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Listener No 4521, Translate into Spanish: A Setter’s Blog by Cagey

Posted by Listen With Others on 14 October 2018

Look at me Ma – I’m a blogger!

Early last year, I looked up ‘glorious revolution’ on Wikipedia as it had been mentioned on the radio [usually radio 6, and although Stuart Marconie seems to have a massive general knowledge (x-ref Round Britain Quiz. It is a shame they are moving him (and Mark Radcliffe (get well soon)) to Sat morning, when children’s lessons in swimming, guitar and gymnastics preclude much listening (aurally and crosswording), I suspect I hear it on some transient radio 4 listening]. Having virtually no knowledge of history (I stared out the window an awful lot at school, and history was, at its best, shamelessly dull in lessons), I had thought it was in the far East, so surprised it was in England. After reading the Wikipedia article I scanned back up to the top and saw the disambiguation thing mentioning the Spanish one. As I am more a numbers person (enjoying Listener numericals/logic ones as well as Magpie ones and Cross-numbers Quarterly), I saw the similarity of the numbers and wrote the coincidence down on a post-it note for above my desk and for future use…

When I had time I returned to it with a vague notion about exchanging or “revolving” the middle two digits (maybe an exchange of central columns where some answers are part numerical to change the grid between displaying antagonists of one revolution into the other). But when it came to create the grid for this, it was clumsy and complicated, and I was fairly convinced that, whilst people may have heard of the English one (except me!), they may not have heard of the Spanish one, so had to be very careful about which way I moved things around. The participators in the revolutions also seemed to have rather inconvenient lengths of names. Glorious revolution seemed too long for one answer, and was clumsy across two. It was also proving very difficult to create the required number letter mix to give the date. In short it was not working.

Eventually I just thought why not just have Glorious revolution as one big across answer. Once I had it written across the top of my paper, I then wondered how long 1688 was in letters as in my head it seemed about the same length. So I started to write underneath. As I was writing it, I realised that the two dates must be anagrams of each other. (This seems to me obvious on starting to write, but when I have explained this to non-crosswordy people they look at me rather blankly — maybe it is just us who think like that!) I got more excited (and a bit shaky) as I neared the end of writing it as it was amazingly the same length! (Is there a setter’s equivalent of a PDM? (An AM – Aberdonian moment? when we pick up the penny).

The idea was then effectively formed. Go from something that was almost glorious revolution (Glorious Revolt UION, was a very early pick – enough to be very, very noticeable but annoyingly not quite there), and use the unclued date at the top to anagrammatise and correct a different line. Then I looked at grid size, it was very wide so needed to be relatively short (top to bottom), and working on 13×13 = 169 and 180×10 is 180, settled on 10. Using scraps of paper, I wrote down the 3 required letters for each column and moved them about, based on constraints of fixed positions, in order to find a combination that gave me a few words in the initially mixed up row – to disguise what was happening – two rows of unchecked cells would have been very obvious. Found that Nous and Tori could be formed. Aesthetically I wanted the two rows to be next to each other, because I wanted to draw people’s attention to that area. I put all this into the initial grid, 18×10, and put the two rows in just below mid-way down as this put some distance between the top (constrained) row and the other constrained rows (this helps in setting), and avoiding the bottom, as constrained letters at the end of words are difficult too. Even with this set up, once I had put in the existing blocks in a symmetrical pattern there was still an awful lot of constraints on the grid, especially having 2 almost fixed letters right next to each other, and the relatively small height of the grid bring the top row constraints closer. (I am sure there is an interesting study to be made of constraints and distances between and word lengths… I have always used constraints to help solve puzzles as well as approximately place thematic things in other people’s puzzles, as there is often a forced distance expectation between a constraint and a second constraint.)

In order to keep up average word length, I put in a few long words top to bottom and spread out from there. Having a lot of forced blocks in two rows, soaks up a lot of the available unching per word, and also I needed to have some way to distinguish the ambiguity, and initially given the already heavy constraints this had to be a rather short word, or in the row with lots of blocks. Tried using ISABELLA, and a few other thematic words, but simply could not get a grid to work. Eventually settled on the word Pact, as it allowed a reasonably quaint turn of phrase in the blurb, it was short, and could fit it into the grid. I also could not find an 18-letter word or phrase that would fit along the bottom of the grid, that allowed word length to be high enough. There were just too many constraints, so had to break symmetry there (rats!). I was determined to keep as much symmetry as possible, as this was probably going to be a carte blanche as there was so much grid moving so did not want numbers and things, and basically that is playing fair, especially as there is a lot of vertical blocks in two rows, which is something that could make a carte blanche difficult to solve.

