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Hotfoot by Vismut

Posted by shirleycurran on 15 January 2021

The last Listener crossword of the year and what a pleasure to see that it is by a lady setter. We already saw Vismut at the start of the year and have also solved one of Skylark’s compilations, but ladies still produced less than 8% of the year’s Listener output. One has to wonder why there is this massive imbalance.

However, Vismut speedily qualifies for the Listener Setters’ Elite Oenophile Set with, ‘Wicked enough to get drunk [messenger] to mislay second letter (6)’. It is Christmas day so she has an excuse, maybe, and we remove the second letter of SKINFUL to produce SINFUL. She declares an alcohol preference with, ‘Spirits essentially short, unless mixed (7)’. We mix UNLESS with the heart of ‘shOrt’ and get ENSOULS. With that skinful of spirits, short or mixed, “Cheers! Vismut.

‘Hotfoot’. It’s an intriguing title (we wonder – are we going to meet Brer Rabbit or ‘The boy stood on the burning deck’?)  We are told that there are seven extra words in clues and that a word’s ‘position in the clue indexes a letter from the answer. These words and letters identify most of a work …’ That is Vismut’s special device that we have already met in her puzzles – a pleasant change from misprints and extra letters in wordplay.

We also have to find the ‘rest of’ that work in the grid and change it to identify a second work.

Ah but then we read that down clues will contain ten misprints of one letter in the definition (misprints after all, but only ten!) and that corrections will ‘spell out a hint to what else solvers must change in the grid, to reveal the second work’s creator’.

It is ‘jollity’ that gives us our penny-drop-moment. The other Numpty with his encyclopaedic knowledge of trivial detail says, “Jollity, Winged Messenger, Magician, Mystic? Those are Holst’s Nicknames for the characters in his Planets Suite.” and Wiki produces the list for us. So we spotted ‘Old’ and ‘Age’ in two more clues, even in the order they appear in the list, though War and Peace were not there.

  • Mars, the Bringer of War (1914)
  • Venus, the Bringer of Peace (1914)
  • Mercury, the Winged Messenger (1916)
  • Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity (1914)
  • Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age (1915)
  • Uranus, the Magician (1915)
  • Neptune, the Mystic (1915)

Of course, we understood when ‘Copper’s village emptied before star shown around (5)’ gave us V(illag)E + SUN< which spelled VENUS “That’s a reference to copper in alchemy,” proclaimed the erudite Numpty. We had to find MARS and there was the Bringer of War hiding at the left of the grid. We saw HOLST there too, down the leading diagonal – naturally!

The corrected misprints spelled out TITLE ODDLY, and we wondered, for a while what we were going to do with the PLANETS SUITE but then realized that the odd letters of the crossword title HoTfOoT spell out H to T. What a delightful endgame. We change the H of HOLST to T and TOLSTOY obligingly appears so we need to change MARS and VENUS to WAR and PEACE. Most satisfactory, thank you Vismut!

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Listener No 4638: Head-start Clues by Elgin

Posted by Dave Hennings on 8 January 2021

It really doesn’t seem nearly three years since Elgin’s last Listener. That was the fabulous puzzle about the Ealing Comedy film The Ladykillers with the railway signal dropping down on Alec Guiness’s head. Whatever this week’s theme, I knew we’d be in for a treat. Not only that, it would probably be tough. My spy tells me that all of Elgin’s puzzles over at Magpie have been grade D… apart from one which was an E!

No great clueing mischief this week, just six cells with clashes, a couple of ‘head-start clues’ which helped some hunters, and a handful of unclued entries.

Tackling the acrosses proved less than fruitful with only a [insert quite a low number here] solved on first pass through. Luckily the downs were more forthcoming and fleshed out the top of the grid more than I was expecting. Unfortunately, I hadn’t come across any clashes. That was hardly surprising, given that I only had six non-clashes.

Gradually, the top of the grid was nearly done and 1 6 looked like it would be FISHER KING. I knew that he had Arthurian connections but I decided that it was too early to start consulting any reference material like Wiki or Brewer’s or the two books I have.

As suspected, the clues were tough, with one or two being really quite devious. My favourites included 15ac Settles comfortably and starts to eat naughty cakes containing a drop of cream (9) for ENSCONCES [E(ats) N(aughty) + SCONES around C(ream)]. This struck a nerve since these lockdowns seem to have got me eating and drinking too much! 5ac She flies in part where earth and fire erupt (3) was an unusual double-hidden — (whe)RE E(arth) and (fi)RE E(rupt).

