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Archive for October, 2009

fiDlEDE by Waterloo

Posted by shirleycurran on 30 October 2009

Is the junior coffee-break 8X8 team turning into a pair of old dogs and learning the tricks, or was this one just a little bit easier than usual? We had a very late start but liked the look of fiDlEDE from the word go, as a couple of solutions leapt into view as it came off the printer (kEp for ‘Tend to look back’, and cOE for ‘New start anyhow from cotoneaster, and here I am’).

The promise of getting out the coloured pencils at the end led me to expect some astonishing dénouement, like that fabulous falling cherry tree or a forged Pollock, but it was not to be. I have even had it pointed out by friends, that there was a lack of symmetry in fiDlEDE, but I am blowed if I can see it, and, in such a complex construction, cannot really imagine that it matters a fig. (Yes, I can hear the experts telling me that it does matter, even for unclued lights and things revealed in the pdm.)

fiDlEDE by WaterlooWhat was magic for this old-dog solving team was the fact that when we had sorted out another wonderful piece of wordplay, the definition fitted the one from Chambers perfectly – no hoodwinking subtlety there. We recognised fairly early on that every single clue was going to have either a letter or a group of letters repeated consecutively. Now that was impressive! Even the title, ‘Fiddle-de-dee’, when we expanded it and hunted for it in Chambers, produced precisely that – perfect nonsense!

pREquisite and komODragon appeared quite soon because of the clarity of the clueing and we were away. Sure, even old dogs occasionally encounter red herrings. Our French background meant that COTe was the obvious fireproof dish of ‘Half cook heart of Scots tenderloin employing initially fireproof dish’ (Cocotte) but we then threw up our hands in despair at the T?aT? that had to intersect with it. Did I say something about ‘French background’? We had attempted to rethink that entire section of the grid before tête-à-tête appeared to us (and it looks odd, for us, with no accents! ) We thought that tricky one and ASSin were tough to solve but so clever.

Within a couple of hours, we were there, with just ??oF and ?E left to puzzle out. Of course, it was the French word that threw us again – the née, intersecting with in-off – tough ones, I thought. We had a complete grid but some doubt about the word play of tO. Our wise friend explained that subtle clue, ‘Shut out, not do as well’ – the ‘shut’ meaning ‘TO’ and the ‘out’ without the note ‘do’ (or ‘ut’ for the French!) leaving us with another O. We’ll store that old-dog trick for future Listeners. Then there was TArs. Tatars was the obvious solution, but the wordplay where the  ‘RU’ (IVR for Burundi) had to be divided and the two letters individually removed from TARTARUS completely dumbfounded us.

Wonderful, Waterloo, not to leave us worrying words till Wednesday. This was most rewarding and great fun.

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Listener 4055: fiDlEDE by Waterloo

Posted by erwinch on 30 October 2009

Or rather: fiDlEDE by Waterloo
Just a short comment to note the rare use of lower-case letters in the grid – a once in a decade occurrence?  I thought that it made for an attractive picture:
4055 Solution
However, this was not a favourite type of Listener.  It was one of an occasional series that had no real theme other than the method of entry and, since we were told in the preamble what this was, solving proved to be rather mechanical.  I might have preferred it had we been required to work out the method ourselves, possibly with a preamble beginning along these lines:
In order to fit each entry into the grid, certain strings from two to ten letters long must be thematically treated and entered in upper-case – some entries have more than one such string.  Normal letters must be entered in lower-case, using a different colour to help distinguish o/O, etc.
The title gave us an easily deciphered example: fi D/D l E-D/E-D E/E but perhaps test solvers had found it too difficult this way.  Upon finding simOn in the grid at 10dn, I did briefly consider that all entries were to be real words but concede that this would be asking far too much from Waterloo.

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4055: Waterloo’s Nonsense (or Where’s the Trap?)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 30 October 2009

According to The A to Z of Crosswords, Waterloo’s puzzles are “unusually quirky”. His last two were 3829: OO! Spectacles, where wordplay in clues could refer to the ‘picture’ that letters could represent (eg OT was a costermonger’s barrow), and 3889: Neologification, where most entries were the imaginary derivations of other words (eg PORT-MOUCHOIR for a small case, based on PORT-MANTEAU). Quirky, indeed!

