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Archive for April, 2008

3973 – Collusion by The Magpie

Posted by Listen With Others on 5 April 2008

This Is Not A Swan Song

Friday,
8.30pm – Well, this is probably going to be my last blog entry for a while. Things are just too busy, and I’ve been letting the side down regarding the posting of my entries. The year got off to a bad start when my entry for Ten-Four’s rather nice New Year’s Message got lost due to technical issues, and haven’t really improved.
 
Work is chaos, and home life has been incredibly traumatic. Idiotic teenage daughter has now moved out, which in some ways is good. 
 

Home not like a warzone anymore, so I don’t sit at Exelby services for hours in my car, not wanting to go home. We don’t have to have the police out every few nights to recover her from York. We don’t have to constantly deal with the school to sort out why she hasn’t been there. I don’t have to worry about a repeat of the episode when, having punched another girl at school, she lied to the school to get out of it, saying that I had been beating her up. Not having to worry about having money stolen, credit cards stolen to pay for mobile phone contracts, phones and iPods stolen and sold at school to get money. That sort of thing.
In other ways, it is bad. Emma very upset thinking that she has failed as a parent. Lauren not having been to school for months, when she should be working through the first year towards her GCSEs. The worry that she is now living in a far less safe environment than previously. The fact that she still seems very adept at f**king up our lives from 60 miles away. What was it last night? Oh yes, speaking to her mother for the first time in a fortnight, just to say that she’s going to get us sued for having received child benefit for her when she doesn’t live here any more. That kind of thing.
 
Anyway that, coupled with the fact that the doctor has told me to change my lifestyle and to not do as much, or I will be dead in no time at all, means that I’m taking a break from a few things for a few months. And those things include LWO and setting puzzles. So I’m going to play at being a solver only for the next few months. Couple of Samuel puzzles to finish off, and then that’s that for a while.
So, what have we got tonight? I’ve known it was going to be Collusion by The Magpie for some time, and have been more than a little bit worried by it. I’ve been a bit stung by the comment left by somebody on the fantastic George v The Listener blog (link now on the right hand side of this site), saying that we at LWO are too self-congratulatory. Well, let’s get one thing clear. There’s not been a great deal of self-congratulation to be got out of the Listener stats for last year as far as the LWO team are concerned. Oli, as he’s stated, wasn’t submitting seriously last year. Duncan, who I had pegged for a definite all-correct year, submitted all of them but got two wrong. Joe, who I kind of empathise with given that we both submitted our first Listeners with the same puzzle, got about seven wrong. I think. And I got nine wrong. Nine! How can that be? I finished every puzzle, cracked every theme, and sent them all in. And still got nine wrong! Out of the 100 people who submitted every puzzle, I finished something like 91st. How rubbish is that? What’s worse is that there was only what I would class as one genuine solving mistake. The rest were ludicrous transcription errors and careless omissions. For instance, I forgot to do the highlighting in Henry’s puzzle. That gives me a rather fantastic 0/2 as far as Henry’s Listeners are concerned. Henry has seemed a nice chap on the couple of occasions that I have met him, but on this form he’ll be on my most hated people list within a few years.
So, no self-congratulation here. Just, certainly as far as my record goes, incompetence. My only chance of ever winning the salver would seem to hinge on setting a puzzle so monstrously difficult that nobody gets it correct. So, anyway. I should be cracking on with the puzzle. Collusion, by The Magpie. The most worrying thing is that nobody writing a blog for LWO has ever failed to complete the the puzzle being blogged.
Yet.
If anybody can end that record, surely the hellish pairing of Magoo and Pieman can put paid to that.
So, lets read the preamble.
Hmm. That’s not a good start. I’ll have to read it again. Not sure how much sense that made.
Hmm. Not much more sense that time, either. I feel like the slimming club leader in Little Britain who can never understand what the Asian lady in the class says. ‘Come again?’ ‘Come again?’
Third try.
Hmm. Okay, I know that all but nine clues all contain an extra word. And that the remaining nine clues contain a misprint. That’s all I need to know for now. Let’s solve some clues!! I wonder how many I can get at the first pass.
 
