Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin

Archive for April, 2008

3976 – Hard Rectangle – Harpy’s blog

Posted by Listen With Others on 29 April 2008

A map in a book about Venice was the trigger for this puzzle, the sinuous curve of The Grand Canal perhaps making a nice feature to snake through the middle of a crossword grid. Given the city's many literary connections, the next step was to check in the ODQ for inspiration. Browning and Coleridge yielded nothing tractable, there was a possibility with Byron, but what was this? – “Underneath Day's azure eyes, Ocean's nursling, Venice lies”, courtesy of Shelley. “Day's azure eyes” could go nicely at the top (and had thirteen letters to boot!), and the grid could feature a map of Venice. A promising start.

The aim was that solvers should be unaware of the Venice nature of the puzzle until pretty far down the solving path, the city slowly “emerging”. So having “Day's azure eyes” appearing within the grid itself would not be ideal – it therefore became a final step for the solver to complete in a box above the grid. The next problem was to decide how to make THE GRAND CANAL appear, but not too obviously. This ruled out things like clashing letters in those particular cells. However, land and water could be distinguished by shading, with the alphabet split accordingly. A little annoying that this would be a rather lopsided business, with the water grabbing a lot of the “friendly” letters (ACDEGHLNRT). However, the land still had the three vowels I, O, and U, plus the S, so the approach wasn't ruled out.

At this point, it was decided to use the title of the puzzle as part of the solving process, and after a little playing around, it transpired that (with a few repeats) HARD RECTANGLE could be made from the water letters. This fitted nicely as the shape of Venice required a rectangular grid, though whether solvers would deem the puzzle “hard” was another matter! A number of people commented favourably on the accuracy of the map, which is pleasing as great care was taken in overlaying a pattern of crossing lines over the city map, while at the same time ensuring that The Grand Canal would be represented by the appropriate number of grid cells. But despite the much-appreciated efforts of one of the Listener editors, the electronically published grid got distorted into an almost square shape, though thankfully the version in the printed Times appeared exactly as it should have done.
Having completed the basic design of the grid, now came the task of positioning the bars and filling it. This would clearly be tough, given the many constraints, and a symmetrical bar pattern was quickly abandoned. Success finally came with the help of Ross Beresford's “Tea & Sympathy” software (and it was great that a little acknowledgment of this could be made at 26 down). But it wasn't all that easy. Initial attempts led nowhere, with many arrangements of bars being tried. So the puzzle was put to one side for quite a while. But, on trying a radically different approach, it proved possible to fill the grid after all!
It was odd that the letters PB appeared to the left of SHELLEY in the bottom row. This was entirely fortuitous, being determined by how to disguise SHELLEY as bits of two adjacent entries, and by the alphabet split mentioned above. So no claim can be made for designing this in!
Generating messages from clue letters is a popular, and possibly overworked, device, but was the logical choice for this puzzle. Many of the gimmicks used to achieve this are met very frequently, and so it was decided to try something a little more unusual. The idea of unjumbling a word in the definition, with the removal of one letter, was eventually chosen. This turned out to be a good choice as it received a number of appreciative comments. It was also amusing to construct clues of this type. The technique has been used in The Listener series before, despite what several solvers thought, for instance in last year's “Curry” by Kea. Maybe he invented it?
With the clues written, the puzzle then went to two test-solvers for assessment – Harpy is most grateful to them. After final polishing, it was ready for submission to The Listener, and fortunately was accepted with only minor changes, which was great.
It was very pleasing to receive many favourable comments on this first outing for “Harpy”, with only a very small proportion of negative remarks. Thank you to all who provided feedback, whether by personal communication, or Crossword Centre messages. It was also good to read the solvers' reports provided by Gregson, Erwin Hatch at LWO, and George (vs The Listener). All being well, this won't be the last puzzle from –

Posted in Setting Blogs | Leave a Comment »

3976 – Hard Rectangle by Harpy

Posted by Listen With Others on 25 April 2008

Friday 4th April Any change from my normal routine, especially regarding alcohol, and I find that I can’t do crosswords. Anyway, my brother is down from Edinburgh so a rare Friday evening drink and no chance to start the Listener.
Saturday We set off by train for Horsham to visit our mother and sister. Regular travellers will know that they can stock up on crosswords if they get to the carriages before the cleaners and at Victoria I readily find the Independent Magazine (IQ 67: Dissent by Hypnos) and The Times Books section, with Harpy’s puzzle. It is ironic that over the years I have spent close to £1,000 in today’s money on buying the Saturday Times yet would have settled for the Listener Crossword alone – something that so many discard as litter.
Tuesday, 3.45pm My brother is back up north and I am back to my normal routine so time to get down to business.

In Harpy we have yet another new Listener setter, the second this year after Nutmeg if you don’t count The Magpie, presuming that this was not the new five-man team. There seems to be far more first-time setters today than at any time and I counted eleven (including Seth Mould) in 2007. One wit suggested that they only do it to get an annual invitation to the dinner but four of last year’s newcomers have already had splendid second puzzles published in 2008 proving that there is some commitment here. Perhaps this is a new generation of setters coming to the fore but only time will tell if any are destined to join the ranks of The Greats.

