Listen With Others

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L4655 Goosey, Goosey by Malva

Posted by gillwinchcombe on 11 May 2021

Hi, I’ve been doing Listener crosswords for about 5 years, and I thought I’d have a go at blogging.

I enjoy unnumbered clues when they’re alphabetical like these, and for me, Goosey, Goosey presented a fair but not overly difficult task in placing the entries. The skilful concealment of the extra words was a real bonus: Ice Queen, fish roe and bawdy playwright in particular were inspired. Many of the entries were off the beaten Chambers track too, giving just the right amount of challenge. Clever title too!

The subject matter appeals to me too – Malva clearly likes birds as much as I do. Thanks Malva for another very enjoyable solve.

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Goosey, Goosey by Malva

Posted by shirleycurran on 7 May 2021

Anyone who has solved Malva’s previous Listeners had a good inkling about what to expect in this one, and he left us with little doubt with his title, ‘Goosey, Goosey’, though that reminded me of the nursery rhyme about the old man who wouldn’t say his prayers. (Aren’t nursery rhymes brutal! The poor old fellow was thrown down the stairs.)

I was slightly worried when I scanned the clues, colour-coding them and the spaces in the carte-blanche grid so that we could work out the lengths of the eight thematic entries (three 8s, one 7, two 6s, a 5 and a 4). Not a lot of alcohol there.

Yes, birds are not a very boozy theme but was Malva going to retain his place in the Elite Listener Setters’ Oenophile Outfit? Of course he was, but he had disguised his tipple very well, ‘Quilting party, maybe, one beginning to repair pillowcase (4)’. We remove an extra ‘one’ to use later to construct one of those clues (LOWAN = base + one) and decide it’s a sewing BEE doing the quilting with R(epair) added on to get the BEER – pillowcase indeed! Cheeers,Malva!

The clues were generous and we had soon ‘cold-solved’ most of them with sixteen small extra words highlighted to be converted to eight definitions of unclued entries which would surely be birds, but with those unclued entries, the start of the gridfill was not easy. We had solved the four clues to 10-letter words, ALBITISING, SHOPWALKER, TERRA VERTE and UNASSAILED, but they had to mesh with eight little 4-letter words, one of which was going to be a bird (LOON = look + performing / LO + ON) and I had a couple of false starts. It was the ARMOIRE that finally gave us the way in (through the wardrobe, of course) since it was one of two 7-letter entries and the other had to be a bird (BLUECAP = bawdy + top).

Five more birds flew in: KILLDEER = ice + roe, LONGSPUR = yearn + root, SANDPEEP = smooth + pink, HAGLET = witch + allowed, and DUNLIN = horse + pool. How subtle of Malva to select sixteen definition elements that would not speak for themselves until the theme was identified. We still needed bird number nine whose odd letters were S?P?U?K?R. TEA is a great helper and suggested SAPSUCKER. Like all but two of those birds, he was unknown to us, but we knew he would be what was required. That was a most enjoyable solve. Thanks, Malva.

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Listener No 4654, Unicycle: A Setter’s blog by Remus

Posted by Listen With Others on 3 May 2021

“I can avoid being seen if I wish, but to disappear entirely, that is a rare gift!”

– Aragorn son of Arathorn


This puzzle was a collaboration between me, a newcomer to the rarefied air of Listener puzzles, and Twin, Listener setter extraordinaire and current holder of the Ascot Gold Cup for his puzzle Tip-Top Condition (if you haven’t come across this puzzle, I suggest you make like Gollum and seek for it unceasingly). We decided early on that The Lord of the Rings would be a good theme, Twin having recently completed the impressive feat of reading the entire book within 24 hours (he cantered home in a breezy 21 hours and 9 minutes, leaving ample time to peruse the appendices). Rings being Os seemed like the obvious way in, and we quickly settled on The One Ring being the only O in the completed grid. After a lot of back and forth, we eventually decided on vanishing ringbearers, aided by the fact that BILBO, GOLLUM, and FRODO all feature Os. Sauron also carries an O, but since he appears not to become invisible while wearing it we banished him to the land of Mordor where the shadows lie.

Then it came to building the puzzle, and I felt rather like a hobbit who, having spent a comfortable life in the Shire (in my case writing gentle Quick Cryptics for the Times), suddenly finds oneself in a much bigger and scarier world, full of strange devices and obscure languages (or misprints and Spenserian vocabulary). Fortunately in Twin I had a guide in the manner of Gandalf – in fact a rather more patient guide than Gandalf as he didn’t call me a Fool of a Took when I sent him grids that didn’t work or clues full of Os. Eventually after much toil we reached Mount Doom (are you getting tired of these analogies yet?) and cast the puzzle into the fiery chasm of the Times Saturday Review. So a hearty thanks to Twin for patiently guiding this Listener rookie through his first barred puzzle (it was a great experience) and I’m looking to seeing some of you at the next Listener dinner!