Ten minutes later: That will be the grand total of none, then. Bugger.
 
Are there a bunch of clues missing? Nothing between 8D and 28D. Is that the Times messing things up again?
 
No, it won’t be. They are all the entries that cross 24A in the central row. So that must be where the descriptions go. I can’t think about that yet. Too far in the future.
 
8.45pm Aha! We are off and going. 40D – In Scotch Corner deflect atomic bomb having repositioned base. We don’t live that far from Scotch Corner, but that’s by the by. NUKE with the E moved gives NEUK. So we have DEFLECT as an extra word.
 
So I have four letters in the grid. 39A, An anger without name (4, two words), second letter of N. Must be that old stalwart, IN RE. So that’s N inside IRE. So that must be a misprint one… what can that be? In.. ON. Yes that just about works, although it is a mighty small word in which to have a misprint.
Hmm. This is not looking as if it is going to be a fast solve. If indeed it turns out to be fully solved at all.
1D – A group of testy Lents don’t make peace. That’s an unnatural surface if ever I saw one. Well, I can get STYLE out of the middle of that. So that leaves ‘a group of tents don’t make peace’. Hmm. What is a group of tents? A camp? Hmm. Well I am sure that STYLE is correct to be taken out. I’ll leave that one and come back to it. Are there any other clues where I can spot extra words sneaked in?
Not obviously. Oh, this is a struggle. Bringing back memories of all those hours wrestling with Pieman. Not literally, of course. Wrestling with Pieman’s puzzles. Maybe that should take place one Listener dinner… Listener setter all-in wrestling. That would get the punters in. Who would win? Hmm, it’s a bit hard to say as the average age of those involved wouldn’t be the lowest ever known to man. Somebody like Tiburon, probably. He looks as if he could handle himself in a fight. Good grief, that sounds awful. It’s meant to be a compliment! Best quit whilst I’m ahead. If that pops up in place of Tea Leaves’ quiz at a future dinner, then I will know that Jago reads this.
Hmm, this is proving to be quite distracted. I should be sitting here solving Collusion, and instead I’m trying to work out if Viking could see off Dimitry in a fight. How have I ended up like this? It must be time for a break. Good grief, it can only be a good thing that LWO may be a Chris-free zone for a while, with the crap that I am coming out with here. Right. Let’s go and get a cup of tea, and come back and concentrate on the puzzle. Concentrate, concentrate, concentrate…
 
9.50pm – Hmm. Back to the puzzle. Let’s stop wondering who would win at tag wrestling if Mango took on the Magpie boys. Let’s solve some clues!! I must confess to having written down the names of 32 compilers, and am going to draw them against each other in pairs… and then have an imaginary wrestling tournament. I’ll work on this whilst solving.
 
10.05pm – Mr Lemon has just lost in the first round to Gos. Sorry, James. Meanwhile, back at the puzzle, 2D, Was he of air, a topless demigod, should read Washes of air, a topless demigod, which gives AERO. Things are picking up!
 
10.25pm – Or perhaps not. Although I have solvfed 5D – Strike’s raised [regard] in Clydeside plant (4). PEEN seems to be a word often generated by Sympathy (at least when I play with it), so the answer is NEEP. Meanwhile, in other news, Duck has just seen off Charybdis.
 
10.50pm – Christ, this is slow going. I really like 6D, though – AM under BOTH = BOTHAM. Good to see old Beefy in a puzzle. Showing my age, as my 12 year old son has never heard of him. Still, no reason why he would have, I suppose. Strange feeling getting old. I forgot my own phone number the other day. I just fumbled around, saying ‘01609 8.….’, before covering my tracks. Blimey, anyone who reads this now has a 1 in 100,000 chance of guessing my phone number. Think that I can live with that. Unlike Gioconda, who has just succumbed to Samuel in what was no way a fixed draw in the first round of the wrestling. Does anybody know if Sabre is handy in a scrap? I face him next, after he made mincemeat of Dipper.
 
