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Listener 4314: Renewable Energy by ‘Eck

Posted by Dave Hennings on 24 October 2014

Oh, my giddy aunt! What a lot there is going on in the preamble. Misprints in every clue — half in the definition part and half in the wordplay — clues needing to be amended before solving, and 16 clashes — yes, 16! And all this from a new setter who has, as far as I can see, only one Inquisitor to his name back in January. At least we were told that definition misprints were to be entered in one direction in the grid (inwards or outwards) with wordplay misprints entered the other way.

What’s more, the puzzle appeared while I was on holiday in Portugal, and it wasn’t until a week after publication that I could collect it from a friend. I hoped that the puzzle itself wasn’t as complicated as the preamble. So, here I was on the Monday before the Thursday deadline with a blank circular grid in front of me — yikes!

Listener 4314My first task was to determine the direction for the two misprint types. That would mean finding one of each type next to each other, so a quick scan of the clues was in order. 5 Sandra, spy, securing European society platforms in Cape Town seemed to be shouting out STOEPS, although how ‘Sandra, spy’ could lead to STOP was a mystery and so was probably one of the clues needing adjustment.

6 was STREST (I think), and 9 Spawn — Neil (radiant) admits they made it being fearful of prior generations seemed to be EFFRAYED, even though it had too many letters. Perhaps it was EFFRAY, with Neil being redundant in the clue; still not quite right though. While I was pondering this difficulty, it struck me that there were an awful lot of first names in the clues. So far, three were affected, and I could see that there were three more names just in 10 — Lois, Nico and Norma.

It looked like they might be superfluous, although dropping Sandra from 5 still didn’t help. I got a boost when I got 11 SUBMIT and 12 IAMBUS next to each other and with common letters BUS. It therefore seemed that clues with misprints in the definition were entered outwards, the others inwards. Some good news at last. [In hindsight, I was fortunate that these clues were two of only eight which were unaffected by clashes.]

I decided to have a quick foray into the ring clues. The preamble said that A–E needed to be entered jumbled, together with an extra letter given by the wordplay. Clues F and G, while still providing an extra letter in the wordplay, were entered normally. F passed me by, but G Tenant to come to pass around fish (8) looked as though it could be RESIDENT, but the wordplay didn’t back it up.

I scanned the remaining clues but didn’t get many, and some that I did get didn’t seem quite right. 21, for example, had Giggled support from Antony gets reward and looked like TEEHEED (too long) or maybe TEHEED (TEE too short)!

Coming round to the top of the grid again, 37 IBICES, 40 TOUGHS, 39 TOUPEE, 1 TOP-HAT and 2 INKPOT were slotted into place. G now resolved itself as OCCUPIER (OCCUR around PI[k]E). Moreover, along the top of the grid, I now had ··IDESTIDE·· in the outer ring together with a few other Ts, Is, etc. What’s more, they all fitted together to form TIDES eight times around the outer ring. Excellent! Having these letters certainly helped with the rest of the solving process because the clues were really tough with some devilish misprints. 39 was probably my favourite: Uranium concealer before uranium leak defined TOUPEE with ‘cranium concealer’!

After about three hours, the grid was just over half full with the western quadrant almost completely empty. Did I mention that I was running up against the deadline? It finally dawned on me that there were too many clues where the answer just didn’t seem to fit the clue 100% — and they were all clues with names in them! On a whim, I tried anagrams of SANDRA and was rewarded with NASARD. I thought that was a beak, but a check with Chambers showed it to be ‘an organ mutation stop’. So at last I had my STOP in clue 5.

The names didn’t get dropped from clues but had to be anagrammed. EFFRAYED at 9 was EFFRAY with RAY being defined by ‘line (radiant)’ and 10, with Lois, Nico and Norma, became In Yell they hate have soil for fuelling fight about coin for Roman was YARFAS — FRAY< + AS. Even ‘Tabitha of Madison’ made more sense as ‘Habitat of daimons’ — EREBUS, and the TE of TEHEED sounded like TEE spoken over the Tannoy!

Some time later — this was a much longer than average solve — and the grid was complete, the misprint corrections giving “Look at me. I’ve never changed. It’s like those sticks of rock:“. It needed Google to reveal that it was from Brighton Rock by Graham Greene — again (after The Third Man five weeks ago) which starred Richard Attenborough who died six weeks ago! Graham Greene was born on 2 October 1904.