I have used automatic grid fillers before, which in one Magpie crossword I set left me with a swear word smack bang in the middle of the grid as well as an ass and a vulva in close proximity. Was not happy at all with that and wanted more control. So avoid these if I can and finally only needed help from word wizard to fill the word Glaceing – which I think is the worst bit of the grid. I checked the percentage unching and word lengths as I went along and this was reasonable, even if excluding the top row.

 I thought it was a strong enough idea for The Times, so in consequence I pulled out a lot of stops on the clues (over an hour a clue is what I estimate) to try and give them neat surface readings and some originality. I may have over-complicated them and made a few too difficult for carte blanche setting, but some were deliberately easy to try and make building the grid fair for everyone.

I chose to hide whole words in the clues for the required instructions, as I have already written crosswords with extra single letters and am writing very slowly one with letter substitutions that is proving very difficult. The original message was vaguer, but got great feedback from Artix (thank you very much), who suggested something a little like it now is (and suggested the high and light split- which I thought was great), which I managed to further rearrange to give the current message, keeping one instruction to the across clues and one to the down clues. I wondered if the 180 was actually too well hidden (and not to my mind technically a word), but the Editorial team at the Times cleared that up later with the way they altered the blurb to make it clear about information separated by spaces, which alerts to the solver that it will not all be words, making it fairer. Artix suggested some changes to some of the clues, some whole new clues, (including the ORAN clue) and suggested a second solver before submission, Shark, who provided more excellent feedback (and again much thanks must go to Shark) and more clue feedback. The editors at the Times also did clue editing, rewriting a few, but correcting grammar and tenses in quite a few (x-ref what I have written so far), and they also must receive a huge amount of thanks.

The clue that I am most proud of is RIOTS. I realise that riots and revolutions are not exactly synonymous, but had thought of the clues around about the same time as getting the idea and it evokes the whole theme. It changed format during the process, with some testers wanting it as “Is history filled with such misguided revolutions”, and other wanting it as “History is…”. Those two first words flipped around an amazing amount during the setting! I was also happy with my clue for IDLE [“Fled naked after I had run out of gear?”].

I always send my “preferred version” to editors and of late have started to send clue alternatives when I have these written as well. I note that almost without fail the editors tend to choose the alternative over my preferred. So for a moment might I mourn the loss of:

Maybe E.P. dropped from band on the fringe (4)

… where my alternative was…

Side-splitting cartoonist creates illustration of nobleman (4)

… which became…

Noble cartoonist making sides split (4)

… which I admit improves it, but I have a soft spot for the ropey original.

A few people have complimented the TETRA clue. I have wondered what that type of clue should be called … a DIY run on, like the final one for NEON. The clue used for NEON was actually a variant on a clue in the very first crossword I wrote (unpublished), whose clues all gave answers on a theme and whose clues all lacked definition. That one read “The middle four of 11 (4)”. I used the idea of 11 in a different crossword I did in the Magpie (A Journey from B to A, I think), where the clue was: “My description of 11? (4)”. I like to try and reference previous clues and play with them, although it can be tricky to do. The clue for Neon for this one was originally “Element central to 11?” But that did not get passed Artix (or maybe Shark), and I had to change to “Element central to Pushkin’s novel”, which later (and I cannot remember when) got extended to the final form — “Pushkin’s novel in verse”.

Anyway, finally it all came together and then came out, and seems to have been enjoyed by people, which is the intention. Thanks again to Artix, Shark (test solvers) and the Times editor (Roger Philips) who were essential in making the puzzle come together as well as it has. Thanks also to John Green for tireless marking (and this must have been a scunner to mark, without many real words at the end) and forwarding feedback. And thanks to everyone who has fed back to me.



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Listener 4521: Translate into Spanish by Cagey

Posted by Jaguar on 12 October 2018

I can’t remember when my last blog was. A quick glance through the archives suggests that it was well over two years ago. In the intervening period I’ve barely touched Listeners, but readers may excuse me this lapse when I point out that I’ve been working on, and now almost completed, a PhD instead. Just a few minor corrections left and then it will be Dr. jim42078 or something.

But anyway. Cagey’s first-ever Listener brings me back to blogging, at least in part because I happen to know him personally — a fact that also explains why I even bothered attempting this one, which would mark my first attempt, let alone completion, of a Listener in months. Needless to say, a carte blanche is an ambitious puzzle to start off solving.