11.45pm – Damn it! Sabre beat me with a submission in the second round. There’s a sentence that I never thought that I would write. I’ve added ACRE and CHIELD to my list of clues that have been solved, and have, hopefully quite helpfully, realised that 1A is DIAMONDBACK. Joe Blake in the clue just had to be a misprint, although I guessed that ‘Joe Bloke’ meant something like ‘an average person’. I never knew that it was a snake. Diamond is a type of pick, apparently. Still, the top half of the grid is now taking place. Whilst, at the bottom, NEUK and IN RE sit there in splendid isolation.
 
12.10pm – Ah! 1D’s group of tents is DOWAR! Excellent! – ‘Don’t make peace’ = ‘Do war’… the kind of crypticy definition thing that you rarely see in the Listener. I like that clue a lot.
 
Bit tricky now. 14A must surely be ATOC, as is A?OC, but how does that fit anything? I think I am going to bed. Still sulking that I’ve been knocked out of the Listener Setters’ Imaginary Wrestling tournament by Sabre.
Time for bed. Will take it up to have a look at instead of reading.
 
1.05am – Hmm , that was a mistake. Am at the quarter-final stage in the wrestling. What a line up!
 
Tiburon v Waterloo
Mr Magoo v Gareth
Pieman v Ploy
Dimitry v Schadenfreude
 
It’s like a who’s who of Listener setting there, with the Magpie boys putting up a good showing. A shame that Mash isn’t in the reckoning to give them a full presence, but I didn’t actually include him in the original 32. Sorry, AJ.
 
37D is driving me mad. I have ACACIA at 42A, which if we are talking noble gases at 37D means that it is ??AR. But what other noble gas. Is ARAR a word? KRAR? XEAR?
Oh, I’m too tired for this. I can’t stay up until 1.15am solving the Listener. Not any more. I’ve tried to help myself by putting the extra words into order by length, and it is fairly obvious that we need three groups of words that are 5, 6 and 7 letters long respectively. I have also cracked the composite anagram at 31D, which gives me an extra word of BOYCOTT. BOYCOTT, BOTHAM… anyone for cricket? That can’t be the theme surely? No, if that was the case then the puzzle would be called (dis)ILLUSION(ment), after what has happened since the Ashes triumph of 2005.
 
Now it really is bed time. Boing!
 
Saturday, 8.30amOK, more progress. 27A is LACEY, and 32A ANKLE. Together with RESORB at 17A, I nearly have enough to start making some words across the central row, which is what I guess guess needs doing. I seem to have found a lot more words that are 7 letters long than 5 or 6, by the way. Right, let’s concentrate on 22A, which will hopefully help a lot.
 
9.15am – No clues solved in the last 45 minutes. Cornflakes time.
 
10.05am – Can’t look at this any longer. We need to go out.
 
10.45amHow many people are staring at the Listener whilst sitting in Sainsbury’s car park? Must be more than just me. 28D is fantastic… former red, a (blunted) supporter at Wembley (6) – AN ARCH! Obviously that must be the new Wembley rather than the old one. Good work though, and I can’t see this being beaten as my favourite clue of the puzzle.
 
3.15pm – Back home after spending a fortune in Sainsburys. How can we still spend this much on food, when Lauren has gone, I’m away three or four nights a week, and Molly is only five? 23A is IMODE.
Must be time to start looking at these unclued entries, to see what I can sort out.
13D is G?EE?. So what could that be? GREEN? GREET? GREED? How does that tie in to ay of my extra words?
 
Aha! The extra word in 3D could be HELLENE = a Greek. And we’re off! Well, maybe. So that means that 16A is ?H?ER. Hmm. Don’t know. Haven’t got anything else that looks sensible for the extra words.
 
What else? Well, 18D is S??CK. That could be SNICK, to tie in with the extra word of DEFLECT that I have somewhere. So that means that 22A is… ?EN??T. Hmm. Not much help there. So what else could fit SN?CK….? Let’s look at the extra words again. SNACK = SUPPER, from the six letter words. And how about SNECK? An old Yorkshire word that definietely means LATCH, which is present in 4D. Which I haven’t solved yet. Starting to make good progress.
 
I might even delay the wrestling semi-finals to crack on with this.
 
