Listen With Others

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Listener No 4504, Milky: A Setter’s Blog by Malva

Posted by Listen With Others on 17 June 2018

I dare say a good many solvers will view Milky as lowering the 2018 standard a notch or seven, but I’ll always remember it as the first and only time I’ve actually seen someone doing one of my crosswords.

We were down in Cornwall and we’d done the Two Valleys Walk from St Neot, which takes you across the edge of the moor, along the River Fowey and, in our case, through a field of belligerent bullocks who mirrored our every move in a strange cross-species version of one of those elegantly soporific dances they have in Pride and Prejudice and resolutely refused to let us anywhere near the stile we needed to use. It added about 40 minutes to the walk, but eventually we got back to the pub and took our drinks out to the courtyard at the back. There were only a couple of people there – a woman hoovering up a seafood platter the size of the Isle of Wight and a middle-aged bloke wearing a ZZ Top T-shirt. And, lo and behold, he had The Times on the table in front of him and was pulling intently on an e-cigarette while flicking away half-eaten prawns that had escaped from his companion’s fork.

“Ah … you do the Listener, then?” I said and he looked at me as though I’d just accused him of something really shameful and offensive.

“Sometimes,” he said defensively and the platter gobbler paused over a winkle and added,

“He does it every week. With a fountain pen.”

“Keeps the old noddle ship-shape,” he said. “Most weeks, anyway.” A sliver of whiting landed on the preamble. “This bloke, though,” and he pointed at my name “he’s not really up to it. They’re all about birds. Sparrows … and stuff. Not that I’ve got anything against birds.”

“Per se,” added the platter cleaner.

“Avoirdupois,” he said and they giggled gleefully at what I assumed was some arcane private joke. Thankfully though, their moment of merriment gave us the chance to skedaddle to the furthest corner of the courtyard, but no sooner had we sat down than The Times dropped onto our table and the bloke said,

“You can finish it if you like,” and just to confuse matters, he also handed me what was left of the seafood platter, which was a puddle of pink gloop, two slices of radish and a microdot of crab.

I didn’t eat any of it. I didn’t check his answers either. But we did see a dipper at Golitha Falls.


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‘Milky’ by Malva

Posted by Encota on 15 June 2018

Malva L4504

I’d first of all like to offer my thanks to Malva for a nicely themed puzzle!

When I see Malva’s name it reminds me of a coffee advert that used to be on when I was a child, for something – I think it was – called “Mellow Birds” (or was that Mallow Birds?), so when the Title ‘Milky’ was also present I was doubly surprised.

And, as an aside, I see from the Listener Setter list that Malva used to be Dipper.  Why the change from a bird-themed name to a plant-themed one, I wonder?  Intriguing … I’d love to hear!

I think this was the third Malva I’ve solved – what with MINSMERE delightfully featuring in the first and RED-NECKED PHALAROPE in the second (I always see that pencilled into my copy of Chambers Crossword Dictionary whenever I refer to the ‘birds’ list …).

Initially PETROL/PETREL in the Thematic clues was a gentle way of confirming the Bird-based theme, in the Thematic clue:

Fuel converting oxygen to energy (6)

And I spent far too long trying to solve my last one:

Someone keen on confrontation appears at the end of fight and brawl (11)”,

knowing at that stage that it was a bird but incorrectly trying to shoe-horn in a T for the end of (figh)T, rather than spotting the charade SPAR ROW HAWK.  D’oh!

I also should have read the Preamble and noticed from the start that the rest of the clues were in conventional order.  I didn’t miss it for long – but long enough!  I’ll add that to my ever-growing list of PICNIC* items.

I’m hoping there’s no other 6-letter synonym for Milky that is also a Bird, so I have opted for GENTLE.


Tim / Encota

*The usual:   Problem In Chair Not In Crossword


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Milky by Malva

Posted by shirleycurran on 15 June 2018

We’ve been struggling lately so it was a relief to see Malva at the head of this week’s crossword. “Ah, probably birds again” I said and had spotted FALCON, PETREL and VIRGINIAN QUAIL before the other Numpty joined me and began a speed solve of the relatively generous clues. Well that was a gift of an anagram wasn’t it? ‘Eccentric aunt living in Iraq, having left behind outskirt of Newport (14, two words)’ We removed NT from AUNTLIVINGINIRAQ* and there was a bird that wasn’t even in Mrs Bradford’s list – and soon we had RINGDOVE, SONG THRUSH, SPARROWHAWK and HUMMINGBIRD too, though we were not yet sure how they were going to fit into the lights that were appearing symmetrically when i created a putative grid on Crossword Compiler.

Of course, those other, 12-letter long anagrams leading to ENCARNALISES and CARTON PIERRE helped enormously with the grid fill and soon we were left with just those six words to complete. Of course I had been keeping an eye out for evidence that Malva retains his place at the bar but there wasn’t much drinking going on in his clues or grid. ‘After tea, Irish saint meeting solitary leaders (6)’ gave us CHA + IR +S and we suspected that even the tea was probably ‘milky’ but, at least, that did give us one extra word; SOLITARY which suddenly made it all clear. HERMIT had to fill that light at the bottom right and Chambers told me that was also a HUMMINGBIRD.

The alcohol? Well, there were wine-flavoured fruits in what turned out to be 18d, but that was about it. Cheers, anyway, Malva!

