Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin

Listener No 4611, 24 Across: A Setter’s Blog by Merlin

Posted by Listen With Others on 5 July 2020

The starting point for this puzzle came when I was playing about with ideas for clues. I realised yellow = chicken and submarine is a kind of sandwich and “Yellow Submarine” and “Chicken sandwich” both had 15 letters. Maybe there was a basis of a puzzle with clashing letters, alternative choices leading to the two phrases. The obvious idea for the clashing cells is a diagonal, but 15 x 15 is too big for a barred Listener puzzle. Maybe a submarine shape and get the solver to shade it yellow, but that did not work. Then I thought Yellow Submarine is a film as well as a song. FILM has exactly the right number of nodes, consists entirely of straight-line sections and has four letters, so I could place one in each quarter of the grid. And it has a tenuous connection with chicken sandwich.

So I started with a 12×12 grid and placed the clashing letters in the appropriate squares. The first thing I noticed was that there were quite a lot of clashes in columns 3, 4 and 9, so I looked for a pair of 12-letters words to go in the symmetrically-opposite columns 4 and 9, using TEA. There were not many words that fitted, but by an amazing coincidence one of the fits for column 9 was Eleanor Rigby! Up to then it had just been a feasibility study but at that point I decided to definitely go ahead. The original release of Yellow Submarine was as a double A-side single with Eleanor Rigby, and I could use that to hint at the theme.

I filled the grid, starting with the answers containing clashes, which proved reasonably straightforward. I deliberately used fewer unchecked letters than usual, especially in the answers containing clashes.

The next task was to come up with a message from the clues. After a bit of experimentation I came up with “Does eight down give hint to theme? The reverse”, which was suitably cryptic. Next I had to decide how to get one letter from each clue. I am very fond of misprinted definitions, which I find tends to lead to interesting clues, so I tried that first. I wrote down the answers in order (with alternative possibilities in a few cases) with the target letters to see if I could come up with a misprinted definition for all of them. I managed it eventually. Eleanor Rigby + E was actually one of the trickiest and another awkward one was cleric + E. There was a long list of clerics in Bradfords but the only ones with an E that could be misprinted were abbé and curé where the accent was problematical.

Once I’d sorted out the misprints, writing the clues was quite straightforward. All that remained was to come up with a title. By another remarkable coincidence, “roll” was one of the answers, which described the other thematic phrase, so I used its clue number as title.

I asked a friend to test-solve it and he agreed “but I’m not spending more than 3 hours on it”, remembering my Sherlock Holmes puzzle from years ago with a fiendish endgame. He didn’t finish it in the allotted time, but I decided to send it in anyway after re-checking the clashes and misprints.

About a year later I was told it had been accepted and the editors had made a few changes. Most of them were minor but they replaced my unsatisfactory clue for cleric by a brilliant one with divine misprinted as diving. Why didn’t Bradfords have divine in the list of clerics, I wondered. They had also changed my clue to “roll”, presumably to make it harder to solve,as it linked to the theme.

Posted in Setting Blogs | 1 Comment »

L4611: ’24 Across’ by Merlin

Posted by Encota on 3 July 2020

What a cheerful theme! And spotting YELLOW SUBMARINE and CHICKEN SANDWICH as being ‘cryptically equivalent 15-letter phrases’ – excellent!

Here’s my attempt …

The hidden message, with my added punctuation, spells out:
“Does 8d [Eleanor Rigby] give hint to theme? The reverse!”

And when Yellow Submarine was published as a single in 1966 the flip-side was of course Eleanor Rigby.

I’m assuming that the pun in the Preamble saying that the lines – which reveal FILM – reveal something that could cover either phrase. A chicken sandwich in clingfilm & Yellow Submarine is a film – I think that covers it …

My last one in was RNLI at 29ac. The uncorrected clue read:

Who may save from sales return limited stocks (4)

I’d spotted the definition was ‘Who may save from gales’ by that stage but it still took me far too long to read ‘stocks’ as a hidden indicator and see ‘retuRN LImited’. D’oh!

Cheers all & keep looking after yourselves,

Tim / Encota

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

24 Across by Merlin

Posted by shirleycurran on 3 July 2020

This was one of those puzzles where the endgame took us just about as long as the grid fill. The clues were generous, but they needed to be as some, to answers like THECLA , KILKENNY, ETHYLENE. OCKHAM and ADAM had two or even three misprints in them. Still, a pattern quickly emerged  placing those misprints in an 8 X 8 square in the centre of the grid, so we knew where we were hunting for them.

