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Listener 4691 Something in Common by Lionheart

Posted by gillwinchcombe on 17 Jan 2022

What joy – a Listener unexpectedly appearing online on Christmas Eve! And a topical, original and entertaining Listener to boot. The gridfill was relatively straightforward, and in due course I spotted the ISIHAC connection, the metre and the notes, but then things started to get sticky. There was no choice: for the family’s sake it had to be laid aside until after Christmas.

Boxing Day came, and identifying the carols – even when playing the notes on an online keyboard – was surprisingly difficult for someone as unmusical as me. They yielded in 3 different ways:

  • JOY TO THE WORLD (11, 17) was recognisable from the tune, despite my inaccurate rendition. Just as well, as equating “joy” with “dear” was a long way from my thinking
  • “We left the moonlit B hotel” (37, 41) immediately – and surprisingly – resolved itself to O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM ; and
  • IT CAME UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR gave me much grief and needed a deep dig into resources acquired from six decades of carol singing in church & market square. Eventually it emerged. My first candidate also had 24 letters and 6 words, but I think “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” has a different metre.

Google (mis)led me to Ilkley moor. Oh no! Surely I don’t have to replace all the existing notes with those of Cranbrook! Childhood memories of thumbing through Hymns Ancient & Modern during some less than engaging sermons came to the rescue. Cranbrook was originally written for a hymn – While Shepherds Watched – and lo and behold, the first line (in words) fitted with the H, H, Y, L, T, O of HUMPHREY LYTTELTON. At this point I realised that I hadn’t actually needed to identify IT CAME UPON A MIDNIGHT CLEAR but by this time I was full of Christmas spirit (not that kind!) and happy to have reached the finishing line.

A cracker of a Christmas puzzle, thanks to Lionheart

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Listeners 4686 – 4690

Posted by gillwinchcombe on 17 Jan 2022

Oh dear! Another round-up: I blame the Kwiz, and the occasional foray into Pablo’s Armchair Treasure Hunt, where I was a chocolate teapot when it came to helping Tim, Tim and Darren’s team. Such an eclectic treasure-house of knowledge – not to mention sheer persistence – is needed for PATH, and it was a revelation watching these masters at work. But back to the Listeners, which have provided their own, more accessible, delights.

Listener 4686 Dice Nets by Arden

I can’t believe it’s 3 years since Arden taxed our brains with A Defter Premier! Dice Nets didn’t reveal any clever titular anagrams this time, but otherwise the comments I sent to Arden about A Defter Premier apply to Dice Nets as well. This was an amazing construction that managed to fit all 11 nets into just 80 squares, with symmetry in the placement of the bars to boot! Not only that, but I thought the clues were stupendously neat, using just primes, “powers”, squares and triangular numbers with cross-referencing but no extraneous numbers. A tour de force of the numerical puzzle realm!

That said, once again I could not (or rather would not) not have solved it without Mathematica. I enjoyed teamworking with my husband Cliff; critically, he wrote the programme to generate constrained sets of triangular numbers. We solved it in parallel; he was the hare, bounding ahead, but I was the tortoise who finished first, owing to his propensity for making careless mistakes. I’m sure there’s a lesson there. No Fermat tricks this time but Cliff reminded me that no two adjacent numbers can be identical or add up to 7, which helped identify the nets. A very pretty result!

Listener 4687 Best Practice by Ares

I enjoyed gentle Best Practice. In contrast to Dice Nets, Best Practice provided us with a relaxing gridfill, a short foray into Wikipedia and a relatively easily spotted endgame which brought a smile to my face. My favourite clue was 4dn, just for its image of pot-bellied cows and for introducing me to KEDGY. And I smiled at all the BPs scattered through the puzzle.

I’m so pleased that the endgame was easier than the one in Cool Places – I don’t think I could have coped with a leap like that after battling with Dice Nets! I can handle submitting just two words, with my fingers crossed that I’d found the right version of Baden-Powell’s instruction and interpreted it correctly. My version was slightly longer (your thanks; to God for the good time you have had, and to the owner of the land who has let you have the use of it) and very appropriate for today. I loved the reminder to thank God for the good time I have during my many forays into the beautiful Cotswolds, and my heartfelt thanks are also to the Scout/Guide leaders who entertained and educated my children while I enjoyed a much-appreciated break!

