Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin.

Quads II by Shark

Posted by shirleycurran on 23 September 2016

Shark Quads IIB001Shark! Well, he usually lives up to his pseudonym and this is sure to be a challenge, but a most enjoyable one too. I am expecting rather tough clues so am surprised when many of these are most approachable. Naturally I have checked Shark’s continued membership of the Listener Setters’ Toping Outfit and, of course he doesn’t disappoint as he even opens his clues with evidence. “Starved following drunk losing weight (6)’ gives us F [w]ASTED – and, becomes WASTED (thoroughly drunk) in the endgame.

Then we find ‘Serve stupefying drink in front of the Italian …(5) …restaurant from hostess counter (4)’ giving us AVA + IL and TART inverted = TRAT. It’s not surprising after that AVA and the TART turning up in the TRAT, he says ‘After knocking back fizz I’m behaving like a schoolgirl (7)’ (We found an extra S there) HISS IM gave MISSI[S]H. Next we find ‘Handle draughts? (7)’ Mrs Bradford suggests DISCUSS to us, and indeed, there it is in Chambers under Handle. Shark still hasn’t finished! ‘Gentlemen organised orgies (7)’ we are told, and it’s those Italians from the TRAT again – SIGNORE*. LSTO membership confirmed – See you at the bar, Shark (or sipping from another Ascot Gold Cup).

I rather like carte blanche challenges, especially when there is no rogue sneakiness and the clues simply slot in as soon as a grid is established, and this was the case here, so that we soon (about 90 minutes) had our first full grid with no doubt at all about any of the solutions. That is a rare state for us. What was even better was that as we solved, the other Numpty had been saying ‘Those letters are going to spell FOURTH DIMENSION’. We had a total of 21 extra letters and were not sure of all of those but fifteen conveniently spelled out those two words so with great trepidation (as we know this Shark has teeth) we began to search for forty cells that we could blacken out – 20 in the top and twenty in the bottom half of the grid, since we were told that we were going to construct a grid with 90-degree symmetry.

Shark 40 cells removedIt was far easier than we expected (famous last Listener words! Why, oh why, after all these years, have I not learnt to read every letter and comma of the preamble?) After about ten minutes we thought we had the desired second grid. Doesn’t that look lovely! – and those desired words are exactly where we thought they should be.

It was fairly obvious that we couldn’t divide that into four pieces of the same size and shape that were anything other than quadrants, so I drew my lines and sat back smugly and began to look for length, breadth, height, and time – the fourth dimension.Wrong grid 001

I’m including these pretty pictures as a kind of lesson to myself. The grid staring went on for just as long as we had taken to solve the original crossword and got me exactly nowhere. It wasn’t until almost the stroke of midnight that I realized where those four words had to be (in the diagonals) and spotted the problem.

Actually there are two problems. Look at the four sides of the grid! The instructions are very clear. ‘The grid now has 90-degree symmetry and all entries are real words.’ (The italics are mine.) In my rush to finish, I had jumped a stage and had odd words like ‘SERVERSORE’. I had also highlighted the wrong I at the start of dImension. Numpty, READ THE PREAMBLE!

Shark Quads IIc with dimensionssSecond time round, of course, it was straightforward and this time the words were evident, and produced lovely changes, like SORELY becoming SORELL, Shark becoming WASTED or thoroughly drunk, in the place of FASTED or STARVED, a MODEL-T replacing MODELS and NAVAJO turning to NAVAHO (of course, if we had needed a hint, that was it! Who would choose NAVAJO to clue with that fearsome J if an ETAOIN SHRDLU letter was available?).

This was typical Shark – so much included in the grid, delightful clues and real smile moments like that astonishing clue to DEMENTIA where all the extra letters have to be extracted leaving only ETA, producing ‘Upset about condition of upper storey (8)’ (ATE<). There was, of course, a rather naughty clue; we laughed at ‘Wall Street office would be protective if attached to New York (4)’ JOHN(NY). A fabulous piece of compilation that left me feeling very frustrated with my solving skills – and a little bit ‘upset about condition of upper storey’. I can understand how Dave felt about his little blue port-hole in Nudd’s Yellow Submarine a few weeks ago. Lovely – thank-you, Shark.

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

Listener No. 4414: Quads II by Shark

Posted by Dave Hennings on 23 September 2016

Shark’s last Listener was Quads which had us turning one quadrant of the completed grid to overlay another and then filling the empty cells with all the original entries’ initial letters. Here we had no. II, and the preamble seemed to indicate a somewhat entertaining endgame. The clues, however, didn’t seem to hold too many surprises with the wordplay not indicating one of the letters of the entry. We were even told how many such letters there would be (15) but that might mean that thirty clues were affected.