My heart sinks a bit on reading the preamble: here we go again, concealed letters to be removed from each clue giving a message. I am just rather tired of this overused device but Harpy may have hit on a novel method of concealment – a letter added to a jumble of the required word in part of the definition. 1ac has streams of dump which should probably be streams of mud (+p) with the obvious anagram ashlar’s smashed giving lahars. After that, progress is fairly rapid and the subsequent ten entries are:


·        4dn ami – hidden (yeomen = enemy + O)

·        13ac Edam – MADE (rev) (goblets = globes + T)

·        14ac immolation – I’M MAIN TOOL (anag) (curtail = ritual + C)

·        5dn smogs – S + G in MOS (K-meson = smoke + N)

·        7dn low-paid – WILD OAP (anag) (troop = poor + T)

·        8dn tatu – reverse hidden (alarmed = dermal + A)

·        9dn ethe – ETHE(R) (forfeit = effort + I)

·        3dn habit – BI in HAT (neurotic = routine + C)

·        16dn lapsus – PAL (rev) + SUS (pills = slip + L)

·        22ac agio – AG + I + O (bums = sum + B)


By 5pm I have much of the grid complete bar the SW corner and some partial messages:
I’ll leave it at that for today.
Wednesday, 1pm A fresh day and the remaining clues are polished off in about an hour – here are some comments:


·       BUS occurs in the wordplay for three clues to entries that intersect, clued as: bus (36ac), passenger transport (42ac) and coach (31dn).

·       I spent ages trying to justify quail at 38dn with the definition Shakespeare’s poetical (with I removed).  Well, it can’t be Shakespeare’s polecat I thought but it was!  For Shakespeare: polecat = prostitute/whore = quail.

·       I hope that everyone practiced their anagrams and didn’t resort too quickly to electronic aids.  Five hard ones for me were: 42ac, dashing = Ghandi + S; 10dn, venturi = virtue + N (is piety a virtue?); 12dn, clarinets = articles + N; 32dn, Donegal = age-old + N and 37dn, intrados = inroads + T.

·       44dn: lewd – DWEL(L) (part of cam) (rev) (baler = bare + L)


The complete messages are:
The poet  Shelley is found in the bottom row (with initials PB if you prefer).
Shading letters not found in HARD RECTANGLE reveals The Grand Canal snaking through the familiar map of Venice:
A quick trawl through the Shelley quotations in ODQ5 for any references to Venice finds:
Underneath Day’s azure eyes
Ocean’s nursling, Venice lies,
Lines written amongst the Euganean Hills (1818)
So, the part quotation (4, 5, 4) to be written appropriately above the grid is clearly:
Day’s azure eyes
Puzzle finished 2.30pm.
Post Mortem The devices used for concealing superfluous letters in clues are usually completely non-thematic but here they could be said to have made the rectangular grid hard or harder and so be part of the sub-theme of the title.
The convention that clues should make sense when read (surface) is often lost on me when solving since I do not read them as such and would struggle to recite a clue accurately an instant after solving it. On this instance I took a bit more notice in an attempt to spot the thematic words but found very few that stood out:

·        … streams of dump (mud) (1ac)
Sidecar (sacred) bird … (30ac)
These chortles (clothes) go with a gown … (36ac)
·        Ingenious little clarinets (articles) … (12dn)


There were a couple of other clues that were overlong and contrived (29ac, 5dn) but I would say that Harpy had managed pretty well under the constraints.
It is acceptable in this sort of puzzle that treated clues may not make sense but it should perhaps have been noted in the preamble.
Two examples:

·      11ac Three notes chore (re-echo) – fag

·      38dn Shakespeare’s polecat (poetical) question: “What’s jail if justice becomes universal?” – quail (also, I doubt that Shakespeare would have used the abbreviation what’s.)


Finally on this subject, here are two with good surface before and after thematic treatment:

·       14ac Curtail/ritual slaughter?  I’m main tool for reform – immolation

·       4dn No yeomen/enemy to be found in Asia Minor? – ami


I can see no evidence that Harpy even considered having a symmetrical grid (a weakness?) so might conclude that it was difficult accommodating the letter split for shading:
I was thinking of the geographical locations that have featured in Listeners over the years and can remember Ireland (St Patrick’s Day?), France (Tour de), United States and many parts of England, Wales and Scotland. Of course, we had the outline of Italy last June (Lay (It) Out by Zero) and now Venice – I wonder where we will go next?
So, an enjoyable and creditable debut from Harpy whom I hope we shall see again.

Posted in Setting Blogs | Leave a Comment »

3975 – The Cause of Much Pain by Samuel – Setter’s Blog

Posted by Listen With Others on 20 April 2008

I first got the idea of setting a puzzle themed around gravity in December 2005 – actually before the inception of my first Listener, Hunt. I’d just written my first puzzle involving grid movements, East (which went on to be published in the EV series), and was determined to build on this and to set a further puzzle that involved moving letters in the grid. I was flicking through the section from Proverbs in ODQ seeking inspiration for a puzzle (not necessarily this puzzle), and ‘what goes up must come down’ jumped out at me. This seemed like perfect material for a crossword, although something more than just this phrase was needed. The proverb itself suggested two possible treatments – either entries moving down in the grid, or entries being first made upwards, but then having to be reversed so they were entered downwards. This second wouldn’t have worked – although if the phrase had been ‘what goes down must come up’ – but the first idea definitely would.


