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Listener No 4469, Follow-My-Leader: A Setter’s Blog by Harribobs

Posted by Listen With Others on 15 October 2017

I suppose the idea for a puzzle can emerge in two ways. You might be reading a magazine, watching a documentary, or browsing Wikipedia, and come across an interesting theme, and then ponder over how best to illustrate it in a 13×13 grid. Or you might think about how the words and letters of the crossword can be manipulated to reveal hidden information, and then try to find a theme that fits in with the gimmick.

Follow-My-Leader arose from the latter process. In other puzzles I’ve used coordinates to pick out cells to be highlighted, or to be joined together in a line drawing, but it occurred to me that the coordinates themselves could spell out a thematic text.

I needed a set of thematic elements, ordered alphabetically, chronologically, numerically, or whatever, so that their corresponding coordinates would produce the text. I started on, and went so far as clueing up, a puzzle where the clashes were stops along a journey, but eventually decided that some of the place names were too obscure. French presidents were my next thought but, as it was too late to get accepted in time for the French elections, I settled on the list of German chancellors.

The text containing the coordinates for all eight post-war chancellors would have sixteen letters. DIE BUNDESKANZLER was a possibility, but PALAIS SCHAUMBURG was more interesting and meant that “location” could refer both to the location of the clashes and to the occasional location of the Chancellors themselves.

The words in the indexing row and column were chosen so that all letters were different, and theme cells weren’t too close together. Bars in the symmetrical grid were set so that all theme cells were checked, and other bars adjusted until words could be found that produced the desired jumbles of the Chancellors in the right places.

This last step proved easier than expected. It seems that, even for quite awkward words like KIESINGER, you can generally find two words that clash to give the required anagram. For this technique, and also the use of an integral indexing row and column, I owe a debt of gratitude to Sabre who used them in the magnificent Identity Crisis (Listener No 4367).

I should also like to thank the editors for their advice and surprisingly thorough checking of the clues.


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‘Follow-My-Leader’ by Harribobs

Posted by Encota on 13 October 2017

I’ve been having problems with blogging here recently – losing posts, drafts turning up again.  Very likely a problem with my machine …

I tried combining jumbles of the current Chancellor with the Location and think I found:

  • Hamburg alliance makes ear plugs
  • Munich games use a large ballpark

Not very clever but worth a go.

I did greatly enjoy Mark Goodliffe’s solving of this puzzle on youtube – well worth showing to any budding Listener solvers!

And I’ll try and get my blogging back together soon!

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Follow-My-Leader by Harribobs

Posted by shirleycurran on 13 October 2017

Nothing untoward in the preamble. Harribobs was telling us that some words were going to have several letters entered in a single cell and that these were going to clash with crossing ones. We would have to anagram all those clashing letters to produce ‘members of a group’. Clearly, the word lengths in brackets told us where words had extra letters in one cell (or more than one cell as occurred in 11ac). Nothing to do but solve.

Well, I did have to check that Harribobs retains his membership of the Listener Setters’ Drinkie Club and he began well with ‘Exotic dame – she’s loaded (7)’ (DAME SHES* producing SMASHED with an extra E. I had to read a lot further to find ‘Doctors other half and Lord Lieutenant quaffing Roman mead (8)’ which gave Dr Jekyll’s ‘other half, HYDE round LL and ROM giving HYDROMEL with an extra L. So we had a lady ‘smashed’ on mead – not totally convincing. However ‘Served up eggs and beer for protein (7)’ set things right with ALE< and NITS< giving ELASTIN. Cheers, Harribobs!

We solved steadily and very soon had a set of crossing, clashing letters in PEBAS (‘HQ south of Peru armed American natives (5)’ PE + BASE with and extra E) and STRANDWOLF, ‘Scavenger’s run back behind stone ridge in the Drakensberg (10)’ (ST + RAND + FLOW<). These produced an anagram of BRANDT so we mused about German chancellors and whether Germany was to be written below the grid.

