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Listener No. 4332, Two’s Company: A Setter’s Blog by Augeas

Posted by Listen With Others on 1 March 2015

Two’s Company started life almost exactly three years ago following the discovery in ODQ of the quotation. Clearly the length of the quotation, as well as its meaning, required two letters in each cell, and the double bed called for mirror symmetry. Filling the grid, done with pencil and eraser as always, was much easier than many commentators have suggested – very early on in the process that it was decided to allow the letter pairs to appear in either order, thus allowing much more latitude in finding checking words, although all had to have an even number of letters. This would necessitate the entering of letters in a precise manner, with the two letters in each cell appearing in the correct order both across and down. Many solvers found this a fertile source of trips, but it was not designed so. Indeed, a lot of effort was spent in agreeing a form of words in the Preamble which made it perfectly clear that “letters [were] encountered in the correct order in all entries and the perimeter”. In a small number of cells where the same letter appears twice any orientation would be acceptable.

By the time it had reached the point of serious consideration by the Editors (last summer) the sesquicentenary of Mrs Patrick Campbell’s birth suggested that the first week in February 2015 would be a good time for it to be published. In that version solvers were required to highlight the C and L at the start and finish of her surname to indicate a full grasp of what was going on, but this was later removed as “unnecessary after the solver has done the hard slog of filling the grid and finding the quotation”. One of Augeas’s earlier puzzles had involved a quotation by Nancy Mitford which did not appear in the then current Edition of ODQ. Since then he has taken the view that if a quotation appears and no indication is made then it must appear in the current ODQ. A recent puzzle shows that not all setters (or Editors) share this view, as we shall see next week. Where a quotation is given elsewhere then this must be specified (eg. in ODQ Second and Third Editions only). Augeas is one of those odd people who, of necessity, buys each new Edition of Chambers – like many solvers – and of ODQ. One solver, in her kind letter commenting, said that it wasn’t in her ODQ (Second Edition). Maybe a Christmas present idea for her to suggest to someone?

Anyway, back at the editing face things were moving. The ur-version had a different arrangement in what George calls the New England corner, and removing a couple of bars (and allowing the non-Chambers SHON) overcame the perceived problem there. It was pointed out that once the grid was filled there wasn’t much help from the letters in the perimeter to finding the quotation (a view with which quite a few solvers disagreed), so the idea of an anagram of the unches emerged. The serendipitous discovery that CHESTERFIELD could be obtained added weight to the idea. There was originally no indication of where the quotation started, and it was felt that, given the difficulty of getting a handle on the quotation itself, giving the initial cell would make the task less troublesome.

Clearly there is an urgent requirement for the BBC to show that fine film THEM!, the existence of which perplexed many solvers. Odd that one may regard oneself as too young to know about a 1950s movie, but not too young to be familiar with Haydn or Descartes. The general reaction from solvers has been positive, and Augeas thanks those who have ventured a response, in writing and, before all the fuss, on line. Augeas also owes a debt of gratitude to JEG, whose task was made a lot more difficult by the requirement to check orientation as well as content, thus slowing his work-rate significantly. Sorry, John.

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Listener No. 4332: Two’s Company by Augeas

Posted by Dave Hennings on 27 February 2015

Augeas’s last puzzle was the one about that fabulous locomotive Mallard and its world steam record of 126mph. I think the exact speed required under the grid tripped up a few people… luckily not me. No requirement for anything under the grid this week, just two letters in every cell and a perimeter to complete. Initial letters of extra words in alternate clues would spell out a name.

The only problem with perimeters is that they sneakily increase the unching of words that stray into them. Here, that was doubly devious since it meant double unching for those words. Still, the rest of the grid had very few unchecked squares, so I hoped that it wouldn’t be too taxing.

Listener 4332I couldn’t get 6ac, but I loved the surface reading: The French queen chases slut she insults (8). No problem with the next clue though, being a straightforward compound anagram (AS + EMPURPLE)* = (PURE SAMPLE)*. Next came 12ac Throbbing gout among ex-boozers starts to metastasise, old ulcer soon fertilising itself (10) AUTOGAMOUS, which had, to put it mildly, a bizarre surface reading, the accuracy of which I’ll leave to Listener doctors!

I decided to switch my attention to the downs, and was rewarded with 2 BYRE and 3 LYCHGATE for Body stops here, needing messy oil change — try [lubrication] getting rid of bits of iron (8) — (OIL CHANGE TRY)* – letters of IRON, with ‘lubrication as the extra word]. 4 Film of giant ants coming from the mountains — it’s plural (4) brought back memories of that 50’s sci-fi film Them!.