What is there for me to add – apart, of course, from disclaiming some of the wilder compliments thrown my way by my co-setter? Like John, this was a new experience for me in that I’ve not set a crossword in collaboration before, and it was a lot of fun – a combination of shared online spreadsheets, potential or semi-potential grids emailed back and forth, and the occasional Zoom session to get us over the line. In previous crosswords I’ve had some great reviewers, but working like this meant that weaker or overly ambitious clues could be struck – or improved – as we went, and some of my favourites came from an idea one of us had that was then honed between us. Possibly my favourite of all, for LENIN, took about half an hour to put together painstakingly between us on Zoom – after we had to replace LET IN to avoid the Os in ‘(5; two words)’.

I had remembered that omitting a particular letter from all clues was something done a few times before in the Listener – but it had slipped my mind until late in the day that one of the most recent examples of that was Chalicea’s excellent Difficulty, where the Os were missing – and indeed where O represented a ring, albeit in that case one that an owl and a pussycat were hunting for, rather than Sauron. Call it an homage? As in that case, Roger & Shane were very helpful in removing Os, including getting rid of the words ‘Across’ and ‘Down’ and suggesting that we change our title, initially proposed as Page Boys.

From reading online comments it seems that The Lord of the Rings is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I hope for those solvers who are fans – either of the book or the films – there was some added enjoyment, and perhaps the reference to Sam in 1ac would have set them on their way more speedily. For anyone who has not yet attempted the book, I encourage you to spend more than one day on it.

Thanks as ever to Roger, Shane & John – and, of course, to the other John.

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L4654: ‘Unicycle’ by Remus

Posted by Encota on 30 Apr 2021

It seems to have been non-stop puzzling recently – and for me to say that is really saying something! 

Last week’s mention by Simon Anthony and Mark Goodliffe on their Cracking The Cryptic youtube channel about someone called Marge and her request for help with her Grandfather’s Will was just the sort of puzzle hunt I couldn’t resist. Apparently, instead of the document she expected, the envelope contained a sudoku. So she contacted CTC and its followers to see if we could help. If you like online puzzle hunts, or have never tried one but are intrigued, then you may wish to give it a try.

Combining that with other puzzle hunts, regular solving and commissioned setting has made it a busy time all round. And then, to cap it all, May’s Magpie magazine appears the night before last with a Grade E from Sabre, one of my favourite setters. That one is still WIP but I am loving it!

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, this week’s featured puzzle ‘Unicycle’ by Remus. The clues were generally very gentle and I polished this one off by early Friday evening. As regular readers will know I am not the fastest of solvers but I usually get there! The grid layout itself was very neat – featuring THE ONE RING at its centre and wearers FRODO, BILBO and GOLLUM would have all made an appearance in the final grid if they hadn’t been made invisible. 

Here is my attempt: 


I did wonder slightly, with ADD CUT in the centre whether a previous version of the puzzle asked the solver to cut this piece out. It wasn’t asked for in the Preamble though, so I’ve left it in.

Hidden letters spelt out ISILDUR’S BANE – another strong pointer!

Great fun – thanks Remus!

Finally, if you are one of the people who noticed the offer of LISTENER STATISTICS at the bottom of recent puzzles but haven’t yet taken up the offer, can I recommend that you do so!? This is perhaps one of the most amazing features of the L crossword, the offer of personalised stats on how you did over the past year!

Cheers all!

Tim / Encota

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Unicycle by Remus

Posted by shirleycurran on 30 Apr 2021

Remus? A new setter? Maybe a veteran with a new name? We gaze at the grid that’s lacking full clue numbers and light dawns. (Rather a giveaway wasn’t it!) There’s a letter missing! We see that letter in a few clues but always where there is a misprint that will be replaced by a different letter. Pretty clever, wasn’t it?

But can Remus be a future member in the Listener Setters’ Tippling Set-up? Yes with a vengeance! ‘Grape skin’s aged by this (3)’ gives UV-A. F[i]x I mark, usually in red (5)’ gives us the first ‘red’ (BIND + I = BINDI). Further ‘red’ in ‘Eminent Red Square cathedral’s eastern tip recalled (5)’ We reverse NINE + (cathedra)L, getting LENIN, an eminent red. Red everywhere! ‘Unlimited wine experience in Perth (4)’ (C)LARE(T) gives LARE. Maybe we’ll have the next Listener dinner in Perth then with unlimited wine – might be just the thing! Cheers Remus, anyway, we must celebrate this brilliant debut in the bar.

‘The item’s effect must be reflected wherever else it is represented in the grid by blanking 16 cells, always leaving valid entries.’ Initially we suspect we must blank that letter whenever it is represented in the grid, but we find a mere six and must have a rethink. “It makes these three characters invisible” says Mr Numpty as he finds and erases the three ring bearers, applying the ring’s effect – 16 blank cells, just what was required.

Even the title makes sense – ‘Unicycle’ – that’s the single ring.

A truly impressive first puzzle (if it is a first). Many thanks, Remus.

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