However, we had several tussles with clues before the first of these musings proved to be fruitful. ‘Basil perhaps holding Henry the fifth down (4)’ produced a smile when we worked out that SERB at 5 down was giving us an extra S here in 35d as we needed HERB and 5d was holding H[enry]. Clever stuff, even though we particularly dislike clues that refer to each other. It was fairly subtle here, wasn’t it? KISLEU seemed to be the solution to ‘A month before University, all within capital’s borders must go back (6)’ but we took ages to work out the brilliant wordplay. [H]ELSINK[I] was reversed before U, with an extra N that we needed for the message that was emerging. USE BOTTOM ROW AND LEFT COLUMN AS INDEXES, we were being instructed.

Eight chancellors had by now appeared: Adenauer (with that lovely use of LAUNDRESS), Erhard, Kiesinger, Brandt, Schmidt, Kohl (that one must have taken some head-scratching to fit into the grid), Schröder and Merkel and now we attempted to apply the instruction but with Numpty incompetence took the chancellors in the order in which they appeared in the grid – and got a gobbledygook location. Of course, to produce the PALAIS SCHAUMBURG, they had to used those grid coordinates in date order. What a clever piece of setting. Thanks to Harribobs.

The Poat hare? Of course I had to hunt for a German Hase again and sure enough, he was there, cavorting with the local hare at the foot of the grid.

A post-script – we watched the conclusion of the German elections last night and saw Mutti retain her top place. I wonder whether this one was scheduled for this weekend in view of the German elections – Probably!

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Listener No 4469: Follow-My-Leader by Harribobs

Posted by Dave Hennings on 13 October 2017

The previous Harribobs Listener had us spelling out “What hath God wrought” in Morse code. Before that was the Game of Life created by John Horton Conway. This week, no highlighting to perform, just a location to find, perhaps GCHQ.

There were clashing squares here, initially with several letters in each cell. They would eventually be replaced by their first letter. Meanwhile, there were 34 extra wordplay letters to find.

1ac Mascots set problems (7) looked as though it should be easy, but wasn’t for me since I always spelled it telly when I was growing up — TELE (set) S[U]MS. Luckily 6ac Force redistribution of wealth (6, two words), devoid of an extra letter, came to the rescue with THE LAW.

I decided to tackle the acrosses in order, and was happy to get a dozen or so. These were followed by significantly fewer than a dozen downs! That pretty much determined progress from then on, and that wasn’t helped by failing to get more than one clashing entry for a cell until very late on.

The first of these clashes to reveal itself was GOSSAMER ([B]OSS in GAMER) and MILKERS (MI [C]LERKS*) where I had never realised the word could refer to the cows not just the humans. Unless there were two clashes lurking here, the letters looked like MER/LKE, and it took no time to spot Mrs MERKEL. So European leaders, perhaps?

The next one out of the box was ESKI/REIGN, which looked like it should be Henry Kissinger, but wasn’t. Then it was EA/AUNDRE’s turn. Don’t ask me how I saw his name, but ADENAUER (who always reminded me of the most draconian of school headmasters) soon appeared, although I’d forgotten he was a Konrad. A bit of a google, and Kurt KIESINGER was next. We were obviously dealing with German Chancellors.

Luckily I’m old enough to remember a few more of them, specifically Ludwig ERHARD, Willy BRANDT, Helmut SCHMIDT and Helmut KOHL. Don’t ask me why, but Gerhard SCHRODER (Merkel’s predecessor) eluded me, as had Kiesinger earlier.

My favourite clue was 34ac A month before university, all within capital’s borders must go back (6) for KISLEU. Who’d have thought that most of the capital of Finland could feature so prominently in a clue?!

So what next, apart from just entering their first letter. Well, the extra wordplay letters finally revealed themselves as Use bottom row and left column as indexes. I went from top left to bottom right, listing the coordinates of each Chancellor, and got APAHALGRMUUBSICS. [I can’t believe you didn’t give up after 3 or 4 pairs. Ed.]

I started switching the pairs round, but gave up after PAHALARG. [I should hope so. Ed.] “In order” from the preamble now obviously meant chronological order, and all was made clear with Palais Schaumburg, according to Wiki the residence of the Chancellor of Germany from 1949-1999 and now the secondary official residence of the Chancellor.

