Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin.

Listener 4305: Not a Blocked Grid by Lavatch

Posted by Jaguar on 22 August 2014

Home once again, this time for a lengthier break. I was on the train again, but unlike in Jago’s Tour de France puzzle, No 4301, there was to be no speedy solve scribbled on a gap in Friday’s copy of The Times. Instead, I opened up this week’s Listener, saw the name Lavatch, and realised I’d probably need rather more than a quarter of an hour…

I’ve now seen four of Lavatch’s puzzles, including three Listeners. Of those I suppose you could say that I probably have been defeated by two — I may have submitted an entry for his Christmas snowflake puzzle, In Season (No 4221), but I needed rather a lot of help for that one. And his Carte Blanche (No 4252) was also far too tough for me. On the other hand they were both utterly brilliant conceptions, so that while I knew I was in for a tough challenge I was looking forward to it. So this was my chance to take the score to 2-2.

4305 initialNot that Lavatch was going to give up his lead without a fight, it seemed! At least the overlong entries were clearly signposted, but the clashes weren’t and indeed for a long time I had a clash in the wrong place. At last opening the puzzle on Friday night, two hours later (on and off), I’d managed to nail down most of the top-right, but not much else. It took another couple of hours in the morning to get to a 90% full grid, but with that mistaken clash in 11ac (I had Redescribe, don’t ask me why…) I still couldn’t see what was going on. It was the bottom-left corner’s fault…

Then it all clicked. That weird-looking clue at 46ac looked like it needed a J and a K somewhere, but then JACEK isn’t a character in The Odyssey — and good thing too, since I would never have been able to fit anything at 27dn. But finally I found MUJIK (mu + I in JoKe), and the various letter pairs all made sense. “….ON TRAFF?CJAM” was emerging, and of course gave TRAFFIC JAM in somewhere (probably London). And the other letters give something-or-other SOLUTION.

So armed, I could repair the damage of some lazy work at the top of the grid to put REDECORATE at 11ac (Not parsed as Eco in Dr. + something, but as Red + Rate (drive by scolding) about Eco), and the rest followed rather quickly. Oh, and 27dn, that had confused me for ages, turned out to be DISHELMS from Dish + Elm + S… what a deceptive surface!

And at last, all that was left was to resolve all those clashes. But indeed that was rather quick: the “solution” to the “London traffic jam” problem was of course the Congestion Charge, introduced by that universally popular politician Mr. Ken Rivingshone.

And there’s the equaliser! I hope… some super clues, some that are perhaps just a little too tough, quite a few that only made sense once I had the answer by other means. But oh well, another fine puzzle by Lavatch and I’m looking forward to the next one.

4305 final

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Listener No 4305: Not a Blocked Grid by Lavatch

Posted by Dave Hennings on 22 August 2014

Lavatch’s last Listener had Swift’s Afric-maps as its theme, and I finished my blog with: “So, a real toughie, but well worth the struggle. I will add Lavatch to my list of setters who send a shudder down my spine.” That was No 4252: Carte Blanche. This week’s puzzle had all the bars, but was a 14×14 grid and, not surprisingly therefore, a fair few clues… 54 to be precise. Some long answers and some clashes would result in two letters in some squares and would reveal what to do in the endgame.

Listener 4305My first pass through the clues confirmed my suspicion that I was in for a fairly long solve. 12 was TEAR, 18 was PRE and 25 was SIMA. There were a couple of others, but with clues like 47 I put in order in court to use symbolism (10) for EGO in ALL RISE, I knew a bit of lateral thinking might help. I did notice that we were given the word lengths of the overlong answers rather than just the entry length, so a bit of assistance there.

I had pretty much the same lack of success with the down clues although 2 Cheat stops when in difficulties (4) was delightfully short and to the point, and 3 Feels silly meeting duke that’s inbred (6) gave SELFED, which was new to me. 7 TEREK and 8 SNARES at least gave the top of the grid some meat with which to work.

[It's a sign of something (suggestions on a postcard) when I can't solve a lot of the answers to a set of clues when preparing this blog two weeks after completing the puzzle!]

Anyway, after a couple of long, persistent sessions, the grid was nearly complete although I only had thirteen cells containing two letters. I wrote them down anyway:

? ? T D R N T R S O F U C J O ?
? ? N E O T H E A F L I T I A ?