The only way to make full use of the proverb would thus be to have things that would normally ‘go up’ come down in the grid. But what sort of things went up? I would have to draw up a list. More to the point, what would happen when they came down? Something would have to be revealed in the grid – and that would surely have to be to do with gravity. Something to do with Newton.

At that point, maybe five minutes had elapsed since first thinking about the specific proverb. Unfortunately, progress from that point on would be a lot slower.

A bit of reading about Newton led me to think that it would be nice to have something quite long appear in the final grid, and my first choice was NEWTON’S LAW OF GRAVITATION. It would be possible to fit this in symmetrically in a 13×13 grid, by using three lines and having NEWTONS (7 letters), LAW OF (5 letters) and GRAVITATION (11 letters) placed centrally. I thus drew a grid on some graph paper, inserted these words in the relevant positions (rows 5, 7 and 9), and then decided to draw up a list of things that can go up, as well as down.

This was the first stumbling block, as it quickly dawned on me that whereas lots of things go up (birds, flying craft, trees, plants, people in flying crafts, etc), it would be hard to actually say whether these MUST come down again. Anything that goes up MAY come down, but MUST? At this point I paused for a few days, and decided what to do.

The answer was actually pretty obvious. It is impossible to guarantee that anything MUST come down. What happens if a lift gets stuck at the top of a building? What happens if a rocket passes out of the earth’s atmosphere? What if a bird flies up, but then dies in its nest on top of a mountain? However, reading the proverb a slightly different way, one can take it to mean that what goes up must come down in the grid. It would be hard for anybody to argue with that. I know that many Listener solvers are incredibly pedantic – as am I, before this is taken as being criticism – but that must hold true. This after a couple of long drives thinking about whether a rocket might disintegrate before falling into the gravity well of another object, etc, etc. So, what does go up?

When one thinks about it, the list of things that go up would have to be fairly common items so that there would be little ambiguity and solvers wouldn’t find them hard to locate. My first thoughts were incredibly obvious things – AEROPLANE, BALLOON, ROCKET, LIFT (or ELEVATOR), PILOT, and it seemed a good thing to include a climbing plant, of which the old crossword staple LIANA sprang to mind. Chambers gives this as ‘any climbing plant’, so it would be hard to find fault with that.

Starting with the initial grid to work through as follows, a problem became apparent:

This being that, of my shortlist of ‘things that go up’, none of them really fitted into the pattern that I had started with. ROCKET could end up at the bottom of column 11, but nothing else fitted. Even with a slight adjustment, so that the rows weren’t evenly spaced so that I could fit in ELEVATOR and ROCKET, I was going to struggle:

This looked a mess, in any case. I decided, after a few hours of thinking, that things should be more spaced out in terms of the message in the finished grid. This led me to:

This was starting to look a bit more feasible. At that point, I started working with two diagrams side by side in Excel – because I had to always consider two things. Where the words would finish, but, most importantly, where they would start. For instance, in my ideal world of things starting at the top of the grid and moving all the way to the bottom, the above would have to start life in the grid as:

But even such a simple grid as this – ie with just the final phrase and three ‘things that go up’ in the grid wasn’t possible. When BALLOON moved down, I had to get an O from somewhere to make NEWT?NS into a word again. So the things coming own would have to displace letters below, which would move into the gap created by the things coming down. However, this wasn’t possible in this grid, so I had to think again. The other problem was that there had to be quite a few things moving, or the phrases would be very obvious before starting to move a thing. Again, in the grid above, even if I somehow sorted out the BALLOON problem and found three more things to fit, then things weren’t exactly well hidden. About this time, I thus realised that if this was going to work, having all real words in the final grid was probably going to be a sad impossibility. I would try for it if I could get a fill – which I was now realising was going to be very difficult indeed – but I would have to resign myself to the moans that would ensue.

Then followed about three months of working to get a grid that worked. At one point, I completely gave up the idea as unworkable, but I kept coming back to it. I cheered myself up by setting another couple of puzzles in the interim, but my thoughts always came back to Newton.

One evening, sitting in a hotel in Egham in Surrey, after spending five fruitless hours moving LIANAs, LIFTs, etc, round a grid, I decided that the puzzle would never get set if I didn’t make life slightly easier for myself. So, it was out with NEWTON’S LAW OF, and in with purely GRAVITATION. Not as exciting as I had first imagined, but it could still be good if I made the whole thing hang together really well. I had also by then thought of a nice thematic clueing gimmick whereby either letters or words moved up to the clue above had to be dropped down to the clue below before solving – giving a further way in which WHAT GOES UP MUST COME DOWN. I knew that the thematic elements of the puzzle would hang together nicely, but I was still a long way from starting to write clues.


