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Listener 4745: Linebacker by Craft

Posted by vaganslistener on 27 Jan 2023

Thanks to Craft for a Happy way to the begin the New Year, with a classic little Listener, including obligatory railway map and colouring-in. The epynomous LINEBACKER was Charles Pearson who campaigned for the building of the Metropolitan Railway, which opened on 10th January 1863, 160 years ago give or take a few days. He was the City of London’s Solicitor and a good egg, not in it for the money, and I’ll applaud him too for supporting the disestablishment of the C of E (while being glad it survived) at the same time eyeing the Archbishop across the road as MP for Lambeth… My great-grandfather Joseph King Thomson might strangely have been named after King’s Cross Station in 1852, the year of its opening (the family lived nearby in honest (I hope) poverty, and his elder brother acquired Garibaldi as a middle name when he was the talk of the town in his birth year). They would have seen and heard and probably smelled the work going on.

The clashes resolved as the initials of the original stations of the line, in their proper positions: Paddington Bishops Road; Edgware Road, Baker Street, Portland Road, Gower Street, King’s Cross and Farringdon Street. The “modern equivalent” was spelled out as TUB EF ROMP ADDINGTO TONTO FAR RING DON.

The clues were fair and concise (5d “Vintage Times puzzle” > CRUX was excellent) and all in all it made for a very good solve. I approve of there being a few tortuous ones too, but if the series is thrive, this is a good way to mark the start of its new year. 

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Linebacker by Craft

Posted by shirleycurran on 27 Jan 2023

For our first Listener puzzle of the year we opened Craft’s second Listener puzzle and read that we would find seven clashes and eight extra words as well as a 7/7 name to be highlighted.

As usual, the other Numpty was slotting solutions in thick and fast as I skimmed the clues to confirm that Craft retains his place amongst the Listener Oenophiles. Of course, he does: ‘Vintage Times puzzle (4)’ gave us CRU + X, and later on in the clues, ‘Mould of essentially noble rot, it’s seen round bottom of winery (8)’. We put lots of clue elements together there to give us BOTRYTIS. Chambers tells me that’s ‘A mould which forms on over-ripe grapes and produces the characteristic richness of certain wines, eg Sauternes and Tokay. So “Cheers, Craft!”

It was the eight extra words that spelled out for us TUB EF ROMP ADDING TONTO FAR RING DON that produced the penny-drop moment and a huge smile. ‘Tube from Paddington to Farringdon’. Farringdon is a familiar place to those who gather for the three-monthly Listener get-togethers and we have watched the progress of the Elizabeth Line station there.

However, we were told that this was a ‘modern equivalent of the theme’ and we needed to go back to the origins of this section of the underground. We had the right number of clashes but they had to be entered in the thematically appropriate order’.

Of course we needed to consult Google to sort out some of those stations. Farringdon Street (FS) and King’s Cross (KC) were pretty obvious but I was wondering whether PR was Regent’s Park (it turned out to be Portland Road) and could this early underground have gone via Bond Street? (BS – Baker Street).

Fortunately Google put me right and confirmed the CHARLES PEARSON who had appeared in our grid:

‘The railway as it opened in 1863

Board of Trade inspections took place in late December 1862 and early January 1863 to approve the railway for opening. After minor signalling changes were made, approval was granted and a few days of operating trials were carried out before the grand opening on 9 January 1863, which included a ceremonial run from Paddington and a large banquet for 600 shareholders and guests at Farringdon. Charles Pearson did not live to see the completion of the project; he died in September 1862.

The 3.75-mile (6 km) railway opened to the public on 10 January 1863, with stations at Paddington (Bishop’s Road) (now Paddington), Edgeware Road, Baker Street, Portland Road (now Great Portland Street), Gower Street (now Euston Square), King’s Cross (now King’s Cross St Pancras), and Farringdon Street (now Farringdon). The railway was hailed a success, carrying 38,000 passengers on the opening day, using GNR trains to supplement the service. In the first 12 months 9.5 million passengers were carried and in the second 12 months this increased to 12 million.’

So there it was – an anniversary puzzle. What a delightful puzzle. Thank you, Craft.