In this puzzle, the exact method of entry was spelt out in the preamble: repeated letters or groups of letters were to be entered only once. This bore a similarity to 3854: Not Again by Woracle back in 2005, where only the first occurrence of each letter in an answer was entered; in the latter case, however, there wasn’t even a preamble! Here, repetitions were to be entered in capitals and in one colour, the remainder in lower case and in another colour, ostensibly to distinguish between o and O, for example. I smelled a rat.

Proceeding with the puzzle, it was encouraging to get an early long answer, pREquisite, followed soon after by komODragon, the wordplay for both these clues being anagrams. However, I have to say that, although steady progress was made, it really was quite slow. A lot of this was due to Waterloo’s somewhat impish clueing style: indignant response to “You didn’t” led to I DID (reversed plus COI to give DIDICOI); I’m scared for EEK; here I am for COOEE. I guess my favourite clue was “Blend of a titter and a teehee I hear naughtily leaving sofa” for TETE-A-TETE (anagram of A TITTER A TEEHEE minus the letters of I HEAR).

Eventually the puzzle was finished, and it was time to ferret out the odorous rat. Why was it necessary to enter characters in either upper or lower case and use two different colours? After all, the use of different colours would automatically distinguish between o and O, s and S, etc. After the previous week’s CHURCH versus CAMPANILE debate, in which I had the latter, I was determined to be more alert and use a little more of my brain. Perhaps the editors had been deliberately lenient in allowing both, a bit like the “don’t do it again” manner of a schoolmaster, in preparation for this puzzle. Despite there being no “solvers are advised to use a pencil to start with” warning, I was determined to leave no stone unturned.

Firstly, I made two copies of the empty grid and used one for the capital letters and one for the lower case. Now I know that the grid would have been fairly tricky to construct without any hidden message, but it was worth a try. Despite staring it on and off during a very enjoyable weekend in Paris, it seemed like a dead end.

Next, as many in the church debate had, I tried the ODQ. Looking up “fiddle de-dee” (the full form of the title), I found a nursery rhyme with “Fiddle-de-dee, fiddle-de-dee, the fly shall marry the humble-bee”. Nothing seemed to help here either. Then I thought of Edward Lear and his nonsense poems. A scan of his entries in the ODQ and “Fish fiddle de-dee” appeared. In my capital letter diagram, there could have been DAB at 1ac and COD at 18ac, but all this was becoming a bit like grasping at straws. I even noticed “a cote bas” (is that a French expression?) in column 1 and that pREquisite could become perquisite with a simple transposal.

So, having taken you all on the long detours that my rambling brain tried, I have to report that I eventually gave up and sent in my entry, without any further adjustments, using blue and red as the two colours. Fingers crossed, eh?

A quick update on the checking of my Listener entries for this year: now up to 4050, with an all-correct run of 39 going back to December.

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4054: Leo’s Square Root of 576 (or If Only It Were That Easy)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 23 October 2009