Before the grid was finished, I had identified GAWAIN, LANCELOT and PERCEVAL as three of the knights. Luckily BORS was revealed by all the crossing entries as I’d not heard of him. Unluckily, I made a right pig’s ear of 14dn by entering him as PERC-I-VAL which made 30ac impossible as I..I.! I also had a brain freeze with 16dn Second out of three sets upset some players (8) which seemed to be (THREE SETS – S)* but was in fact (SET + SET + SET – S)*.

Eventually though, the grid was complete and on to the endgame. What a treat that was.

Starting from the p in row 1, there for all to see was SIR GALAHAD jumping in knight’s moves (ie thematically) with the fifth and eighth letters filling out the isolated squares. Perceval was featured in the writing of Chrétien de Troyes with his name being spelt out by the letters a to p in the grid. The head-start clues led to BLOOD and GRAIL being cryptic references to de Troyes book on Perceval where “a loathly lady enters the court and admonishes Perceval for failing to ask his host whom the grail served and why the lance bled, as the appropriate question would have healed the wounded king.” At least I think it was just a cryptic reference. These were especially sneaky since they were 5-letter answers for 6-letter entries.

So these entries were BR…E and .L..ES and had to be filled with the unused letters from the clashes to give two items negotiated by a more modern hunter. Well those letters were ENOAIS and no amount of squeezing would fit those letters in the grid. One solver has coined GWIT for Guess What I’m Thinking. For me, this was WTF (pardon my language)!

The only more modern hunter I could think of was Indiana Jones, one of whose films was The Last Crusade. A bit of research on that film revealed three obstacles he overcame, including a BRIDGE and BLADES. Well they fitted, but where did the IRGLAS come from?

Don’t ask me when I came across the solution. I think it was after rereading the preamble for the umpteenth time and seeing if there was another “lettered top-row cell”. Indeed, starting from letter f in the top row, we had INDIANA JONES, again going in knight’s moves but this time right to left, through the isolated squares up to the p square in the top.

A bit of GRAIL highlighting finished this phenomenal puzzle. Very many thanks, Elgin.

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Head-start Clues by Elgin

Posted by shirleycurran on 8 January 2021

At the end of the Listener year we always expect a slightly more difficult crossword so it was no surprise to see Elgin’s name at the head of this one – and an unusual grid. Eight lines of preamble were rather a lot to take in at first sight so we poured ourselves strong ones and I hunted through the clues to see how Elgin fares in the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Elite.

He didn’t do too badly. It would be mildly rude to use his final solution ‘Going north to south at Hogmanay – au contraire (3)’. We turned TO S round and got a SOT (which Chambers tells us is ‘au contraire’ in Scotland). Our sot was passing the port round the wrong way. ‘Port after opening. passed round the wrong way (6)’ We opted for ODESSA for our port O and (p)ASSED<. ‘Ground provided with bars (6)’ gave us a double definition GRATED but with all those bars, and the port, our sot is certainly fine. We couldn’t solve ‘Who is served from yonder vessel (6)’ but were told ‘they now have no answers’ with regard to that clue, so we assume it is our setter. Cheers, Elgin!

The clues were surprisingly easy for Elgin creations though we were bemused by ‘Second out of three sets upset some players (8)’ until we realised that we had to ‘upset’ or anagram SET SET and (s)ET, giving us SESTETTE.

By a stroke of luck, BORS appeared very quickly and (going back to my Waste Land and The Golden Bough studies) I was able to spot GAWAIN, LANCELOT, the FISHER KING and PERCIVAL in our grid. Yes, we needed to spell out CHRETIEN DE TROYES to realise that it was the spelling PERCEVAL that we needed to give us an ELOIN/GRATED clash.

Head-scratching now as we battled with the second half of the preamble. Clearly we were back with knights’ moves (Sabre will be enjoying this!) but a putative SIR GALAHAD turned into SIR GAA gobbledygook and, in any case, we needed a ‘successful’ ‘more modern’ hunter who had to negotiate the two items that were going to fill 33d and 44ac (our empty lights). Of course, reading those knights’ moves in the other direction produced INDIANA JONES and a visit to Wikipedia told us (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade):

‘Indy safely overcomes the traps (which include fast-moving saw blades, a word puzzle, and a hidden bridge over a bottomless pit) and reaches the Grail’s chamber, which is guarded by a knight.’