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Listener 4744: A Wrap-up (of the old and happy beginning to the New) from Kea

Posted by vaganslistener on 20 Jan 2023

What better way to see out the Old Year and usher in the New than with a welcome glass of Kea – and a new form of grid, using the scytale cypher device to add a touch of interest and complication to the grid.

Most of us will have come across the scytale in books about codes and the like, and of course it’s pretty simple under the bonnet, eve if it does involve consistent and accurate counting, which is by no means my forte. For the record though, I numbered the columns and watched for the repeat and spotted it quickly for once with a repeat of 13 (coloured here for the record).

The clueing was also very gentle by Kea standards so the theme of the wordplay-only entries also popped out quickly, which proved to be “winds” with a lovely word-play on turns and tempests. (Having the obscure BRICKFIELDER at 1d was propbaby a carefully placed delayer, but FOEHN and SPIRIT at 16a and 18a gave the game away for me.)

The words and clues were a good mixture of common/obscure and easy/hard which is always welcome, and I nearly stumbled at 26d “Is shedding higher square leaves (5)” – with its awkward surface – by pencilling in EMITS for “is shedding” without looking at the wordplay until later, when I was able to get my foot out of the trap and put EXITS instead (def. “leaves” = EXISTS [“is”] – S [the “higher” S in it].

What about the endgame using “a work that the thematic answers could have gone with”? Films are another of my black holes but Janus was on my side and happily for once it too jumped off the page as a reference to GONE WITH THE WIND, and the wonderful Wikipedia confirmed the last line as “tomorrow is another day”, with TOM/ORR/OWI/SAN/OTH/ER quickly found with a seasonal alteration to YEAR.

A great start to the year, or is that the finish to the previous one, and here’s to more Kea and more good puzzles in 2023.

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Listener No 4744: A Wrap-up by Kea

Posted by Dave Hennings on 20 Jan 2023

SCENE: The Editor’s office, December 2022.

There is a desk in the centre of the room. There is an in-tray on the desk. It is empty. There is a calendar for 2022 on the wall with 1st December highlighted.

There are two chairs: a big one is behind the desk and a small one in front of it. Editor is sitting on the big chair and Sub-editor on the small one. Both are staring intently at the in-tray which seems oblivious to their attention.

Sub-editor: Remind me why we’re looking at the in-tray.

Editor: I’m waiting for a letter from the Editor of the Times Saturday Review.

Sub-editor: Right. (He pauses.) Why?

Editor: I’ve got a puzzle coming up at the end of the month that requires him to rejig the puzzles section at the back. I’ve asked him if the Saturday Jumbo, Concise and Chess sections could be shrunk down to take up just a half page.

Sub-editor: Seems a bit extreme.

Editor stands up and goes over to the calendar.

Editor (pointing at 31st December): Our last puzzle this year is on New Year’s Eve and I’ve got a puzzle waiting to go that has a 48×3 grid.

Sub-editor: I don’t remember vetting that.

Editor ignores him and returns to his chair.

Returning their gaze to the in-tray, they see that a letter has materialised. Editor takes the letter, opens it and reads.

Editor: I suppose I’m not surprised. They’ve rejected my request. The Jumbo Editor had a hissy fit, and they also checked with John Green who said that if I expected him to check 400 strips of paper 18 inches long… well, you get his drift!

Sub-editor: Couldn’t we just have three 16×3 strips on top of one another?

Editor: I suppose.

Any similarity to actual editorial discussions is purely hypothetical.

A puzzle from our editor today. A couple of years since his last Listener (no 4624, World-beating), based on examples of “X is the best Y”, such as Laughter is the best Medicine. Mind you there was a Kea puzzle in the December Magpie which was a D grade, so I wondered what he had in store for us here. A long thin 48×3 strip for the grid is what it was and to be used as a scytale, the thickness of which was to be deduced. There were also a slew of thematic answers which were clued by wordplay only and would help with some endgame highlighting.

1ac Sailors’ patron died, having backed brief periods of expansion (8) had me googling the patron saint of sailors since I couldn’t see how Saint Nicholas could work in the clue. It turns out that, like many things that have saints, there were a few. One was St Elmo, but I dismissed that in the same way as St Nick. Of course, it would turn out to be he, with (ST ELMO + BO)< giving BOOMLETS.

