Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin.

Primed to Begin by Spud

Posted by shirleycurran on 18 April 2014

Spud Gay Marriage 001Since that wonderful Rubik’s Cube crossword, way back was it in 2011, we have been looking forward to the next one by Spud. Here it was, with a very modest little preamble that seemed to be saying that we would be able to choose what to highlight, as long as we stayed within the 30 to 33-letter range and ‘five sections’. There was that standard device, ‘In most clues the wordplay leads to the answer with an extra letter that is not entered in the grid; these letters lead to advice to be followed when highlighting.’

Of course, anyone who has struggled to produce an entire message convincingly using misprints or third or fifth clue letters knows that this device is the most forgiving. Less forgiving was the message that we ultimately deciphered, since those repeated words at the start of clues were rather a giveaway. Your first vetter or test-solver would be saying, “You have used ‘Unchosen’ twice”: “You have ‘Highlighted’ and ‘Highlight’ in your clues, you’ll have to change one of them”, and so on. We spotted that hint immediately and attempted, at once, to make sense of the first clue words. But, of course, the device was nicely concealed in prime numbers, OBSERVE PRIME NUMBERED CLUE FIRST WORDS as we learned later.

That was to come. First, I did a quick run through to check that Spud qualifies for the Listener Setters ‘ Imbibers .Org. and, sure enough he was indulging in ‘Medicinal drink implicated in parts (6)’ giving PTISAN* with an extra R, and ‘Spirit, not ancient rum, swallowed by father (6)’ (PA round NE + [R]UM = PNEUMA).

Solving proceeded steadily for a couple of hours with that message slowly emerging though we had one Numpty red herring when we decided that the Indian bird had to be an ARGUS in the clue ‘Indian bird bears hurtful, seedy coverage (7)’ AR[G](ILL)US we parsed, producing a peculiar FIRGT in our message. Clearly it had to be FIRST. Back to Mrs Bradford, as usual, and she told us that a SARUS is an Indian bird too!

I have a list of primes saved as a favourite since a recent crossword, so the message was quickly revealed. HIGHLIGHT ONE OF FOUR COUPLES / UNCHOSEN NAMES FULLY OR MOSTLY HIGHLIGHTED COMING AS GUESTS. (A quick parenthesis here. As we solved, I was muttering “We don’t seem to be producing an additional letter in MOST clues” – and the math Numpty put me right, “MOST only has to be more than half – 34 out of 51 – that’s MOST.” The same with this MOSTLY highlighted.)

We immediately spotted what was going on; not one of those days of grid staring that some of us in the Listener-grid-staring-club commiserate about.  A WEDDING, PLEASE JOIN ADAM AND EVE, R.S.V.P. Then we saw STEVE and recalled something about a movie called Adam and Steve. We saw MAC and MIA too, lurking on the sidelines but the preamble was clear about ‘comprising five sections’ and they were marginalised and evidently not invited.

MOSTLY highlighted – clearly that meant that we could marry off ADAM and EVE, and STEVE would be ‘mostly’, or 3/5 highlighted and eligible as a guest, as would ADA, who would be ‘fully’ highlighted. Or we could marry ADAM to STEVE or EVE to ADA and so on. Just then, SKY News was talking about this weekend’s celebration of the legalisation of gay marriage in the UK, so, of course, we were reminded that this is a topical issue. (YET AGAIN! Hasn’t the media gone to town on this! They must be attempting to compensate for about a couple of centuries of ludicrous prudery and boring us all to tears with the fact that, at last, we are being treated like intelligent beings and allowed to cement relationships with whomsoever we like!)

Rant over! Did you notice that I had A WEDDING two paragraphs above. We were given free choice about what we highlighted with the constraints that it must be five sections and 30 to 33 cells. I wonder what JEG will do to an entry that highlights 31 cells inviting ADAM AND STEVE to A WEDDING of ADA AND EVE!

Thanks anyway, Spud. Piece of cake? Not quite! Let’s raise our glasses to the compiler and to the happy brides, grooms, whatever!



