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Archive for October, 2008

4003 – Digonal by Pieman (10 by 8)

Posted by Listen With Others on 31 October 2008

Friday 10th October, 8.00pm Well, an unusual grid and with the title and setter to find this week. We last had one like this in November 2005 where 20 by 10 (also describing the grid size) turned out to be Torus Spiral by Dimitry – a classic. Two each of the numbers one to eighteen in the grid are possibly one set for each half. The crossword part looks to be conventional and rather short but I suspect that the second part will be anything but brief – I am a bit worried by that cutting up the grid business at the end of the preamble.

The grid for the word puzzle is readily constructed from the information given and the first ten clues solved are as follows:

10ac Knight leaves ring for (legion) region (4) area – ARE(N)A
11dn Wasting more energy cooking rissole (7) lossier – RISSOLE (anag)
1dn Man (with a spear) departed in returning storm (5) Edgar – D in RAGE (rev) See first names at back of Chambers.
13ac Christians elect out of ordinary opening of service (5) Copts – CO-(O)PT + S
22ac They're (tripped) trapped by charges spoken about in bridge (8) polarons – ORAL (rev) in PONS
7ac Cut flower for former estate (4) dais – DAIS(Y)
3dn I note one state of (diving) divine woman (7) Isiacal – I + SI + A + CAL
6dn (Bash) bush birds from Uncle … Uncle Sam? (5) emeus – EME + US
9ac Goddess needs egg operation for birth (8) geniture – GE + NIT + URE
5dn Admin trainee stops teaching for ("baddy") bandy? (6) lorate – AT in LORE

I shall leave it at that for tonight.

Saturday, 11.00am The remaining 14 clues offer little resistance with the final:

21ac Wild West's second of years (ago) age (4) eild – E for W in WILD

The condition derived from misprints is revealed as:

NO REPEATED NUMBERS (no surprise there)

And the completed word grid with unwanted clue numbers and bars:


Now we must turn to the task of discovering the real title and setter – might that mean that we must rotate the grid by 90°? We can add 10 partitioning bars immediately since the pairs of 1, 2, 7, 9 and 13 are next to one another in the grid. Perhaps the title and setter are spelled out in block letters but they must then be very short. Another thought is that the path of the bars might separate title and setter but not along the whole length or they would be too long for the box beneath.

I spend an hour or so adding speculative bars but nothing takes shape – there are just so many possibilities. I shall try a more systematic approach tomorrow using Excel.

Sunday, 2.00pm Using Excel is much better and I have the partition in about 15 minutes. Starting with the pair of eights there are few problems once it is realised that most of the top and all the right-hand perimeter cells belong to one side and the left-hand and most of the bottom to the other or else there will be more than two distinct shapes:


Well, block letters are ruled out and there is no single path to follow so, how to interpret the partition? Taking the letters at each number in numerical order gives nothing meaningful and neither does taking them in grid order for each shape. I shall go and cut the grass and have a think about it. This is the 16th cut of the season and 25 years ago it might have been the final but global warming has added some four weeks to the growing season.

5.30pm Back with a couple of ideas but the first, Braille, proves to be futile:


There are some letters there, even a B and Y, but I should have known better than to entertain the idea of such an absurdly random thematic shift – it would never have been acceptable. In any case, the bars that we are to add play no part here and there has to be some meaning in the word puzzle.

But then I have a good long look at what we have. To have it glowing on screen, in full colour, seems so much more informative than on paper:


I had noted earlier that we have GLO and GOO in diagrammatically opposite positions and had thought of Glow-worm and Mr Magoo as possible setters except that the latter is two words. However, the G and O form two pairs so I have a look at all such pairs in the grid and the solution falls out – just like that!


Digonal (a half-turn gives the same figure) by Pieman

So, the completed grid looks like this:


All finished at 7.45pm.

Post Mortem The first really testing Listener since Quadrivium and in many ways similar to Argentum by Radix in that the crossword part took a relatively minor role in the action. The one big difference is a personal one in that this time I readily spotted the solution although certainly more by chance than by skill. So, will Digonal attract similar comments, such as being unfair and too obscure?

Time will tell but I now read the penultimate sentence of the preamble as being a strong hint:

Solvers who have found it helpful to cut up the grid must securely reassemble it for entry.

Cutting out the two shapes and securely reassembling them (putting one on top of the other exactly) gives the entry (solution) – or am I being wise with hindsight?