At expected the clues were a mixture of tough and straightforward. 6dn Discarded prospect taking in odorous room (12, two words) was thematic and led to VIOLENT STORM [VISTA around OLENT + RM]. That was fairly tricky, as was 30ac Female behind Save the Children Fund capturing heart of Hilary Duff (6) for SCLAFF [F after SCF around (Hi)LA(ry)]. Oh yes, and there was 1dn Bloody fool keeping stack in tree (12) for BRICKFIELDER [BF around RICK + I’ + ELDER]. I was also surprised that AT PLAY was not in Chambers.

It took a fair bit of jiggery-pokery to find that the scytale had a circumference of 13 cells. Once the grid was complete, the windy nature of the answers given by only wordplay was evident. I was probably quite lucky to suss that the windiness work alluded to Margaret Mitchell’s novel, Gone with the Wind. Well, the only quote I recalled from that film was “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

A quick google revealed the true closing words to be “After all, tomorrow is another day”. A scan of the grid soon identified TOMORROW IS ANOTHER YEAR running diagonally upwards from the second cell of the bottom row and cycling through every seventh.

It seems that every new year recently has started with people saying that it’s got to be better than last year. This year was no exception in my view.

Thanks for a novel (no pun intended) and very enjoyable puzzle, Kea.

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A Wrap-up by Kea

Posted by shirleycurran on 20 Jan 2023

Tme to ‘wrap up the Listener year and we download this week’s offering expecting a relatively gentle puzzle for New Year’s Eve and what do we see? Three 16 X 3 grids compiled by one of the editors, Kea. His ‘Admission’, Listener no 4045, is still my all-time favourite crossword puzzle, that stunning felling of the cherry tree in the grid by the young George Washington and he is one of the repeated Listener Ascot Gold Cup winners (Kea, I mean – not the young Washington) so we can be sure that we are in safe hands with impeccable cluing but probably quite a challenge.

Then we read the preamble and take a deep breath: ‘… a scytale; to enter down answers it must be wrapped around a rod whose thickness solvers must deduce’ then ‘Several answers are thematic and are clued by wordplay only’. “A scytale?” we ask each other and head to our co-setter Wiki who gives us a rather worrying page about deducing codes and so on. This calls for a hefty drink – ah, no need to to check Kea’s adherence to the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Outfit – he can hardly be kicked out can he? But I do check anyway, and find that it is OUZO for our pre New Year tipple, ‘Drink said to percolate with Evian water (4)’ We “hear” ‘oose’ with ‘eau’ and have our favourite Greek summer drink. Cheers, Kea!

So we start solving and across solutions go in quite happily with SPIRIT, FOEHN, BREEZE, SOLANO and BLAST having wordplay only and suggesting to us that ‘wind’ is thematic. Well, we are going to ‘wind’ these strips round a rod, aren’t we? So maybe that’s it? (Oho – see below!)

We have a number of the down solutions, ENSOR, SPEER, RICTAL and BAIZA and I realize that I can complete those words on the strip below by moving back three cells: but that doesn’t work for EXITS, say. Head scratching ensues.

When we scotch-tape the strips togther, BRICKFIELDER and VIOLENT STORM give us the breakthrough! Moving back three cells now has the same result as moving forward 13 and we can complete our grid with DHARAN, for example, ‘Shaking a hand welcomes personnel in Saudi oil centre (7)’ That shaky (with the ouzo?) A HAND* takes in the Human Resources (HR).

Grid full, but we have to find that ‘timely message’ that will appear diagonally when that rod has a different thickness. We don’t do any ‘winding’, just a bit more searching, and find out that the message is there with a movement forward of seven cells. TOMORROW IS ANOTHER YEAR. Indeed it will be 2023, but that phrase is reminiscent of another winding up. Doesn’t Scarlett O’Hara wind up Gone With The Wind with ‘Tomorrow is another day’? Doh! The WIND! Roddy Forman (of the Roddy Forman Listener trophy – the wonderfully tolerant and generous Roddy who gave all of us learner setters his wise advice and support) would have given this full marks for thematic relevance with the title, the device, and all those unclued winds giving one unique theme. Lovely, Kea!

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