Of course I didn’t forget to check that Merlin earns his seat amongst the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Elite (as I see that he hasn’t compiled a puzzle for eight years) but he left me in no doubt. ‘Second drink knocked back – local dram (4)’.  We already had the G of RECOGNISANCE in place so GINS had to be the answer but we also needed a misprint and needed Chambers to tell us that a SNIG is a ‘drag’ locally.

Not far below, we found ‘Wallop barrel not used for full round (4)’. Again the W corrected misprint changed the ‘Wallop’ (that’s beer isn’t it?) to wallow and when the barrel wasn’t used we were left with just the ROLL of a barrel roll (a full round), but the intention was there – Cheers, Merlin.

A generous spread of anagrams led us fairly quickly to the theme and we found ELEANOR RIGBY at EIGHT DOWN. ‘Ecstasy taken by bleary Ringo ruined his maths number (12, two words)’ {BLEARY RINGO E}* had to be a number written by his matEs, Paul and John.  DOES EIGHT DOWN GIVE HINT TO THE THEME? was the question that emerged, and when we were told it was THE REVERSE, I had a vague memory that YELLOW SUBMARINE (of which we see a model in Liverpool’s John Lennon airport) was the flip side of the record (or was poor old Eleanor the flip side? It sounds as though the editors are continuing the isolation theme that has appeared in the Listener during Covid19 with nobody even going to the old maid’s funeral).

With a full grid and after a break for supper, the other Numpty left me struggling with the 14 clashes and a putative I, to work out what the other phrase could be. I do often wonder what solvers who do not have the wonderful TEA or some computer means of resolving anagrams do with just pencil and paper in such situations.

CHICKEN SANDWICH earned a broad smile, (well, it is ‘cryptically equivalent to a yellow submarine, isn’t it?) as did the phrase that the ten lines we had to draw in four separate groups would reveal something that could ‘cover’ either phrase. Indeed, despite the growing resistance to the use of plastic, cling FILM still covers any chicken sandwich that we buy (or ROLL, as in 24ac) – the title now made sense.

FILM also ‘covers’ the phrase YELLOW SUBMARINE. I liked the thematic unity of this compilation. Many thanks to Merlin.

We are, of course, happy crossworders as it has now been announced that the Enigmatic Variations series of advanced thematic cryptic crosswords is not coming to an end at the end of August (see Encota’s comments and hilarious anagrams about five posts down). If you are a keen Listener solver (and, like me, have already done all you can in the Magpie) there is always the Inquisitor in the I on Saturday, then the EV in the Sunday Telegraph – thoroughly recommended – and please comment on them if you can, as it was the ‘apparent’ lack of solver interest that almost sealed the EV’s fate.


Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Listener No 4611: 24 Across by Merlin

Posted by Dave Hennings on 3 July 2020

Oh dear, it was Merlin week again! It had been a long time since his last puzzle back in 2012. That was based on Euler and the Königsberg bridge (No 4209, City Crossing Tour) and, according to my annual stats for that year, was a fail — despite ages on the endgame. A few years before that in 2006, I vividly remember how ye Olde Treasure Hunt, based on Sherlock Holmes and The Musgrave Ritual, also caused me grief. I hoped for better luck [This is the Listener! Ed.] this week.

There were clashes in 14 cells, which, “along with one other (to be determined)” needed to be left blank. I hoped that it wouldn’t need too much determination. The rest of the preamble sounded quite tricky with lines to be drawn, two 15-letter phrases being revealed and a question and answer relating to one of the phrases, the other of which needed to go under the grid. Lawks!

1ac was a nice start What goes in Fort? Group of soldiers, English not American (6), with Fort being a misprint for Ford. Unfortunately, PETROL had to wait to be solved before being entered. Luckily, 7ac Change chemical firm in matter of law (5) came to the rescue with firm for form.

A few more across clues came through in the first pass, but the downs started well with ETTIN, THECLA (solved that somewhere else the day before!), ADEEM, CLERIC, TYPICAL and WENS. All those enable OTHER-WORLDLY to be slotted in at 12ac and I was getting happier.