These words from Ida were in reply to Rose’s comment: “People change”. This explains why the names in the clues had to be anagrammed, except Ida in 30 — she “never changed”. She goes on to say “bite it all the way down, you’ll still read Brighton. That’s human nature.” It didn’t take long to resolve the clashes in the grid, all in ring 3, to give BRIGHTON twice. Finally, we had to “highlight 40 cells as cryptically suggested by the moniker of the character under discussion”. This was Pinkie (Brown), the character played by Attenborough, so it looked likely we were going to shade the outer ring (40 cells) pink — or brown!

Of course, a bit more thought, and it wasn’t TIDES that appeared in the outer grid eight times, but ID EST (ie), so we had to shade them pink. I copied my rough copy onto my entry grid and highlighted the outer ring. Sadly, unlike my animation, I didn’t write the two Brightons in red/pink but in black, along with everything else.

Listener 4314 My EntryListener 4314 Black Rock[As I write this blog, I wonder if writing Brighton in red was a requirement that I overlooked. A bit more googling, and I found some rock which had the words BLACKPOOL ROCK in black, so I'm guessing I'll be OK, albeit not very thematic. After all, we could have been told to erase four rings completely in order to more accurately reflect the majority of the rock which is white.]

And so a really tough puzzle hit the post box. As a Listener newbie, this was a tour de force by ‘Eck with some fantastic clues and tons of thematic material. I look forward in anticipation to more puzzles from first-time setters, perhaps by Gum, by Jove or by Trial and Error.

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Renewable Energy by ‘Eck

Posted by shirleycurran on 24 October 2014

Brighton Rock 001Circular crosswords have a special appeal for me. They were the only kind I set for my first few years of setting and I know how very tough it can be when you reach the very last words and nothing is available. Of course, jumbles are an easy way out of the dilemma, but they weren’t used as a ‘cop out’ in this case but simply to confirm and add those last few letters that were needed to give the complete message.

But I am leaping ahead. Initially we read that complicated preamble with real misgivings: extra letters, jumbles, clues to be amended and clashes. I had to check through the clues to reassure myself, at  least, that ‘Eck qualifies for the Listener imbibers club and indeed he does with not just one but ‘roughly 1 m bottles! (Recounted the odd talE (roughly 1 m) bottles not enumerated to start with’ [YARD round N E(numerated)]. No wonder we find ‘SKins, perhaps, returning drunk, accepting disgusted reaction’ [SOT< round UGH giving TOUGHS] – quite an appropriate word in the context of the novel that we finally identified (though at first we had spiVs as the misprint – that just reminds me how difficult it can be to produce a misprint for every single clue in a crossword.

Indeed this was a tough solve and after two hours our grid was only one third complete with luck finds HENNED, OCCUPIER and FASTEN as ring clues, confirming our entries.

As we solved, it was becoming clear that the same five letters were appearing in the outer circle – that is to say ID EST, and we tentatively completed that ring. Even more useful was the fact that all our clashes were in the third circle, reading inwards, and the pdm came when, in two sets of letters, they spelled out BRIGHTON.

Brighton Rock! So we had the novel and the moniker of its main character, Pinkie. We had to ‘highlight 40 cells as cryptically suggested by the moniker of the character under discussion’. Rock is a cheerful pink colour, isn’t it? Just the colour of my highlighter, and the name runs right through it (I used to be so excited by that as a child), so we knew how to complete the puzzle but it took me another couple of hours to work out the remaining clues and find the quotation.

We were helpfully given the chapter of the novel that the statement occurred in (but I am not sure that was so very helpful. A visit to the Internet is a far more speedy way to find:

“People change,’ she said
‘Oh, no they don’t. Look at me. I’ve never changed. It’s like those sticks of rock: bite it all the way down, you’ll still read Brighton. That’s human nature.”

than a search through the dusty old orange Penguins in the basement).

There were still all the names to understand too. How subtly they were incorporated into the clues. We puzzled for an age about what SANDRA was doing in a clue that clearly led to STOEPS. Of course, we had to anagram it to give NASARD which is a type of STOP that circled E(uropean) S(ociety).

LOIS, NICO and NORMA appeared lower down and some unjumbling of the names produced a fine clue for YARFAS (Yell’s peat bogs) ‘In Yell they haVe SOIL for fuelling fight about COIN for ROMAN.