PRION was the next to fall, (or fly, if you will) “That’s a PATHOGEN” said the other Numpty and Chambers told me it is also a PETREL. The ARM had to be a MUSKET, which I now know is a SPARROWHAWK, MAVIS, our SONG THRUSH was obviously a WOMAN, QUEST filled our final light and that explained SEARCH and RINGDOVE so we were left with the FALCON or the VIRGINIAN QUAIL to paraphrase and slot below the grid and the extra word NICK to justify.

What is that bit about resolving ambiguities? Aha: I find that there is an alternative spelling for the RINGDOVE. She can be a QUIST or a QUEST so we clearly need that SEARCH to tell us which of the spellings to use. Clever!

Fortunately we have the latest edition of Chambers that reinstated that list of names in the appendices and imagine my surprise to find that COLIN is also a name for NICHOLAS so the VIRGINIAN QUAIL or COLIN took flight and our grid was full – except for that MILKY word that somehow had to define a FALCON. We wondered about MERLIN – was he white? Has a CANNON or a TERCEL anything MILKY about it? Not really. “Got it!” said the other Numpty – It’s a GENTLE.  All done and thoroughly enjoyed in just under a couple of hours. Many thanks, Malva.

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Listener No 4504: Milky by Malva

Posted by Dave Hennings on 15 June 2018

Malva, in case you didn’t know, is Dipper-that-was. Under his previous pseudonym, he regaled us with his garden and associated exploits. Now he has a bit of a twitch going, and his previous puzzle, a year ago, had birds of different colours to be entered in those colours. I wondered if the birds this week would disappear in a somewhat milky hue.

Thematic clues had wordplay only, so I passed on them for the time being, although they were probably birds. I failed with the first (CONACRE was new to me), but URSON, POM-POM, OUD and DILATE were solved, and it seemed fairly straightforward where they would go in the grid, even though both grid and clues were unnumbered.

The 12-letter entry Embodies clearness in a broadcast (12) was an obvious anagram, and starting with CLARANISSEEN, I soon spotted CARNAL and then ENCARNALISES, although it wasn’t a word I’d come across before. Skipping ahead to the other 12-letter entry Lacking potassium, error in packet mix for modelling material (12), I could see that it was another anagram, this time of error in packet without the K (potassium), but unfortunately CARTON-PIERRE would have to wait before being entered.

It was only after I had come across my second clue that I couldn’t fully understand, that I reread the preamble and realised that there was an extra word which would enable, among other things, resolution of any ambiguities. Luckily, I hadn’t suffered too much head-scratching before noting this.

After my first run through the clues, I thought I could see a ROBIN trying to appear at 4dn (if the grid had had clue numbers). I tried the thematic clues, and was surprised that the first was easy and led to FALCON (Cornish river conservation (6)). PETREL, SONG THRUSH, SPARROW-HAWK and something QUAIL also appeared. Tinkering with the remaining letters of the anagram gave VIRGINIAN, and Mrs B had ‘colin’ (not ‘robin’) under Quail. Lo and behold, Chambers had ‘Virginian quail’ under colin.

The rest of the solve went pretty smoothly. It was with song-thrush→MAVIS←woman I think, that I could see that the extra words in the clues were other definitions of the words to be entered:

  • humming-bird→HERMIT←solitary
  • petrel→PRION←pathogen
  • ringdove→QUEST←search
  • song thrush→MAVIS←woman
  • sparrowhawk→MUSKET←arm
  • Virginian quail→COLIN←Nick (I never knew that Colin was a diminutive of Nicholas!)

Finally, falcon→GENTLE←Milky enabled the slot under the grid to be completed.

Thanks for some nice ornithological entertainment, Malva.

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‘Property Management’ by Smudge

Posted by Encota on 8 June 2018

Crikey, Listener 4503 was tricky, wasn’t it?  I eventually succumbed to writing a few of those functions that I had always meant to for years, for future numerical puzzle-setting.  You perhaps know the sort: isprime() to test if the number in brackets is prime and so on.  The functions  istriang() and isdiag() soon followed.  Did it help much here?  Probably not.  In fact the most re-usable one was getdigit(number, digit) to let me select any single digit within a number e.g. to compare it with another, check if it is odd, …

My suspicion is that many seasoned numerical setters and solvers must have some of these at their fingertips and more than likely a lot more – though this was the first puzzle that finally encouraged me.

2018-05-21 07.03.38 copy

I think it was about Sunday lunchtime when I finally cracked L4503, having eventually used the final 5 lines of the Preamble for the first time to determine whether my LOI at 26ac should be 522 or 524.

I was left with the worrying suspicion that their surely must have been a much more straightforward Solution Path than mine.  The Mersenne primes helped get an initial toehold but some of the properties – especially for me ‘f’ and ‘i’ – seemed to give little info until right at the end.

But I did think that the hidden message telling us to indicate those different ways to reach that special number 4503 was good.  There were, I think:

  • 19 x 3 x 79
  • 57 x 79
  • 19 x 237 and even
  • 18012 / 4

Unbelievably well hidden, I hear you say.  My finished article therefore looked like this:

2018-05-22 07.57.02 copy

What was that?  You didn’t spot the hidden message??


Tim / Encota

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