Listen With Others

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Archive for March, 2009

4020: Raj by Llig

Posted by Listen With Others on 9 March 2009

What a relief for relatively inexperienced solvers like the Junior Coffee Break 8 X 8 team, that there is, now and then, a Listener crossword that is not fearsomely complex. Having said that, we didn’t find Raj easy by any means.

Rather like dealing with an AZED, we built the grid up steadily with the odd false start. 8d, for example, gave us RASE with T as the extra letter (I think that is a far better violent act than TEAR!) and we soon had a complete grid. We tend to find a word that fits the definition and agrees with the letters we already have. This, of course, means that we have not always fully understood the wordplay.

Naturally this gives us our first stumbling block. With a quotation that reads PAIOTARCSSDOER, we have to do a mighty mental leap to produce a coherent quotation – we have about ten letters missing. We have to work backwards from the obvious solution TRUANCY, find that we have CY missing after we undo the anagram, and guess that the ‘pack’ must be a CRY – thus the extra R. As usual, we wonder how the habitual Listener solvers manage to think in the other direction.

We try to go in by the back door, and we do find CASTOR as a diagonal but we simply can’t understand the wordplay:
in 1ac, (for example) TALA is the music’s rhythm and John, bowled over, can be LAT, but that way we get one letter less, not an extra one;
in 1d, is that ‘over river’ meant to give us an extra R?
in 24d, there must be an extra V but we can’t see it.

It is a stroke of luck – and a long stare at the letters we have – that produces the PAIR OF STAR CROSS’D LOVERS and, of course, JULIET leaps out at us, as the only J. It is a short step to ROMEO and an understanding of our earlier find of CASTOR (crossing JULIET).

Naturally, the title RAJ now means something and there is that delightful moment of recognition (and the realisation that we didn’t need to rack our brains for forms of imperial government or obscure Indian quotations).

However, we do have a bit of a problem with COMET, which has to be the ‘star’ that crosses ROMEO, as a comet is not, technically, a star is it? Chambers says it is a heavenly body – we’ll have to make do with that.

Well, ‘Thank you, Llig’. We know the geniuses, who solve three daily cryptics in the train between Wigan and Warrington, will claim that this was too easy for them, but it was just right for those of us at the other end of the scale.

Shirley Curran

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4018: In Clue Order, On and On by Loda

Posted by Listen With Others on 9 March 2009

Here’s the Sun Junior 8 X 8 team again. For a long time, with ‘In Clue Order, On and On’, we felt that we had over-reached ourselves by a long way, as the across clues yielded jibberish. Fortunately, we have been influenced by something said on Don’s programme about the down clues being generally easier, for a variety of reasons – so we didn’t attack it in clue order!

We were frequently flummoxed by the wordplay, where the clues were short and when almost every solution was built up from a number of components, with the misprint coming in anywhere – in the definition, subsidiary indication (do I have to say ‘wordplay’?) or even in the link words. For instance, the triple think required to go from, Jock’s pen ink spews during … “make a natty bouquet” (21d) to REE (Scots pen) + INK ‘spewing’ or losing ‘during’ or ‘IN’ to get NASTY (for natty). “How do those fellows do it?” we asked ourselves – knowing that some of you have clear records of solving Listeners for years on end!

After hours of labour, we had an instruction with a lot of holes in it and managed to guess that we were to ADVANCE THE ACROSS MISPRINTS BY SIX. Some gaps were still there until the very end and we are still wondering about 27 down. (The wordplay – RE + T(able)S gives us RETS, but we have problems with the owl – isn’t retting done in water, not oil?) However, we felt that we were getting somewhere.

Sheer pleasure, now, for a while and progress until we had another very holey instruction to READ THE CLUES’ END LETTERS. At this point, we understood why some of the clues had ended in rather odd ways – like 23ac – the modicum of rhetoric.

Mystification again as we encountered our third instruction to ADD DOWN CAP AND ANSWER END. Then it was suddenly clear why we had had oddities like Venus and Xtian at the start of clues. Some shaky addition confirmed what we had guessed already from the letters we had on the top and bottom lines – DONEERAGE SHOWS UNCHECKED LETTERS. We guessed the left over G would fit in the middle, leaving us with SEE ODD ANSWERS’ CENTRES TO DRAW – “Must be the line”, we said. By this stage we were reeling with astonishment at Loda’s genius. How on earth did he engineer all of this?

That word ODD held us up for a while. We had a number of very odd answers at this stage but even a genius like Loda couldn’t be expected to anticipate the weird thinking of amateur solvers and we still had to draw a line somehow. After real distress, light dawned and we realized that only 14 words were of an odd length and must, therefore, have a centre. Even more magical, those centres, when joined by a lovely curved line, gave us an infinity sign.

The cherry on the cake was reading those fourteen letters (in CLUE ORDER – hah, why didn’t we spot that sooner?), with the G slotted into its rightful place, and finding SIGN FOR INFINITY.

We’re flabbergasted at such ingenuity and so, so proud that we completed it.

Shirley Curran

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