TABITHA of MADISON became HABITAT of DAIMONS to give the solution EREBUS … and so on.

This was probably the toughest solve of the year so far but how very rewarding. A most impressive piece of compiling. Thank you ‘Eck.

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Weak Force by Tut

Posted by shirleycurran on 17 October 2014

Work force by TutWe had a splendid venture into the realm of valence electrons last week and the title of this puzzle by Tut immediately suggested to us that we might again be in a world related to physics.and before long that suspicion was confirmed.

However, before beginning our solve, I, of course, scanned the clues to check that Tut’s application for membership of the tipsy Listener setters’ club could be considered and, of course, he/she qualifies with ‘For example, beer which with added helium would produce incomprehensible speech (4)’ (BREW which, with HE gives HEBREW) and a dose of Madeira in a clue that parsed rather oddly,’Crazy, pointless Madeira’s aid to road grip (6 two words) (E from MADEIRA* gives AIR DAM).

We worked steadily through Tut’s clues, wondering about some of the surface readings ‘The tree to attack with unpowered bolster (10)’ (GO AT + W + PILLOW less P) – does Tut go around charging at trees with a pillow as his weapon? – and enjoying the economy of others, ‘Shirt tucked into Fraser Kilt (4)’ SERK is nicely hidden there and the Scots indicator subtly included.

I have been avoiding the leading diagonal lately after criticism from some of the crossworld gurus about using it far too often for the thematic message. However, I still look there as I solve someone else’s crossword and something vaguely familiar was appearing there. Completing that rather enigmatic quotation from James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake ‘…FOR MUSTER MARK’ helped us fill the more difficult north-west corner of the grid and, with typical Numpty back-to-frontedness, we then worked backwards to find our three quarks in the incomplete set of corrected misprints.

TOP and STRANGE gave us no problem but they used ten of our available letters so the third quark had to be the UP/DOWN quark, for which we already had a P that confined us to clue 12 across for the U; now that was sneaky,Tut! We finally sussed that the fat juicy thing that one pinches if one is a SCRUMPER grows on a malUs and was not some rather rotund malE’s corporation.

A gentle solve and all good fun. Thank you, Tut.

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Listener No 4313: Weak Force by Tut

Posted by Dave Hennings on 17 October 2014

The first newbie for a few months appears this week in the shape of Tut, and it seems that we are in for a continuation of the science theme after last week’s Elementary Deduction from Rood. I was very late starting this puzzle as a week’s golf in Portugal got in the way, so the Tuesday before the deadline had me hoping that this would be a quick solve. Only a dozen definition misprints to contend with had me feeling confident.

Listener 43131ac Madman in Austin briefly used to shoot down Jews (4) seemed likely to need ‘jets’ to replace ‘Jews'; the preamble was very helpful in saying that ‘capitalisation may need to change’, help that I didn’t think we really needed but the editors obviously did. Anyway, I still couldn’t get it, and 4ac Possible farmer of lac in taro cropped with fish (6) referred to 1ac (!), so I couldn’t get that either. Eventually I solved 14ac SKIMPIER and then another gap before 23 GESTAPO across the middle. With only another half dozen acrosses, my grid looked somewhat sparse.

The downs started off well, with 3 AERIE, 4 COMPUTERS and 5 CINEMATICALLY at last making my grid-fill looking substantial. Unfortunately, only 31 ABASE and 35 SERK completed my initial down solving, but eveything then speeded up nicely.

When I finally got 1ac FLAK (‘flake’ being a crazy person in the US), I was left wondering what A farmer/firmer/warmer of flak was at 4ac. It was some time before I realised that 1ac was lac, and a possible farmer of lac was the COCCID. There was a close call at 21dn Monsters: fifty donning episcopal robes (8) where I nearly entered CHIMERAE as the plural of ‘chimera’ instead of CHIMERAS (CHIMERS about A).

As I neared completion of the grid, I was getting worried that I only had 9 out of the 12 definitions identified. So far, I had T… P U P…P TRAN…. It was only with a bit more examination that I realised that coccid insects weren’t farmers of lac, but formers of lac… ie they formed it!

Listener 4313 My EntryThus I could see that we were dealing with quarks — TOP, UP and STRANGE. The PLAYER at 39ac was one ‘in the cast’ not ‘in the part’ as I originally had. Moreover, ‘commonly takes pear’ at 10dn should be ‘commonly takes gear’ (ie drugs) and leads to USES, while 16dn BLASH is ‘rain pounding on the brats braes’ (ie river bank).