The only real problem seemed to be that we were faced with a carte blanche, so I decided to start my attack in the north-west quadrant.

listener-4414I failed with the first four acrosses, so moved on to the downs and was rewarded with 1 Fractions shift ground (6) for FIFTHS, so one F wasn’t wordplayed, but which one. Both were checked, so time would tell. In fact, only a minute later told, with 1ac Starved following drunk losing weight (6) giving FASTED (intact) and 12ac Reads about DJ’s controls (6) for FADERS (without its F). Actually it needed SEDANS at 3dn to help with FASTED (F + WASTED – W).

The remainder of the NW corner was finished pretty quickly. The south-west wasn’t quite as straightforward. However, I enjoyed the clue to 24ac After knocking back fizz I’m behaving like a schoolgirl (7), even though it would be some time before it was revealed as MISSISH.

I also made faltering progress with the north-east corner… oh, and the south-east as well. In the NE, I liked 11ac Flipping toffs’ mode of transport (4) for SHAY and in the SE it was 27dn Hard area of Liverpool, ultimately not so hard (6) that caused a smirk. I would probably still be struggling to understand that clue were it not for Ken Dodd, with KNOTTY ASH – AS (so) H (hard).

However, no prize for guessing which was my favourite clue since you should know how my mind works by now: 18ac Wall Street office would be protective if attached to New York (4)! The trickiest clue was probably 32ac Upset about condition of upper storey (8) since only three letters were given by the wordplay: ATE< from DEMENTIA. There was also the reference to Harry Potter in the clue to SNITCH at 6ac — something to do with Quidditch, I think.

I finished Stage 1 of the puzzle in about 2½ hours. The 15 letters not given by wordplay were FOURTH DIMENSION and I scoured the grid for DOCTOR, TARDIS, MASTER and DALEKS to no avail.

Stage 2 required us to black out 40 cells, keeping the 15 letters intact and with the grid having 90-degree symmetry. 60 cells could instantly be marked as remaining, and it didn’t take too long to identify the rest, especially with words like DISCUSS and THEISTS which could be due for topping or tailing later.

Stage 3 just required us to divide the grid into four pieces of the same size and shape and keeping real words. It seemed that we were given a choice for the two letter entries that would be left in rows/columns 2 and 11. ITA, EMO, RET and OBI could become IT, EM, ET and BI, except that ET wasn’t given its own entry in Chambers, only as part of a phrase. That left TA, MO, RE and OB to be left as the two-letter words.

listener-4414-my-entryNearly home, and Stage 4 required us to change two letters in each quadrant to reveal four thematic words. On first reading of the preamble, I had thought this might be the tricky bit, but it didn’t take me long to see that WIDTH, HEIGHT, LENGTH and TIME needed to appear inwards along the diagonals. My biggest d’oh moment was trying to work out what the hell MODELT meant!

Great fun as expected from Shark, and a fascinating concept for a puzzle. I look forward to another Quads in the near future but hope that it hasn’t given Sabre an idea for Quins or Octs!

Posted in Solving Blogs | Leave a Comment »

Quads II by Shark

Posted by Encota on 23 September 2016

Welcome to my second ever post here!

Firstly, many thanks to Shark for a fun & challenging puzzle.  Solving the initial clues (which, as an aside, have the usual terse precision I am learning to expect from a Shark puzzle), finding FOURTH DIMENSION and filling the grid felt like the easy bit!  I loved some of the clues where many of the letters were missing from the Wordplay, with DEMENTIA clued as something like [D]E[M][E][N]T[I]A with the wordplay of “Upset about…” being for ATE< (i.e. ATE, reversed) thus being my favourite.  I also loved how specific letters were missing from the wordplay even for checked letters –very impressive!

As an aside, I still had one clue at the time of writing which I couldn’t quite parse (SCRAGGED), though hopefully it’ll have come to me by the time this is published.  I can find a definition and many of the components, apparently, but I couldn’t quite link it all together.

Picking which ten squares to black out in each quadrant was the hard part – there initially seemed to be so many options!  I almost ended up with a mixed barred and blocked puzzle, which seemed like nonsense.  Another try and I had spotted them…

With this level of difficulty I was wondering whether the four pieces that the grid was to be cut into would actually be more tortuous tetris-like dovetailed tessellations and did have to double-check that the ‘must then draw lines’ in the Preamble simply meant the central straight lines.

Once the SE diagonal looked suspiciously like (LE)NGTH then the other three quickly followed.

Finally, with a Title like Quads, was there a medical connection, was it simply Quadrants, did it refer to the number of dimensions, or was there another meaning on top of some of those that I was missing – not sure.  Also waiting another 30 weeks simply to grab the Puzzle Number of 4444 would surely have been tempting as an editor, though unfair on Shark to have to wait another eight months or so to be published.   Hopefully that puzzle’s already reserved for Quads III !

Overall, I love the variety of difficulty in The Listener and definitely prefer the harder ones: this is exactly the sort of puzzle I like – so thanks again to Shark!

