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4052: Aedites’ Question (or What’s Brown and Sticky?)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 9 October 2009

Aedites is one of that rare breed, a setter who seems at home with both standard crosswords and numerical puzzles. In November last year he had Euclid’s Alogrithm (4010) with its vast array of clues, which totally defeated me and was one of my (many) failures last year. There was also Call Changes (3814) in 2005 which had, like this puzzle, a bell-ringing theme.
An interesting entry technique whereby all letters have been allocated to one of the groups C, D, E, F and G, and are entered using the letter to whose group it belongs. Luckily the clues were, at least to start with, fairly straightforward, and I had about a third of the entries completed in about twenty minutes, in which there were about a dozen clashes. It was fun watching the five groups develop, but somewhat deflating to see my initial solving rate slow to a crawl. JEZEBEL (BEZ back in JEEL) and VERSE (CONVERSE – CON) took longer than they should have done. It’s also interesting how my brain works in initially analyzing a clue: I read ‘Designed sixty walks planted with trees …’ and the idea of an anagram didn’t even cross my mind. I mean, the letters of SIXTY can only be arranged in one way surely. So XYSTI came very late in the day. I think QUICKTHORN, AMMO and FEISTY were the last answers to be slotted in, AMMO being particularly troublesome as I have only known it as an abbreviation for bullets, etc, rather than military stores in general.
So, finally the grid was complete, and the two blocks of changes were fairly easy to find in columns 3-7 and 9-13. Highlighting the lightest bell (G) in each permutation gave a couple of identical curved lines which looked to me like a pair of women’s breats rather than anything to do with bells! Even now, this requirement of the puzzle seems weak and superfluous, but that’s probably because I’m missing something.
On to the question that is answered by the left, centre and right columns of the grid. I thought this would be a relatively simple final step, but after half an hour that idea was discarded. I had TALL something WITH A something AND BELLS. Quite a few attempts later, and BUILDING and TOWER appeared, and gave a definition that wasn’t quite as obvious as I had hoped. Church, chapel and belfry didn’t seem exact enough. Perhaps it was like the old joke: What’s brown and sticky … a stick, and the answer was bell-tower. The previous bell-themed puzzle, Call Changes, had CAMPANILE as the word to be written under the grid. Surely this wouldn’t have the same word! But Chambers defines it as ‘a bell tower, esp a tall one’ (my emphasis), and that was good enough for me.
All in all, an entertaining puzzle from Aedites, probably at the easier end of the spectrum for him. I was just about OK with the final steps, although, as mentioned above, the highlighting seemed somewhat superfluous.

Checking of my Listener entries for this year has continued, albeit at a very slow pace. It is such a nerve-racking task that I can only check four or five at a time. So far I am up to 4043, with an all-correct run of 32 going back to December. I just hope that John Green has received all my entries; I hear stories about various sorting offices going on strike and fear the worst!

3 Responses to “4052: Aedites’ Question (or What’s Brown and Sticky?)”

  1. erwinch said

    I too entered campanile below the grid with barely a second thought since the answer that we found looked like a straight definition and belfry or bell tower were non-starters to my mind. My final thought was that the puzzle didn’t hold together too well thematically but then some don’t. As essentially Italianate structures, campaniles might not immediately be associated with English change-ringing but the OED has the first written record dated 1640 when they were equated to steeples. Nor was I particularly concerned upon seeing with a tower in the answer. Look under and in Chambers Crossword Dictionary and you will see with and also listed as synonyms. These are perhaps not precise synonyms (what words are?) but are usages commonly found in crosswords.

    However, your blog reminds me that we were indeed required to write campanile (as CamPAnIle by a strange coincidence) below the grid in Aedites’ numerical puzzle Call Changes in 2005. Had I remembered this then unlike you I would have rejected campanile instantly and looked elsewhere, on the Net and ODQ. The Editors would never have allowed a repeat like this from the same setter and I would say that it absolves them from most of the blame for the mess. It is a fact that must have been foremost in their minds, blinding them from seeing that solvers might be misled. It would have been so easy to correct and need not have been a blatant mention of the ODQ as reference. I would have added just one word to the preamble: Solvers must complete the famous question below the grid…

    Poor old Aedites must be thinking that his career as a Listener setter is jinxed – first the puzzle with all the down clues missing and now one with four solutions – whatever next? This has all overshadowed the main puzzle, which must have taken ages to construct. It wasn’t as daunting as the preamble first suggested and I have only one abiding memory, concerning the assignments of the letters. On two occasions, one was W as G, I thought that I had discovered a new assignment only to see that I already had it with a previous crossing entry.

  2. Erwin,
    I agree with pretty much everything you say, especially regarding the use of with and the help that a slight change to the preamble would have given. I am truly impressed by those who saw the various possible answers as an indication that extra research was required and went to ODQ or Google. Interestingly, google “tall building with tower and bells” and you get 118,000 hits; add “crabbe” to those words and you get more … 149,000 hits! Huh?!!
    I would be interested to know at what point the editors decided to accept the various answers. They must have been aware of the possibilities fairly early in the puzzle’s development. I am actually of the opinion that all except Church should be marked wrong, and getting through by the skin of my teeth actually makes me feel a bit of a second-class solver.

  3. erwinch said


    You may consider yourself a second-class solver but you are in very good company.  Silver Salver winner, Simon Long, admitted last November that he had benefited three times from having “incorrect” solutions marked correct.  I think that you have to ask yourself: would I have found the correct solution had I suspected that the answer was from a quotation?  Your answer has to be yes – it is the first hit (of 3240) when googling “tall building with a tower and bells” (you missed the a from your google).


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