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Archive for February, 2010

The Glady Marsh by Salamanca

Posted by shirleycurran on 12 February 2010

One of the ‘Stripey horse Z???A (5) team re-read Conan-Doyle’s ‘A Study in Scarlet’ at Christmas and wittered about it as we attacked this one.  “Must be REDDEN, though that doesn’t quite fit the clue – the DEN should be in the RED” … and so on. We had a fine start; no misprints to find, no words to invert, no verbal antics at all – just our style!

We even spotted LESTRADE when the bottom half of the grid filled with unusual speed. RABETTING SAW was a lucky start (thrown up by an anagram solver – Oh dear! But it didn’t find LEASING MAKER for us, and whoever would have thought that was a ‘speaker of seditious words’?) KOP caused us a problem. Yes, we know that was a hill in South Africa and it was confirmed by its intersecting words, RECKAN, DITTO and ENSEPULCHRED, but what has it to do with ‘one of Scotland’s hill’s round’? (perhaps Denis will explain the wordplay and that strange apostrophe?)

There we were with half the grid filled and no idea at all what NEST, WAND and BETS had to do with anything. We should have gone back to ‘A Study in Scarlet’ at that point and found GREGSON, but we usually spend so much time fishing for scarlet herrings that we resisted the urge, this time – sadly!

It was ESTREPED that was the break through. 1ac and 1d suddenly seemed to be within reach. We could choose between WRITING ON THE WALL and DENIZEN OF THE DEEP. With our dread of red herrings in mind, we opted for the former, and, of course, the rest fell into place.

“Ah yes, that was it RACHE – ‘vengeance’ in German – and those two warring detectives thought it was RACHEL written in blood. We have to think erroneously like them. That gives us THEA, GLADYS, MARSHA – lovely!”

The rest fell into place. WAND(A), BETS(Y), NEST(A), SOPH(Y) – nice clue that one and Chambers filled the gap in my knowledge with the information that SOP came from the drugged sop the Sibyl gave to Cerberus to enable Aeneas to enter the Underworld – PEAR(L) – I am wondering why a PEA is Catherine’s veg. – LAR(A), LIND(A) and ANGEL(A).

How nicely it all came together in the end. Of course, I had to get out the pencils and add a few red-herring clues, dripping blood down the wall.  Sometimes this Listener solving thing can be a pleasure and not a nightmare. Thank you, Salamanca.

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4070: Salamanca’s Glady Marsh (or A Fair Kop)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 12 February 2010

Salamanca’s last four puzzles have been in the Enigmatic Variations series and relatively straightforward. His last Listener, Mazy from February last year, was quite tricky from what I recall, but then what Listener isn’t. It’s interesting how some setters adopt different types of theme, style, and level of difficulty, depending on the series they are submitting to (I think Phi is a prime example).

The first thought that crossed my mind when I looked at the title of this puzzle was ‘Sherlock Holmes’, reminding me immediately of the Grimpen Mire in THOTB. Little did I realise how prophetic this thought would be! I’m generally not good at deducing very much from a title. The preamble contained the somewhat daunting phrase “Solvers must show their understanding of the theme …” as if to say it really isn’t going to be obvious. Well, we’ll see about that, Mr S.

Only a couple of the acrosses came on the first pass, 24 SIERRAN and 29 AND. Very poor. Luckily I rattled off the down clues … well five of them anyway, and 3, 4 and 7 ran down from the top row, although nothing seemed obvious for 1ac 1dn yet. Three more acrosses, 10 ANGEL, 13 LIND and 15 LEASING-MAKER (a simple anagram, but a word I’d not heard of) came next, and the top left corner was beginning to take shape. Two of these words were also thematic, ANGEL and LIND; no link seemed apparent, but at least they fitted their entry length. 1ac 1dn also looked like it could be something ON THE WALL, perhaps SITTING … although that would have clashing first letters … but if I’ve learnt one thing from my Listener years, it is not to rule anything out too soon. However, 2dn would then have been TG…., and that didn’t seem likely. Aha! WRITING ON THE WALL, and I was reminded of Listener 3970, Wot, No Lines by Charybdis a couple of years ago with its grafitti theme.