With only GRAVITATION to now fit in the grid, things were still not easy. Things that go up (and can come down) just didn’t seem to fit around the word at all. In the end, I decided that six moving elements would probably be plenty – every second letter in GRAVITATION could be affected, starting at the G and finishing at the N. But even then, things didn’t play ball. Using some of my original idea, I could get four quite easily, but not five or six. The key moment came when I scribbled out the following – conscious that this was a ridiculously poor point to be at after about three months on the puzzle – and was struggling to fit other ‘things that go up’ into this framework. I then saw the N at the bottom of BALLOON, and had the mental image of an apple falling onto Newton’s head:

And surely solvers would have to find that amusing! It was also good that the apple landing on N could be read in two ways – either the apple landing on Newton’s head, or the apple landing on Newton (as in the unit of measure). Perfect. Had an apple actually landed on his head? Probably not. But, if it had, it would have hurt. This also led to the first title of the puzzle, which was ‘Ouch!’, with or without exclamation mark.


But, despite what seemed to be some more good ideas, getting a fill was about as far away as ever. I decided to slot a shorter dropping item in, that would end up below GRAVITATION but the displaced letters from this would contribute towards the theme word. If this went in the central column, this meant that I could start to construct the grid proper from the row containing GRAVITATION. At that point, another problem occurred to me – one that I hadn’t really taken seriously to this point. That of symmetry. With the six ‘things falling’ having to be in the top half of the grid, I either had to go for an asymmetrical grid, or consider that some of my thematic items would have to be symmetrically placed. Another problem, but one that this time took only a couple of hours more to figure out:

And things were starting to look promising with this. There were no particularly nasty letter combinations in here, although I knew that I had to be very careful filling from hereon in. I didn’t want to have too many bars in or around GRAVITATION, as this would really point solvers towards the right place to look. Fortunately, TEA told me that ANDOUILLETTES would fit across the middle – a word that seemed like ideal composite anagram fodder – which removed this worry.

Despite making what I thought was good progress, though, it was another six or seven weeks before the fill was complete. This was for no other reason than the fact that there were still limitations to be observed. I had to studiously avoid things that could be seen to go up – and the number of times that I was left with only names of birds to fill certain lights was ridiculous. I made a conscious decision that I would not class trees as things that go up – LIANA was okay, I thought, given its definition in Chambers. In case of any ambiguity, I would just have to make the preamble state the number of items that moved so that solvers wouldn’t head off and start moving just about anything that they could think of. Because, at the end of the day, just about anything can go up. Limbs, buildings, towns can be ‘built up’, people can ‘grow up’, as can animals, etc, etc.

It was sometime in June when the fill was actually complete. Home and dry? So I thought. But then I had to start on the clueing.

I’d already considered words moving between clues, but I had seen this done somewhere before – and it was too similar to superfluous words for my liking. So we would have letters moving between clues. I didn’t have 44 clues to match 2 times the 22 letters in WHAT GOES UP MUST COME DOWN so I had a bit of leeway… but to make sure that time wasn’t wasted, I would almost certainly have to write clues in order. Hmm.


The full horror of the gimmick that I had chosen didn’t take long to hit home. To have to find for a clue, a word that contributed to the wordplay or the definition when a specific letter was taken away? Very difficult. This was made doubly so by the letter having to be added to the clue directly below. Many times I almost gave up and reverted to something much more straightforward – simple misprints, perhaps. But I wanted the thematic gimmick to become a feature of this and other Samuel puzzles. Besides, in a strange way I enjoyed the challenge. However, rather than writing a clue in perhaps five minutes, it took a stupid length of time. I found myself sometimes spending two hours on a single clue. There were also some horrendously difficult words to even come up with a clue for. I had known from the start that ORCZY would prove problematic, and so it proved. There were a few that I was very pleased with, and a few whereby pop culture kept trying to creep in – I toyed with clueing TOTO as the seventies MOR band, but decided that this was a step too far for the Listener, but decided that Gary Numan could stay in the clue for ACE.

Almost the last thing to be sorted out properly was the title. I was very impressed with the title of a Phi Listener that appeared towards the end of my time setting the puzzle – the title in question being ‘The Consequence of Being Mortal’. This just sounded superb. In line with the original title, ‘Ouch’, I decided upon calling it ‘The Cause of Much Pain’. Newton would have got a headache when the apple hit him on the head but, more to the point, every time that I had fallen over in my life, it had hurt. Sometimes a lot. Gravity certainly causes one to fall so, as such, it must have been responsible for causing a great deal of pain to a great number of people.

The preamble was also tricky to write, especially how to describe what happened to letters when they were displaced by the falling objects… and when working out how to tell solvers what to highlight. In the end I decided upon solvers having to highlight ‘the principle involved’, as this was another homage to Sir Isaac. His ‘law of universal gravitation’ was first published in his book ‘Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica’ often shortened to ‘Principia’, or ‘Principles’, so ‘the principle involved’ seemed very apt. So, after almost a year working on the puzzle, it was then time to send it off to the Listener editors.


Looking through some old files, I've now found some old copies of the grid in pencil, dated February and March 2006. These have various versions of the preamble, including the following:

21/02/2006 – Each of eight answers must be moved in accordance with the phrase, the letters moved in each case replacing those in the target cells. Those displaced must then replace those moved in the same order.

