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Listener Crossword 4763: Pressure Points by Mr Snaky

Posted by vaganslistener on 5 Jun 2023

Yes: another new setter (or partnership) to wrestle with. What a feast we are having.

The preamble wasn’t giving much away directly, but we were clearly going to be looking for a SUBJECT, probably a person rather than a topic, and three of their CONCEPTS to highlight. Six letters from clashes would reveal the subject (I was a bit slow in realising that that probably meant their name) and when joined they would make a thematic shape (something geometrical?).

Further lines joining those six squares would cross at other clashes and illustrate the “central” concept (I didn’t understand what that meant until later). Corrections to misprints in 10 definitions would give a further hint to the subject. And oh yes, four symmetrically placed entries had to be anagrammed. The setter had been VERY busy.

The way in for me was discovering quite quickly that 1d was one of four entries that needed anagramming. The answer INTEGRAL fitted with crossing entries when transformed into TRIANGLE. That was sounding usefully geometrical! Pascal has one of those named after him (in Chambers). 25d is symmetrically placed with WORDAGES emerging as its answer and DOWAGERS as its transformation. WAGERS – didn’t Pascal also have one of those named after him that I studied at college? That was looking like a Subject and two Concepts. What and where was the third? A bit of research revealed Pascal also had a THEOREM, and there it was in the centre of the puzzle (so that’s what “central” concept meant), unambiguously filling the central cell.

After a bit of grunt completing the grid I was confident I had the misprint message MATHS HOMME which is rather Frenglish but fitted Pascal fine, and eight clashes. By now I had looked up Pascal’s theorem and the associated diagram was – lo and behold – the same as the pattern of the clashes. Only then did I notice that the elements of the clashes needed to leave real words spelled out PASCAL while the unused ones added BLAISE for good measure. VERY neat, Mr Snaky. That almost makes you Mr SNEAKY. The cells were duly joined to make a thematic shape – but should that be the hexagon or an ellipse in which it inscribed? The theorem states that if a hexagon is inscribed in a conic, then the three points at which the pairs of opposite sides meet, lie on a straight line. First I went for the hexagon, then a conic (ellipse), but we shall see.

The final step was to look at the points of intersection of the interior lines, and three of them spelled out GOD, the topic of Pascal’s Wager, and forming the Pascal Line of the Theorem (red circles added for clarity). (The preamble wording says “the clashes at their intersections” spell the topic out, but there isn’t a clash in the central cell which is a bit worrying. There are two clashing squares involved, one with G/S in it and one with B/D, but I can’t make anything out of G+S+B+D and can’t see another option so am having to stay with GOD, as a Bishop probably should… Or am I muddling or overthinking this?).

All in all a very rich puzzle and a remarkable first outing. I hope there is another under construction and look forward to it slightly nervously as Mr Sn(e)aky certainly has the potential to get us up a gum tree.


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Listener No 4763, “Pressure Points”: A Setter’s Blog by Mr Snaky

Posted by Listen With Others on 4 Jun 2023

Pressure Points was my first attempt at setting a Listener crossword, and if I’m honest I think I was fortunate that the editors were so generous with their input. I hope that my clueing will tighten up as I gain more experience, and that in time I’ll be able to look back and cringe at some of the basic errors I made with my initial submission. We’ll see. Mr Snaky’s second and third offerings are already in train, so watch this space!

I’ve attempted the Listener crossword myself for many years now, albeit with a significant pause whilst the kids were too young for me to find enough spare time. It’s only recently, though, that I’ve toyed with setting my own. And, of course, I was delighted that Pressure Points was published.

I suppose the idea for the theme is due partly to me being a “mathsy” kind of guy. I knew something about Blaise Pascal already but Pascal’s Wager was something I wasn’t aware of until I started doing a bit of research. This, together with Pascal’s Theorem and Pascal’s Triangle started to shape my thinking. At some point I realised that 6 letters in both of his names and 6 points on the Theorem’s conic would offer quite a neat mechanism for the endgame, and after a few aborted attempts an embryonic grid started to form with a circle positioned through 6 symmetrical cells.