Listener 4688 Harry East by Lath

I’m not a chess player (once again I rely on my husband for that aspect), and I’ve never read Tom Brown’s schooldays, but I enjoyed Lath’s original and ingenious puzzle once I realised what was going on, again submitted with fingers crossed that I’d laid it out correctly. The gridfill was relatively straightforward and I particularly liked 3 clues:

  • 37ac (Rock around part of Leon) for finding Leon from lemon
  • 18dn (Do a rewarding job on her spare change) for “rewarding job” – clever misprint and association
  • 29dn (Aged kindred spirit finally line dancing) for “kindred spirit” – another clever misprint/association

I was less keen on 1dn because I wanted to change “meat man” to “beat man” – an excellent description I thought of a policeman! But “heat” I discover is also slang for the police and provided the necessary h for thirty-two. I was itching to draw a box around the 64 theme cells, and in fact I did so on my working copy. Thanks Lath for this novel construct and for not fazing those of us who barely know how to lay out a chess board.

Listener 4689 Great Western by Buff

I found Great Western to be a puzzle of two halves: the top half I filled in relatively quickly, but the bottom half was a real struggle. Not being a Western buff myself, it took me a while to get the theme. I was pleased that the endgame was unambiguous.

I love the examples – I laughed at NELSON and POPEYE. I’m not sure if they are the examples, and HEARTS and SPADES go with the KNAVES as the definitions, or the other way round, but it doesn’t matter fortunately. My favourite clue was 18dn, (PO)LAROID – very clever. On the other hand, my least favourite was 29ac, ORAL from (L)AUREL – hmm!

I seemed to have stray extra letters in 10ac (A), 17ac (T), 7dn (E) and a “missing” letter in 30ac (L). I couldn’t find the extra N for MaldeN but the deadline loomed and I had to post my solution, right or wrong.

Listener 4690 Hatched? Matched? Despatched? by Ifor

It was a Wonderful Life, spending Christmas Eve savouring Ifor’s seasonally apt theme, marvelling at his clever clues, teasing out the nicely-hidden names and then – ouch! A sting in the tail and a trap into which I well and truly fell, eventually climbing out by replacing BEDFORD FALLS with POTTERSVILLE. Phew!

Hatched? Matched? Despatched? was all the more poignant for me as I was supposed to be “propping” for IAWL at Cheltenham’s Playhouse theatre this Christmas. Caroline Young, the Director, was gutted when it had to be pulled again because of Covid, and the rest of us were too. I just hope she manages to stage it next year.

Hatched? Matched? Despatched? is an excellent puzzle I thought, which I hope is short-listed for POTY. It’s hard to choose a best clue, as they are all good, but 4dn’s “Jaguar” made me smile with its “right starting handle for moving [wonderful] carriage”. I look forward to Ifor’s next offering!

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Listener No 4691: Something in Common by Lionheart

Posted by Dave Hennings on 14 Jan 2022

This was only the second Listener from Lionheart and he’d been chosen to fill the normally empty gap resulting from Christmas Day being on a Saturday. His first puzzle, only seven months previously, was fun with every clue containing a word that looked as though it was English but was in fact German and needed to be translated before solving. The week we had three normal clues with the rest containing an extra letter not entered in the grid.

We started off swiftly enough with 1ac Old man in red cloak follows son (5) gave SANTA [S + (m)ANTA] and 5ac Some films to increase thrills (9) for ACTIONERS [(TO INCREASE)*]. They were followed by what appeared to be the first normal clue: 11,17 At Christmas-time sing this dear child, with shape made newly, Lord (13, four words) which made it seem that we were in with a Christmassy theme. Of course the ‘(13, four words)’ was misleading since the two entries had fourteen cells.

Testing the down clues, SCOW, ABAS and NAKED went in. At least I thought they went in but 11ac starting CBA made it look odd. Unless… well time would tell.

It wasn’t long before it was confirmed that the answers had to be changed to the musical notes A–G, at which point my heart sank. I remember tnap’s Musical Box puzzle at the beginning of the year, where I found that tracking down the exact notes for Ring a Ring o’ Roses was easier said than done!

