Listen With Others

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Revision by Tangram

Posted by shirleycurran on 22 July 2016

img010 (2)When we saw the ceremonies and vigils to commemorate the opening of the Battle of the Somme, this morning, I commented to the other Numpty “Listener tonight – what’s the betting it is on a Somme theme!” Of course, I had forgotten that when we downloaded Tangram’s puzzle and learned that we were looking for the name of a poet and the first two lines of his poem (with a couple of words shifted into the crossword clues). Our earliest solutions suggested SEEGER to us but the only Pete Seeger verse I know is “Where have all the flowers gone …etc.” and that clearly wasn’t emerging from the letters we were omitting from our wordplay and answers.

Of course I didn’t forget to confirm Tangram’s continued membership of the Merry Listener Setters’ Toping Club and he quickly reserved his ticket with ‘Drink aroused greed, but no one acted like roisterer (8 with an A removed)’ giving (SWIG less I + GREED*) SWAGGERED. Fortunately, Tangram’s taste improved as the clues progressed, culminating with ‘Good water spring; great Scotch, Elgin’s capital extra mature (4 losing a couple of Rs)’ That was more like it – a drop of the mature Scotch – though we were rather puzzled as this clue seemed to give us two sets of wordplay, assuming that ‘Good water spring’ led to G + EYE’ and that GEY = ‘great’ in Scots + E(lgin) also gave us the GEYE of GREYER (extra mature).

Rendezvous_with_deathAt first sight, this crossword looked fearsome, but, in fact, the clues were relatively gentle – obviously they had to be as we were virtually cold-solving as no crossing entries totally confirmed what we assumed to be an answer, since that letter was missing from every word (surprisingly only once was it doubly missing – that R from GREYER). Words like SHADOW quickly appeared ‘Singular trouble with shade (5)’ S + ADO W(ith), and it was immediately evident that this was the word that was to be entered jumbled, as we already had the S?OD? in place.

At that point, we noticed with amazement that our editors or the setter had kindly indicated for us which word was to be entered in reverse and the clue, with the hint of the letters already in place, told us to put BRINEPI[T] there, ‘Recipe in prison ruined pie; it’s full of salt (7) R in BIN + PIE*.

Of course, by now, we had realized that this was not Pete Seeger but his uncle Alan Seeger who appears just above him in the ODQ and that the line of poetry was telling us, sadly that ‘I HAVE A RENDEZVOUS WITH DEATH AT SOME DISPUTED BARRICADE’ … Sure enough, there were the barricade ‘One in command runs close to barricade (5 less D)’ CO + R + [D] ON, and the Rendezvous, ‘Over a scrap in the country (5 + S)’ RE[S]ORT, so we had the third line of the poem confirmed. The ‘spring’ was returned and the ‘shade’ rustled.

We completed our solve after reading that Alan Seeger did indeed not ‘fail that rendezvous’ as he died on the fourth day of the Battle of the Somme.

Many thanks to Tangram for alerting us to this poet and poem on the hundredth anniversary of that dreadful event.


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Listener No. 4405: Revision by Tangram

Posted by Dave Hennings on 22 July 2016

This week, we had Tangram’s third Listener, his second being three year’s ago and based on The Listeners by Walter de la Mare. That was a Letters Latent puzzle, and so was this. Here we had to identify a poem, with the latent letters spelling out its first two lines, with two words missing and supplied by an extra word in each of two clues. One row would contain two entries which cryptically represented the poem’s third line.

Listener 4405My first pass through the clues — and a couple of minutes more — gave me the best part of a score of entries in the grid. These included DECAS[T]ERE and EMUL[A]TOR across, and CHICK P[E]A, [P]ORKIEST and PT[E]RANODON down. Consequently, I had a nice smattering of entries in the grid, and this enabled solving to continue reasonably smoothly.

Two clues needed careful analysis, initially seeming too verbose. 9dn Manner of dress pains older adolescent, it’s said (4) was a definition of TENUE (manner of dress) and two wordplays, TENE (pains) and a homophone for TEEN (older adolescent). 28dn Good water spring, great Scotch, Elgin’s capital extra mature (4) was similar with G + EYE and GEY + E both being the wordplay with GREYER being defined by extra mature.

It’s always entertaining to have an LL clue where more than one of the required letter is omitted from the full word, GREYER being the only one in this puzzle. However, it is a credit to any setter to be able to have the latent letters spell out the required quotation in the order of the clues, so I just had to make do with GREYER.

I was very late in solving 1ac and 2dn. At 1ac Church engaged in quiet opening part of liturgy (6), I was trying to get a variation of SHACHARIS to fit, a word given by Mrs B, but not in Chambers (so why I spent so much time on it is a mystery). ST[I]CHOS was, of course, the correct entry. TERES MAJOR at 2dn was an obvious anagram of Jar stereo plus M to give TERES MAJOR, but that was new to me (and I refused to cheat).