Onwards and upwards, and 30ac RABBETING-SAW came next, another word I hadn’t come across (I haven’t done any woodwork since school, a few (?) years back), followed by 18dn ALIZARIN and 17ac LAR. And there was 17dn LESTRADE staring at me, together with, if I’m not mistaken, GREGSON at 5dn. I should learn to listen to my tuition more often … two Scotland Yard detectives from Sherlock Holmes. According to the preamble, they had a theory, revealed in the story in which they first appeared. A quick reference to my copy of Sir Arthur Wiki Doyle, and that seemed to be A Study in Scarlet, and we were even given a clue to that at 14ac. In this story, Lestrade and Gregson show Holmes a wall on which is wrtten RACHE, thought by the former two to be Rachel incomplete (but which Holmes finally identifies as the German word for “revenge”). It takes no time at all, luckily, to understand the theme, with ANGEL, LIND, LAR, etc, each being one letter short of a girl’s name.

The remainder of the puzzle fell into place quite quickly, and the title, also in the style of the theme, was revised and entered under the grid as THEA GLADYS MARSHA.

My final task was to understand the clues to 33dn WAND and 35dn KOP. Although Bradford’s gives SORRY under WAN, I really wasn’t happy with the clue: ‘wan’ (faint, dark, gloomy) isn’t really ‘sorry’ (poor, miserable, worthless); well, perhaps it is. As for KOP, I spent ages trying to find Mount Pok or the like in Scotland; and I have no idea how I finally stumbled upon KIP with O for I. Was this obvious to everyone else?!

So, thanks for a good puzzle, Salamanca. Sherlock Holmes themes always entertain, unless, that is, you were tripped up by Listener 3883, Olde Treasure Hunt by Merlin! Yes, I was!

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Listener 4070: The Glady Marsh by Salamanca

Posted by Gareth Rees on 12 February 2010

This was a perfect lesson in how to hide something in plain sight. The first clue I solved was 14 across, “Become ‘A Study in Scarlet’ (6)” and I thought, what a brilliant clue! as I filled in the answer REDDEN. But it wasn’t until a couple of hours later that I released that this clue had given away the whole theme to the puzzle.

After the misprinted clues and amended entries of the last couple of Listener crosswords, this was a welcome respite, with nothing to do but solve the clues and enter in the answers. And there were some cracking clues this week. “Sleep under church ground thus? (12)” was a great anagram &lit for ENSEPULCHRED. “Terrain is uneven: does this make it _______? (7)” was a very pleasing composite anagram &lit for SIERRAN.

There were some good words too. “Speaker of seditious words causing panic in Greek animals (12)” is a perfectly transparent clue: we’ve got to anagram “Greek animals” to get a word meaning “Speaker of seditious words”. But I needed nearly all the checking letters before LEASING-MAKER was revealed.

Some of the clues were pretty tough. “Hill in SA: one of Scotland’s hill’s round (3)” clues KOP. I could see that it’s a South African hill, but it took a long time to work out that it’s “Scotland’s hill” ⇒ KIP, with “round” ⇒ O replacing “one” ⇒ I. The wordplay eluded me even longer in “One doing piecework who requires time to start off (6)” ⇒ TASKER: the smooth surface had me completely fooled. In fact, it’s utterly simple: “who requires” ⇒ ASKER, with “time” ⇒ T placed beforehand.

Anyway, with the grid filled in except for the four thematic entries, here’s how the rubric stood: “The answers to askerisked clues”—ANGEL, LIND, LAR, SOPH, NEST, PEAR, BETS, WAND—“along with the title are in the fashion of that indicated by the _ _IT_N_O_THE_ALL in accordance with the theories of _ _EGSON and L_S_R_DE (making their first appearance).”

Hmmm, L_S_R_DE suggested LESTRADE, the police inspector from Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’ stories. Making his first appearance? That would have been in A Study in Scarlet in 1887, where a key element of the plot is the mysterious message left by the murderer at the scene of the crime:

I have remarked that the paper had fallen away in parts. In this particular corner of the room a large piece had peeled off, leaving a yellow square of coarse plastering. Across this bare space there was scrawled in blood-red letters a single word—


“What do you think of that?” cried [Lestrade], with the air of a showman exhibiting his show. “[… I]t means that the writer was going to put the female name Rachel, but was disturbed before he or she had time to finish. You mark my words, when this case comes to be cleared up you will find that a woman named Rachel has something to do with it. It’s all very well for you to laugh, Mr Sherlock Holmes. You may be very smart and clever, but the old hound is the best, when all is said and done.”

Holmes was unimpressed with this theory.

