for quite a while!

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