At first, I thought I must have gone horribly wrong as nothing jumped out particularly quickly. I think it was the J in position 14 that, probably not in the middle or end of a word, enabled me to see TRAFFIC and then LONDON and JAM before and after that.

This left the instruction ENTER THE SOLUTION, and the CONGESTION CHARGE was, at least for me, an easy final step. I was also able to finish the grid with LEASES at 1ac, TOOTSY at 5ac and 43dn Dash shaking over motorway, almost run over (4) for BRIM… another tricky definition. All that remained was to highlight Red Ken in the eighth row.

Listener 4305 My EntryNow, I say I finished off the grid with LEASES at 1ac, which became CEASES in the final grid. However, it took me a few minutes to convince myself that it wasn’t LEASED/CEASED. The clue was What may be for instance covered by “country fields” (6). I read it as an &lit clue with AS (for instance) surrounded by LEES (country fields), leases4 being pasture.

So thanks to Lavatch for another testing puzzle, and what a delight to have two London-centric themes in a row ;-)

Posted in Solving Blogs | Leave a Comment »

Not a Blocked Grid by Lavatch

Posted by shirleycurran on 22 August 2014

LavatchI always appreciate it when the letter count at the end of the clue immediately identifies which solutions are going to behave differently. Of course, although we were told which eleven solutions had to have two letters squeezed into one, we still had to find five clashes. Looking back, on completion of the grid, I smiled when I realized that Lavatch had to include both devices in order to make his double message and the final entry letters fit into the grid – quite a feat.

I believe Lavatch is busy with a young family: I haven’t ever seen him in the happy drink till dawn gang at the Listener Setters’ dinner, so I had to do a careful run through his clues to check that he qualifies for the setters’ tipsy club but the evidence was there. He had ‘Wretched people dropping in for parties (5)’ (INSECTS less IN), ‘Local wanton imbibing foreign booze, shows old piercing (6)’ (RIVING = RIG round VIN) and ‘Glaswegian picks women’s drinks (W + ALES) so all was well.

August 1st is the Swiss national day, with a magnificent firework display as soon as night falls, so we set to with our solve at breakneck speed, and, with a few grunts of pleasure at some of the really subtle and rewarding clues, had the grid almost full before dinner. It became clear, very early on, that the clues with two letters squeezed into one cell were performing that trick in the unchecked cells, so clearly the five clashes were going to be in words where the endgame hadn’t permitted that.

Those clashes were the difficult ones to find and we struggled for a while trying to find a word STEM?S for ‘Incline to fill vessel in Highland springs (6) (to intersect with BRIM – ‘Dash shaking over motorway, almost run over (4) BRI(o) + M) It was the other Numpty who finally pronounced that to ‘stend’ is to bound in Scotland. Another of our Lavatch2clashes!

Of course, the top area of the grid was the tough part to complete as there were three clashes there, but I hit lucky and spotted that the letters we already had in the grid gave ???DON TRAFFIC JAM/ ???ER THE SOLUTION. It didn’t take much imagination to work backwards from that to LONDON. (Surely not another Londoncentric crossword after we ‘minded the gap’ just a week ago!) That gave us our final clues and clashes and I called to the London-based children who were clearing the supper dishes downstairs “What was the solution to the London Traffic Jam? And who was the ‘instigator’?” “Every fool know that! CONGESTION CHARGE – Ken Livingstone’s thing!” responded my son.

I had enjoyed the crossword, finding the clues difficult but compiled with Lavatch’s usual panache but it was his endgame that produced a broad smile. As each of those letters created a real word, or two real words where there were clashes, I was almost excited and remembered why we besotted Listener addicts do these things every Friday. BETHER and TRUSH held me up for a moment but then, of course KEN appeared, just south and east of symmetrical, and all was well.

Great stuff, thank you, Lavatch.

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Listener 4304, Warning!: A Setter’s Blog by Ozzie

Posted by Listen With Others on 20 August 2014

In 2008 I was in England for a 75th birthday celebration. While on the Tube in London one hears the phrase MIND THE GAP again and again. It occurred to me that it might be the basis of a puzzle: the phrase would appear in the finished grid but would not be clued. I remember reading a post on the Crossword Centre from Roddy Forman applauding those puzzles in which the clueing reflected the theme: so there was the possibility of introducing gaps in my clues – or some of them. I tucked the idea away: surely there had already been such a Listener puzzle? (I have been assured, not; though there was one entitled ‘Mind the Gap’ a couple of years ago.)