Some of Augeas’s clues were on the tricky side. 19ac, for example, Heartless Sealyhams with chain removed chewed [terrified] flirt once (4), being (SEAL[Y]HAMS – SEAL (chain))*.

My favourite clue has to be 31ac Thailand car — fake — tuk tuk maybe (10) for TAUTOPHONY, a tuk tuk not only being a Thai motorised rickshaw but also an example of tautophony (the repetition of a sound).

The clues weren’t too taxing, and the double unching didn’t seem to cause me much of a problem. The first letters of the extra words in the clues eventually gave Beatrice Stella Tanner, a woman whose name rang vague bells, but no more than that. Examining the perimeter before resorting to Google, the top right corner appeared to have a CHAISE LONGUE lurking, and a check with the ODQ revealed all:

The deep, deep peace of the double-bed after the hurly-burly of the chaise-longue. Mrs Campbell

Underneath is another lovely quote: “It doesn’t matter what you do in the bedroom as long as you don’t do it in the street and frighten the horses.”

All that was left now was to complete my entry and send it to St Albans. As a matter of course, I always fill in the grid from the acrosses in my working copy and then double-check it against the downs. This was one of those rare weeks when I discovered that I had made an error: DO RP which didn’t fit with INTERPRETIVE going down at 13 and needed changing to DO RP.

Listener 4332 My EntryI also double-checked that the letters in all the squares were encountered in the correct order. There again, I originally had HE going NW-SE in the top left corner like all the other unchecked squares, but HE seemed more appropriate on the bend. Would my original have been marked wrong?

So thanks to Augeas for an entertaining and enjoyable puzzle… who said bedroom humour wasn’t PC?!

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Two’s company by Augeas

Posted by shirleycurran on 27 February 2015

Augeas 001Our first reaction on downloading this was surprise at the rather small and unusual grid – 11 X 10 with vertical mirror symmetry – I wonder why! That response was instantly followed (as I copied it into Crossword Compiler, which is a great help when solving) by my astonished comments about the number of two-letter words, but, within seconds, the other numpty, who had already solved RECIPE, CHIC, EGER and OVERMASTERED, had seen what was going on. “We obviously have to put two letters into each cell, as all the clues are for even-numbered words.”

I was still busy confirming Augeas’ continued membership of the Listener Setters’ Tipplers’ Club and was mildly anxious at first with ‘Throbbing gout among ex-boozers starts to metastasise, old ulcer soon fertilising itself (10)’ (giving GOUT* in AA + first letters M O U and S = AUTOGAMOUS).

Augeas Two's Company 001

The deep deep peace of the double bed after the hurly-burly of the chaise longue.

Things didn’t improve much (though here were some convincing and amusing surface readings) as I read down the clues to ‘Ground maize in San Diego intoxicates old sailor at clubhouse (10) (CORNS + TAR + CH) but then there was ‘Fresh tasty Rhône red for New England shellfish (8)’ Our local wine being anagrammed to produce DEERHORN. All was well, and a few clues further down, not surprisingly we found ‘Dominated vast REME horde, breathlessly drunk (12)’ – another anagram with the H removed, giving us OVERMASTERED.
With such lovely and not vastly challenging cluing, the grid filled rapidly and soon we had enough extra letters to suggest that BEATRICE somebody-or-other was the person we were looking for. We tried Beatrix Potter and Beatrice Webb but they didn’t have long maiden names. Then came a lucky find. BEATRICE STELLA TANNER became Mrs Patrick Campbell.

A brief visit to the ODQ produced a delightful quotation that justified this entering of two letters into each cell. ‘THE DEEP DEEP PEACE OF THE DOUBLE BED AFTER THE HURLY BURLY OF THE CHAISE LONGUE’ (I don’t suppose it is entirely PC to wonder what deeply peaceful activities she was up to in the marriage bed – hmmmm! Or, to make things worse, whatever she had been indulging in in her chaise longue – the mind boggles!) But of course, the logic behind the mirror symmetry producing a ‘double bed’ now became evident.

No red herrings, our last clue led us to gastropods ‘Guesses at ancient destruction finally [L] numerous gastropods (10)’ (HARPS + HELL + (numerou)S) but we had a bit of head-scratching wondering how we were going to ‘ensure that letters are encountered in the correct order in all entries and the perimeter’. Obviously, this is essential, otherwise Mr Green would have a nightmare of a task, checking up to 600 grids with each cell containing letters in either order.