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

Listener 4287: Primed to Begin by Spud

Posted by Dave Hennings on 18 April 2014

Spud’s first Listener was over three years ago, with No. 4107 European Revolution. The theme there was Rubik’s Cube which now seems to be making a comeback… or didn’t it actually go away? This week, we had most clues with an extra wordplay letter — now was that going to be 26 of the 51 clues, or 50? Moreover, and somewhat unusually, we were to be given a choice as to how many cells to highlight in five sections of the grid.

Listener 4287A lot of the clues were fairly straightforward, and after fifty minutes, most of the NE and SW corners were complete. During this time, a couple of things crossed my mind. With 13ac Unchosen, finally dividing fresh gains — country vegetables (6), ‘unchosen’ seemed a strange word to use for its last letter. Even more strange, the word started off one of the down clues as well. Moreover, ‘highlight’ started off a couple of clues, as did ‘coming’ (although this didn’t stand out until much later).

At this point, I had the following letters from the wordplay: ob···rv···nu···ues···ir···t···or···, with the possibility of OBSERVE at the start and CLUES in the middle. I finished the remaining clues relatively smoothly, with a couple of pleasing &lits on the way: 20ac Jumbled, a mostly g[e]rmane answer (7) for ANAGRAM; and 32dn Rest [w]ho must be different (6) for OTHERS. The full message was then revealed as:

Observe prime numbered clues’ first words

Going through the across clues 13, 19, 37, 41, 43 and downs 2, 3, 5, etc, I got:

Unchosen fully coming as guests. Highlight one of four couples. Unchosen names, or mostly highlighted, coming

A puzzled look must have crossed my face as that sounded a bit dubious. It was alleviated a little by seeing the invitation that needed highlighting in five sections of the grid:


I looked for guests in the grid, only to be met with an army: Reg (two), Inga, Lew, Roy, Jo, Mac, Mia, Steve, Alf, Joy, a couple of Umas and a whole slew of Eds. I seemed spoilt for choice, so went back to the message spelt out by the first words of clues. Obviously, the way that was intended to resolve the rather weird message was to recognise the significance of the two ‘unchosens’ which were both at prime number 13, one across and one down. I can’t say that I consciously took this logical step, but I found myself writing the first words down in the order 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13 (just once), 17, etc. That made a much more satisfactory message:

Highlight one of four couples. Unchosen names, fully or mostly highlighted, coming as guests

Listener 4287 My EntryEverything thus became clear. The four possible couples were Adam and Eve (a total of 31 letters) or Ada and Steve (32 letters), or — and the whole point of the puzzle — Ada and Eve (30 letters) or Adam and Steve (33). The date of the puzzle is the date on which same-sex marriages became legal in the UK. The guests names were the ones not chosen as marriage partners.

So, despite the somewhat circuitous route of getting there, thanks to Spud for a really fun outing. This is probably the closest link between a Listener puzzle and a current event that there has been.

Posted in Solving Blogs | Leave a Comment »

No Robbery by Radix

Posted by shirleycurran on 11 April 2014

RoddyNumpty surprise. There is a Mango solution this week (the Vivaldi Four Seasons), then I open No. 4286 and it is set by Radix, with the addition to the preamble that ‘This puzzle is published posthumously, as Radix (Roddy Forman) died in January. His family has instigated the Radix Auditorium Jug, a new prize to be awarded each year for the first-time Listener solver who sends the most correct entries. The first recipient will be the best new solver for entries from this puzzle to the end of 2014.’

What a beautiful trophy it is too. We were able to get a preview of it at the Listener Setters’ Dinner which took place in Cheltenham the following evening with an astonishing 140-strong company but sadly, no Roddy.  Sadly, especially at the end, when Roddy’s charismatic presence with the late group in the bar at 4 a.m. was lacking (I was ticked off for calling them stragglers this year – they were ‘the intellectual giants who could stay the course’.)

I have my doubts that the new solver who earns that distinguished trophy will start his (or her) solve with this week’s astonishing compilation but perhaps there is another solver like Roddy himself,  Simon Long or Neil Talbot waiting in the wings.  I wish her good luck and hope that one day, she has a shot at this crossword.