The next month I was in Bali for work – Ozzie is an Aussie, so Bali is in quite easy reach of my home, Sydney. I took my Chambers with me of course. (Three cheers for the phone app.) I was a guest in a beautiful compound set at the edge of a cliff overlooking a river and rice paddies; no sign of Western habitation. After my work was done I had plenty of time to sit and think, so I started on the grid.

I wanted the removal of the phrase to reveal words, some of which might have to leap across two, not necessarily consecutive, gaps. Rather than placing the phrase in three runs – 4, 3, 3 – which would not allow of symmetry, I would have just two: 4, 6. I was not sure whether the second would lie directly under the first. Then I thought of placing THE GAP where it lies, between TRAIN and PLATFORM. Hmm, asymmetry; but replace TRAIN with CARRIAGE, … I was away. I did not experiment a great deal; for instance, I did not try reversing their positions. Grid construction is less appealing to me than ideas for puzzles and clue-writing, but I found, to my surprise, that I proceeded quite quickly.

I did not expect to find very long words in the Downs that would, on the replacement of a letter, reveal other words in different partitionings, so I decided on a shape wider than high: 14×11. To ensure an acceptable average word-length I decided on long Downs at either side; and of course there would have to be rotational symmetry to assist in the final placement of bars. I was stymied in trying to find a ten-letter word to match ENDOSTATIN. So I e-mailed my colleague and test-solver, Dysart. (As I wrote in a previous setter’s blog, never has setter better vetter had.) I needed a ten-letter word beginning with ER and ending in L: was there such, by any fluke? There was: ERYTHRITOL.

The puzzle sent to Dysart was a good deal harder than the one eventually published. The grid was an unnumbered carte blanche with clues listed in conventional order, but without numbers, and not separated into Across and Down, the 11s and 10s bunched in the middle suggesting where the division might occur. Additionally, and perhaps unforgivably, it contained the entry IRON FE. And the ten thematic letters did not appear in phrasal order. Dysart is a doggedly persistent solver; he eventually conquered the beast, but advised, what I feared I knew, that IRON FE would never be accepted. He tweaked the grid to give OREOS and a word shorter than AFTER, which would have rid the puzzle of THEREAFTER: I was loath to do that. The Times Atlas came to my aid with IROISE, the only word that would have served. Subsequent testers urged revealing the ten letters in phrasal order. I had tried that and failed. I am not sure what versions they tested or which was submitted for publication initially, but I think it was no longer carte blanche, and had the ten letters jumbled. It entered that logjam that built up before the change of vetters started to free it.

The first response was to reveal in the preamble the nature of the tampering. I was reluctant to do this, as I thought that the penny-dropping moment might give pleasure to the solver. In the meantime I had persevered and found clues that gave the letters in correct order, and resubmitted. I should mention that at this stage in two clues the missing letter was at the beginning or ending of a word; I Intended that observant solvers would notice the double gap and be led to the nature of the tampering. Unfortunately, justification in printing does not guarantee even spacing, so those clues had to go.

I know that solvers do not enjoy insertion of bars. For my part, I very much like the way repartitioning reveals new words: I hope that that aspect of the puzzle may have partially compensated for the chore of bar-entry. I think that ARI woukd be a very doubtful entry were it not for the fact that it had been, elsewhere, a clued entry.

A personal note: there are a number of entries associated with the heart and heart problems – ERYTHRITOL, SERA, TYPE O, ENDOSTATIN, AORTA(L). Some may have also observed that AORTAS, reversed, occurs (it was clued in my final submission, but understandably rejected as both aesthetically displeasing and unnecessary). This was entirely unconscious; the year before, however, I had had a heart episode, fortunately got myself at 4:30am to a hospital, and, four stents later, my heart was right as rain. So the association may have been subconscious. For those who do not know, a stent is inserted through the GROIN.