BLADES and BRIDGE! and, of course, the WORD PUZZLE was there in front of us – Nice! Like Indy, we had our ‘Head-start clues’. The letters we hadn’t used in our knights’ moves were GRAILS and, sure enough, ignoring those that appear more than once (B, D and E) in BRIDGE and BLADES, they are ‘precisely those that occur only once in the two items (not in both). Clever stuff this! What’s more they spell GRAIL and we highlight those five letters. Thanks to Elgin.


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Listener No 4637, Realisation: A Setter’s Blog by KevGar

Posted by Listen With Others on 3 January 2021

I guess that the initial inspiration for this puzzle came to me whilst attending a concert early last year, when I thought that I would try to represent the layout of a full orchestra in a crossword grid. However, it soon became apparent that even using the various sections of an orchestra rather than individual instruments, it would be impossible to do this, so I quickly abandoned that idea.

I then decided to try to incorporate as many musical instruments as possible into a puzzle but rather than having the instruments as actual grid entries, I thought it would be more challenging for solvers if the instruments were somehow incorporated into larger words, replacing one or more letters from clue answers. I spent some time making a list of instruments and possible words containing these instruments.

Having manged to complete the grid, I felt that I had to make some use of the replaced letters and so came up with the idea that these letters should be able to be arranged to form other musical instruments. This resulted in me having to revise a number of my original clues/grid entries.

It took me a while to think of an appropriate title for the puzzle that wouldn’t immediately give away too much information about the actual theme. Eventually I thought that the same idea of replacing a letter(s) with a musical instrument would be the way to go and after much thought the word REORGANISATION as a title came to mind. Thus changing REALISATION into REORGANISATION seemed to be appropriate. Finally, I felt that it would be necessary to incorporate the dropped AL from the title into the formation of the other instruments. Once again this resulted in me having to change a couple of clues in order to form the 3 additional instruments as the finale to the puzzle.

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Realisation by KevGar

Posted by shirleycurran on 1 January 2021

I read in Dave Hennings’ Crossword Database that this is KevGar’s eighth crossword in the Listener series. We read the preamble with some apprehension as we are not very good at finding definitions that have wandered away from the entries that they apply to and we realize that we need to keep careful control of the ‘one or two’ consecutive letters that are ultimately going to tot up to 23 and spell out three further thematic items (whatever those turn out to be).

Types of wine, I wonder, as KevGar hasn’t included much alcohol in his clues to confirm his continued membership of the Listener Setters’ Elite Oenophile Outfit. He just scrapes in by sprinkling rosé around, ‘Holy water container sprinkled rose spray (9)’. We anagram ROSE SPRAY to get ASPERSORY – a generous clue.

There were a number of generous clues and the bottom half of our grid was nicely peopled by dinner time (almost, though we were flummoxed by the EMYD as we had entered EMYS as a familiar turtle word which gave us a problem with the CLOSED SHOPS). But then we were head-scratching.

It was the ‘WASP’ that clearly defined the HORNET who appeared in 9d where the clue obviously spelled out TRET, ‘Concerning having two tons without waste allowance (6)’ that hinted to us what was going on. TRUMPETFISH then appeared where the clue seemed to be spelling ELFISH. ‘Tricky rock-star swaps centre for female, hard to follow (11)’ (Elvis with V changing to F). That had to be the SWIMMER who had sneaked into the UEYS clue.

We realized that we had to find another nine instruments (and one in the title) that were each going to replace a couple of letters in their solution (or a letter) and produce words that had to be defined by RINGLEADER, STINGRAY-LIKE, HOUNDS, EDGES, PIPED, TRAMPS, FOLLOWS, BULB and YELLOW. This was a tough solve but we finally produced our FLUGELMAN, WHIPLASH, BASSETS, SHARPENS, TUBATE, HOBOES, SEGUES, CORM and LUTEIN and decided that our instruments were the FLUGEL, WHIP (yes, Collins confirmed that it is an instrument, as did Mrs Bradford), BASS, HARP, TUBA, OBOE, GUE (that crossword favourite), COR and LUTE.

We had 21 letters from the original solutions that those instruments had replaced, so we were puzzled about how those were going to spell out three more instruments. They formed, nicely, into a CLARINET, a TROMBONE and a PIANO. But then we realized that the ORGAN that was supporting this rather weird orchestra and appearing in REORGANISATION (our new title) was giving us another two letters and converting our PIANO to a seven-letter PIANOLA.

Thank you KevGar. This was challenging, particuarly, for us, as we are not much good at solving tricky clues like the ELFISH one where we flounder around looking for an 11-letter word when the original solution has only six letters (OK we finally found our fish).

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