Finally, appearing neatly in the leading NW-SE diagonal, was the end of a line from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake: “Three quarks FOR MUSTER MARK”. This theme was also the subject of Inquisitor 1288 Matters in Particular by Radler.

In the end, this wasn’t a purely scientific theme but a literary one with a dash of science thrown in. I was lucky that it turned out to be a pretty straightforward and enjoyable 2-hour solve which enabled me to easily meet the deadline, so thanks for that, Tut.

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Listener No 4312, Elementary Deduction: A Setters’ Blog by Rood

Posted by Listen With Others on 13 October 2014

RO in a spin (again) – OD resolves “squaring the circle”

If anyone has not been acquainted with Rood’s two previous puzzles, they started with the tesseract Listener puzzle where RO needed OD assistance sorting out an almost impossible task fathoming out how to get across a cube within a cube in crossword format. Then the tables turned fitting a complete “Only Connect” wall puzzle utilising 16 nine letter 3×3 anagrams into a 12×12 grid for the Magpie. This time it is was role reversal again, let us fill you in on how the exchange took place:


I only recall the phrase VALENCY ELECTRONS from my chemistry lessons at school and so was surprised when I stumbled across the variant spelling in Chambers. The fact that the different letter is E (for electron) sparked an idea with a twist. Three and four valency electrons make up the elements BORON and CARBON and there are three or four e’s in the phrase.

How was I going to piece it all together? Time to phone a friend.

“OD what do you think of a puzzle with a solving dilemma that includes both electron rings of two elements. The words valenc(e/y) electrons are in Chambers and could form a ring around carbon and boron, there are no other e’s in the grid and solvers must decide which one to use. Problem is I haven’t worked out how to guide solvers yet”

Silence…I think I stumped OD with my excitement. A day later, whilst OD was brushing up with his science, I had a brainwave.

“OD, I have thought of a way of using the grid to give an instruction that has never been done before in this way (that I know of)…use the perimeter taking every so many letters and clashes to give something like DRAW RINGS OF ATOMIC NO SIX/FIVE. By counting the electrons in the rings only one element can be seen”

I chose SIX, because FIVE has a rogue electron in it. A number of subliminal occurrences then started to form. Because of the recurring letters in the perimeter THREE, FOUR and SIX were ruled out. FIVE was therefore chosen. BOSON a nice thematic word could make a clash and that would result in FIVE clashes. FIVE seemed predominant. The grid was now starting to form, but we still had to lead the solver gently to the correct solution, perhaps giving a warning might help…over to OD for helping sort that out with his clever way with words.


When RO came up with an idea concerning valency electrons, I needed to grab a crash course in particle physics, and by the time I was comfortable with the concept, he already had a working grid up and running. My role at that stage was little more than shouting frequent encouragement from the sidelines as a stunning construction emerged, complete with that ingenious double twist at the end. It’s a privilege to watch a gridmeister at work as the scheme unfolds, and I’m fortunate that I was theminor party involved in the generation of this fine puzzle and to be the first to see that grid emerging. 

Concept firmly in place, it was clear that quite a lot needed to be conveyed to the solver and messages were probably going to need more letters than one per clue, so I concentrated on thinking about how that could best be achieved. Aiming for something thematic, I first toyed with using numbers 5 & 6 (eg those letters from each clue) then it struck me that we could use those elementary symbols. That was not without its drawbacks; it offered a restricted alphabet, so e.g. there was no way to spell ‘GRID’ – but we eventually got a workable set of instructions together. There was even a bonus for those who like balance in their puzzles as RO spotted – we even had precisely the same number of two letter symbols as one letter ones. Our original warning was “CARE WITH RELATIONSHIP OF PARTICLES”, but was changed after an editorial suggestion. Even though a multitude of helpful words cannot be formed from chemical elements it was very fortunate for us that CLOCKWISE can be.

The rest is history (well 2 year old history anyway). The comments from JEG were very positive and we are glad you enjoyed this multilayered puzzle. To those who chose the wrong element, we apologise for leading you astray, despite it having been intentional. At the moment there are no other Rood compilations in the pipeline, but there are enough dilemmas out there, so anything is possible.

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