It seemed to me that there were two possible solutions for this: putting three letters into an ambiguous cell so that each set of two could be read in its correct order (three perhaps not entirely acceptable in any bed, especially with the hint of the title, that ‘Two’s Company’), or placing the letters diagonally, with the correct order indicated by the first letter that would be ‘encountered’ by the reader. Well, obviously, that was the solution required, so a tense few minutes followed as I attempted to get that right for each of the words.

A lovely compilation, Augeas, with the thematic couples enjoying their deep, deep peace in each of the cells. Many thanks.

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Conduit by Loda

Posted by shirleycurran on 20 February 2015

Conduit by Loda 001We downloaded an intriguing grid. We have seen one of these before and were alerted to the need to keep a very careful track of everything we entered, erasing the discarded directions (any of the six possible ones for some words) until we had the correct one and could ink it in.

Of course, even though I have seen Loda enjoying a pint, I needed to check his current membership of the Listener Setters Topers’ Club, and was at first rather nonplussed to find only a barrel in his clues (Horn’s pla[Y]ed thus below with barrel for depth (5) Giving DOWN with BL for D = BLOWN). However, he redeemed himself, moving onto the quality Scottish drink when we worked out the misprint for JUNIPER (Girl cut one a shrub to savour m[A]lted spirit (7) – Yes, apparently the berries are used to flavour not just gin!)

A number of the misprints were as evident as that one: Maggy for maNgy, moulting for mouNting, mural damage for mOral damage, tewart for tHwart and so on, so that we soon had a rather interesting set of corrected misprints running down the side of our clues and one of my favourite works leapt out at us: ANIMAL FARM! So they were the titles of books. We could see GOD KNOWS, YOUTH, THE VODI, and ISLAND but were rather nonplussed about S??TIP and ?MI?IAM which had to give us three more of our eight titles.

Meanwhile, the grid fill was steady as soon as we entered DISEUR and guessed that it was going to use the same letters as RUES. At this point, we were able to decide on the direction for a dozen clues and our speed increased. It was STAIRWELL that gave us our second p.d.m. as RWELL was obviously ORWELL with his first letter removed. CAPOTE, BRAINE, HUXLEY, UPDIKE and HELLER quickly followed and a little Internet research showed us that Miriam was a work by Capote so we were able to almost complete our grid. The only single letter novel we hadn’t yet identified was S by UPDIKE and we decided that that explained LINNS (which had appeared of its own accord in our grid) as they must be ‘laShers’.

A red herring, of course! We spent a long time trying to find Youth, written by MILLER or MAILER (Yes, we know it was a work of Conrad and of Tolstoy but they wouldn’t fit anywhere!) Then we noticed MBLER and were astonished to find that Eric Ambler wrote a work entitled SKYTIP! It was the realisation that WILDER had to fit into our grid to remove the ambiguity of which of UPDIKE’s D, I and K to enter, that led us to ask the Internet whether Wilder had written Youth, and, to our delight, he did write a play of that name.

All the clued and unclued words were now entered and we had a curiously gaping hole in the centre of our grid with just a few stray letters here and there. Head-scratching.

IMG_2123However, we could now feed our extra letters into TEA – BOEYARDK and with a whoop of delight, were told that they gave KEYBOARD. Sure enough, there it was – not, of course one that resembled any of our European ones (my little finger has to retrain itself to type Z whenever I encounter a UK keyboard and our French keyboard leaves us hunting for Q, A, M and most of the numbers which are in upper-case – how stupid is that!)

We found a UK keyboard and, after about four hours of solving, joyfully filled in the spaces and highlighted the keyboard. As I checked that each of our entries was still in the grid, I really admired the skill that went into this compilation with so many words biting into that keyboard. I didn’t like, or understand what DIEB had to do with a clue that clearly led to DIE (Be lo[N]ging impressive stamp (4)) We know a DIEB is a kind of antelope – perhaps the clue originally led to that! (but we learned today that there has been a word-length correction on the Times crossword website and have, of course, understood that that initial B of Braine had to be left to be inserted at the end of the solve so maybe there was a change of clue at a late stage and the team forgot to change the word length).


