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Listener No 4491, A Dreadful Puzzle: A Setter’s Blog by Dysart

Posted by Listen With Others on 19 March 2018

I’m not one of those people lucky enough to be nihilophobes (a Dysart coinage for this blog). I have a few pet aversions (one being selfies) and one phobia – that of heights. I feel distinctly uncomfortable venturing onto the balcony of my friends’ thirteenth-floor apartment to admire the sea view (if I suffered from triskaidekaphobia I probably wouldn’t even venture into the apartment). A few years back I climbed around one hundred very steep steps to the top of a temple in Ayutthaya only to find that I froze when I turned round to start the near vertical descent. The only way I can cope in such situations is by the somewhat inelegant technique of going down backwards. And when I toured Zion National Park in the US two years ago nothing would have induced me to climb up to the dizzy heights of Angel’s Landing. Just watching bits of that video makes my stomach churn.

Over the years I’ve come across some odd phobias, in one case of the colour red (though there doesn’t appear to be a word for that). I’ve yet to meet someone suffering from dromophobia, a morbid fear of crossing streets, which must make life somewhat of a trial. In some cases it was the word rather than the condition that intrigued me, such as astrapophobia (thunder and lightning) or taphophobia (being buried alive).

On to the puzzle. The main idea was to exploit the fact that many of the prefixes are anagrams of other words. When I checked the text search in the 2005 Chambers CD ROM I found 91 phobias, the prefixes of twenty-two of them making real words when jumbled. I like thematic items to be placed symmetrically if at all possible, and the 23 options available made this possible. The breakdown was nine four-letter choices, ten of five letters, three of six and one of seven. Five couldn’t be accurately conveyed by a single word, so had to be discounted. The singleton (ORNITHO-) dictated the start of the grid, a seven-letter word in the centre of a row or column. The six-letter option I didn’t use was SCOPTO- (fear of being looked at – problematic for someone in an identity parade). Four five-letter prefixes and two four-letter ones would make a good balance of word lengths. Besides the aesthetic appeal of symmetry there was the bonus that it could help solvers identify the thematic clues if they noticed the symmetry early enough.

My grid requirements were a perfectly Ximenean symmetrical grid, preferably no three-letter words and a respectable average word length. Constructing the grid was easier than expected. My first attempt to place the thematic entries resulted in a useable grid using Sympathy’s autofill. It was at that point I thought of ANDY CAPP. I’m not an avid cartoon fan but I see him every day on one page of the English-language newspaper in my foreign domicile, and he seemed an apt figure for ergophobia. That entailed a bit of shifting around of thematic entries. The other two endgame elements emerged in the course of experimenting with different grids. I could see I could get FEAR in the final grid, and the P of PANTO seemed a good starting point for PAIN. On reflection it would have been neater if WORK, not PAIN, had been the thematic word excluded from clues, to match the comic character. I rather regret not doing that.

I often spend longer on the clues than on the grid construction, and that was certainly the case here. I made a conscious decision to provide Shirley with some boozy material for her blog, so the puzzle would definitely not be an alcohol-free zone, but there were plenty of opportunities. The main difficulty was neatly camouflaging the extra words in clues, dividing them equally between across clues and down (to extend the puzzle’s symmetry).‘Heights’ and ‘crowds’ were particularly difficult, and ‘work’ and ‘everything’ moved homes several times before eventually becoming permanently settled. It was also important that there were no intruders, and I’m grateful to test solvers for identifying the odd word or two that could have been seen as an extra.

The title I used was more or less the first that occurred to me. I realized that it was an invitation to anyone who didn’t like the puzzle respond with “Yes, it was,” but I was prepared to risk it, and so far I’ve seen only one such comment.

One solver commented that I could have had a tenth item, CYNOPHOBIA (dogs) if 34 had been CYNO (which I could have clued as CONY) I deliberately avoided that because it would spoil the symmetry and would have meant one short thematic entry crossing two others , leaving only one cell from a normal entry. If I’d managed to maintain symmetry by squeezing in a symmetrical partner there would have been two such entries, breaching a principle I observed throughout the grid construction that none of the nine jumbled entries should intersect.

I’ll leave you now with one more phobia I discovered today that may affect some people next month and again later this year– paraskavedekatriaphobia. It’s not in the mainstream dictionaries but can be found in online non-standard ones. Greek scholars will be able to work it out.



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A Dreadful Puzzle by Dysart

Posted by shirleycurran on 16 March 2018

Colour-coded jumbles and clues where extra words appeared.

Well the title says it all doesn’t it? No, seriously, we were smiling about the fact that Dysart was possibly attempting to foretell solvers’ reactions and we failed to pay enough attention to that title which could have said it all! Instead, we noted that there were going to be nine jumbles ‘mostly resulting in non-words’ (ah, joy, jumbles!) and eight other clues containing an extra word to which we had to add a ninth word, appearing in the grid, that we would highlight. Nine and nine! We had to change one letter in the final grid producing something thematic and find a cartoon character, eight letters in a straight line (POAT HARE? No – more about that little fellow later!)