Thankfully, however, I’ve been keeping up with the Jumbo on the opposite page, and daily cryptics, just enough so that some level of cold-solving wasn’t quite beyond me. There was also a certain amount of luck, perhaps, that 1dn SAAMI (AAM in is<) and 35d SNIGS (signs*) were generous enough clues, with answers vital to start the grid fill off, even if the answers are fairly obscure. I’ve long-since lost track of how things proceeded from there, but certainly it was mainly the left-hand side of the grid that fell apart first, and at some point a few hours later I had finally decided that the unclued 1ac was SIXTEEN EIGHTY-EIGHT. “Isn’t that when the Glorious Revolution was?”, I thought, and sure enough that neatly explains the reference to William of Orange in 39dn. Oh, and look, there’s the event itself, stretched across the grid! The wonderful GLORIOUS, err, REVOLTUION. People in the 17th century probably didn’t know how to spell, to be fair to Cagey,  so I forgave him this obvious and shocking lapse* in construction and tried to finish the grid off.

But what of those instructions? I’d guessed early on that 29ac’s reference to “columns” was fairly blatantly nothing to do with the clue, but it took a good deal of searching to confirm that, say, “years” in 47ac and “180” in 42ac (a clue I still haven’t fully parsed, but it can be nothing else), were what was required to complete the instruction to pretend that Cagey actually meant 1868, and yet another silly lapse in setting** had led him to realise this only after putting 1688 across the top.

Grid completed, and brief trawl through “1868 in history” on Wikipedia later, I learned that the Spanish had stolen our idea of having a Glorious Revolution, throwing aside Isabella II for some reason (possibly because Glorious Revolutions sound so fun). How nice of them, at least, to wait until the year was so neatly related to 1686 by merely swapping a couple of digits.

In any case, now it was clear why Cagey couldn’t spell, and we had to rearrange the columns such that the seventh row read Glorious Revolution in the right order, whilst also ensuring that the first row had the right date for the Spanish edition.

When it comes to rearranging letters in large groups, Notepad is surprisingly handy, so one grid transfer later (and reflection to make the rows read as columns and vice versa), it was time to play around to get the right date. Not easy, because any fool could see that it’s going to be hard to get the “G” of Glorious to the start when it’s meant to be at the middle…

What happens next can best be described as sheer dumb luck. I stopped cursing at Cagey*** long enough to have another go, and then discovered that I could get “Glor” at the beginning in the seventh row after all. How weird. But never mind, following it through and at last the Glorious Revolution (Spain) is there in all its correctly-spelled glory, running proudly in the … eighth row?!

Yes, in a brilliant stroke of luck, flicking away from the grid of letters and then back, I’d managed to focus on the eighth column by accident — where, of course, hidden in fine style were the letters of “Glorious Revolution” all over again, jumbled up in just the right way so that you could spell it correctly this time. How nice! A “PACT” appears somewhere in the fifth row, too, just to resolve the ambiguity between a couple of Es in the E-heavy date.

A fine debut by Cagey, whose previous efforts have been hidden in the more niche publication of the Magpie, but at last he has reached the dizzying heights of Listener stardom. And, in the process, he has dragged this blogger out of his long slumber.



**more sarcasm

***See above notes.

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Translate Into Spanish by Cagey

Posted by shirleycurran on 12 October 2018

“Cagey”, I murmur. “We’ve been solving his in the Magpie for a few years but I believe this is his first Listener.” We print that most unusual grid and I scan the clues to see whether he merits entry to the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Outfit and I don’t have to read far: ‘Cartel’s overcharge on whole barrel (4)’ The other Numpty assures me that a BLOC is a cartel so we have BL + OC, but why is the barrel ‘whole’? Maybe that is the first of our nine extra words. Whatsoever, it certainly admits Cagey to that exclusive set of cruciverbal tipplers. A whole barrel! Cheers!

A couple of lucky early solves give us the start of our grid fill: ‘Volunteers, then I go into obsolete nick (10)’ (TA + I TURN in CLY = TACITURNLY) and ‘Founder isn’t about to utter rubbish about head of high inquisition (10)’ (INST* + UTTER* round I(nquisition) = a founder INSTITUTER) and we have a second extra word ‘high’. There is a lot more fiddling with those four-letter words (Where do we put THUS, HYPE, NEEP, SAFE, EARL and TORI?) Those are the ones that always give problems in a carte blanche grid aren’t they?