We still had two questions to resolve: the title? Ah, Chambers, of course, explains that a conduit is a ‘means of communication’. Then there’s the ‘helpful order’ of those titles. That was a lovely final touch (well, I imagine it was an initial touch for Loda!) We find the K of KEYBOARD comes from the author of the first novel (UpdiKe/ S); the E comes from the end of CapotE (Miriam), the Y from HuxleY (Island) and so on. There is so much in this compilation to admire!

Using Cal[Y]donian as a misprint for Caledonian (Perhaps a Calydonian place of turmoil – even for poets (7) = HELL + ENE) seemed somewhat obscure, perhaps, and the GTI abbreviation (Gol[F]’s often seen with these characters: note, 400 in the van (3)) seemed downright devious, but still, this was thoroughly enjoyable and a superb piece of setting.

Thank you, Loda.

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Listener No. 4331: Conduit by Loda

Posted by Dave Hennings on 20 February 2015

It has been over four years since Loda’s last Listener with Christopher Isherwood’s “I am a camera” theme. This week, there was a grid which reminded me of one of Leon’s old card patience puzzles, except here we had enough cells for three packs of cards. Eight names in the grid were to be entered without one letter and these would be slotted into empty squares at the end. Correct letters of misprints in the clues would spell out eight relevant titles.

Listener 4331I started off by trying to crack the clues with nice obvious misprints. Of course, there were always those that were somewhat devious and just masquerading as obvious. I include among those the straightforward 3 Cite radio talent shows (4) which looked for all the world to require the name of a city (rather than mite IOTA), and 4b where ‘a place for misers’ should have been a ‘place for miners’ rather than ‘a place for risers’ (STAIRWELL).

Next was to crack the remaining tricky clues… which turned out to be most of them. The clues I had already solved were predominantly in the top half of the grid, and it seemed logical to work my way downwards. It was hard work. Finally solving 4b, reversed in the top row, enabled me to see George [O]RWELL as my first author and a short while later, Animal Farm was available from the corrections to misprints.

So, we had authors in the grid and one of their works from the clues. What could be simpler?! Well… Enid BLYTON and Noddy for a start. As it was, that sneaky S by John UPDIKE needed me to find the author before I pounced on his one-letter novel which was followed by Miriam, rather than trying to find a book about Smirnov vodka! Another non-existent novel that I looked for was Something and the something.

As it was, S and Animal Farm were the only novels I had heard of. Luckily (and slowly), I managed to tease the authors out of the grid and fill in the gaps in their novels provided by the clues. I had:

  • Eric [A]MBLER’s Skytip
  • John [B]RAINE’s The Vodi(!)
  • Trueman CAPOT[E]’s Miriam
  • Joseph HELLE[R]’s God Knows
  • Aldous HUXLE[Y]’s Island
  • George [O]RWELL’s Animal Farm
  • John UPDI[K]E’s S

That left one to go, and the letters I had to arrange for the theme were A, B, E, R, Y, O, K. It didn’t take me long to see that YEARBOOK was the answer, and with George Orwell’s 1984 it seemed possible that they had all written books with years in the title.

Of course that turned out to be rubbish.

Perhaps they were all recipients of one of the top literary awards. Yes, that seemed more likely, but try as I might, the Nobel, Booker and Pulitzer prizes didn’t seem to help me. Plus I still had to find an author staring with the W at 38 and missing the letter O, and that was proving difficult.

When I finally got 46 PLANERS across the bottom of the grid (yes, it took me ages to get that), WIL[D]ER seemed to be the likely author — with a missing D not O — but I thought Thornton Wilder was mainly a playwright. So he was, and that pesky play Youth, given by the last five clues’ misprints, finally enabled me to finish the grid, identify the KEYBOARD theme, and slot those letters into the remaining eight empty cells. Of course, I should have realised sooner that the “helpful order” given in the preamble meant that the theme was spelt by the letters dropped from the author’s in the order of their titles.

It was a nice PDM which I hadn’t seen coming, despite QWERTYUIOP trying to appear across the centre for some time. (Unlucky those of you with AZERTY or other keyboards!) All in all this took most of Monday to complete and I was exhausted!

Listener 4331 My EntrySo thanks to Loda for a good theme, a tough grid and some fine clues. Hiding the authors in the grid was a clever idea, but the use of such obscure titles made this a bit of a slog. Information given by extra letters or misprints is supposed to help… here they almost seemed designed to hinder! Not my cup of tea, I’m afraid… sorry, Loda. I hope others enjoyed it more.

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