We got down to our solve – well, after I had confirmed Dysart’s continued membership of the Listener Setters’ Toping Club: he didn’t leave much doubt did he? ‘Tipple from drink before travelling west (5)’ gave PINTA with the A (before) moving west in the clue to give PAINT. What has that to do with ‘tipple’? I was amazed to find that it is slang for tipple! A few clues further down we find ‘Spirits occasionally abandoned by judge in lodgings (4)’ There are not many J words in Chambers (Jack, Japan, Judge, Joint, Journal, Justice, Joule …) and a spirit that begins with J in JINN so we slotted INNS in without a second thought – well, we did have a second thought and allocated ‘occasionally’ to our list of extra words, giving ourselves trouble later when we were trying to work out what it was doing there. One has to be so careful: Chambers,of course, explains that JINNS in the plural is non-standard use. However, with that tipple, pinta, paint and spirits, I think Dysart keeps his place at the bar. Cheers!

Solving proceeded steadily with these enjoyable clues and when DISTANTLY, OTTO and GIARDIA joined the PAINT in that right hand corner, we were able to establish that ON TAP (so Dysart is mixing the beer in!) was going to be one of the jumbles, and, what is more it resolved itself to a real word, PANTO, when AORTIC almost completed the corner. We were rather surprised when BEAR ‘Have to suffer ill-mannered chap (4)’ seemed to have a triple definition – luckily, we postponed our reflections about that word to the end – when it became so useful!

We had an almost full grid with just HORNITO to slot in down the centre and the intriguing situation of two unches that had to somehow have different letters in them, the N and the T. One of them (or both) were clearly going to be thematic and, sure enough, ANDY CAPP appeared and gave us the cartoon character in eight letters. Google time – What is it all about? More than eight extra words were on our list: that ‘occasionally’ and work, everything, crowds, night, cats, birds, light, heights and laird (sorry – how stupid of me not to realize that was a Scottish indicator – it led me on a wild goose chase about an Elizabeth Laird who wrote about Ethiopian folk tales. How do solvers manage without Google?)

The head scratching continued for far too long before the p.d.m. If we had just read those jumbles out loud, all would have been clear far earlier. There was a muttering about the title – how is it full of dread? AH, FEAR! The other Numpty was soon looking up OCHLOPHBIA, fear of crowds, AILUROPHOBIA, fear of cats, ALGOPHOBIA, fear of pain, ORNITHOPHOBIA, fear of birds, HYPSOPHOBIA, fear of heights, PANTOPHOBIA, fear of everything, PHENGOPHOBIA, fear of daylight and NICTOPHOBIA, fear of night. With a little research, we found that Andy Capp suffered from ERGOPHOBIA, fear of work. So that triple-clued BEAR had to become FEAR and all that was left to do was highlight the one phobia that didn’t have a corresponding word in the clues, algophobia, fear of PAIN. What a fine finish. Thank you Dysart.

That elusive hare? I received grief-stricken comments about the possibility that he was dead and gone but, in fact, no need to worry, he really does seem to be on his hols (postcard arrived from the COMOROS, see 26d, where he is sunning himself on the beach, not suffering from MARAPHOBIA, see 17ac or LEPORIDAPHOBIA) and he’ll be back, one of these days in a straight line of four letters.


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‘A Dreadful Puzzle’ by Dysart

Posted by Encota on 16 March 2018

With nine jumbles required, filling those entries looked like they’d take quite some work.

CYTON at 29ac being entered as NYCTO was the first to fall – and suddenly all those phobias started to creep in, namely:

  • NYCTOPHOBIA: … night
  • AILUROPHOBIA: … cats
  • ALGOPHOBIA: … pain
  • PHENGOPHOBIA … (day)light
  • ERGOPHOBIA … work
  • OCHLOPHOBIA … crowds
  • HYPSOPHOBIA … heights
  • PANTOPHOBIA … everything

Eight of these nine meanings were the hidden words in the eight clues that the Preamble mentioned, leaving just PAIN to be found, which could have been a real pain to find, but fortunately wasn’t (as it was in plain sight on the top row).

SCAN0437 copy

I wondered therefore which cartoon character was to be highlighted.  I soon spotted Andy Capp on one of the diagonals and therefore it was him.  Fear of work, eh!

I loved the clues’ surfaces – superb as ever.  And it’s always good to see ANDY at the heart of such an excellent construction.  Thanks Dysart!

Tim / Encota

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Listener No 4491: A Dreadful Puzzle by Dysart

Posted by Dave Hennings on 16 March 2018

Last year’s Dysart revolved around Edward Lear’s Jumblies with lots of (un)jumbling going on. This week, we only had nine entries to be jumbled before entry, mostly resulting in non-words. Mostly!?

Solving was relatively steady with some good entries going in, including FENG SHUI, ON TAP, OURIAL and CYTON. Unfortunately, most of them ended up having to be rubbed out and jumbled!

It was only when ORNITHO was probably the entry going in the middle column — more likely than ORTINHO — that a quick check in Chambers showed that it signified ‘bird’. Well, I knew that, and having clocked the extra bird word in 21dn Tree-like object blocking road to the north, deserted apart from five birds (8) (END in RD< + VOID – V) that ORNITHOPHOBIA revealed that we were talking about fears of the irrational variety. Okay, HYPSOPHOBIA isn't too irrational, but you get my drift.