I knew I wanted to have clashing answers that yielded PB, AL, SA, CI, AS and LE, so that PASCAL would remain and BLAISE would be discarded, and I knew that I wanted to have THEOREM, WAGER and TRIANGLE in the final grid. These requirements actually constrained me quite significantly in terms of how the barring and answers needed to work, but I persevered. At some point I saw the opportunity for the slightly unusual fully barred off middle square, and to engineer GOD at the 3 intersections of the line pairs. That was quite satisfying. For the puzzle to work I then needed to construct words that would give the 6 “circle clashes” where only one of the pair could be right (e.g. ABED clashing with PLASMA would have to yield P in the final grid because BLASMA isn’t a word whereas APED is). But I needed the 2 “line clashes” to yield valid words in both instances (i.e. DEBUG/DEBUS GRIS/GRIG). This would mean that to complete the grid correctly, solvers would need to realise that GOD should appear at the intersections on the straight line, so “evidencing” his existence.

The rest of the grid construction fell into place eventually, and I wanted to make the solution marginally more difficult by introducing the 4 anagrams. I thought TRIANGLE might give the game away too soon as a direct answer, and having WAGER appear in an aesthetically pleasing position within DOWAGERS gave the opportunity to clue WORDAGES for 25 down. I’d already had my eye on THEOREM forming through the central column, so this gave pretty good symmetry for the three concepts.  

I knew I was going to include some kind of misprint mechanism as well, to provide a hint to the theme, and I decided that MATHS HOMME (indicating a French numbers guy) might be nice in the sense that it wasn’t too blatant and might trick people into looking for “THE” within the message, and of course a French word was a bit sneaky. Also, as a solver myself, I know that misprints in some rather than all clues can present another dimension of uncertainty so I thought this aspect of the puzzle might catch a few solvers out. 

I’d probably started writing some clues whilst still constructing the grid, but this part of the process (the clue-writing) probably took a similar amount of time in total to the grid. I wasn’t overly pleased with some of the words I’d constrained myself to because they didn’t immediately shout out anything interesting, but I was happy enough. Plus, the editors helped tremendously here when my clues were dull or full of mistakes, or quite often both!

As I write, I’m awaiting feedback on whether those who attempted Pressure Points found the clues/endgame easy/hard. Difficult for me to gauge as a novice setter, but when relooking at the crossword and pretending it wasn’t mine, I guess I did think some of the clues were a bit too obvious. As a result I’m dialling up the misdirection in my second submission, so beware!

Thanks for reading.

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Listener 4763 Pressure Points by Mr Snaky

Posted by gillwinchcombe on 3 Jun 2023

Pressure Points is aptly named, as I was determined to finish it before leaving for holiday the next day. Hence I wrote this blog at midnight just before the deadline for posting (then failed to schedule it on LWO, hence it’s a bit late appearing).

So much going on in this thematically rich puzzle! At least 3 different entry methods; 10 misprints to find and interpret; 8 clashes to arrange (oh no, 2 are ambiguous); 4 answers to anagram (or are they clashes); 3 words to highlight and then, as I crawl towards the finish line – a dreaded drawing challenge! Freehand ellipses are not my strong point.

At least the pressure points line up nicely. Once I realised it wasn’t (Sylvia) PLATH’S HOME and I wouldn’t need to draw primroses or hills, MATHS HOMME, along with the clashes, led me in reasonable  time to Pascal (Laplace was a close 2nd).

Two clues were especially tricky:

43ac Nice and racy frolicking of hedonistic philosophy – the anagram was obvious but Bradford’s unhelpfully gave CYRENIAC

41dn Northern holiday retreat with other king – surely a WAKE?

A complex, interesting puzzle, challenging & rewarding. Thanks Mr S

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Pressure Points by Mr Snaky

Posted by shirleycurran on 2 Jun 2023

Yet another Listener crossword by a new setter (that’s unless it is an old hand snakily lurking under a new name!) We were about to depart for the taverna on our last evening in chilly May Athens when the crossword didn’t arrive. We left for our mezedes anyway, which meant that we were solving this on an early plane today, after a pre-dawn awakening. These days, the ride to the Athens airport is a 45-minute event on a bus packed with airport workers, even at 5 a.m. It used to be easier when the airport was in Ellinikon, which is now being converted into a fabulous eco-friendly mini town.