4.20pm – Am meant to be making tea. But I am not. Hate cooking when I am dieting. I’m having baked chicken breast, baked potato, broccoli and carrots for the umpteenth day running. Best be worth it. The rest are having roast lamb. How is that fair in any way, shape or form?
I’m starting to get excited now. 24D is ?LAC?. 41A I think is KRENG, which is a whale carcass. That kinds of fits, as spek = whale blubber. So ?LACK…. and I know that BLACK is another word for BOYCOTT… am getting there!
 
I now know that, as far as the seven letter words are concerned, I have:
B??I????K. That looks a bit nasty. What on earth can that be? I’m going to put that into Chambers and see what comes out. I am sure that is allowed. This is pretty tough, after all!
Hmm. BRAINSICK.
 
Eh? How can that describe somebody?
Oh, I see. I can’t type properly. B?I???????K. Well, could be BLISTER PACK, BRIGHT SPARK, BRING TO BOOK, BRISSEL-COCK and BRISTOL MILK. Hmm. Well the most likely is BRIGHT SPARK, although I am tempted by BRISSEL-COCK as it sounds like a complaint that very hairy men get. Can I say that?? And BRISTOL MILK sounds like it should be what babies drink. Well, much as I would love the puzzle to be a collusion between BRISSEL-COCK and BRISTOL MILK, BRIGHT SPARK sounds more likely. And more like the sort of person who would be needed to solve a puzzle by The Magpie. I can see all the purists shouting at me as I searched for B?I????????K, but there you go. I’m not that clever, unfortunately. And it’s not like I do that very often. But I have spent about 6 hours on this puzzle already, and I am a very busy person.
 
6.10pm – Tea went down well. Sneaked a bit of roast lamb from the joint. Emma ate her usual mountain of roast potatoes. Grrrr. More progress on the Magpie. I’ve now used a sheet of A4 to write out in hangman style 11 sets of dashes for the central row, as well as what I have in terms of crossing entries. Starting to feel hopeful that I may finish this tonight. When (if) I get the second central row then I will play the quarter-finals of the wrestling.
 
6.40pm – More progress. I have for the description from the five letter words:
 
CLE??RC?O??. This looks as if it could be CLEVERCLOGS. Is GREES a word?
 
Yes it is! Ha ha ha ha ha! Well, this is all good stuff. BRIGHT SPARK and CLEVER CLOGS. What does Bradfords tell me about synonyms for somebody who is clever?
 
Hmm, MASTERMIND is too short. Only 10 letters. Shame. That was under GENIUS in Bradfords. What is under CLEVER?
SMARTYPANTS? That has eleven letters! Yes, that fits – from SLACK at the start to GREES (again) at the end. Good stuff!
 
So we have BRIGHT SPARK, CLEVER CLOGS and SMARTYPANTS. I wonder who at the Magpie is who? It kind of sounds like an intelligent version of the Seven Dwarfs. Which has got eleven letters, but wouldn’t fit. Oh, and would make no sense. Let’s press on.
 
7.45pm – Almost time to go and read Horrid Henry stories to Molly. Again. I know them off by heart, more or less. And so does she. Still, nothing wrong with that. I’ve only got about four clues left to solve, which are baffling me. 38D is T?AD which is baffling me, and I am a bit worried about as it is an unch that could be TOAD, TEAD, TRAD, and I can’t get the definition from it. I am a bit upset by this, as I would hate to crack the puzzle but fall over on an unch tat isn’t involved with the thematic stuff going on.
 
Been working on this now for an unprecedented long time. Although I have been distracted at times.
 
I’m staring at the central row, wondering what the collective description could be.
 
8.45pm – Just back from Horrid Henry duty. Henry has been… well, horrid. Surprise, surprise. He’s been the innkeeper in the nativity play, and surprised Mary & Joseph by telling them that there is room at the inn. Chaos ensued. Right back to this puzzle about all of the brainy people.
 
8.55pm – Could BRAINY be in the central row? Certainly BLACK, STEER and SNACK have already been used, which would mean that BRAIN could work. But what? BRAIN BOXES? Too short. Let’s look under BRAIN in Chambers. BRAINPOWER? Hmm. Doesn’t really describe a collective. BRAINS TRUST? By George, I think that could be it. BRAINS TRUST… do all the other answers fit with this?
 