The dénouement rather eclipsed the crossword part for me. The clues were generally of a high standard and although I am unable to pick out a favourite there was one that I didn’t much care for, 14ac:

Escapes out of sun – in these? (5) capas – (S)CAPAS, & lit.

The capas would surely need to have hoods but there is no indication in Chambers of this. However, my main reason for disliking the clue is the similarity of escapes and scapas to capes and capas.

But I must not linger on what I consider the only flaw. Phrases such as favourite or puzzle of the year are probably overused but this will definitely linger long in my memory.

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4002 – A Process of Induction by Emkay

Posted by Listen With Others on 24 October 2008

I’m afraid this blog is going to be a process of deduction because I forgot I was down to blog it until I’d solved about half the clues. Plus I am writing it a week later. Fortunately it was a very straight forward puzzle though I did get off to a bad start. The preamble gave the answers to those (clues) which intersect the perimeter once are to be entered jumbled  and so presumably all the others are entered normally which should be a great help. Eight thematic elements… why elements and not entries? All will become clear hopefully. I started with the perimeter clues and thought 'Virgin ground (6)' might be IRVING. Because of the title, I wondered about conductors. Then got 'In Ulster following member of overseas political party (7)' MANCINI; and 'Almost clean compartment of a honeycomb (7)' giving PURCELL . Well the theme is definitely conductors I thought but as I couldn’t solve any other perimeter clues I went on to the acrosses and downs.

6a don’t know
10a Produces sheaths containing uranium (6) CAUSES
13a Trace incorrect move diagonally (5) is CATER
14a Convertible theatre curtain cover (6) is RAGTOP (from Bradfords)
15a Right inside multiple elements of a gaseous layer (13) I thought must be part of the atmosphere and end in OSPHERIC so I guessed it was THERMOSHERIC with R in various elements of the periodic table. This seemd lazy clueing reminiscent of various notes which I disliked in my last blog but I will not dwell on it.
16a Diploma in Romania for musical composition (5) RONDO( OND in RO)
18a Old age established position in family (6) ELDEST
Turning to the downs crossing them
1d Foolish person loses the Tibetan animal (3) GOA(t)
2d Skin dead animal without implements – not exciting initially (4) DERM (d ermine minus INE)
3d ?
4d Go, for example, round Spain (3) GEE (eg reversed e)
5d Odd part of wheelbarrow – it's back to front! (4) ORRA (hidden rev)
The above were all jumbled but the next 6 could be entered when solved.
7d Switzerland invested in precious metal and money (5) OCHRE (CH in ore)
8d Count set in another way, leaving out badly cut gem? (5) STONE (anag count set minus ang cut) but it messed up 15a thermosphere. From -H-O-OSPHERE I guessed CHROMOSPHERE with the same clue reservations.
9d Show lascivious pleasure in physician attracting love of student (5) DROOL
10d Kind of wood cut originally for my horse (5) -APL- suggested CAPLE (from Bradfords) C for M(y)APLE
11d Guide has the eastern direction right (5) S T E E R
12d Thwart Anglo-Catholic having time for royal (5) -PIT- suggested SPITE (spike T for K!)
I had enough crossing to lead me to
6a They eat insects from most of waste matter around diseased nog (7) DRONGOS (dros(s) around anag nog)
3d Sit astride reddish-brown large plant (13, two words) HORSE CHESTNUT
I could now place MANCINI and PURCELL and guessed
Article covering independent river transport system (7) THIERRY and
Bird loses resolve (4) WOOD (pecker)
though the former ruined my conductor theory.


Well that was the top half completed and and the bottom half clues fell similarly easily. And so I was able to place IRVING and deduce
Half a mild cheese made in Cyprus (4) HALL(oumi).
This threw my musical theme back into the ring. Maybe there is another THIERRY with a musical connection. It was only when I re-googled Thierry that I noticed HENRY and realised the others were all HENRYs too and so finally I got
Well-co-ordinated hospital admits male imbibing ecstasy (9, two words) THE EIGHTH (tight round he e)
Wishing to have diamonds (4) FOR D
and finally JOSEPH HENRY (Induction).

 I still don’t know why the preamble used thematic elements rather than entries.
One of the definitions of Induction in Chambers is
Reasoning from particular cases to general conclusions (logic)
which I suppose is the process I went through to arrive at JOSEPH HENRY and so justifies the title which I had thought weak. 