20/03/2006 – In clue order, the letters so moved give a phrase which indicates how six entries in the grid must be moved, any displaced letters moving in their original order to fill the ensuing gap.

I also find that, during this period, things 'going up' included ALBATROSS, EAGLE (to try to misdirect solvers towards a golfing theme), as well as (Chris) BONINGTON, the climber.

Posted in Setting Blogs | Leave a Comment »

3975 – The Cause of Much Pain by Samuel

Posted by Listen With Others on 18 April 2008

A Guest Blog by Chris Jeremy
It’s 2.25 pm and I’m checking the Times website ridiculously early. Today’s puzzle title’s already up there, though. The good news for the debutant blogger is that it’s not called “Carte Tres, Tres Blanche”. The bad news is it’s by Samuel. That’s bad of course only in the sense that as Samuel is chief commissioner of blogs I might be about to bite the hand that feeds me. Whereas many bloggers at this point would consult the volume labelled S in their exhaustively cross-referenced Listener archives, I must rely on memory. Samuel has had only one previous Listener that I can remember: It was about extra terrestrials, involved moving things about after solving, and there was controversy about colouring aliens in an appropriate colour. I had no sympathy at the time, but since my only known failure this year has been sending in a blue-coloured 9 of Diamonds, I am now less dogmatic. I was convinced the grid to Carte Blanche was a stage and the theme was Macbeth. That’s what happens when you google “Scottish Curse” instead of looking it up in Chambers. In desperation I was looking for something to shade that might possibly be “The last syllable of recorded time” before I finally did the obvious. Still got the colour wrong, though.   4.10pm and the puzzle’s printing out on my £ 26 HP deskjet printer bought specifically for Listener printing. Based on the principle of “you get what you pay for “I was expecting a John Bull printing set but so far it’s printed everything out without problem. A first reading of the preamble is intriguing. I think Samuel strives to find novel devices in his crosswords and letters dropping to the clue below is novel in my experience. It seems at first glance to have everything I want in a Listener: plenty to do after completion including a bit of highlighting. I also don’t understand the last bit of the preamble- which is how it should be. 

I always try to do a first reading of the clues in order. Sadly I lack the self discipline and if I can’t do the first few I panic and start to skim them randomly looking for an easy one, usually a badly hidden anagram. The slow full toss on leg stump that gets us off the mark this week is 23 across: a garter snake is elaps. I can see the asp bit so win must =el somehow. Chambers says el= wing so we’re off. We have a g dropping down. Excellent, Smithers. Next one that sticks out is 40 across. Orczy jumps out as creator of the Scarlet Pimpernel. And as a Baroness an S needs to drop down to make he she. Not an easy word to hide, I guess. 38 across now reads: beat an unknown one of the lowest in the RAF. When I see RAF I think erk, so it must be nerk or yerk . Chambers confirms yerk. No letter movement. Next: 2 down. I never pass by an “every other letter” clue. Person regularly avoided trap. This makes “pro” =prostitute= tramp, presumably. This seems a bit dubious so I’ll only write it in lightly. Actually this is confirmed by the M dropping down from 1down. Measures of hep, hashish. It’s that ubiquitous measure ephas hidden in the middle. Next: 27 down Dad capturing two rooks with a bit of ease for famous naturalist. There aren’t many famous naturalists: with two Rs in it must be Durrell. And dad= dead= dull. So six clues done on a first run through. Fairly respectable and the rest all look fairly accessible. My instincts are that I will solve this even if I still don’t understand the preamble. Back to 1 across. Smitten sweep travelling west carrying nurse’s heart. Out with my trusty Bradford’s. Battered, cruelly mistreated in fact, but still good for all words between Absorbed and Wood(en). It gives me Epris for smitten. As “sipe” equals seep, we have our opening extra letter, W. This can only go into 5 across at two places. Towny or Swelling. The latter is more promising. Breaking secondary picket could present red Tony with means of reducing swelling. Doh. I never get these clues as quickly as I should. Its “ Icepacks”. Icepacks +redtony = secondary picket. Nice one. Now that opens things up nicely. 5down must be ills but I can’t see why. 6 down has to be erg but why? It’s a unit of work. When all else fails look it up. Erg is shifting Sand. Fancy that! 15A has got to be ankle which means A is redundant. The A must go into 6 across to make one interrupting interminable complimentary launch. I in Fre(e)= fire.

