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Round by Lavatch

Posted by shirleycurran on 20 January 2017

lavatch-round-001We had a large grid here and a title that set us thinking. ‘Round’? Was Lavatch footing the bill for the first round at the bar at the Listener annual drinkie? I checked his right to his ticket and found evidence at once. ‘Glaswegian’s to gulp drink and cut jaw clumsily (6)’ We’re heading up to join the rest of the family for a Glaswegian Hogmanay tomorrow so WAUCHT is a familiar word and that gave us our first corrected misprint with CUT JAW having to become CUT HAW*.

That’s the trouble with the misprint device, isn’t it? Even in a competent set of clues like this lot, there are some rather glaring anomalies. ‘Surveyor’s red, by lake, showing colder period in glacier (7)’. No, Lavatch wasn’t talking of the surveyor’s Zinfandel or Merlot, it had to be the obvious rod and gave us STADIA + L. And who’s heard of a ‘satin bear’? ‘Satin bear’s fur sadly somewhat worn away (4)’ That had to be Latin, rather spoiling Lavatch’s empathetic picture of the poor worn out bear, so we opted for URSA (hidden).

There was red wine though: ‘Vineyards turning quiet start to sell vintage malts (9)’ CRUS< EASE + S. Sadly these were not vintage malts at all but the old word for HALTS – surceases. Then later in the clues things became lively: ‘A pair of ravers behind clubs offering revel (7)’ Slight disappointment again when the ravers turned out to be two Rivers (R and OUSE) but there was a CAROUSE anyway so I think Lavatch earns his admission. See you at the bar, Lavatch – Cheers!

This was a speedy and steady grid fill for us, that was moved forward and completed in one big p.d.m. when CATHERINE was the only word that would fit one of the unclued lights. FERRIS, MILL, GEAR, ESCAPE, DAISY, CART, STAR and PRAYER quickly followed and, of course, there was a familiar quotation from King Lear just where it clearly had to be, circling the centre. THE WHEEL IS COME FULL CIRCLE. That is fairly appropriate for a crossword that will appear in The Times tomorrow morning, the last day of the year.

No hare

No hare

I wonder how many solvers wondered about that intriguing phrase in the pre-ramble: ‘those of their unchecked letters that are inside a thematic area are all different’. Oh my, how careful the editors are being (obviously determined to avoid another HARE event – well, I had to mention that elusive hare, didn’t I?) I spent ages attempting to see what some solver, determined to be cussed, might have highlighted and of course there it was; you can have a GEAR WHEEL but your car might also have a REAR WHEEL. That is pre-empted since the unchecked R of CATHERINE is within the thematic area. Clever!

Thank you, Lavatch.

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‘Round’ by Lavatch

Posted by Encota on 20 January 2017

A gentle puzzle to end 2016 – many thanks to Lavatch.  And many thanks to all at The Listener for a very enjoyable 2016 of puzzles!

At the end of Her Majesty’s 90th birthday year, it was excellent to see her featured as ER, along with MARA, that ever-appearing hare-like creature returning, in such a Smiley fashion.  It must be a sign – for a better 2017 perhaps…


But more seriously…the solving path for me went something like this:

The use of ‘inside’ in the Preamble plus a Title of ‘Round’ meant a closed shape would be required; so when ?ERRI? appeared on Row 1 after solving a few clues then FERRIS and therefore WHEEL looked like the way forward.  CATHERINE went in quickly as did a few more.

As the Instruction began to appear as HIGHLIGHT THE ?ATI? QUOTATION IN SYMMETRICAL FORM, I confess that I did start by fooling myself that the missing ‘word’ was probably LATIN with the L somehow coming from YEARN changing to LEARN – and thus spent a few moments scanning the Grid for some Latin words – then the C appeared and I realised that THE ?ATI? was actually all one word, THEMATIC, so reading overall:

After completing the Grid then, as usual, I entered the ‘gridstare phase’, which I am normally pretty slow at; luckily, however, I spotted WHEEL on a diagonal in the NE of the puzzle and, with a slight change to the L selected, soon spotted the full circle (in more ways than one).  A quick double-check to be sure the unchecked letters (G, R, E, S, H) within the circle were all different and that one of those was repeated just outside the circle (R), and all was solved.  THE WHEEL IS COME FULL CIRCLE.