This was a relatively quick and easy Listener and although I didn’t find the cluing top notch I knew when I’d got the right solution (thermoshere excepted) and it did have a penny drop but one which was more of an ‘oh’ rather than an ‘aah’ for me. In fact it seemed more like a Spectator puzzle than a Listener. Sorry EmKay if this blog sounds a little grudging I did enjoy the puzzle and in a busy week I was pleased to solve it quickly.
p.s. The formatting made the type face italic when I pasted this here and I didn't have the patience to correct it all. Plus the read more function wasn't working.

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4000 – Quadrivium by Arcturus, Dimitry, Trev and Viking- Setter’s Blog

Posted by Listen With Others on 10 October 2008

Work on this puzzle could not commence until the co-editors were fairly sure how much space would be available in The Times. The eventual disruption to the puzzle pages, and the tightness of fit for the final version, show how risky the venture was. During the summer, Dimitry and Viking had a chance to meet up to discuss how to proceed. It was decided that the outline grid produced by the latter would be a feasible base for four sub-puzzles, each with an M-theme. Dimitry had some years ago identified a good quotation that could be used for M = thousand in a bell-ringing context, and which could be pressed into use here, while Viking chose M = music. It was agreed that Arcturus and Trev, the previous co-editor and the statistician, should be invited to produce M-themes, each with 35 clues and 8 thematic elements.



Identifying M-battles seemed straightforward. Also, Dimitry and Viking quickly identified six M-works that had the same word lengths as the composers, which gave the inkling of a theme. They went their separate ways confident that they could complete their sets. In the event Dimitry, having decided to use only battles beginning with M, had to use a rather obscure one to complete his octet, while Viking found it hard to get the two to complete his. He even tried M-composers in the hope of having four of each, but this proved even worse. Eventually, using only books on his own shelves, he found four more, one of which was reasonably well-known and added to the first six. Herrmann’s cantata Moby Dick was inviting until it was discovered he didn’t write the film music, so this would look like an error. So it was down to Métaboles by Dutilleux or Match by Kagel. Dimitry recommended the former since he has a recording of it. Ironically, Kagel died on the Thursday before the puzzle appeared. Viking was also toying with an encryption message somehow involving Symphony, Mahler, Thousand, but being troubled by overlapping letters. Dimitry suggested the key that was eventually used (though with the components reversed to give better letter correspondences).


In due course, Arcturus and Trev produced their thematic ideas and lists of possible entries, so grid filling could be undertaken. Viking helpfully suggested that the constraints were such that the grid must be infeasible. Dimitry was much more optimistic, but it took him two weeks to find a fill that satisfied him (having in the interim filled 38 different versions of the grid) and which arranged the thematic entries symmetrically, this entailing some selection of thematic entry lengths so that the two opposing sets contained the same selection of word lengths. One day later came a second fill with better words and the day after that a fill concealing the names of all four setters and Kea, who had agreed to test-solve the final version.


It was now time to write clues. Dimitry agreed to find a novel gimmick, Viking opted for misprints, Arcturus was happy to do normal clues, as his theme had no “message” to reveal, while Trev agreed to use “extra letter in wordplay”. Dimitry produced a set in remarkably quick time, especially remarkable since he decided to avoid anagrams because his entries were jumbles (though not random ones).


Viking found it hard to decide on what to do about his thematic elements. He was not keen to do wordplay for such as Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev, so it seemed better to clue the works. It would be difficult to find varied definitions for the names in the set, not to mention “Minuet in G”, which was the Beethoven work at that time. It was therefore decided to have definition-free clues and rely on solvers eventually deducing the M starting letters for further help. Withholding definitions would also give solvers a clear indication that the clue is thematic and doesn’t contain some devious misprint. (Having settled on that, it was inevitable that some clue would, inadvertently, be & lit: Low luminance in the evening for “moonlight”.) Both Dimitry and Viking had concerns that the thematic treatment would allow solvers to avoid solving some clues, but were reluctant to move to devices such as DLM-type jumbles of FLOTOW+MARTHA, etc. Viking eventually persuaded himself that there were really two answers to each such clue, so if the solver got one from the grid or the other from the clue, then this wasn’t very different from a normal clue-solving process and the ability to short-circuit the other was a blemish he could live with. It was decided to see what Kea made of it.