“One other thing, Lestrade,” he added, turning round at the door: “‘Rache’ is the German for ‘revenge’; so don’t lose your time looking for Miss Rachel.”

So we are looking at the WRITING ON THE WALL, which LESTRADE and his colleague GREGSON believed to represent an incomplete woman’s name. And sure enough, the asterisked answers might have been interpreted by these policemen as ANGELA, LINDA, LARA, SOPHY, NESTA, PEARL, BETSY, and WANDA.

The final instruction was, “Solvers must show their understanding of the theme by writing the full title for the puzzle in the space at the foot of the grid.”

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Conversion by Samuel – A Setter’s Blog

Posted by clanca1234 on 6 February 2010

Part of the work of a thematic crossword compiler (an easy kind of work, admittedly, but work all the same) is to come up with ideas for puzzles. Maybe I’m alone in this, but after setting my first three or four puzzles, I found that everywhere I go, everywhere I look, everything I see, everything I hear, one of my first thoughts is ‘could I make a crossword out of that?’ Invariably the answer is a resounding ‘no’, or an even more resounding ‘are you insane?’, but one night a few years ago, I started thinking about names or pseudonyms that might be of the same length.

My wife was sitting watching Masterchef (“cooking doesn’t get tougher than this!’ Gregg Wallace is fond of shouting. Doesn’t it, Gregg? Really? I’d love to lock him in a room at gunpoint, tie his arms behind his back, set a pack of vicious dogs on him, tell him he has to make a perfect chocolate fondant in the next half an hour or he gets shot, and then see just how tough he thinks preparing a slap-up meal for an ‘ingredients expert’ in a TV studio really is, compared to that).

Anyway, I digress. So, I started jotting down related names of the same length. I joined what must be a very long line of setters who rue the fact that JEKYLL and HYDE don’t have the same number of letters, wondered why Superman (8 letters) was inconsiderate enough to come up with Clark Kent (9 letters) when Dave Kent would have done just as well for the purposes of anonymity, and then happened to glance down at a copy of that day’s Times, where, in the sports section, I suddenly saw the sentence:

“Cassius Clay, on his conversion to Islam…”

counted up the letters of Muhammad Ali, shouted out “crossword setting doesn’t get tougher than this” (I swear that, on the television, Greg Wallace turned to face the camera with a startled expression as I yelled this out) and a puzzle was born.

I always try to shoehorn as much thematic material into a Samuel puzzle as possible, and so over the next few days my mind worked overtime. First of all I went scurrying off to my study to find ODQ, and see if any Ali quotations had made it in. I’m not sure why I bothered – some of his sayings would have been well-known enough even if they weren’t in ODQ. “I’m the greatest” and “Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee” seemed the obvious ones. I’d already decided on converting CASSIUS CLAY to MUHAMMAD ALI in the grid, and the clear thing to do would be to make this change complete the quotation.

Initially I looked at getting these diagonally in the grid, but, being honest about it, so many puzzles have thematic material on the diagonals, that I thought that something different was called for. A count of the letters in “float like a butterfly…” gave 32, which could be arranged in an 8 by 8 square, and this was obviously the shape of a boxing ring. Within seconds, I had a title for the puzzle which would strike a chord with old-school Listener solvers, ‘Squaring the Circle’, as a boxing ring is square. This elicited another triumphant yell, but by this time both Emma and Gregg were obviously used to my exclamations, as neither of them batted an eyelid.

At this point I thought for a few days, to see what else I could come up with. A few nights later, I had come up with the idea of the grid containing RUMBLE inside JUNGLE and THRILLER inside MANILA, in homage to perhaps the two most famous of Ali’s fights, and other dingbats were coming into my head (eg SNYLISTON vertically in the grid being ‘S on NY LISTON’. I decided to have a trawl through YouTube at Ali’s old fights, and when I saw the referee starting the Ali/Bugner fight, and he cried out ‘seconds out, round one!’ at the start, I had an entry gimmick for my clues. I did toy with having some clues ’round two’ or ’round three’, but this seemed too complicated, so I abandoned this pretty quickly. The link between COOPER and FOREMAN appeared in my brain at this point, I abandoned the jungle and manila ideas, and tried to get a fill.

Cripes. It was a nightmare.