So ends my first ever year of attempting The Listener.  I’ve submitted all 52, though have little idea how accurate I have been: if I manage 80-90% correct then I will be very happy!

Finally, a belated Happy New Year to All involved with The Listener!  I look forward to meeting some of you again at the annual dinner in a couple of months.

Tim / Encota

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Listener No 4431: Round by Lavatch

Posted by Dave Hennings on 20 January 2017

Lavatch’s last Listener was over two years ago with no. 4161 Not a Blocked Grid. This had London’s Congestion Charge as its theme, which had been introduced in 2003 by everyone’s favourite politician, Ken Livingstone. [Ed: not mine!] This week was the last puzzle of 2016, and we had misprints to unravel in all the clues and nine unclued entries to complete. The corrections to misprints would spell out an instruction.

listener-44315ac had some bizarre animal shenanigans going on with Monkey seizing dog perhaps is displaying interest in crow (8). 10ac Bell getting hammered with pause being likely (9) was an almost straightforward anagram (‘Bell’ was ‘Bill’) giving PLAUSIBLE. With 15ac’s ‘Latin bear’ URSA and 16ac’s GOATHERDS, the top of the grid started well.

A flurry of down entries then got slotted in together with a few more acrosses, including APPETISE at 10ac (see above with ‘chow’ for ‘crow’). The top right came together fairly well, followed by the top left. After about 40 minutes, it looked as though the instruction was going to require us to highlight something.

As I expected from Lavatch, there were some fine clues with some entertaining surface readings. My favourite had to be 23ac A lot of edible grain for a chou in pâtisserie? (5), where ‘chou’ had to become ‘thou’ to give French for a thousand, MILLE.

My only discomfort was caused by MYRRHY at 38, which the preamble said was in the ODE; it’s not in mine, but is in the OED. Still, Costs of musky reindeer, heady like fragrant substance (6) could hardly be anything else, especially if you changed ‘costs’ to ‘coats’!

After about two hours, my grid was complete. The corrections spelt out Highlight thematic quotation in symmetrical form. THE in row 3 was a bit of a help, and it wasn’t long before I had “THE WHEEL IS COME FULL CIRCLE” from King Lear Act V, Scene III. I felt sure I had come across this quotation in a recent crossword, but the only one I could find was Kea’s Independent Weekend puzzle, What Goes Around… way back in June 2005.

listener-4431-my-entryAll the unclued entries were types of wheel: FERRIS, MILL, ESCAPE, GEAR, DAISY, CATHERINE, CART, STAR, PRAYER. I assumed that the proviso about unchecked letters of thematic words was to distinguish GEAR from REAR, which appears in Chambers in the phrase rear-wheel drive.

All in all, a nice leisurely end to the year, even if your New Year’s Eve festivities caused somewhat mental fuzziness well into January! [Ed: no sympathy!] Thanks, Lavatch.

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G & S by Pilcrow

Posted by shirleycurran on 13 January 2017

pilcrow-001Carte blanche with just the bars in it. Are we going to convert this into a set of fancy Christmas decorations or have Rudolph, Dasher, Donner and Blitzen and all that lot prancing round our final grid? We expect something Christmassy for the Christmas weekend. With that in mind, I do that essential check to see whether Pilcrow is imbibing the Listener Christmas spirit It’s a fairly dry run to begin with: I spot some BOVRIL, ‘[Intriguing] extract from first half of dance entertaining Queen Victoria (6)’ BOL(ero) around VRI, and tease out PORTER from ‘Songwriter [refuses] liquor (6)’ (double definition) but then realize that Pilcrow is benefiting from a hidden bar, ‘Missing opening of Thespis, drag oneself along to find [hidden] bar (4)’ (TRAIL less T(hespis) – so all is well. Cheers, Pilcrow.

These are very generous clues, and, since we have colour-coded the solution lengths and matched them to the spaces in the grid, we know that we are hunting for a 10,7 couple of solutions that will spell out our song title of four words.

Our usual weakness is spotting extra words in grids but only one of these escapes us. Later, back-solving, we have to work out why ‘chamber’ is the extra word in ‘Overtures of Pirates and Iolanthe begin-old fashioned piped [chamber] music (7)’ giving P I + BROCH.