Clues duly arrived from Arcturus and Trev, and were simultaneously analysed by Dimitry and Viking, then adjusted by the original setters. By the end of the August Bank Holiday weekend, a full version was ready for Kea, before Dimitry headed for Edinburgh and the Festival. This meant that Dimitry and Viking could again meet up to discuss Kea’s report.


All four setters are indebted to him for the speed and insight he applied to the task. Other than suggestions for clue adjustments, he commented on two features. One, as we hoped, was the music theme. He suggested it was better not to change to a different device, but to ease a couple of the clues and to replace “Minuet in G” by “Moonlight”. The other feature was that EMIT at 7dn could be anagrammed as the money item MITE, an unintended thematic element. It proved impossible to make a minor grid change to remove it, so we decided to replace the rather hard clue at 6dn by an easier one, in the hope that this entry, and at least one crossing one, would be in place before the theme was deduced, to show 7dn could not be MITE.


The final tweaks were quickly made and the puzzle delivered in good time, allowing Viking to switch attention to the use of colours to enliven the grid and to the other items to appear in the paper on the day. The subeditor and the designer at The Times did a remarkable job in fitting the puzzle into a single page, as well as negotiating the sponsorship of 4000p prizes, which was Trev’s idea. We are indebted to the Editor and Deputy Editor of Books for allowing such disruption to their pages, and to those other contributors who were inconvenienced. Finally, we are grateful to the Times Crossword Club personnel, who managed to overcome the normal conventions in order to display the large grid.



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3999 – Tobacco by Mr Lemon

Posted by Listen With Others on 10 October 2008

Bento box?

Saturday early morning Wow, I haven’t done a blog for ages. But today’s the day. Breakfast is done, kitchen is tidy and the kids are off tearing books into tiny shreds somewhere. Time to fold open a crisp new Books section and see what The Listener brings us this week.

It is of course Listener 3999 and we’re all really waiting for is next week and the promised jumbo Listener 4000 – I think we can be fairly confident that it’ll be a stormer. (Fortunately it’s also a weekend where we don’t have too much planned. ) Anyway, I get the honour of blogging the historic last of the Three Thousand series. And who gets the honour of setting it? Aha – Mr Lemon. He’s had a puzzle reasonably recently, because I think I blogged it.

The preamble is reasonably straightforward – extra letter in wordplay and some adjusted clues. A ‘metallic’ change? Something to go with metals in the periodic table? We’ll soon see. Let’s attack (provided I can distract myself from the fact that I’m still really struggling with One Day in the Magpie – it’s absurd that I can get so grumpy about having a puzzle’s theme elude me).

A few clues break relatively easily. … any Sioux wandering around Alabama uneasily is surely ANXIOUS[A]LY; Unusual laic type of copy is probably TYPICAL + E (although I should just check that definition) and Face recognised in Icelandic album is DI[C]AL. I’m also fairly sure that 26 down is an anagram of POLOIA (Arrangement for Polonia after striking new coin) – when I can get hold of Bradford’s (which is upstairs where the wife is having a lie-in) I will look through the list of coins.

Also 18 across looks like it’s possibly thematic – Look into hospital room feels like it should be SALON (LO in SAN), but it’s a four cell answer. AL is Aluminium – maybe that drops out?

Right I’ve now got hold of Chambers and can confirm that I was totally wrong about TYPICAL. Incidentally, I’m using my very battered Chambers 2003, despite the fact that my shiny clean new 2008 edition arrived a couple of days ago. A brand new dictionary is such a joy that I’m deferring the pleasure of using it, until 2009 and the 2008 edition becomes the standard reference. Is that psychotic? Probably.

And I have Bradford’s too, which confirms that the Nigerian monkey in 19 across is probably SAGUIN. And that the coin I was looking for is PAOLO. Also I think the ‘moonstruck girl’ of 16 across is SELINA (anagram of ALIENS) – Does that link to selenium somehow? There do appear to be some metallic connections here.

The copy (which wasn’t TYPICAL) is ECTYPAL (with an extra I).

Tina’s age is disposed to fatten is one I can solve thanks to a puzzle a while ago (Mr E, I think) – it’s to SAGINATE. And that makes it another thematic clue, and Ag is sitting there in the middle. We may be onto something. Wait, better still the NA of Selina and Saginate cross – so Sodium in that cell? That would mean SALON doesn’t work. Not quite there yet.