My favourite clues were 6dn Attack Attach island cut off from state (7) for CONNECT [CONNECTICUT – I – CUT] and of course Ecstasy taken by bleary Ringo ruined his maths’ mates’ number (12, two words) [E in (BLEARY RINGO)*] giving ELEANOR RIGBY. The trickiest for me was the thematic 24ac Wallop barrel not used for full round (4) where I kept trying to add a B or BL somewhere before realising that BARREL ROLL – BARREL was the ROLL I was looking for.

On to the endgame, and the Q&A spelt by the corrected misprints was Does eight down give hint to theme? Reverse. Thanks for that, Merlin!

So could I make anything of the ten lines somehow in four groups? “No” was the answer to that question, partly due to that pesky letter that wasn’t a clash. So I took to googling ‘Eleanor Rigby’, et voilà, it was a song from the film Yellow Submarine. Identifying that in the clashes enabled CHICKEN SANDWICH to pop out from the unused clashes.

Thus we had YELLOW = CHICKEN and SUBMARINE = SANDWICH. The shape that came from those phrases was FILM, which referred to both the movie and the plastic wrapping. Discarding the answer that was 8dn related, I wrote the food item in the space under the grid. Personally, I think the corrected misprints should have given Does twenty-four across give hint to theme? Yes.

What a lot came together neatly, and hopefully I got home error-free. Thanks, Merlin.

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Listener No 4610, Tale of the Unexpected: A Setter’s Blog by Lath

Posted by Listen With Others on 28 June 2020

I must say in opening that the whole setting experience has been a real eye-opener to the way the puzzles are “born and raised”. I am so impressed with the meticulous process that leads to the publication and of course to the standards set by the editorial team. The Listener is definitely in safe hands.

I am relatively new to The Listener Crossword, having been introduced to it about three years ago by my new neighbour. He is a long standing fan and just loves the weekly ritual that goes with collecting and solving the puzzle in its entirety. (No outstanding parsing queries are allowed – Quite right I say!) Once I was on board, I became well and truly hooked. It is now an integral part of my weekend and sometimes of course well beyond Sunday evening.

I have never submitted a puzzle in the past to any paper or magazine. Undaunted and thanks to the guidance on the Listener website, I decided to test a few ideas out to try to achieve a puzzle of the right level of complexity, difficulty and enjoyment for the solvers. Eventually, I kept coming back to the clue swapping element as my starting point. I liked the potential hurdle that a number of swaps would present to the solver. It was on Derby Day last year as I was watching the race result being flashed up that the idea of the starting price (40/1 in the case of my puzzle) as the end result of the clue swaps focussed my mind. A big race event was now a potential theme. As it happened, the Derby gave me all the thematic elements that I was looking for.

A bit of research led me to the 2017 race and the long odds that the winner had as its starting price. The name, Wings Of Eagles, (having 13 letters) gave the option of inclusion in the grid. One of the diagonals seemed the natural home for it so that was the start of building the grid. I was mindful of the fact that someone may have already produced a Derby-based puzzle. [No 4244, At Spes Non Fracta by Chalicea about Emily Davison.] That theme was a whole lot more serious than mine so I think there is a reasonable distinction in the topic at its heart. As the grid was being built, I thought of inserting a basic shape of the course along with a phrase that would lead the solver to draw it into the completed grid. Some fiddling around led to the phrase DERBY ONE MILE AND FOUR FURLONGS intersecting neatly with WINGS OF EAGLES on the reverse diagonal. The framework of the puzzle was now in place.

>From there it was a case of completing the words in the grid and developing the clues. The idea of using the first letters of the 10 clues to provide EPSOM DOWNS came later. The original plan was to have the solver to write the whole result below the grid on completion i.e. 18 Wings of Eagles (40/1) Aidan O’Brien (Padraig Beggy) 2017. However, the space restrictions within the page put paid to that. We nagged to retain all of these thematic elements by altering the preamble and by using the vehicle of the dummy clue. It worked nicely I think to produce the trainer and jockey from the letters of the clue, with the horse’s start number being the clue number.

A lot of help and guidance from the editorial team then followed and the green light eventually led to the final puzzle appearing in print.

I wasn’t aware of the provision of feedback and statistics that I was to receive following the publication and submissions by solvers. That too has been fascinating and really underlines the Listener’s enduring appeal to so many followers. It has been a lot of fun to be a part of. I hope my next offering will also hit the spot!

Posted in Setting Blogs | 1 Comment »