I decided that the normal clues would need a bit of unravelling, so I decided that they could wait till the end, hopefully helped by the message provided by the extra letters. It wasn’t too long before the grid was filled and those letters gave:

(a) what is common for the answers to normal clues — METRE;
(b) a description of a substitution — ONE SONG TO THE TUNE OF ANOTHER;
(c) a hint for what to use for the substitution — CRANBROOK.

Given (b) and the letters I had for 18 12 (unclued, for which Lionheart apologises — is this the first time a setter has apologised in a preamble?) •UMP•RE• •Y••ELT•N was an obvious reference to ISIHAC and its long-time host of the past HUMPHREY LYTTELTON.

Next came some googling to inform me how Cranbrook fitted into all this. It was a late 18th century tune by Thomas Clark, a cobbler from Canterbury and is the tune to which On Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at is sung.

I tried to unravel the three tune clues on the basis that they were Christmas carols:

  • 11,17 At Christmas-time sing this dear child, with shape made newly, Lord (13, four words)JOY TO THE WORLD [JOY + TOT + HEW + LORD*]
  • 37,41 We left the moonlit black hotel, troubled by festive strain (22, five words)O LITTLE TOWN OF BETHLEHEM [(WE LEFT THE MOONLIT + B + HOTEL)*]
  • 22,31 Old Carol met with death on plain at end of horror film (24, six words) [Haven’t a clue.]

I also tried playing the notes that I had into the virtual piano provided by musicca.com/piano, but I failed to produce anything tuneful. Obviously some words had to replace all the notes I had, so I erased them completely and just put in the crossing letters of Humph. It struck me that solving the tune clues was somewhat superfluous, unless I’m missing something!

I spent a short while trying to fit lyrics from Ilkla Moor Baht ‘at, both in the Yorkshire dialect (that’s English??) and the standardised version, which actually sounds quite morbid. Getting nowhere with that, I revisited the Wikipage and found that the tune was also that for While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks [by Night], much more Christmassy and it fitted nicely.

Back to the leftover Christmas pudding now. Thanks, Lionheart.

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Something in Common by Lionheart

Posted by shirleycurran on 14 Jan 2022

Somewhat naïvely, as today (Christmas Day) falls on a Saturday and there will be no Times until Monday, I imagined there would be no on-line crossword yesterday and was rather surprised when ‘Something in Common’ appeared. We put to one side the test-solve we were engaged in and began what was clearly a Christmas crossword when three clues suggested that they were carols (‘At Christmas time sing this’, ‘Old Carol…’ and ‘festive strain’).

In fact, we interrupted our solve to listen to the Christmas Carols and readings from Kings College Chapel and gained a few hints but ‘Joy to the World’, ‘It Came Upon a Midnight Clear’, and ‘O Little Town of Bethlehem’ didn’t fit into the spaces reserved for them in the grid and instead we began to see a series of letters. Our first notion was that we were going to find A,B,C,D, etc. J K but No L (Noël) but Lionheart was more subtle than that.

After that, we had the awful thought that those were the notes of those carols but that we had to ‘substitute’ ONE SONG TO THE TUNE OF ANOTHER, since that was what the extra letters were spelling out for us. Surely we not very musical solvers (the other Numpty plays the bagpipes – that’s about it) didn’t have to annotate and insert a different carol?

METRE, we were told, was common to those three clues and the hint we were given was CRANBROOK. Fortunately a name appeared in 18/12 – HUMPHREY LYTTELTON and the Internet (our great solving mate) told us what it was all about. The other Numpty was busy attempting to fit the notes of ‘On Ilkley Moor Baa t’at’ into those cells as an Internet example suggested that Humphrey Lyttelton’s game consisted, for example, of singing ‘While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night’ to our Yorkshire anthem (and it really works – I went to bed singing it – to his horror) but light dawned. It was the words that went into those cells – great relief and what a fine idea.

Of course I had scanned the clues for evidence that Lionheart retains his place amongst the Listener Setter Oenophiles and there was a disappointingly TT set. The completed grid gave a touch of hope. ‘Shrub hurt, put over rash (7)’ gave us ALOE and SOR[E]< producing ROSEOLA. Rosé is a favourite French summer drink, not brilliant here just now where we still have heaps of snow on the ground but “Cheers, Lionheart, anyway.”