There was no Numpty need to scan the clues to see whether Radix qualified for the Listener Setters’ Distinguished Oenophile Elite, with James Leonard, he was a founder member, but it wasn’t the ‘[Cooly] to search north of the border when Senor imports liquor of French origin (5)’ (SR round KIR = SKIRR) in his hand in that photo of last year’s finale in the bar, but a glass of his favourite malt.

Fair Exchange is No RobberyOf course, we started by admiring that beautifully symmetrical grid. A model grid!

I’ve said it before: a Mango or Radix crossword is bound to be impeccably set, so we launched into our solve with a confident smile and slotted in solutions with ease, pleasure … and growing consternation. They just didn’t fit together! What was going on? With two-thirds of the clues solved we had realized that only the clues where a word was to be removed could go into the grid, so we created a skeleton grid with the words LATELY, MINT, REENTER, SKIRR, SPOUSAGE, SEE, AT HOME, TIER, ACADEME, ISOTHERM, ETUDE and EYE.

Mystified now, we attempted to work out the way that letters and words were to move, as not a single one made sense to us. This was not typical Radix. First penny-drop-moment (and I had been ‘on-the -solve’ now for about six hours) – I kicked myself. ‘No Robbery’, I should have realized hours ago that that was telling me which twelve letters were moving and my FA??E??HANGE resolved itself to FAIR EXCHANGE.

Didn’t Roddy have us struggling to cope with Base 24 some weeks ago? The next break-through was to think alphanumerically (Aaah so that was what that word ‘Added’ in the preamble was telling us. When will I learn to listen to the message I keep spelling out in the Numpty blog? READ THE PREAMBLE!) We had to add those single letters to the words that were clearly the intruders in the twelve clues identified by those letters.

So ‘Girl who may wish to gulls two girls with sailor returning [f]are (9)’ was telling us to add F (=6) to GULLS, getting MARRY, and we had a coherent explanation of INAMORATA, which we had already entered into the grid. Some alphanumeric calculation followed and we were able to justify a number of words that hadn’t quite convinced us before: ARIOSTO, ATOCIA, DRAFTEE, (oh how clever, that OZ + E = 5, gave us the TE that anagrammed with F[e]ARED to justify DRAFTEE – this really was spectacular compilation!) LEADERENE, OILSKIN, NATURE (was that a mildly smutty clue? I had to ask the other Numpty to explain the ‘creative JISM’ that seemed to appear when I added H (=8) to BAKE – but this was already dazzling us by its ingenuity and we hadn’t finished!), PERSEVERE, AMAUROSIS, ARRANGE and RECIPE.

Almost all of those words had already been slotted into the grid because they were the only Chambers words that would fit or because, like AMAUROSIS, they were clearly related to the definition word ‘blindness’, but that was not so with the remaining 12 words that seemed to have no relationship at all with the clued word. Obviously LADYBUGS was clued by ‘North American predators fancy bald guys (8)’ (You flatter the bald gang, Roddy, I think they go for the Leonardo di Caprio filmy types!) but we were entering something like FISTICAL.

Several clues had unambiguous solutions and we could enter MEDUSA, ILL and ACTIN but why was I entering ILL when the clue gave me EWE (‘Crone’s an old one – jug’s not right (3)’ EWER less R)? By this time it was after midnight and hailstones and snow were beating on the windows – and we had to drive south from the Dales to Cheltenham in a few hours, so I decided to sleep on it.

Brainwave and Numpty red herring at 4 a.m. Add EWE and it comes to 33 and so does ILL. I spent those F. Scott Fitzgerald hours (between midnight and the dawn when the past is all deception and the future futureless) doing mental calculations that didn’t work, but, of course, the seed of the solution was there and Roddy, with typical kindness led the way with that other preamble word that we should have listened to. LIKEWISE.

Of course, those twelve extra words had to be added to words of the same length to give the entry word, so we were adding DOG to EWE to get ILL, ALL to MOD to get NAP, THOUGHTS to LADYBUGS to get FISTICAL. How long did it take Roddy to find such astonishing fits AND to disguise them so convincingly in clues?