This wasn’t a quick solve, but entertaining and nostalgic nonetheless. Thanks, Harribobs.

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Listener No 4468, Hide-and-Seek: A Setter’s Blog by Charybdis

Posted by Listen With Others on 8 October 2017

I’m no historian. But I have a few narrow windows of enlightenment set like arrow slits into the thick walls of my prevailing historical ignorance. One of these might be Rome in the time of I, Claudius; another the 1660’s as represented in Ian Pears’ extraordinary An Instance Of The Fingerpost. And so on.

So I should explain that I have had a bee in my bonnet about Richard III ever since reading The Daughter Of Time by Josephine Tey over 40 years ago. Since the British Crime Writers Association voted this the best crime novel of all time, I’m clearly not alone. Although personally, I would vote for The Nine Tailors by Dorothy L Sayers as much more well-rounded in literary terms, but that’s by the by.

It‘s not much of a spoiler to say The Daughter Of Time treats the matter of Richard III’s villainy as a kind of cold case whodunnit and gently leads the ill-informed reader (me in my 20’s) from cardboard cutout villainy to a very different understanding of the man, and how and why and by whom his reputation was systematically trashed.

His recent winning of the World Hide & Seek record (not my joke but worth nicking) really was a case of ‘Truth is stranger than fiction’. That he should have been found at all, and under a carpark of all places; that his should have been the very first body unearthed, and underneath the very first bit of tarmac to be penetrated – it was just absurd. I’m a hardened cynic about improbable news stories so was sceptical, but as all the mitochondrial DNA evidence and scoliosis and all the rest of it slowly mounted up over the following weeks and months we were finally left with no doubt.

And it’s odd to think that only such an attention-grabbing story could have led to such a public re-evaluation of his reputation, one such as Tey could only have dreamed of. He seems to have re-emerged into public consciousness, blinking in the bright light of newsworthiness like the equally wronged Edmond Dantes emerging from the Chateau d’If.

So, ‘Truth is stranger than fiction’. Readers of Tey’s RIII novel would also know Francis Bacon‘s dictum that ‘Truth is The Daughter Of Time’. I’d like to say that at the time of Richard‘s exhumation in 2012 I immediately saw the connection and relevance of both these ‘Truth is’ sayings and recognised it as the basis for a thematic crossword. In fact it wasn’t until March 2015 that I began work on the puzzle. But in my experience thematic crosswords are more often like the second cousins once removed of time.

The extra ingredient that kicked things off was the Robert Wyatt connection. I have been a fan of Robert Wyatt since I heard Soft Machine Volume 2 in roughly 1969. (Can’t stand Volume 1! But the poignant solo album Cuckooland is hugely recommended.) So anyway, I have a well-scratched copy of Ruth Is Stranger Than Richard (with its memorable album cover). Why it hit me I don’t remember now, probably just my normal daydreaming, but I know it was only when I realised the felicity of the ‘Richard’ bit of that title that this puzzle suddenly jelled.

The actual construction of the grid is not of much interest, I think, but I knew the elements should include allusion to the Hide & Seek joke, the two “Truth is…” quotes and the discovery to be made of RIII under Leicester Car Park. Noticing that FICTION and RICHARD were swappable, with new crossing words to be factored in, was also essential.

And Wyatt’s title required Truth to become Ruth, a hidden character to be sought (or seeked) out. The opportunity for her to be the daughter of Tim, a third hider to balance a team of three seekers, was just too good to pass up I’m afraid, though it did cause a bit of head-scratching for some, apparently. (Ruth Is The Daughter Of Time would have been a meaningless loose end, when you think about it.)

One comment on Answerbank, for instance, says “[I] remain puzzled by the first two hiders and wonder if they have any significance beyond assisting the final stages. Dare say all will be revealed.”

Well, many keen Listener people will be aware of Kathryn Friedlander, who has done so much excellent research on the psychological ramifications of crossword setting and solving. Continuing the Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction thread, I will end with a quote [with permission] from her feedback on this puzzle:

“Rather startling for me. My daughter Ruth is indeed the offspring of my husband Tim — and his first name, not much used, is Richard!”

[Cue twilight zone music…]

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