At this point, just as I’m getting going, I must put my pen down and head to the station to pick up my family off the train. My wife and children have been at her mother’s in Blackpool for a few days. The main reason for their absence was to allow me to sand and varnish the living room floor. All went well until I plugged the edging sander in at the wall. It had been left switched on and so sprang into life thrashing around and gouging the floor boards. For some inexplicable reason I ran over to it rather than pulling the plug out again giving it time to make a real mess. Will my wife notice I’ve had to move the settee to cover up the carnage ? If she does will she buy my back-up story of having the house feng-shui-ed in her absence?
Well it’s now 8.30pm. Kids are retrieved, fed, bathed, and in bed. Clare after complimenting the floor is now well into the Corry-Eastenders-Corry sandwich. I have opened a beer (my current favourite tipple is Harviestoun’s Bitter and Twisted) and I’m checking some of the answers I got sitting on Penrith station for 10 minutes. 5 down is ills because ay is taken out of “I’ll say!” Very clever clue. 4 down is Sapele. As inverted over pele. That takes me back to my days working at B and Q. The clue should read Wood used to make suites, perhaps, in the aspect of overturned goddess.
The U must come from duress in 3 down making it dress down under finally cut short Aussie oaf having trouble with money. Aussie oaf is ocker. It must be rocket= dress down= reprimand severely. Don’t see where the final t comes from, though. Stick it in anyway. Similarly in 10 across Plausible lines added to copy of a will expunging the rights of Auntie Ruth. It’s got to be proball. Probate- te +ll but the Auntie Ruth baffles me. Is it the last letters of Auntie Rut? This is a bit contrived and they’re the wrong way round. Anyway, can we drop the H, so to speak? Yes we can! 12 Across becomes Equip in full all but height. Which is rig out. Ht removed from right out. Same principle as 5 down. A good clue. I now have WHAGSMUE in the hidden message. It must start WHAT so let’s take a Tout of 19 across. Er, if I’m right then it would read Def fish swallows a mound of debris which isn’t promising. 21 across would be stupidly narrow minded and backward girl almost cut the top. Oh dear. Let’s find something with some letters in. 7 down must read A number of card holders knock out who’s only just left. Put a KO with the PI I’ve already got……. Pinko! That’s a lovely clue for the cryptic definition of Pin (card number) and Pinko(only just left). 8 down must be get one old turn for a flier. It’s got to be co-pilot . Cop +I+ lot. Does lot= turn? A more meticulous man than me would probably check that. But my first penny has dropped. In a moment of clarity which can only have been caused by the bottle of Deuchars I’ve just started, I can see the message could make WHAT GOES UP MUST COME DOWN. It’s 22 letters and there is the link with letters thrown up to the clue above dropping down through gravity to the original clue. I’m sure that’s right! 29 across must be Man goodbye to . Wordplay must be man= goodbye + t. Bradfords supplys me with vale = goodbye. Another nice clue. Ah, but 32 across Huffs, only child,roughly ten leaving   doesn’t fit into my master plan as I can’t see where to put an o into the clue. Let’s ignore it then. I’m on my best behaviour here so I haven’t used Tea to solve 26 across which I’m ashamed to say I might well have done so in other circumstances and therefore missed the satisfaction of solving a long anagram . Each week I start these ascents up Everest without the oxygen of Tea and Chambers full search only to strap them on at the first wheeze. Abandoning new rule Lord Lieutenants smash up bangers. Andouilletes ! Good clue, bad sausage. 24D has to be Liana for climber but why? For a link with missing leaders of Icelandic sledge expedition arrest missing British climber. I guess it’s Liaise –ise + na(b). A bit of a cumbersome clue for a small word. 13 across is Lagnappe which I would have got ages ago if I hadn’t ignored “lagniappe” in Bradford’s as being too long. It’s getting late now but I want to finish this tonight. 9 down is Steeds which brilliantly misdirected me as I hadn’t thought of horses for Arabs at all. Knowing which letters to drop is really helping and in 11 down I can see that Dane = Dance so it’s balloon. 14d becomes A universal god character. Which is now obviously aura. 19 Across has to be stellar by the letters in it. Which at 11pm on a Friday seems a bit of a stretch to mean def, frankly so it’s probably time to call it a night.