I would seriously like to meet someone with PANTOPHOBIA, fear of everything, to see how they exist in the real world. I’d also like to meet someone who has PHOBOPHOBIA, which is apparently the fear of fear and begs the question “What is fear of phobophobia?”

The extra words and their phobias were: daylight/PHENGO, work/ERGO, crowds/OCHLO, night/NYCTO, pain/ALGO, cats/AILURO, everything/PANTO, birds/ORNITHO and heights/HYPSO. The only extra word that wasn’t an extra word was PAIN and that was part of the entry PAINT in the top row.

Next we had to change BEAR at 14ac to FEAR, a synonym of PHOBIA, and lastly highlight a cartoon character noted for one of the thematic items. Fear of work seemed the likely phobia, and Homer Simpson was the first character to come to mind. He was nowhere to be found, but ANDY CAPP, Reg Smythe’s character in the Daily Mirror was there, running NE to SW.

Thanks for a very entertaining puzzle, Dysart. Amazingly, it doesn’t seem that phobias have been used as a theme before, apart from the good old TRISKAIDEKAPHOBIA, fear of the number 13. Now I’m sorry, but that is irrational!

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Listener No 4490, REJOB: A Setters’ Blog by Botox

Posted by Listen With Others on 12 March 2018

Picture the scene: two setters catching up over a drink in a London hotel bar, October 2013.

S: Times crossword championship tomorrow.

A: What did you think of Sabre’s Listener last week?

S: Mash’s Magpie this month is one for those setters who enjoy both word-based puzzles and number ones.
A: Mathematics twice in a month! Good puzzle though. Much prefer the non-numericals.
S: Me too, but wouldn’t it be ironic if two numerophobes set a numerical together.
A: Could be based on a hotel with the room numbers as entries.
S: Certain letters could code into parts of a hotel.
A: RECEPTION on the ground floor, PENTHOUSE on the top floor, they are the same number of letters.
S: Perhaps a LIFT joining them…
A: … and STAIRS too. No room 13 as most hotels tend to be triskaidekaphobic.
S: Nice touch!

The evening progressed without another word on the subject, but A’s idea never left S’s mind. Two days later S puts the room numbers missing the number 13 and relevant words into an 11×6 grid. Coincidentally, also in the October Magpie, the numerical by Oyler uses the A=1, B=2 … J=0, K=1 etc conversion. He put in his preamble “by a code that associates each letter of the alphabet with a single digit”. It didn’t take long to add the symmetrical bar pattern to create unique entries. But what about the clues? An email exchange started as S sent A the grid:

S: What one does with the clues is anyone’s guess. I like it when the clues are real words … crikey knows how setters make every clue thematic e.g. names of famous hotels.
A: Maybe using some examples of NATO alphabet (ZULU, TANGO, etc) since HOTEL is one too?
S: Your NATO might work. There will be more clues than 26 even with deleting a few bars and so some will have to be doubled up.

A few days later:

S: I did pick away at our numerical this week and have made a start. A to Z using 1 to 26. Tried to get the NATO alphabet in order but turned out too difficult.

If you look at the clues you can see that ALPHA to ECHO and PAPA to ZULU are in order.

A: Another idle thought:
HOTEL = 8 / 15 / 20 / 5 / 12  =   8 5 0 5 2.
85052 can also represent  18 / 5 / 10 / 15 / 2.
That spells out REJOB (could be used in title?), which leads me very prematurely to suggest a preamble…

After a little to-ing and fro-ing of clues and just over a week after the puzzle was conceived:

S: Here is the puzzle so far. All the alphabet are doubled up (except HOTEL where it is only used once).
A: You mentioned in London that Nod is a whizz at numericals… do you want to try it out on him? (And have you worked out yet the famed “logical solution path”).
S: I cannot solve it, but that is no surprise!

Then misfortune struck. A mistake in the HOTEL clue. Despite that and no obvious way in, Nod still managed to solve the puzzle and lived up to his reputation. Whilst correcting the HOTEL clue it became apparent that it could be made with two HOTELs in the same clue and it so happened that HO could be removed to get the same equivalence. At that point the two DELTAs were in different clues, but by bringing one across to the same clue, a “way in” started to appear.

S. Now we know there are no errors we need to find another maths wizard to test it on.

Oyler would be a perfect choice and thankfully cracked the numerical part steadily enough. Endgame was somewhat tricky even though Oyler (and Nod for that matter) worked out the substitution code readily enough.

A few more tweaks to the preamble and some debate whether to send it to the Magpie or Listener ended up with this:

A: Given Oyler’s use of the same alphanumeric code so recently, what do we do now? Send it to the Listener and wait three years by which time everyone’s forgotten? Ha ha!

Indeed A’s prediction was an underestimation as it took 4 years to see the light. Reading feedback from JEG it seems as if it was a brute to get into, but everyone who finished it enjoyed the puzzle and therefore it was worth the wait.

I wonder what will happen next time we meet over a bottle or two in a hotel… Paris is looming.

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