9.05pm – Yes they do! And that’s got me my penultimate missing answer. Just 38D to go. And what are these misprints?
 
9.20pm – Blimey, I’ve just justified ATOC at 12A. At long last. Gorilla’s relative – a Zorilla is a type of skunk, as is an ATOC. Good lord, how hard was that? Great to have the misprint of GORILLA as ZORILLA, though. Good work. And what are these misprints? I really don’t know. They seem to be:
 
ALZPMOHK…. What can that be? HK could be the legendary Harry ‘just call me HK’ Kewell, the workshy Aussie tosser who delights in being paid £60,000 per week whilst suffering a series of baffling injuries that cannot be found by medical science. Grrrr.
 
Hmm. Well BRAINS TRUST must surely be right. I don’t understand the misprints, and I am stuck on T?AD at 38D. Hmmm.
 
I’m going to take a break from this. Come back to it tomorrow morning.
 
Sunday, 6.30am – Up early. Staring at the Listener. 38D surely has to be TOAD. This must be a misprint clue as I am missing one (I only have eight), and a BADDY might be a TOAD, I suppose. Don’t see what else it could be, though.
 
So, am I happy? I have a completed grid. I am a bit unhappy about 38D. And I don’t understand how the misprints work. Which worries me a bit. But I think that I have the correct description that satisfies them all. It HAS to be BRAINS TRUST. What else could it be? That would seem to be a bit weak, if I can finish without understanding that bit of it. I am sure that it would be something that would confirm the answer.
 
Right, well I am *fairly* happy. I’m going to check the thing, go over my lists of answers to definitions and where they fit with a very, very fine toothcomb, and see how I feel after that.
 
Sunday 9.20pm – No, I haven’t been working on that for the last 15 hours. It’s first ad break in Lewis. I look forward to his sidekick getting his own series in ten years’ time. Well, I am all checked. Quite happy with all that I have. Am more uneasy about TOAD than I am about the misprints. D = DIED, surely? I’m going to fill out my submission grid (no highlighting this week, which is good) and then hang onto the puzzle for a few days before posting it, just in case anything dawns on me.
After I’ve done that, I’m going to see who wins the wrestling.
 
Monday, 10.45pm – I am officially an idiot! TOAD is right – but it is TOO BAD less OB, which I always forget means DIED. I should know that automatically from words like OBITUARY, but I always forget. So B is a misprint. Hmm. Still don’t know what to make of those. Shall I send it off?
 
No, I’ll hang on to it for another couple of days. No point sending it in early, and then having a moment of realisation. What do I think of the puzzle? I liked it. Very tough, but I expected nothing less. Very good technically, although the clues were sometimes a bit Piemanic. Good unching, nice theme, and superb work to sport that the four thematic descriptions were all the same length. Excellent stuff.
But… but… as I said, very good technically. It will be on my list as one of the best puzzles of the year. But it somehow didn’t grab my imagination. I think it was because the clues were very hard, so the whole thing felt like a slog. If the clues had been perhaps 20% easier, then I would have enjoyed this a lot more and may have been sitting here declaring it as my obvious selection for AGC glory. Not that that is worth anything at all, as I have about as much chance of voting for the AGC this year as Gretna do of winning the Scottish Premier League.
So yes, very good. Apologies to Mark and Simon for not saying that it is the best puzzle since sliced bread… but it was very good! Am sure that it will be in my top 5 of the year. And I am worried that I seem to have conclusively got the required result without understanding the misprints. No doubt some piece of tricksy stuff that mere mortals like me cannot fathom.
So that’s it. Time to forget about the Listener for another week. Although I’ll be a bit bothered until I see the solution. I always am with puzzles by the very best and most difficult solvers. All over.
 
But there is time for one final confession, before I slide off the LWO team for a few months. Not sure that this puzzle has helped me follow my doctor’s advice, by the way.
So here we go. Here is the confession.
 
 
I have fiddled the wrestling a bit. The final is now Pieman v Mr Magoo. Of course, there could only be that outcome, really.
After all, I have spent the last four days wrestling with The Magpie…..
 
I’ll get my coat.

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