Meanwhile row 10 had BRINE-PI[T] entered backwards and S[H]ADOW entered jumbled, but their exact relevance to the poem still had to be discovered — mainly because the poem was still a mystery. Anyway, the quotation and poet were finally revealed: I have a rendezvous with death at some disputed barricade. A Seeger. Barricade and rendezvous were superfluous words in 24ac and 7dn respectively. Line three was “When Spring comes back with rustling shade” and was represented by BRINE-PI[T] (salt spring) reversed and S[H]ADOW (shade) jumbled.

Listener 4405 My EntrySeeger was an American poet who enlisted in the French Foreign Legion at the start of the First World War and was killed in action in July 1916. The poem I have a Rendezvous with Death ends with the fatalistic lines:

But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

Thanks to Tangram for a well-crafted puzzle and for helping me experience another poet’s view of the War, poignant and haunting.

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Listener No. 4404, Earthquakes As Well: A Setter’s Blog by Tut

Posted by Listen With Others on 17 July 2016

This crossword started life as one themed on the works of the celebrated Arts & Crafts architect, Sir Edwin Lutyens. I admire nearly all of his work, from his “simple” private houses to Viceroy’s House in New Delhi which still takes my breath away. Perhaps the only property of his which fails to impress is sombre, leaky Castle Drogo, where his clients overruled him on almost all the important matters.

In the course of my research I became increasingly sidetracked by Lutyen’s father-in-law, Edward Robert Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Earl of Lytton, a career diplomat who was also a poet and novelist, writing under the nom de plume of Owen Meredith. The pinnacle of Lytton’s diplomatic career came in 1876 when he was appointed Viceroy of India. In 1880 the 2nd Anglo-Afghan War brought down Disraeli’s administration and Lytton resigned. After spending a few years away from diplomatic circles, he took up the position of Ambassador in Paris in 1887. He was so revered there that, on his death in 1891, the French gave him a state funeral.

His poem, Lucile, was written in 1860, the relevant part of which seemed to me to have Listener potential. Though I don’t share his sentiments, in one verse he lists seven things we can do without and just one essential, namely cooks. Perhaps this is why the French adored him so much.

To stick to the theme, it seemed natural that there should be an unnecessary letter in each clue, not entered in the grid, spelling out all bar one of the unnecessary items. The last one, heart, was provided by the mildly cryptic title.

One of his unnecessary items, books, differs from cooks by only one letter, which suggested having a clash in that cell. Solvers had to choose cooks (essential) in favour of books (inessential) in line with the sentiment of the poem. Four more clashes in the grid had to be resolved to yield LYTTON (the author) and LUCILE (the title of his poem).

In my original submission, I simply said that all clashes had to be resolved thematically, but the Editors felt that it didn’t make the cooks/books choice sufficiently clear and changed the preamble accordingly.

My previous Listener was rightly slated by many for the simplicity of its clues. Although there were a few easy clues provided this time to get solvers started, I hope some of the clues proved a tad meatier. Also solvers of my previous Listener commented that it was far too easy to spot the theme. This time “Lytton”, once discovered, has some ambiguity, as Lytton’s father was also a writer as was Lytton Strachey. Had “Meredith” appeared anywhere in the puzzle, I’m sure the theme would have been discovered disappointingly early.

Because many of us travel a lot and must rely on the Internet for thematic information, I provided an alternative pathway into the theme by asking solvers to shade VICEROY, which was placed in a prominent position in the grid.

Thank you for the many kind comments that I’ve received since publication of Listener 4404.

As a novice setter, I also value adverse comments. In future I’ll probably never use the “extra letter in wordplay” device and I’ll always check that any quotation involved appears in the current edition of ODQ.

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Earthquakes As Well by Tut

Posted by shirleycurran on 15 July 2016

TutRather a long way from home (attending a Greek Orthodox church wedding and baptism) with no ODQ to hand, we were full of trepidation when we managed to get a printed copy of Tut’s ‘Earthquakes As Well’ and to read that extra letters were going to spell out some items that according to a poem were not vital. ‘Earthquakes’ seemed like an anagram of HEART so we decided it was going to be some sort of poem about unwanted love (or could it be about The Last Days of Pompeii? But that thought came later when Lytton seemed to fit into our cells at 1d).

Nothing for it but to solve and that was not too difficult – at first. Of course I had checked that Tut was renewing his membership of the Listener Setters’ Tipsy Outfit and that was speedily confirmed when we slotted RAKI into our grid (Mediterranean spirit, brown from container mostly (4) – Now that was the type of clue the other Numpty moans about, almost a separate clue for each letter of the solution [B]R(own) + A(b) + KI(t) producing an extra B which later concluded the ‘AUTHOR’S JOB’ but not much reassurance  about Tut’s drinking habits).