7.30 am Saturday and I’ve just returned from setting my wife’s market stall up. The kids are watching Finlay the Fire Engine and I’m on the couch with a coffee and a Listener. Where was I? In 16d the fruit must be apple but the word applet is a new one on me. This lets me see that 21ac is polled. A clue which involves the cheeky use of the word po to mean stupidly narrow minded! I seem to be solving this crossword in clue order, with the top half done and the bottom half empty. 22 across has just fallen based on the fact that its remaining checked letter has to be a vowel. It’s Toto and the definition “Oz’s dog” is even cheekier! I have just surveyed my work so far and spotted (2 hours later than every other solver) rocket and balloon which along with apple and co-pilot all go up and come down. Not all rockets come down, though, come to think of it. I don’t see a 5th (or 6th) thematic entry either. Let’s keep going. 20d is tongue. I see now that The M from mutter drops down to make 24 D form a link as opposed to for a link as I previously thought. Tongues go up and down, I suppose. Given that all Hydrocarbons end in -ane -ene or -yne 18down must be retene. Rete = network, but does in =en? It does in French, I suppose. What about 34 across? The clue should read Brick office bass. It’s burden. It isn’t in Bradford’s as meaning bass but bur= brick is and Chambers confirms. 28down is shouting abyss at me. Actually it must be aby + sms= abysms. Does a chasm = a gorge? 31d is Tooart. Too + art. I can’t believe I didn’t spot hoard =hard sooner. The wordplay for 44 across gives mildew quite nicely but this only works if nit is unit. Which means used in 41ac must be sed which is iffy but not impossible. Still can’t do it though. A reluctant trawl in Bradford’s for 3 letter tribes gives me iwi for 42d making the n in Amin redundant so 43 has intron or electron in it. Aha! It’s ace. Nice numanoid surface, possibly lost on some more seasoned solvers. The only movable w to complete “Down” in the message is in 35d making it read Some seized in arrest ere supplying barbiturate maybe. I look up ester as a complete long-shot and what do you know? This w must drop to make About a quarter of Wales used colourings cut by France. I wouldn’t have got Dyfed without the letter dropping. Very well disguised. 41ac looks like it ends in –ite as many rocks and minerals do. Chambers gives French chalk = soapstone = steatite. I’m writing it in without a clue about the wordplay. I’ve just spotted though that 30d is a very nice clue indeed. Off becomes doff and the answer is lift. Lifts go up and down! I’m trying to finish the clues before addressing the movement in the grid. 25d is stirrer. I was held up by tirr= strip. 36 ac is Ivoried. I assert this because this means with teeth. Go Warne must mean Ivor in some way I’m currently not seeing- like his googly. 45 ac I should have got ages ago especially knowing it was losing a P. Err in tace makes terrace. I have 4 left to do. A bit of heavy Bradford-bothering gives me nickar for 33d with Ann becoming anon=a. 47ac must be tired. Red = squadron apparently. 46 down is a very nice clue which I can’t believe has taken me this long. It’s Silurian. Dr Who has had a run in with them, I’m sure. Welsh girl is Sian and ale becomes pale = lurid. So lurid means pale and bright. Fancy that. 39d = peen . Nice surface. Leak = pee. Yes I did go been, ceen, deen till I got there. Which leaves 32 ac as Inns. God knows why! The wordplay must be oc + ent removed from innocents. So the o must go in huffs……. well hound-doggy as Jed Clampett would say! Houff is a pub.( Huffo, my first try, isn’t.) That’s it! The grid is done. Let’s look at the moving clues. I expect to be able to see gravity either before or after the movement and I know Rocket ,balloon, lift, are “movers” along with co-pilot and apple-which as the ever-dwindling readership of this blog realised ages ago hit Newton on the head and -oh look! Apple will drop down onto an N. Newton’s head. That is a very nice touch. The scope for transcription errors is massive but it is quite a satisfying process as I can see gravitation appear. This only works if Liana too comes down. So that’s the 6th thematic object. Does a Liana have to come down? Couldn’t it rot in situ? It’s done! I’ve completed it. I feel pleased with myself for not using TEA and I have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. I thought the theme was excellent (the title suddenly makes sense) and it extended into all areas. The gimmick of a letter going up then coming down was a great idea and the letters were well disguised-though it inevitably put a strain on some of the surfaces, I thought. There will be some moaning minnies who will have liked the final grid to be all real words. This doesn’t bother me at all. The solution is unique, ingenious and unambiguous and I got to do some shading. The apple and Newton’s head was a very nice touch. The movement of parts of the grid after solving is a bit of a signature of Samuel. It appeared in the extra-terrestrial puzzle and also in a Magpie puzzle where a roundabout rotated. To finish before Football Focus is a good effort for me. This would put this puzzle on the easier side of average. But after Collusion that’s no bad thing. Thanks Samuel. I thoroughly enjoyed that.