Nearly eight lines of pre-ramble that didn’t tell us a lot: misprints, clashes, anagrams and a diagram to draw that was going to give us a thematic shape something to do with concepts. I couldn’t raise my glass as Aegean is ‘dry’ but chomped into my yukky warmed spanakopita and opted to hunt for Mr Snaky’s right to apply for membership of the Listener Oenophiles, while the other Numpty entered INTEGRAL, HASSLING, MANKIEST and WORDAGES (among others) all of which produced clashes with ARABIST, LOATHE, YEARNS, for example and RAIDED. ‘Did help dividing wine (6). He put AID into RED and I raised my glass of Aegean ‘portokali’ juice to Mr Snaky, He hadn’t finished. ‘Hearts in embryo likewise are forming (4)’ We didn’t have Chambers on the plane (just a pencil) and decided that the BR EW would be ‘foaming’ (like yeast). Oh no – ‘foaming’ is a Chambers definition of BREW – as I learned when we had the Big Red Book. However, cheers, and welcome anyway Mr Snaky with that RED and the BREW.

We had a full grid before we landed and an almost circular set of clashes that spelled PASCAL (yes, the letters that didn’t lead to real words spelled BLAISE) with the rather intriguing choice of DREW/DAKER or BREW/BAKER in cell 36. Our corrected misprints seemed to spell OMAHS HOME or something of the sort, but we decided it had to be MATHS HOMME – well, he was French. All those clashes in the four words, that were evidently the ones we must anagram, disappeared when we entered TRIANGLE/ SLASHING/ MISTAKEN and DOWAGERS. Something rang a bell but we needed Wiki to show us how to draw that diagram about whether we should believe in God. I ask you! Did Pascal really believe he was demonstrating anything?

Linking those six points with a ‘thematic’ shape? Well it’s about a hexagram but Pascal linked his as an ellipse – dilemma! But I go with Pascal.

My one remaining concern was whether I should link those clashing central letters of GOD with a line, as the Wiki diagrams do, ‘to show the third concept’s topic’ but it seemed we were not instructed to do that, so “Cheers Mr Snaky, thanks and welcome”.

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Listener Crossword 4762: Case-sensitive by Aedites

Posted by vaganslistener on 27 May 2023

Aedites has served us up this time with the archetypal PDM puzzle. (Penny Drop Moment for the unitiated.) Unsignalled clashes all over the place seemed to be making the solve impossible, even though the clues were fair and not at all hard.

So after a very quick partial fill, I put my staring specs on – and as is always a good idea, looked at the preamble again. What was that sneaky little word “FULLY capitalised” doing there?

By that point I had also decided that whatever the word-play of 1d. NOUAKCHOTT had to be the answer. I decided to look it up more fully, and – yes! – it was the CAPITAL of Mauritania (which fitted the word-play of the clue nicely). So we are being asked to substitute the names of the countries given by the wordplay of the thematic clues with the names of their capitals. After that is was very plain sailing, and the biggest challenge in fact, given my handwriting (bad handwriting was probably the only reason I gained a doctorate…) was writing clearly enough in lower case. Good luck, Mr Green!

Another feature of the puzzle is the way that it all hangs on our clever setter having had the idea and presumably found a useful list of countries and their capitals that he could sort through easily enough to produce a master-list of matching-length possibilities, which he could then play with by hand or put into a dictionary file for one of the grid-building programmes to have a go at. It’s one of the ways setting gets to us, as our brains become wired to spot word-shapes and puzzle possibilities, and if we’re lucky stores them away for future reference. My memory leaks too much for that these days, but I have a Little List on the computer…

Thanks Aedites for a well-constructed puzzle with a neat twist, and for the handwriting exercise too.

PS Another slip here (and I didn’t even attempt 4863) so no Hosannas and I won’t be troubling the engraver on the silverware any time soon. If you look very carefully you can see my pencil A under the rogue second N of SANNA: inking in too quickly and not checking. Apart from my usual tendency to just want to get things done you may correctly deduce that my other vocation has been rather full-on recently.

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