This is the first puzzle from Leo that I’ve done, although I see he has had four previous Listeners back in the late 90’s and 2002. Not knowing the level of difficulty made me tackle this fairly soon after publication so that I could devote as much time as possible to any final step difficulty. As well as the almost obligatory extra letters in the wordplay of most clues, the preamble offered us “extra material” (but only in some clues), “information that should prove helpful”, and a requirement to finally “adjust the initial grid”.
1 across seemed as good a place as any to start, and I was more than happy to find that POST HASTE, CHANTEUR and REALM in the top right corner came fairly quickly, as did my checking of Chambers to see that it contained ‘chanteur’, which I guessed was French for singer. Lucky for me that I did, as it wasn’t there, but CHAUNTER was, although 7dn beginning HN… would have probably prevented too much wasted time.
5dn and 8dn were easy clues, except that they were 3-letter answers, SHA and ANT which were allotted four squares. Each of these clues had a superfluous word (extra material) in “apostles” and “crew”. 12 for the apostles and probably 8 for the crew, and it seemed that the empty squares were to be given numbers … a very early discovery compared to many recent puzzles which have had me guessing way past completion of the actual grid.
Clue-solving progressed, with TALOOKA, HUMPH, TETANAL in the top right and then AVARICE, LUGANO, STEEL DRUM and RAGBAGS in the bottom right. In fact, unusually, I pretty much solved each corner of this puzzle in sequence, finishing with bottom left and then top left corners. The clues were on the easy side for a Listener, and the extra material was not too difficult to find and resolve. The nine numbers resulted in a magic square adding to 45, which is not the square root of 576:
It was fairly obvious that the grid had to be completed with letters substituted for the numbers and giving a “totally satisfying” grid complete with real words. The trouble was that TWENTY-ONE, TWENTY-TWO, THIRTY-ONE and THIRTY-TWO all resulted in real words, so the next question was how to decide between the four.
Well, the extra letters in the clues without thematic material gave LETTER COUNT GIVES A SECOND MAGIC SQUARE. So, assigning their sequential alphabetical number to each of the letters would somehow resolve the dilemma. About forty minutes of running around in circles, “adding up” either the letters surrounding the numerical squares or some other such futile groups of letters obviously resulted in nothing. I think it was reading the extra letters phrase for the umpteenth time that finally put me on the right track … it was the number of letters in the numbers spelt out as words that was the clue: 25 has 10 letters, 8 has 5 and 12 has 6, etc. It was such a relief as I worked my way through the nine numbers and found that each had a different number of letters:
L4054 Square 2
This magic square adds up to 21, so TWENTY-ONE is used to “literally adjust the grid” to make it totally satisfying. A final confirmation is that the first magic number (45) minus the second (21) gives 24, the square root of 576. Not a difficult puzzle from Leo, but really enjoyable nonetheless.

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The Square Root of 576 by Leo

Posted by shirleycurran on 23 October 2009

I am learning that it is possible to become enraged with a little square of paper that measures about 4×4″! Now is that totally rational? The junior easy-crossword coffee-break solvers aim at solving ten clues by the end of Friday (at least) and with some like CHANTEUR and LUGANO, STEEL DRUM, FRESHNESS and LATERAN slotting in, there seemed to be some hope this week. “Chanteur?” did I hear you think? Well, here in Europe, that was the obvious anagram of ‘chart tune’ (producing a T which soon led us to LETTERS as the first part of the so-called ‘helpful’ information – but then, that so often is the first word of an otherwise indecipherable message in these Listener things!)

First red-herring. We added TETANIC to it (sheer careless reading of the wordplay), and ANTS, and were in a total mess. Normally, we can haul ourselves out of these holes, but this time we seemed to dig ourselves deeper in. Clue after clue seemed to be one letter short of the required length and we were looking for impossible words like SGA?. ALAR (RU Team regularly maul pair of wings) seemed to spell out the four-letter word, but what was the RUGBY 15 doing there. The same with ULE, that backward bending tree in deluge – but ‘perfect’? As for the pair of paddling ducks! LED gave us under control, and that was half of ‘paddle furiously’ but what were the ducks doing there?

Two far more able solvers prompted us to examine the lengths of the words but were we honestly meant to leave empty squares – and then do what with them? The message finally read ‘Letter count gives a second magic square’. Great! I still had to suss out the first one, then, with lots of help, light finally dawned. We had been on the right track all along but simply are not up to the fiendish wiles of Listener setters.

Stop whingeing and admire the genius that went into this! When we identified those squares and realized that four different numbers would complete valid The Square Root of 576 by LeoChambers’ words (TWE NTY ONE/ TWE NTY TWO/ THI RTY ONE and THI/ RTY TWO), we were flabbergasted. But which one to choose?

Wise Friend explained to me that the way to work out which is needed is that the alphamagic square is also a magic square. That means the chosen number has to be 21. The difference between the sum of the two squares is 45-21 = 24, which is the square root of 576 (Aha, the title).

Was that extra material helpful? Now, I understand that the little ducks were artistically posing as 22, and the rugby team being 15. Tea is for 2, The ‘perfect’ deluge? (Help, please, Denis – are we identifying a perfect number – 28?) Catch 22, yes, and is the crew an 8? All added complexity and totally daunting – so I resorted to taking out my highlighter and ‘adjusting the initial grid to one that appears totally satisfying’ in my own way (that is surely in the eye of the beholder?)

Thank you Leo. We are dazzled by the brilliance of this one which drove us barmy. Yet again, we have been shown our limits.

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