It was a joyous downhill coast now, adding EDAM to GAGE = LEHR, LIQUIDLY + FRANKEST = RARITIES, ACTS + FOAL = GRUE, BATHING + ANTLIAE = CONTROL, CINEMA + BEEPED = ENSURE, BLESS + COOLY = EATER, TOILET + SPUING = MEDUSA (I am sure Roddy is up there somewhere smiling about that one – I am), INEPT + ROOST + ACTIN. I could even work backwards to the clue we hadn’t solved and find that IMMERSE minus FELLERS gave us CHASMAL (‘Contralto’s complaint, I’m not really gorgeous! (7)’ C + HAS MAL).

Sorry, this an unusually long Numpty blog, but then again, it was an unusually long Numpty solve and an unusually stunning piece of setting.

Thank you Roddy for everything.

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Listener 4286: No Robbery! by Radix

Posted by Dave Hennings on 11 April 2014

This week was the Listener Crossword Setters’ Dinner in Cheltenham. To coincide, we had a crossword by the late (and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say great) Radix. Here we had letters and words taken away and added somewhere else, as well as twelve normal clues. As always with Radix, special care had to be taken with the preamble wording… a warning that I didn’t take enough notice of here!

Listener 4286At first glance, the wording of 1ac seemed a bit strange: Girl who may wish to gulls two girls with sailor returning fare (9). In speech, it would be said as Girl, who may wish to, gulls two girls, but here the commas were missing and I didn’t really ask myself why. I decided to move on to 7ac which led to MOD, so was, I assumed, a normal clue. The entry in such cases had to be deduced, so MOD was pencilled in lightly.

10ac North American predators fancy bald guys (8) looked like an anagram of ‘bald guys’. Apart from wondering if an eagle was trying to get out, I failed here too. 17ac A skunk and one ai revealing what might be unwelcome in fur (6) looked as though it was coming to my rescue with ATOC (a skunk) + I (one) + A (ai) and the I from ‘ai’ needing to move somewhere, presumably to correct the definition ‘what might be unwelcome in fur’. Some rescue… as I hadn’t a clue what was intended.

27ac Conscript in Oz feared being bullied (7) seemed like it should be DRAFTEE, but where did Oz come in, and what supplied the extra T needed for the anagram. 29ac was a normal clue giving BEEPED so needed to be deduced, and 32ac Judge all students initially with errors excepted (3) was SEE with an extra word ‘all’.

With the down clues, 1 was normal and gave EWE, 4 seemed to have ‘spuing’ as an extra word (too weird not to be), as was ‘liquidly’ in 14. Apart from ACADEME at 6 (extra word ‘bathing’), ETUDE at 25 (extra word ”inept’) and EYE at 30 (extra word ‘dog’), that was my lot. Indeed, there was a lot going on, but exactly what proved elusive.

I decided to get some help with the ‘bald guys’ anagram, and was amused that they weren’t giant predators, but very small ones in the form of LADYBUGS. Well, the sixth letter crossed the C of ACADEME at 6dn, so it wasn’t just jumbles that needed to be deduced for the normal clues. Well, it was unlikely to be anything so mundane anyway.

13ac Italian who wrote poetic words to arias too (7) looked like it should be ARIOSTO with an extra A in the anagram fodder ‘arias too’, but what was the anagram indicator? Mrs B helped me with AMAUROSIS at 13dn In my country I ween condition is blindness (9), but I couldn’t make head or tail of the wordplay at all.

Eventually 3dn enabled me to see the light with If getting up after cold, fleece and waterproof is the answer (7). OILSKIN could be constructed from O (cold) + LI reversed + SKIN (fleece). What if the LI was IF with each letter increased by C, ie 3? So the C was taken away from one word and added to each letter of another.

I went back to 17ac and added I=5 to ‘fur’ to give ‘oda’, a harem, where sterility would be frowned upon, and 13ac where A=1 enabled ‘to’ to become the anagram indicator ‘up’. It didn’t take long to suspect that the words that had to be removed from clues would each be added to the answer to a normal clue to give its entry. 7ac MOD + ALL = NAP and 1dn EWE + DOG = ILL confirmed this and I was home and dry.