We were not reassured either by ‘Tortured prose among lots of words about ersatz drink (8)’ giving us GEROPIGA (GIGA around PRO[S]E) which we learned was a port substitute; but “Cheers” anyway, Tut. The other Numpty suggested that Tut should be encouraged to up his act and indulge in a few first class malt whiskies in his next crossword

Solving went full tilt with generous clues that speedily populated our grid. CROWN ROT held us up for a while, especially as it had one of the clashes with BOOKS. BROWN ROT or BROWN RAT seemed likely candidates for the light but neither of them quite fitted the clue ‘Rheum disease peculiar in a vegetable (8, two words)’. Of course, the vegetable was the C[A]RROT around OWN = ‘peculiar’.  The other Numpty had to explain ROYALS to me too: the flags flown at the top of ships’ masts. I liked that clue ‘Beleaguered City further reduced what’s rigged at top level (6)’ leading to [T]ROY + ALS(o).

Then we came to an abrupt halt with just a few vacant cells at the top of our grid and a probable LYTTON at 1d but no justification for that in the wordplay and – consternation, 5 clashes to identify.

Our extra letters had obligingly spelled POETRY MUSIC ART CONSCIENCE FRIENDS: SHADE AUTHOR’S JOB. A hunt in the grid revealed VICEROY so we had our suspect, Bulwer Lytton, but I am ashamed that I have very little knowledge of his writings.

Feeding those key words into Google finally gave us an amusing verse about the dinner hour

We may live without poetry, music, and art;
We may live without conscience, and live without heart;
We may live without friends; we may live without books;
But civilized man cannot live without cooks.
He may live without books,—what is knowledge but grieving?         20
He may live without hope,—what is hope but deceiving?
He may live without love,—what is passion but pining?
But where is the man that can live without dining?


– something to do with LUCILE (so she gave us 2 of our 5 clashes, and clearly COOKS/BOOKS gave us a third). LYTTON had to give us two more and we ‘back-solved’ to get PYTHON. We found this end game tough but, otherwise enjoyed the solve. Many thanks to Tut; we’ll look forward to the next one (with, I hope, an improved taste in alcohol).

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Listener No. 4404: Earthquakes As Well by Tut

Posted by Dave Hennings on 15 July 2016

This week we had Tut’s second Listener, following on from no. 4313 Weak Force with its quark and Muster Mark theme. That was pretty straightforward, and I wondered whether Tut would let me off so lightly this week with extra letters in the wordplay and just five squares with clashes.

Listener 4404My first pass through all the clues was embarrassingly pathetic… so I’ll fast forward 45 minutes. There was a brief flurry of activity with a few more clues solved, but the grid was still looking somewhat dreary.

The bottom right corner in particular was causing me a headache with only BRAE, TIARA and RAKI after a couple of hours. Even a simple (in hindsight) clue like 37ac Wild animal cavorting in bed (4) was taunting me, since I hadn’t come across a DIEB before — it’s a North African jackal. 30dn Underlings no longer plough down in the deep (6) then became clear as SUBS + EA[r].

Before leaving the corner, I noticed that I hadn’t crossed off 43ac Maybe Delphic music came from this pointlessly vulgar, athletic god (7), even though I had blithely entered CITHARA. This was because it was KITHARA, being KITSCH – S (ie pointless) + A (athletic) + RA (god), C being the extra wordplay letter. A close call, and not for the first time recently.

As I was nearing the end of the grid (after about four hours, I think), the extra letters in the wordplay had given me poetry, music and science. However, each of those words had a vast number of entries in my ODQ index — and together in a Google search.

Meanwhile, I still only had two clashes, LATENCY/PYTHON at 1 and BOOKS/CROWN ROT at 22. Although I had been convinced that 15ac Oriental gang, some might say “the crowd” (4) was TONG (rather than HON•) it took me a while to decipher it as T’ [m]ONG. 6ac was also being a nuisance, staring at me as L•C•LE.

Of course, when I realised that the extra letters had nothing to do with science, but poetry, music, art, conscience, friends, part of Robert Bulwer-Lytton’s The Dinner Hour was finally revealed by Google:

We may live without poetry, music, and art;
We may live without conscience, and live without heart;
We may live without friends; we may live without books;
But civilized man cannot live without cooks.

Thus 22dn was CROWN ROT, not BROWN ROT, changing 22ac BOOKS to COOKS. LUCILE went in at 6ac, being the book in which the poem appears. It was not, however, the answer to the clue Voracious yob chopped tree (6) — that was LUPINE, and accounted for the outstanding two clashes in becoming LUCILE (LOU[T] + PINE).

Listener 4404 My EntryFinally, the remainder of the extra letters were Shade author’s job, and VICEROY didn’t take long to spot in the grid. He was Viceroy of India from 1876 to 1880 and it was indeed fascinating to read about the whole Bulwer-Lytton family.

Thanks for a fairly tough challenge this week, Tut.

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