Ah, but then I spotted that Lionheart had made room for the little Listener hare – at least its ear had managed to creep in, ‘Make haste and smoke the plant (8)’ (HARE and SE[G]AR) – a reassuring Christmas visit from the little Poat character – so Lionheart compensated for that second-rate rosé. A lovely Christmas treat. Thank you Lionheart.

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Listener No 4690: Hatched? Matched? Despatched? by Ifor

Posted by Dave Hennings on 7 Jan 2022

This week, we were all expecting this Ifor puzzle to be the last Listener of the year, the following Saturday being Christmas Day with no issue of The Times. Deep joy then to see the following at the end of Ifor’s clues: “Listener Crossword 4691… will be published in The Times on Monday December 27”. I’m guessing (probably wrongly) that this was the first time a Listener has appeared on a Monday.

Ifor puzzles are normally at the trickier end of the spectrum, and given a fairly long preamble, I wondered what clueing technique he had up his sleeve this week. Well, four down clues had an extra word that, together with their clue number (hmmm!) would give the theme. All acrosses also had an extra word and they would provide the wordplay for four names. I remember that being used in a previous puzzle (probably by Ifor), and it sounded interesting.

Finally, the top and bottom rows would need completing with thematic material that would be made obvious (I hope) once the clues had been solved and the grid completed.

Normally, I would knuckle down to a Listener in an ‘office’ environment, ie surrounded by Chambers and Mrs B. This week I started on the Monday, and perhaps because I was getting ready for the Christmas festivities the following weekend, I settled into my armchair and started to solve. I was surprised at how easy Ifor had made the clues, and I found myself rattling them off fairly quickly with only the occasional need for the dictionary. Even the extra words in across clues didn’t get in the way too much.

In fact, as soon as 1dn Operative train — it’s as ordered (7), dropping it’s (to give ARTISAN) and 4dn Jaguar with right starting handle for moving wonderful carriage (6) dropping wonderful for ROUNCE, I had a sneaky suspicion of the theme. And there in 6dn was the life, with a sneaky extra a in 9dn — Pulling in, getting a closer to lower the top (7) with NEARING needing the first letter moved down to give EARNING.

The clue numbers for those four gave the year that It’s a Wonderful Life was released, 1946. The wordplay in the across clues required us to solve:

  • Earth’s within narrow valley: E in GORGE
  • Marks year behind annual return: M + Y after AR
  • Journey fast with active superseding united: HURRY with A for U
  • Cleaner caught silly: (CLEANER + C)*

These gave the first names George, Mark, Harry and Clarence, with Clarence ODBODY going into the bottom row. Now not for the first time, the first thing I saw led me on a major wild goose chase trying to find the answers to the questions posed by the title. (I know, I know, they were obvious!) Of course the thematic location to be entered in the top row could be either BEDFORD FALLS or POTTERSVILLE, each enabling real words to drop down.

Here, the first thing I saw dropping down to the B of ODBODY was CRIB, which sounded like it could be the answer to Hatched? OK, not really, but it was enough to put me off. After that, I found jumbles of DIED/DEAD, MARRY/MARRIAGE and BIRTH, all anagrammed near the bottom and they had me totally perplexed. Putting the puzzle down for the day always helps in cases like this, and the light of Tuesday (I rarely solve on Friday evening) still puzzled me until… all was revealed when the three bars could be slotted in above the N, N and A of STANDING ARMY to give NO, NO, AY. And so George wasn’t hatched, Mary wasn’t matched (she remained a spinster), and Harry was dispatched (through the hole in the ice) in the timeline in which George was not born. In that timeline, the town was called Pottersville after the evil town baddy, so that went in at the top.

Coincidentally (I guess), the film was shown over the Christmas period and I took the opportunity of watching it, probably for only the second time. I must say it was hugely schmaltzy. One thing that stood out for me, especially given that it was made in 1946, was that the first thing the policeman does to try and stop George as he runs away, was to pull his gun and start shooting. Things haven’t changed much!

Thanks for weaving the story together in a fine grid, Ifor. To manage to get everything fitting together so neatly was a great achievement and very enjoyable.

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