Bradford’s proves useful again with Former fuss about forbidden plant of the clover genus – looking up clover suggests TREFOIL and I can see TREF (one of the possible spellings of the word meaning the opposite of KOSHER) in there. And it also helps me with [C]OIL for ‘fuss’.

Saturday late morning Inevitably, I suppose, my notes have gone all rubbish. I do know that by this point I’d solved STAIN, SCANS (another thematic one – Sc for Scandium?) and the rather odd entry O’TOOLE – why him, I wonder? Some special reason to have those letters there? I must keep an eye on that corner of the grid. Also I think 16 down must be SNAKEROOT – which must be another thematic answer (and we’ve got Sn, Na and K in there…). And CLOTHO for Against introducing repulsive old goddess. I also know that this was the point that I had to leave for my godson’s birthday party. I grab my camera bag (with brand new self-bought toy of a Canon D450) and slip the paper into it, just in case I get a brief moment and a brainwave while at the party.

Saturday late evening What an absurd notion. There we go. Still, everyone’s in bed now (well, not me, obviously) and let’s see if we can’t finish this off.

Crooked time-wasting Latins are fond of being sluggish is definitely SNAIL-LIKE – although it’s another thematic so may not be entered like that – and I’m beginning to have some doubts about SAGUIN. I’ve also worked out the anagram of 35 across (which I had spotted but couldn’t solve) ALISONCOLLEGE=SELENOLOGICAL, itself quite a fun word. Is it a coincidence that we have both SELINA and SELENOLOGICAL in the grid? I suspect not.

20 down, if I free myself from the idea that SAGUIN is right (and so it doesn’t have to begin with A) reveals itself fairly obviously as GATLING (anag of LINT in GAG[S]). And that 19 across is looking more and more like the word AGOUTI, which I seem to remember is a kind of animal, but not a monkey. Indeed, it’s a rodent. Hmm. All very odd. Haven’t managed to piece together much out of the extra letters either. Would be good to work out what it starts with.

Twice hinder Scotty running round a notorious shoreline?. It’s two words, so ‘something COAST’ would seem to be required. SKELETON COAST – that’s reasonably notorious and has the right number of letters. Can’t see how to get there from the clue, though. Hmm once more.

This is all proving rather more intractable than I had initially hoped.

Ed’s found a home for and I sold something used in castings is a rather clunky clue (if you’ll pardon the presumption from a clunky clue-writer). PLAST is the Spencerian version of PLACED – and then some Chambers bashing gets me PLASTISOL – revealing the slightly disappointing word play of I sold=ISOL[D]. Is there some link between SN and T in this puzzle. SN becomes T – SNAKE ROOT could become TAKE ROOT and SNAILLIKE TAILLIKE. But I don’t know why.

Sunday morning As often happens, a night’s sleep has brought… well, not quite inspiration, but some percolating thoughts. First of all, I think the coast is BARBARY COAST – BAR + BAR coming from Twice hinder. Which gives us a T for the first letter of the clarifying message. And thinking through some of the answers last night and this morning, it’s definitely SN replaced by T, because if I take out those two letters wherever they appear in a thematic answer, and put in a T somewhere, I can get real words (including AGOUTI if I treat it as a thematic answer, i.e. SAGOUIN, rather than SAG[O]UIN). That’s normally a good indication of something going on in a Listener. All I can think is that it has something to do with TIN, as in ‘tobacco tin’ (?) and Sn= tin.

At this point I must confess my notes just stop, for which I apologise. That said, I know I wasn’t far from solving it – not least, because I had actually solved it, just without quite knowing how. Which unfortunately leads to a rather unsatisfactory solving experience – not Mr Lemon’s fault at all, but I was left having deduced the gimmick but not the message, and it became a simple grid fill from then. In fact, writing this a couple of weeks on and I struggle to remember the exact message, because I was rather confused by it at the time. I know it began ‘Tobacco is snout’ – which explains half the gimmick: ‘SN’ OUT. And then there was something about a tin, as suspected, which of course could be interpreted as ‘T’ IN.

So there you go, something of limp end to the blog, but it does reflect a slightly limp end to my solving experience – as I say again, not really to do with Mr Lemon’s puzzle so much as how I happened to get there.

Bye then. See you too.

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