Posted in Solving Blogs | Leave a Comment »

3974 – Lots by Viking

Posted by Listen With Others on 11 April 2008


Am I in a time warp? Didn’t I do this crossword for my last blog? Have ‘they’ posted the same crossword twice? Impossible at The Times! OK, my last blog was Lots to Find. Just a coincidence then – or just my lot! Well one thing is for sure the theme won’t be collective nouns. ‘Lots’ doesn’t make any immediate connections with me – I’m just going to have to work it out. I was on holiday last week and came back to Collusion by The Magpie which was a real toughy. I’m glad I didn’t have to write that blog and hope as I begin ‘Lots’ that I have an easier time of it. I’m not going to repeat the clues in these notes so if you keep a copy of the crossword, you will need it if you really want to follow every word.

Might as well tackle the theme head-on and begin with a run through of the across clues even if I can’t enter them. I can’t see 1a but 5a is a straightforward anagram of MrToads yielding STARDOM. 10a is an ‘and lit’ clue R + EMOTE. 12a and 13a I can’t do. 15a I think is (ex)CITE. 16a T + ANNOY. I’ll quickly check downs crossing 5a and 15a. Can’t do 7d or 8d but 9d is ‘em’ turning up on ‘at’ Y(ard) MEATY. So the M of stardom hasn’t changed/moved but CITE must have moved T to the end – unless the word has changed completely before entry, which may still be so. 17a IT (or SA) exchanged for D in a word for showy? 18a Don’t know. 20a simple hidden of RETRO. 22a I get LETHE for forgetfulness from Bradford’s and work back to LET (Poor service – I like that!) + HE. 25a is a composite anagram and lit – anag of hypnotiser minus letters of rise – PYTHON.
27a airman is often erk but can’t see anything else. 28a I don’t understand the form of the clue yet. 30a a 4 letter piece of music – Aria? If so I don’t see why. 32a looks like an anagram of ink-blot test minus a couple of letters but I can’t see what yet. I’ll leave it until I’ve got some crossing letters. 33a A word for enthusiasm without the first and last letters meaning ‘put an end to’. Don’t know. 34a is TUSSLE anag of TU less. I can’t do 35a and 36a and I’m rarely any good at … linked … clues.
7 answers to across clues and 1 down entry. Well I have no guesses on the theme so I’ll do a quick run through of the down clues to see if I can shed any light on the method of entry. 1d there are too many possible ways of interpreting this clue. 2d script regularly could be CIT but can’t see the rest. 3d No idea. 4d anag of pro(tes)tor – TORPOR.
5d Word for old age without O or nil? SE(nil)ITY. Is that a word? Yes. 6d is a simple (ga)ROTTER. 7d might end with an anag of ‘or its’? 8d still no idea. 14d looks like a anag of unrotten + h which I work at to get ON THE TURN but don’t really like as a clue. It feels like a very forced and lit to me. 19d anag of o+ pinot – OPTION. 21d Lots of possibilities for sailor + d or ob inside a word meaning gun? Leave it. 23d ipso facto springs to mind but it’s too long though ipso occurs in isotope. Anag of iso(t)ope?
Ipso eo/oe – no. EO IPSO well I never knew that! 24d A word for a tango + o giving an Italian city – that’s most of them ending in o! 26d UMIST involved? Don’t know. 27d Fleet changing L to R, FREET? Sounds like it could be a Scottish word – and it is.
Let’s have a look at 30a as I’ve got 3 letters in it. TRIO would fit and fits the clue –  riot with last letter first. So either across answers are anagrammed or the T moves (but not always to the end because of 5a stardom which ends in M). All the other across answers I’ve solved have got Ts in them as does ‘Lots’. For now I’ll assume the T moves. I’ll finish the down run through. Of the last three downs, I can only get 31d RE(pa)ST.
Right, now to try and fill in some areas of the grid. At the bottom, going back to 32a I see anag of ink-blot test minus LB (lawyer) gives KNOTTIEST – lots of Ts to move. 33a Bradfords suggests ESTRO which is dESTROy so the opposite way round to the way I first thought the clue worked. 35a Scrambled ‘not’ could be the TON which I now know begins the entry, so the first word might be ON with T moving. ON TOAST (oast oven). 24d now seems obvious as T(ango)+RENT+O. The times I have missed the phonetic alphabet – and I was in the Navy!
I can now see PROUST staring at me on the diagonal TR to BL so the theme must be Marcel Proust’s ‘A La Recherche Du Temps Perdu’ which wikipedia tells me is usually translated as ‘In Search Of Lost Time’ hence the roving Ts. So now it’s a matter of going through the remaining clues to try and fix where the T moves to, or if there is more than one T where they each move to.
Is 36a (h)EATER (definition oven from 35a)? If it is I can confirm my dislike of … paired … clues. Working on the clues crossing my confirmed diagonal, 12a is OR(n)ATE.
27a is FO+rote(rev) FOETOR and nothing to do with erks. Bradford’s shrub list gives 28d as TUTUS which also fixes the letter order in 35a. Only one T is lost because if it was both Ts the unches would make the entry ambiguous ie TONTOAS or TONAOTS.
Similarly, 26d is MIT in hue – HUMITE fixing 34a letter order. 18a  is another comp anag and lit, anag of ‘put on trial’ minus anag of ‘unit’, PATROL though I’m not overly convinced by the ‘and lit’. 7d is an anagram of OR OR OR (three times or – clever!) and ITS giving ORRIS ROOT and fixes the T in 5a stardom as starting 8d which must be TAM plus EST (‘is’ in French speaking Martinique). This in turn fixes the letter order in
20a and suggests 17a T for D in dressy giving TRESSY.
The home run now. 1d is rav in tail – TRAVAIL. 1a T+(w)RITE – not sure about ‘beginning to skip’. Whether it is skipping the beginning of write or beginning of ‘to’ skipped from write I can’t tell but don’t like either. I also don’t like the word order in 28a which is an anag of couldn’t minus c(ollege) UNTOLD. 29d I also think is weak. ca(about) R (Queen) taken from Carlisle. I must be getting grumpy now. I’ve got the theme and I’m losing interest and getting picky about the clues. 21d is OLDSTER d in (h)olster. 2d is RECIT. Ugh! Touching for re. 13a is air reversed in actual – ACTUARIAL. 3d is (g)et at – ETAT. 11d air in fly – FAIRLY.
I have gone through these notes and removed some (not all) of the adverse comments on clues. Why? Because it’s not fair on the setter. I enjoyed the puzzle and just because I don’t agree with the setter and/or editors doesn’t mean I’m right. I know it’s a blog and I can largely say anything I like but I don’t want to seem too churlish when as I said I largely enjoyed the puzzle. Plus Karma is coming into play because as I type these notes just over a week after the puzzle, I can’t remember highlighting Marcel Proust! I have just got my stats for last year from John Green and besides the two I didn’t enter because of holidays, one which the post office seem to have lost and two I couldn’t solve, I made five stupid errors including forgetting to highlight the required bits of grid. So it’s quite possible I’ve done it again. I suppose, quite appropriately, time will tell…

Posted in Solving Blogs | Leave a Comment »