However, TORI gives us another extra ‘item’ – 180 – and we now understand why ‘item’ and not ‘word’ was used in the preamble. We have the messages ‘Moving whole columns advance 180 years’ and ‘Highlight event’.  What’s more, we have spotted that the first row of the crossword gives us SIXTEEN EIGHTY-EIGHT and the other Numpty immediately says “That’s the Glorious Revolution”. Sure enough we have a rather convoluted GLORIOUS REVOLTUION in row seven of our grid.

It is a simple sum that takes us to 1868 and we know there was a glorious revolution in Spain in that year but we were instructed to ‘Translate Into Spanish’ in the title so I waste some time attempting to find the Spanish name of that revolution, LA GLORIOSA, in the reconstituted columns that I have chopped up. I do wonder, at this point, how solvers who work from the Times newspaper version of the crossword manage these final hoops that the Listener crossword sometimes asks us to leap through.

The other Numpty is the solver, I am the grid compiler and endgame expert, and he has thrown up his arms in despair and gone to bed with ‘Energy and Empire, A biographical study of Lord Kelvin’ (yes, honestly!) leaving me to fiddle with my bits of paper.

That hint about the PACT is a great help and I soon realize that I was trying to be too clever. Cagey has simply lowered the GLORIOUS REVOLUTION down one row in his grid and, either to give us a hint that columns had to be shifted, or because it was impossible to fit the words into his original grid (the second, I imagine) put the letters in the correct order this time. I find PACT in the version I opt for and see that the hint was there as there was a potential ambiguity with the seventh and fourteenth columns both beginning with E and having U in the key position.

So I highlight the revolution with thanks to Cagey for a most enjoyable puzzle.

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Listener No 4521: Translate into Spanish by Cagey

Posted by Dave Hennings on 12 October 2018

Cagey was a new setter to me, but a check of the database revealed that there were a few Magpies to his credit. His first was a mathematical, but subsequent ones have all been word puzzles of B and C grading. What would his first Listener be like?

There were nine extra items to be removed in clues. Strangely, they were “delimited by spaces”. I assumed that one or more items would consist of two or more words. These items would give two instructions to be followed after the grid’s initial fill.

I started on the across clues but soon gave up because my brain obviously wasn’t in the right gear to solve more than a couple. Maybe Cagey would be more forgiving with the downs. Indeed he was, and SABMI, IDLE, TACITURNLY, EST and NAUNT were slotted in. 5dn Start off by appearing after scene in play — no longer heiress’s choice (6) failed me, mainly as I hdn’t heard of ESNECY (SCENE* after (b)Y) before.

So, the top left was looking good, and it seemed that 1ac, which was unclued, started SIXTEEN…. Ottorino’s Lost in Translation had told us that there were only 21 letters in the Italian alphabet. Given the title this week, it crossed my mind that Spanish might have a similarly strange number of letters. In fact, it has 27 — our 26 plus Ñ.

I guess my favourite clue was 10dn Trawler trailing frigate would catch such fish (5) which used a technique I’d not come across before where trawler after frigate would supply TETRA.

Eventually, 1ac was, with unchecked letters filled in, SIXTEEN EIGHTY EIGHT. A quick scan of Wiki for events in 1684 soon revealed GLORIOUS REVOLUTION, and we had GLORIOUS at 36ac. Moreover REVOLUTION almost followed on with 38ac REVOLT and then UION. Intriguing.

Of course, the extra words in nine clues gave us Moving whole columns, advance 180 years. Highlight event, and more Wikiness showed that there was another Glorious Revolution in 1868, this one in Spain — aha! — and resulted in the deposition of Queen Isabella II. I’m still not really sure why the “delimited by spaces” was in the preamble unless to ensure 180 was taken in full.

Careful rejigging of the columns so that 1ac read EIGHTEEN SIXTY EIGHT revealed another GLORIOUS REVOLUTION in row 8. Two columns began with an E and had a U in row 8, so the PACT in row 5 ensured a unique solution.

An entertaining and original endgame to finish with. Great fun. Thanks, Cagey.

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‘Translate into Spanish’ by Cagey

Posted by Encota on 12 October 2018

I loved the endgame on this one!  The phrase hidden in the clues told us solvers to move whole columns around.  By chance I’d spotted that Row 8 was also an anagram of GLORIOUS REVOLUTION, so that simplified things a bit, to result in the year in Row 1 moving forward by 180 years.

And what a great spot that the two entirely different occurrences named the GLORIOUS REVOLUTION just happened to occur on dates that were an anagram of each other!

But perhaps that was all too obvious and we, the solvers, were being led into a trap?  Perhaps other results could be achieved in different rows by rearranging the columns into different orders …

[add examples here]

Here is my real attempt:

[add image here]

Cheers all,

Tim / Encota

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