Tim / Encota

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

Edit by Jago

Posted by shirleycurran on 16 September 2016

We were at Riederfurka in the Swiss Upper Valais. It does have WiFi (though the rich aristocrats the banker Sir Ernest Cassel Jago Edit 002and his distinguished guests who summered up there above 2000 metres at the Villa Cassel would probably never have envisaged such a thing) but the little Riederfurka mountain hotel has no printer, so I was obliged to download the Friday Listener on my iPhone and reconstruct the grid with paper and pencil.


Healthy dose of vitamin C!

What would we have done if last week’s  Nod numerical had reached us in that way? Abandoned all hope, I think. What a relief it was to see ‘Edit by Jago’ above that 12 X 12 grid. With no disrespect to Jago, who always provides us with an entertaining couple of hours, his are the crosswords that probably encourage newer solvers to persist; a crossword that we could attack with pencil and paper. Here’s my proof IMG_4459– our grid with almost all the clues cold-solved as we sat on the bales of straw covered with sheepskins enjoying the apéritifs and overlooking the sadly receding Aletsch Glacier.

Did I say apéritifs? Of course I didn’t need to confirm Jago’s membership of the Listener Setters’ Drinkie Outfit as it is Jago and Jan who, ever year, devote so much time and energy to organising the Listener Setters’ Dinner. However, a check was in order and, as the other Numpty happily solved, I scanned the clues, finding ‘Ornamental holder of container with pie cooked inside (6)’ TIN round PIE* giving us TIE PIN. From the pie, Jago moved on to a Japanese tea ceremony or tea party (5)’ CHA + DO and was clearly fancying his G & T, ‘Wanting nothing but pleasure, naughtily hides tonic (10)’ HIDES TONIC* = HEDONISTIC. Hmm; things were looking worrying.

Jago Edit 001However, all was well. 1d gave us ‘We burp drunkenly, emptying beers in places where they’re very local (8)’ WE BURP + B[eer]S* giving BREWPUBS – so we had a drunken, burping four-O-clock finish (as usual – Cheers Jago!)

This was a fine set of clues but they were not difficult and we soon had enough to attempt a tentative grid fill. Of course, the word lengths of the lights had prompted us that something was going to be omitted from each solution, and we had been told that there was a ‘deficiency’ (my italics) associated with each of the four quadrants. It was fun to fill the grid with the letters that intersected from the different solutions and fairly straightforward to establish that we were omitting the Bs from the first quadrant, the Is from the second, the Ds from the third and the Cs from the fourth.

I was slightly nonplussed when the unclued light (which was to be entered normally) seemed to produce GOITRE. Isn’t that indicative of a deficiency of Iodine? Aaah! The penny dropped with a clang. So we were entering BERI BERI in the first quadrant (vitamin B deficiency) RICKETS where the vitamin D was deficient and SCURVY, of course, where the vitamin C was lacking. (Weren’t we taught at school that Captain James Cook was the genius who insisted that his crew consumed lemons and limes to cope with that blight caused by vitamin C deficiency?). This was a beautiful, consistent piece of setting – thoroughly enjoyable. Many thanks to Jago.

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

Edit by Jago

Posted by Encota on 16 September 2016

I’ve recently been encouraged by shirleycurran to post a few thoughts on this blog.  I’ve taken up more seriously trying to solve The Listener just this year – and if I get more than half right in my first year will feel I’m doing very well!  This is my first published post so forgive me if it doesn’t goes 100% smoothly.  I am trying to write it more as a supplement to that posted by Shirley and Dave – so I will try to avoid covering the same ground if at all I can.  FYI, as well as being a keen solver, I’m also beginning to get a few puzzles of my own published here and there – with hopefully many more to come – under my pseudonym Encota.

First of all, many thanks to Jago for a gentle, cleverly constructed puzzle.  Showing my ignorance, I had to look up GOITRE to confirm it really was the result of Iodine deficiency; the other three (rickets, scurvy and beri-beri) were better known to me.  I thought the entries that crossed quadrant boundaries were particularly neatly constructed.  CHADO was also new to me but very generously clued, so easy to find.

As usual, I spent a little while try to read more (too much?) into the Title* but with little success.  EDICT with a (vitamin) C deficiency reduced to EDIT perhaps?!  No.   After that I was struggling.  Perhaps the TIDE is turning, given the occurrences of at least one of these deficiencies aboard ship??   No.  Hmm…  Am I missing something?

Overall, I love the variety of difficulty in The Listener and on balance prefer the harder ones; nonetheless this was great fun to solve – and reduced my excuses to avoid the dreaded ‘To Do’ list on home DIY (for which I think I am grateful!)

Tim / Encota

* With examples of Titles in 2016 including ‘Cycle 20% More’ and ‘Stomach’ I hope I am not the only one to find sussing the Setter’s train of thought here almost irresistible?

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »