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Archive for September, 2009

4048: Rules by Poat (or is that Paul Daniels?)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 11 September 2009

Well now, Poat! He had one of the puzzles last year that I failed to complete: Reappearance with its theme of “Things fall apart, the centre cannot hold” by WB Yeats and its link to Chinua Achebe. A devious little puzzle if I remember correctly. Two of his others were quite tricky as well, so I approached Rules of Construction with some trepidation. The preamble sounded fairly straightforward, but having read it a couple of times, I had a niggling feeling that it might cause problems.

Obviously my fears were unfounded … 1ac Robin’s band MERRY MEN losing the M plus a G and LANG for lord gave MERRY ENGLAND. So this was going to be a doddle. 14ac was an anagram of HICK EAR, KACHERI which only vaguely rang a bell, and some initial letters to give ESCHAR. CISCO came next, and then LEMONED, a great clue referencing Le Monde. I was pleased to get EIK, Dieter’s egg (Dieter being a German name, and EI being German for egg) plus K. About five more clues, and my initial pass through was completed.

Oh bugger, I’d forgotten about the jumbles and reversals, which meant that none of the answers could be entered with confidence. And of course there were extra words to be extracted. And that just about started the long hard slog (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) that I had been dreading … definitely a thinking-cap puzzle. But on the way, there were some great clues. In addition to LEMONED and EIK, there was ‘Dropped pipe organ down a couple of notes’ with ‘organ’ being the extra word and pipe down leading to SH plus a couple of notes, E and D. Actually, I’m not a great fan of the letters A to G being defined just by ‘notes’, and in this case I was stumped by the clue for far too long. ‘Keeping quiet about it is —’ gave MUTISM and the struggle for fat fighters had nothing to do with Marjorie Dawes in Little Britain, but Sumo wrestling.

Eventually I finished the grid except for the ambiguities, being very thankful that I had started the puzzle fairly early in the ten day window before the deadline. And my early worries grew into a major panic attack as I stared at the grid on and off, then off and on, and absolutely nothing came to me. Googling provided very little help, but sent me down the path of the legal system and something to do with grammatical syntax … totally useless!

My main worry when I get in this situation is that I can’t get my initial idea out of my head. Luckily I didn’t really have an initial idea. That word ‘dictate’ nagged at me … did it indicate that sounds were somehow involved; and I was convinced that ten words ‘must be’ entered backwards was trying to tell me something. All these words there for a reason, but I just couldn’t see it. And the extra words in ten clues didn’t seem to be helping. I had TRUANT and HERNIA as pretty definite, but the definitions, Young people, Fish-eating bird and Movement upward, could be just about anything.

Luckily I am not sleeping too well at the moment, and on the Saturday a week after publication, at about 6:30am, I picked up the grid and within five minutes saw, of all things BACK in the third column and third row. From then on, the checking of all the other rows and columns revealed the magic (and magical) 8×8 grid in the centre, enabling LEMONED, EROSE and ASTRI to be finally entered.

The smaller magic square was then obvious, YOUTHS/OSPREY/UPTURN/TRUANT/HERNIA, leading to SYNTAX as the missing element. So grammatical syntax wasn’t a useless Google after all, and the words which had been deliberately used in the preamble tied up with the theme nicely.

Thanks for a great puzzle, Poat. I’m glad I got there in the end.

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Rules of Construction by Poat – ‘Eight by Eight’ and we failed!

Posted by shirleycurran on 11 September 2009

Rules of Construction by Poat This ‘8X8’ was way above the heads of the junior 8X8 solving team. Now we know what you are all talking about when you claim that you want something more difficult. There must be a deliberate policy of attrition at work to weed out lesser solvers. However, we have seen our able friend’s solution and are suitably humbled – will there be thirty of you left after this evil challenge?

Jumbles are my anathema. Clearly, there was no other way to compose that astonishing word square, but the jumbles defeated us. Moreover, the clues were fiendishly difficult. We solved just about a third of these fearsome clues and managed to work out that MERRY ENGLAND probably went in normally, intersecting with EIK, KACHERI, AMENDE and CAMPARI rev. We even had SENECA and CARIOGENIC – but CARIOGENIC obviously had to be jumbled. How? and Why?

There were some memorable clues here. 29d ‘Punish Wimbledon’s ten fools about this’ stands out, with TEN NITS round SCOUR, and 39ac CREPE SUZETTE with PET around an anagram of ZEUS inside CRETE where the Minotaur lived. However, the problem for me was that I was attempting to work our wordplay leading to totally unfamiliar words like ELAPHINE, CHARACIDAE and RHAPHE. I imagine the problem exists for seasoned solvers, as no-one can have digested all 1871 pages of Chambers (can they?), but you veterans probably have more confidence in your solving of the wordplay.

Ironically, it was the 8X8 that we (the so-called 8X8 junior coffee break solving team) could not see, though once it was shown to us, we were, as usual, amazed at Poat’s verbal agility and at the feat he has performed in making that central 8X8 tie in with two sets of marginal words. I wonder how many false starts there were before the grid finally fell into place!

The second little word square was relatively straightforward for us. This was normal Junior coffee break 8X8 solver level and most satisfying:
H E R N I A and that final word
had me rushing to Chambers to find the relevant definitions, ‘Systematic order or arrangement of elements; a set of rules for combining the elements of a programming language into permitted constructions’. Aaah!

Well, thank you, Poat, for showing us our limits. It was an impressive construction.

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4047: Cut Out by Lato

Posted by dalejo44 on 4 September 2009

[From Dale Johannesen]

I haven’t been doing the Listener for very long, but Lato is familiar from last year: we were to find a set of prime ministers, and a set of fat men. The preamble leaves no doubt I’m looking for another set. There are 15 thematic entries (unclued, I quickly discover), and only 7 words to be taken out of the clues as definitions; the obvious guess is that these match up 2-for-1, with one thematic entry left over, but I can’t be sure yet.

A first pass gets only FAST, with “biscuit” left over, and TACE; each of these has only one clued crossing answer. Not promising, but I am not at my sharpest at 8AM, so I don’t feel all is lost. Can I do anything with “biscuit”? Arrow/root, hard/tack, no obvious anagrams: nope.

Interlude for work.

Nothing to do but go back to the clues. 36 must use MO, and there aren’t many two-letter countries; how about MUKO? No, but MUSO works; again, only one crossing answer. 4 is one of those subtractive anagrams that are so popular; this meaning of UP FOR is unfamiliar, but it’s there in Chambers. 26 certainly looks like G+ONE; does that mean promiscuous? Not that I can see. 16, (A + TURKEY – E) anagrams to AUTARKY. 7 (ending in K) might be STINK (KNIT rev), but I can’t justify that in Chambers. 5 is IN IT, another unfamiliar meaning. 11 looks like S.F..I; the only common word like that is SAFARI, which doesn’t fit. Time for a crawl through Chambers…OK, SIFREI means scrolls, didn’t know that; “If” is a Kipling poem, on=”re”, that all works. And 3 is A(M)IR which is in every other puzzle, or so it seems, how’d I miss that? Then 12 is REGROUP, RE + G(R)O UP; at least I suppose the Royal Engineers are a corps; Chambers doesn’t say so explicitly, but the definition of “corps” fits.

Interlude for food and sleep.

Let’s see, the “unit” in 2 looks like ONE…there’s MONERON, which fits the definition OK, but I don’t see how the wordplay works. 23 is REL+EASE, and 22 is GOVERN. 37 is G+OP+HER, a new meaning for me. 21 must be ENVY, but how does it work? N V homophone I suppose, I don’t care for that. 29a is T+RULY. Those all seem pretty easy, why didn’t I see them yesterday? 29d is T…O; nothing comes to mind, but there can’t be too many words that fit that…and here it is, TIMBO, B(ook) inside OMIT rev, with “school” left over. I suspect this will move faster once I get 32, but ..I..E. is not much to work with, and there are no other clued crossing words…I guess I’m supposed to deduce it from the unclued entries somehow. In 20,6 “bow-warrior” (not in Chambers) is so awkward it’s probably one of those proper name definitions in the back; after a detour through A + VERT, I find it, IVOR, so IVOR+IAN, with “retreat” left over. 34 now looks like …MAN, and here it is, AM(T)MAN. 9 looks like the former name of a country: Edom, Aram, Siam? None seems to work. I stare at 10 a while longer, and the light dawns, PINNACLE. That really should have been easy; oh well, I have it now. Let’s have a look through the SL’s for 7; indeed SLINK=mean, another new meaning. 5a (unclued) is I.I.S.; there can’t be many that match that, and ICIEST seems the only common one. This anagrams nicely to CITIES…not seeing the set yet. 8 must be T+END; I was looking for a double definition, but of course it=T, an old standby. T…ND must be TARAND, a Northern beast of all things; the wordplay stumps me for a bit, but eventually I see R + AN (before) in TAD. And now it’s time for lunch and a bit of a break. Oh yes, reading the preamble more closely indicates my 2-for-1 hypothesis was wrong; the 7 definitions apply only to the “associated” entries, so there’s 7 of those and 8 anagrams.

If 2 really is MONERAN, then 1a is probably UMLAUT (MUTUAL anag), so let’s look for U..R at 1d. I’m expecting “right” to be the R at the end, of course, but it turns out “right” is one of the meanings of USER; so that’s US(H)ER and “conservative” comes out. Nice clue, and I think I can write in UMLAUT now.

Time for a short hike in the local foothills. This isn’t the best time of year; with no rain for several months, things are fairly dry, and a large wildfire on the ocean side of the ridge is making the air very hazy. But I need the walk, and I spend the time trying to see the connection among “biscuit”, “school”, “retreat” and “conservative” and not succeeding. Now, it’s time to finish that upper left corner. SO.M doesn’t seem to work. Perhaps “end up” is AIM rev, yes indeed, MICELLA, and getting UMLAUT and USER the way I did was sheer luck. Now 9 is surely SIAM but how does it work? “are” for “old” could be an adjustment to SIOM, but apparently it isn’t. OH, A inside SIM, an evangelical. Seems totally obvious now.

The lower left still looks pretty empty. 15 is (C)OOPS, so 14 must be FLOOR; that doesn’t have a common anagram, so must be one of the “associated” entries. 24 is TEASE, a homophone, probably with “presenter” out. 27, SH(R)IV+EN, with “day” out. 25, EVIL. 28 must be HOKUM; the wordplay isn’t immediately obvious, but I find HUM=hoax, so H(OK)UM. 35 calls for another hunt through Chambers; CULVERIN doesn’t work, but a bit farther along is CUR+TA+LAX. 17 is SPAR/RE(A)R. 30a looks like TORRID; there’s no common anagram for that, but…the penny drops:
A Tale of Two CITIES
Our MUTUAL Friend
32 is “Dickens novel”, SNICKED. The unnumbered down clue just right of center is URGED, for Barnaby RUDGE. The bottom left across is EMBODY, for DOMBEY And Son. I’ve got all of 31 as DALY; I’m not a golfer, but there’s an American golfer named Daly and “daily” homophone works. (But there was a well-known Northern Irish golfer named Daly as well, why not use him? Perhaps “American” is to come out? It doesn’t look promising, but I’ll reserve judgment.)

Time to do something with “biscuit” etc. Is there a kind called Oliver Twist perhaps? No, but there’s a Bath Oliver, so that’s how these work (BATH crosses the T in AUTARKY). 19 should be easy now, and here’s HIT+HE, with “workers” out. The left-center across is SAPPER (Pickwick PAPERS). The down below IVOR is CAMP; that’s Camp David, a “retreat”, and David Copperfield. The down left of center is going to be an anagram of GREAT, as in Expectations, but I don’t know the word: it is TARGE, with GOER at 26 and CARR at 18 (didn’t know either of those either). The remaining clue, 33, must be the abbreviation. Part of = PTO = please turn over? I’m not familiar with that “instruction to reader”, but googling around it looks plausible. Some remaining unclued entries are CHARTER(HOUSE = school) – Bleak House, DIE(HARD = conservative) – Hard Times.

At this point the Supreme Commander stops by to offer the sort of support crossword fanatics are used to (“you haven’t finished that silly thing yet?”). Well, essentially I have, but it’s always the last few words that are trickiest. In any case, I take the rest of the day off and am ready to finish this morning. The lower right corner must be DOOR, so let’s see, in the diagram I have FLOOR, DOOR, MA., and PAR.ONS; the definitions are presenter, day, and workers; novels are Nicholas Nickelby, Edwin Drood, the Old Curiosity Shop, Martin Chuzzlewit, and perhaps A Christmas Carol (some think this too short to qualify as a novel, but it’s very famous, and there doesn’t seem to be an objective definition of how long something must be to qualify.) “SHOP FLOOR” is familiar, something to do with labor unions; indeed, it means “workers” – The Old Curiosity Shop. A bit of googling turns up MARTIN PARSONS, a “presenter” (whatever that means) who seems to be reasonably well known in the UK – Martin Chuzzlewit. One of the remaining entries must be an anagram; I see, it’s DOOR for Edwin DROOD (incomplete, appropriately) and that’s the one to be highlighted. Very nice. That leaves “day” and MA., with Nicholas Nickelby (or perhaps A Christmas Carol). I keep trying to do something with Christmas Day and St. Nicholas, but I can only have one of the novels(?), and it just doesn’t work, so one of the others must be wrong…aha, there’s also a NICHOLAS PARSONS who’s a presenter; he’s got a Wikipedia page and Martin doesn’t, so is presumably better-known, as well. That leaves Martin to go with “day” and MA., and MARTINMAS works. Well, sort of, MAS is in Chambers as a word but not with this meaning; -mas in this sense is a suffix. Still, I think this must be right, and I’m done, with DOOR highlighted at the lower right.

Hmm, I haven’t explained the title; I guess it’s just the definition of SNICKED. Not helpful at all for solving, which I’m sure was the idea.

Most other Listener blogs (except George’s) seem to be written by people who never make mistakes and have to back up. I am not one of those people, and I’ve blogged as I went along, rather than reconstruct at the end, to reduce the temptation to edit out the more embarrassing mistakes. I’m sure that slowed me down, but this did seem more difficult than either of Lato’s puzzles last year, and it actually took me longer than chopping down George Washington’s cherry tree. Hope you enjoyed it.

And I don’t remember who coined the “Supreme Commander” phrase, but thank you. It is worth stealing.

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No 4047, Cut Out by Lato, a dickens of a struggle!

Posted by shirleycurran on 4 September 2009

A friend finished this one on Friday evening. ‘How’, I ask. The title suggested SNIPPED or a word of that kind to us once we had struggled to fill the south-east corner and had just an I and and E, two unchecked lights and three intersections with unclued words for what was obviously the key word. This had to be some sort of compiler’s joke.

The junior 8X8 team plodded on and on until the grid was almost complete, as far as we could go, with putative ICIEST, CHARTER/D, URGED/S/R, BARGE or TARGE – and so on. And we stared at it – and stared at it – and stared etc. Over almost 48 hours, words slowly went in. “Look for the anagrams”, prompted a friend, and we found CITIES, but it was UMLAUT that gave us the first pdm. With MUTUAL, we realised that DICKENS was the culprit and that SNICKED explained the Cut Out of the title. Home and dry?

No, it never is for this team. The seven anagrams fell into place: SAPPER for Pickwick PAPERS; TORRID for Little Dorrit: EMBODY for Dombey and Son; Barnaby RUDGE for URGED and lastly TARGE for Great Expectations – and we sat and stared at the remaining thematic entries, and stared etc. Friends enjoyed Lato’s puzzle and claimed that it slotted into place logically and with no ambiguity. It was the first time we had encountered a puzzle using word associations and to us it was not evident at all – just very frustrating. The concept of attaching one of the extra words in the clues to a thematic word and deducing a link to a Dickens novel finally made sense with ‘school’ and CHARTER leading us to Charterhouse and the ‘house’ we needed for Bleak House. But what a morass of confusion and misinterpretation was waiting for the unwary, not aided by the fact that we had a couple of extra additional words.

Pretty soon we were wondering whether that little three-letter word at the top was some kind of plum PIE that was going to link with ‘music’ for a Christmas Carol, and whether ‘day’ would go with MAY, the little three-letter word at the bottom, to create Mayday, or Hard Times for the Titanic. Well, the team has to have its red herrings! (Our friend suggested we try again!)

We finally sorted out the presenter (Nicholas PARSONS/Nickleby), the shop floor workers (Old Curiosity SHOP) the BATH/(Oliver Twist) biscuit, the dieHARD Times, MartinMAS/Chuzzlewit, and the CAMP David Copperfield/retreat but it was a Dickens of a struggle!

DOOR, of course, was left and, when we discounted A Christmas Carol, we had only Edwin Drood, DROO, of course, because it was Dickens’ last work and never finished. (But I didn’t know that, I have never managed to get to the end of Bleak House, even, despite a number of attempts, never mind attempting Edwin Drood). That was a lovely final touch.

Thank you Lato, this has almost stretched us beyond our limited means – where next week? Back to Kea’s cherry orchard (that would be fun) or the Garden of the Finzi Contini or a crossword based on the footnotes in A Brief History of Time?

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