This took four or five months of on/off work, hindered by the fact that the letters of the quotation were so unhelpful. I even gave up at one point, set another puzzle, and came back to it. Maybe somebody more skilled at grid filling than I could have come up with something better, but there was only one possible arrangement of the quotation in the grid that allowed checking letters to be completed by MUHAMMAD ALI arranged linearly, and that arrangement was not nice. Either the average entry length got too low, or I filled myself into a corner, so to speak. Eventually, and having to accept that the non-Chambers FAT FARM would have to be in the grid, I got a fill. The one saving grace was the present of KNOUT entered as KOUT in the bottom left hand corner, which made me chuckle. I’m easily amused.

Cluewriting was okay, with only half or so of the clues needing ‘conversion’ before solving, although a few of these were tricky. I had a late panic when I saw an article spelling MUHAMMAD as MUHAMMED, but I knew that I had already checked this spelling in ODQ, Chambers Biographical Dictionary, Ali’s official website, Wikipedia and older versions of Collins, so all was okay. My test solver liked it, and then it was off to the Listener. I had been concerned that, as the puzzle was about a living person (and a living person in fragile health, at that) that it might get rejected on these grounds, but some time later I learned that it had been put into the portfolio after I’d rewritten a few clues for the first vetter.

I had previously toyed with keeping the puzzle under my hat, so to speak, for another 10 years or so (Ali’s 75th birthday was due in 2018), but I was pleased that it was scheduled for the weekend of his birthday (if not a landmark birthday). The title of ‘Squaring the Circle’ got lost somewhere in the process as I was concerned that it might give the game away. Indeed, one piece of feedback received did postulate this as an alternative title to the puzzle, so perhaps it was a good thing that I eventually settled on ‘Conversion’.

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Conversion, by Samuel – A Knock-out!

Posted by shirleycurran on 5 February 2010

Just about a year ago, when the ‘Stripey horse, Z???A (5)’ team started to seriously attempt these weekend-consuming Listener crosswords, we would probably have abandoned this early on. Not so this time. We had actually cold-solved twenty-three clues, not far short of half the crossword, before we began to have an inkling. Did we have some premonition of the satisfaction that was in store for us if we persisted? Samuel’s ‘Playtime’ last June, with those lovely dropping pennies, was tremendously satisfying. And so we laboured on.

It was a different type of penny-drop-moment this time. The lights were subdivided to hold all those extra down letters, then subdivided again to fit in across solutions that didn’t coincide and

Muddling along

we were fearing that our across clues were going to be the dreaded jumbles, until two areas of the grid began to make sense. The ORTI of STORTING (18ac) seemed to appear one light further on, intersecting with the O of SEASHORE, the R of EYESORE, the T of ST KITTS (what a wonderful clue – ‘skis three times round island’!) and the I of INYALA. Could it be that we were docking the last letter and shifting it to the start? We attempted the same trick with UPON, intersecting with KNOUT and OLEOS and it worked!

No, we were not out of the woods yet. Clearly down clues had to lose a letter. Even we could see that. However, docking the initial letter soon proved fruitless – ASSET at 1ac (now rendered as TASSE), needed the S of SEBAT and we needed that I for INYALA. So, clearly, we had to dock second letters. From this point on, solving was sheer pleasure and we soon had a complete grid – with, of course, two or three problems.

FAT FARM was a fine solution and fitted the clue perfectly. ‘Even (obviously FLAT) having lost a pound (L), advanced money (FAR M) for health spa’ (7, two words) (Does this count as an & lit clue?) However, for some inexplicable reason, we couldn’t find the word in Chambers. We had another word we couldn’t find in Chambers – PLASTOME at 25d. However, that didn’t fit the clue either and we were wisely prompted to look again for our misprint.

Ah yes, the misprints! We had a complete grid before we spotted that wonderful FAOAT LIKE A BATTERFLY: STING LIKE A BEE! and realized that we were in the boxing ring, with CASSIUS CLAY in pride of place at the top. The conversion was legendary and MUHAMMAD ALI completed the quotation correctly for us.

Only then did we reconstruct our misprints and find SECONDS OUT and, with Zebra-team-red-herring-lack-logic, we still could not find ROUND ONE, (We had the CACTUS as a spiky plant, too – which gave us ROUND ?KE) . Oh dear!

More joys were in store. The strange word at 15d resolved itself into F(O)REMAN, so evidently that other clue without a definition, ‘Company nearly works’ was CO with OPER (nearly OPERA) and as the cherry on the cake – or the final punch on the nose, we learned that Muhammad Ali was celebrating his 67th birthday as we solved. Brilliant! This one must surely rate among the stars of the year.

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