However, even though the first 20 clues we solve produce lots of encouraging Vs and Bs, we have half the solutions before a lucky intersection of PIBROCH and OBVERSE allows us to start our grid fill. That was a good hour of solving but things speed up now and soon we have a full grid (and have to take a dinner break with storm Barbara battering on the windows).


Golden Hare hurtling down column three

I was expecting the end game to be laborious but after listing those first and last letters of just a few clues in conventional order, I smile happily. JOHN CAGE’S FOUR MINUTES THIRTY THREE SECONDS,  I am told. I don’t need to go to the Internet to know what that is telling me. Didn’t Cage instruct his musicians to play no notes? Nature’s sounds would be music enough?

Quite a few red herrings weren’t there? We found almost too many Gilbert and Sullivan prompts to be taken in, then expected another Simon and Garfunkel hit – say a ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ to be our theme but we were a bit more (or less?) highbrow than either of those with Cage.

I am left with ERASE EVERYTHING BUT THE NOTES IN CAGE’S PIECE. Am I really being told to send an empty grid or am I to leave ‘THE SOUND OF SILENCE’? Clearly the editors foresaw my dilemma, or Pilcrow did, since the preamble says very clearly that ‘the solver must alter all 40 entries to form the final submission’. Well, I can hear (not HARE but yes, the golden HARE is there in a straight line racing down column three!) my friends grumbling about having to send an empty grid but I liked it. Thank you, Pilcrow.


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‘G & S’ by Pilcrow

Posted by Encota on 13 January 2017

A classic Listener!  Almost in the ‘elaborate hoax’ category, many of the clues were heavily based on Gilbert & Sullivan’s works.  With a title like ‘G & S’ it’s simply about them and theirs, isn’t it?

Umm…no.  Or, to put it another way, do be serious.  This is The Listener, after all!  [If you aim to be that straightforward in crossword-land you’ll be telling me that ‘Supply pants (7,10)‘ is an M&S order next 😉 ]

The reason I’d label this one a classic is what feel to me like two ‘right-angle turns’ along the solution path.  You know the sort, you think you are heading in one direction, only to find the path turns a right-angle and you are heading somewhere entirely different.  And then it happens all over again…

So the G&S-based clues led to entries that fitted in surprisingly straightforwardly.  Having cold-solved (ok, with a hint towards the first letter) around two-thirds of the clues, my starting point was the two six-letter words sharing a first letter in what turned out to be 23a and 23d.  There were at most three possible pairs, given what I hadn’t at that time solved, so I picked the pair of WIDGET and WOMBAT and placed the appropriate 3-letter word (ACE) in place to fit with them.  From then on entries started sliding into place quite quickly.  However, I soon then got to the stage where the only word that could fit in at 4d was SILENCE but it wasn’t in the Answers….

It was a simple leap from there to realising the that the four-word Song included would be THE SOUND OF SILENCE by Simon & Garfunkel – another G&S, of sorts – what a sweet Title!  As soon as the missing letters started spelling out JOH… I guessed the rest (it was JOHN CAGE’S FOUR MINUTES THIRTY THREE SECONDS) and all that was left was to find the other phrase…

This one spelt out ERASE EVERYTHING BUT THE NOTES IN CAGE’S PIECE (my apostrophe).  4:33 famously contains no notes, so that appears to say ERASE EVERYTHING.  So the only decision left for me was how to interpret ‘everything’:

  1.  I was planning to leave my Name & Address on my entry, so they are staying!
  2. Clearly all Letters should be erased;
  3. There is no Enumeration in the original grid so clearly there should be none in the Solution;
  4. What about the Bars?  I decided that must be an optional delete – I don’t think The Listener is sponsored by Tippex, so I’d be surprised if we are being forced to remove all bars & gridlines, though I suspect it cannot be marked wrong either.  Hope I’m right.
  5. I think the outside square of the grid must remain, otherwise it might be hard to claim you’d not forgotten to send in your puzzle entry, as per the Preamble.

With 4:33 featuring I think there might have been some choices of relevant puzzle number – but I don’t think that has happened here(?)

Cheers all!

Tim / Encota

PS Great to see 2017’s must-have Xmas present already featuring in Column 1 – the STRESS WOMBAT.  (Potentially available in all good stores).

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