Listener 4286 My EntryWell… almost. The letters which got taken away and added spelt out Fair Exchange, the alternate title. And I had to make sure that I understood all of Radix’s devious clueing. For example, remember AMAUROSIS at 13dn In my country I ween condition is blindness (9)? That needed the N=14 from ‘wee’ to be added to ‘my’ to give AM + A (a dialectic form of I) + UROSIS (a condition of the urinary tract).

All that was left was to marvel at the likes of LADYBUGS + THOUGHTS = FISTICAL, BEEPED + CINEMA = ENSURE and FRANKEST + LIQUIDLY = RARITIES. I had a sneaky feeling that I had come across this technique before where two words were added together to give a third—probably a Radix puzzle—but it remained just a sneaky feeling.

And so, another fine puzzle from Radix is complete. Will this be his last? The note alongside the puzzle doesn’t seem to preclude this. If it is, however, then a huge thankyou to him for all the entertainment over the years.

Posted in Solving Blogs | 1 Comment »

Now You See It by Mr E

Posted by shirleycurran on 4 April 2014

Mr E Toothpaste 001Now you see it: now you don’t – well that was just about how I felt for a long time about Mr E’s latest offering. Apart from that hated word ‘jumbles’, the preamble offered nothing daunting and a quick read through confirmed that Mr E retains his ticket for the Listener Setter’s imbibing club, with a couple of tipply clues, ‘Step on it when entering to provide soldiers with punch (7) (not much alcohol there really DO + OR + MAT) and ‘America taxes belts of hard stuff (6)’ (A + TOLLS). My read through did confirm that there was a fine set of surface readings here, even if, like those two, most were very deceptive – as was definitely intended.

Still, the other numpty was remarkably on form and in about an hour, we had an almost complete grid with a good sense of where our five jumbled clues were going to be. They were, not surprisingly, the last ones we solved. I suppose that says a lot about our solving technique (or mine, at least) which depends very much on the letters that are already in the grid for suggesting words that I then attempt to relate to the definition – that is the reason, I think, for my loathing of jumbles.

All the same, FISHING TACKLE did seem to fit the clue for 36 across, and we had a lot of the letters already in place, suggesting that TACKLE would remain unchanged, leaving us to work out that an anagram of THINGS was going into the middle of ‘unsteady’ or FICKLE, and the letters already in place suggested that INSIGHT was the word we were going to be using. After all, it did relate, rather cleverly, to the title ‘Now You See It’ and to the EPHEMERAL that had slotted in at 17 across.

The Numpty red herring? Of course there was. We learned that HEFT was another name for what we call a sheep cote, and that suggested that our lakeland word, HAWSE, was going to be entered as ASH WE. We already had LINNET (a lovely clue, the reverse of TEN NIL ‘Bird upset by one-sided result (6)’) entered as what could become I LENT N, so were we looking for something to do with Ash Wednesday and Lent? There was a TREE in TREETL ‘One formerly preventing sin, say (6)’ which might have rood connotations – but it didn’t quite gel did it? Especially as our last jumble was GRATE, entered as TAGER. Oh yes, of course we had first wondered whether it could be TIGER as he, too, has bars ‘This has some bars and spaces larger than others, I’d say (5)’ but it was difficult to justify the spaces, and, anyway, we needed a fifth jumble.

So there we were: a full grid to stare at and something to do with INSIGHT to resolve. We muttered and fumed and got nowhere, so slept on it and, when I woke in the morning, I had almost seen the light. It occurred to me that TAGER needed a couple of Es round it to make ETAGERE – a real word, and Mr E might have considered that EE to have something to do with sight (well it has in Scotland!) So I fed the other offenders into TEA with asterisks around them and gave a hoot of joy (and kicked myself soundly) when STREET LIGHT, SILENT NIGHT, SASH WEIGHT and STAGE RIGHT all offered themselves with SIGHT neatly enclosing the offending jumbles.

There was one last step and it took the other numpty about five seconds to spot a word that ‘might be found jumbled in another sense’. “Well”, he said, “It is most likely to be TASTE round something – TOOTHPASTE, for example”. Of course, there it was – PHOTO. Nice one, Mr E.

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


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 31 other followers