Posted in Setting Blogs | 1 Comment »

Listener 4304: Warning! by Ozzie

Posted by Dave Hennings on 15 August 2014

Ozzie’s last Listener was back at the beginning of 2012 and featured a game of tic-tac-to(e). The endgame was quite tricky, and there were some equally tricky clues along the way. I expected nothing less with Warning!, especially as the preamble looked quite devious. Ten clues, and their entries, needed tampering in some way, and the final grid had to have exactly 73 bars added.

Listener 4304Luckily this week, we were told that there were only ten clues where tampering was required… it wouldn’t have been unusual for us to be told that “some clues” needed tampering. I decided to ignore this warning until I came across a clue that didn’t make sense.

1ac Four roods occupy a position about entrance to chancel (4) just needed a check in Chambers to find that four roods make an ACRE. A short while later and my run through the acrosses had revealed only six more answers, and three of those were puny three-letter entries: 15 RES, 18 RIN and 28 EAR. I also had 32 TYPE O and 37 STATING and I suspected that 19 Part of The Castle, second to Der Prozess’s start, follows their protagonist, one at mercy of state? (4) was KEEP: the E of dEr and the P of Prozess following K, the main character in those two Kafka novels (Der Prozess is The Trial); however reasoning behind the first E, presumably “one at mercy of state”, eluded me.

The downs proved equally tricky, although I did get 2 CHERIMOYERS and 14 TRISECTRIX so things looked promising. Also, 9 It’s excellent finding Republican wit in Onassis, say (3) was obviously ARI (from Aristotle Onassis) and it looked as though “wit in” needed to be tampered with to become “within”. Going back to 14ac The kind of river an earl enters later (10), that became THEREAFTER, with “river an” becoming “riverman”. I put 14ac in my grid with THERE on the left and AFTER symmetrically opposite on the right… well, why not, it fitted with EFT at 11dn.

I read through all the clues looking for others where a letter would fit between two words and help the clue make sense. 27ac had “Miss on” which was “Mission” and led to EMBASSY without SS to give EMBAY. Those two letters that needed restoring to the across clues were M I, and MIND THE GAP sprang to mind. I have been lucky recently that a lot of potentially tortuous head-scratching has been avoided by things just popping into my head. A short while later, and I identified most of the other letters in the downs… some would have to wait until I actually solved the clues. They would end up as follows:

14ac river an becomes     riverman
27ac Miss on Mission
6dn I set Inset
7dn With raw
kin led
8dn Livings on
con rolling
9dn wit in within
21dn cat ring catering
22dn qua gas quaggas
24dn car pace carapace
25dn car entered carpentered

A few minutes later, after I solved 16ac ERYTHRITOL, I saw that MIND would go in between the THERE and AFTER, and THE GAP could fit between the EMBA and Y of EMBAY, after all, it would have to be nicely in the centre of a row. This gave a future EMBATHE and GAP YEAR for when I got to the endgame. It also became evident that entries crossing the space where the theme phrase would fit jumped the gap, in some cases jumping both gaps and having two missing letters in their corresponding clues..

Some time later and the grid was complete. It was time to fit 73 bars into the grid and ensure that I ended up with 44 entries. Words like THEREMIN, CARRIAGE, PLATFORM and ENDOSTATIN, all formed from bits of other words, got the jigsaw off to a flying start, and I soon had all the entries placed but 75 bars — two too many!

It took a bit of time to see that ARS at the bottom of column 8 could become TARS with SIT being extended to SITA in column 7. I identified GAP YEAR and KEY MAN as the two phrases, and ADRIA and IROISE as the two place names. This left ARI and LAING as two of the personal names, and a quick check at the back of Chambers (2008) found SITA lurking there. I felt sorry for new solvers who may not have the First Names section of the 11th edition available. It has, apparently, been restored to the new 13th edition.

Listener 4304 My EntryThat just left the two singularities which needed to be made clear “(so the warning still applies)”. This obviously referred to the boxed-in T in the top row and L at the bottom. I erased the two letters since that seemed to be what was required, but part of me felt that there should be words jumping over these two gaps in the same way as TYR and THRIFT had in the original layout. I tried to see if my grid could be rejigged, but that got nowhere.

So thanks to Ozzie for a really fun puzzle — two in one really!

Posted in Solving Blogs | 2 Comments »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 31 other followers