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Archive for May, 2010

Listener 4082: Pangrams by Sabre

Posted by erwinch on 7 May 2010

With this his 60th puzzle since July 1970, I wondered if Sabre might be the longest serving Listener setter still active and had a look at the Listener site.  Well not quite, I made him third after Salamanca, May 1970 (50) and Waterloo, October 1963 (23) ignoring the likes of  Rufus, May 1967 (1).  However, there is no doubt that he has become a Listener institution and I retain many memories from such as Wordsquares, Cards and A Paradox, a Paradox.
I do not usually have much to say about clues in these blogs but had some trouble fathoming the wordplay in 17ac:
Without energy, drop a sandal (4) geta – The E moving to replace OUT in GOUTTE + A
Is this an acceptable use of without or am I reading it incorrectly?
I also counted four clues with directly hidden answers, which seemed excessive since they are often giveaways:
10ac [Druse] spy invents krypton shield (4)
14ac Busty girl holding cup (3)
40ac John’s finished a bit of soul-searching (4)
27dn Ghanaian exportwicker boxes (3)
I suppose that it is always difficult to come up with something new for short words like these.  Druse, one of the extra words, complicated 10ac and has two meanings so was good to start with since one meaning is capitalised.  John’s (Bunyan’s) finished was an excellent definition for arch found in Chambers.  Sabre has a knack for winkling out these obscure definitions, things like polled for not, and this one for arch I could not even find supported by the OED.  Ghanaian and three letters instantly suggests Twi to me.  Broadening the definition to West African might have added Ibo or Kru.  Anyway, I thought that I would have a go at clueing the four words but would be surprised if there is anything original here:
[Druse] take in heavens? (4)
Cup upset – Norway winning Finals! (3)
Vault over Mrs Mopp – was it Norman? (4)
Light going for West African (3)
Ghanaian found with Henry (3)
Extra words in seven across clues gave us the definitions for the down pangram:
druse German valley ounce stab character bureau
Finding the down pangram was a good deal easier than first thought.  The lack of vowels meant that we were always going to find words like cwm and rare examples of Q with just one vowel:
vug Fritz cwm lynx jab qoph desk
Finding the across pangram was also fairly straightforward.  Having B, C and D encode the same both across and down made a convenient starting point (lynx/Jynx or qoph/koph for ABCD) followed by Fritz/qursh:
I did not think it immediately clear that an across entry of ABCD should be encoded as JYNX and not vice versa.  I can well see the extant all-corrects literally spending hours checking their entries for this one.  Free of such worries, I rather hurriedly completed the grid so would be pleasantly surprised to find this correct:
So, another splendid Listener from Sabre, a real feat of construction especially if computers were not used.  Perhaps not as difficult as it first looked, given the nature of pangrams, but here’s to the next sixty!

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Pangrams, by Sabre

Posted by shirleycurran on 7 May 2010

The preamble was daunting to say the least: two different pangrams! How were we going to find them? Could Sabre seriously be expecting us to spot an entire pangram from ‘seven across clues’ that ‘contain an extra word, hinting (in no particular order) at one of the down pangram components’. I was full of misgivings, especially as I read that ‘hinting at one of the down pangram components’ as precisely that – seven obscure words were going to give me ONE pangram component.

We started solving and dismay turned to pleasure as the grid filled beautifully with some obvious anagrams: ORESTES (Ros tees), WAISTCLOTHS (Scottish law), DEFRAUDMENT (after Edmund), BARAZA (bazaar); a few hidden words, TWI (exporT WIcker), SKRY (inventS KRYpton), TYG (busTY Girl) and alternate letters, FOZIER (FlOoZy I hEaR – nicely deceptive one that!).

From that encouraging start, we beavered our way through all but eight of the clues (the north-west corner) before midnight, trying to remember to read our diagonally split lights in the right direction. I don’t think two grids would have helped this time, but one became very crowded! Where a week ago, we had four solutions in place by the end of Friday, this week we had forty! That indicates, I think, that this was far more accessible wordplay for learners than Radix’s fiendish split clues last week. Still, we had trouble with MOTET, where we assumed that the ‘Choral piece’ was made up of ‘may’ or MOTE and ‘start To’, leaving the last word, THRILL as one of our extra words. Clearly such errors can lead to lots of floundering later 0n!

There were some superb moments. What a magnificent clue: ‘Beast seen in French committee getting kiss’. So we have VU (seen in French) QUANGO and a kiss X. Well worth a kiss any day! We found that ‘Ping Pang, Pong’ is a Japanese drinking game, so thought there was the usual bit of oenophilia, but no – they appeared simply to be comic opera clowns – BUFFI. Two more useful Listener words to drop into this week’s incidental chat – the VU QUANG OX and a few BUFFI!

The pleasure continued on Saturday and with EXOMIS and a TYG SKRYED, we were all set to hunt for the element of our down pangram. We had CHARACTER, VALLEY, DRUSE, OUNCE, STAB, GERMAN, BUREAU, and THRILL. Obviously the thrill had to be ditched. Out came the Scrabble (old rules!) and it was soon evident that if we used the obvious CWM (valley), LYNX (ounce), FRITZ (German), DESK (bureau), JAB (stab) and QOPH (character) we would be left with a strange word for ‘druse’ – GUV? Could he be some kind of Syrian governor?

Light dawned. A VUG is a hollow rock, lined with crystal, just like a DRUSE (two more conversation-stoppers!) and we were there! Or almost. FRITZ was the only five-letter word so he slotted into place immediately. Obviously one of the four letter words was going to share first place with one from the other pangram and share three letters. It was luck that led us to try the LYNX first (or perhaps favouritism – I have a soft spot for him since we saw one loping up the ski slope above the house this ski season – they are said to have kittens up there – Lynxlets?) By elimination of possible first letters, we were led to JYNX and the rest slotted into place one by one. JYNX, VELDT, GOWF, ZIMB, QURSH and PACK. Success!

Hmmm! The worst was yet to come.  I am prepared to bet that there will be fewer careless errors than usual in Mr Green’s postbagful of entries, since this one had to be completed carefully. It was evidently all too easy to take the wrong letter from one of those many rows.

But it was a very rewarding crossword – tremendous fun. Thank you, Sabre!

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4081, Double Cross: Setter’s Blog by Radix

Posted by Listen With Others on 1 May 2010

I am not quite sure when I first had the idea of a crossword with double clues leading to two possible gridfills, one of them to be submitted and the other discarded. The solver obviously had to be able to determine which was which and I went for two crucial messages (hence the title Double Cross), one saying THESE ANSWERS SHOULD BE USED and the other PLEASE IGNORE THESE ANSWERS (I liked the way THESE ANSWERS occupied one diagonal in one case, the other diagonal in the other). But how to deal with the solver who found the ‘wrong’ gridfill and decided that all he had to do was submit a blank grid (PLEASE IGNORE THESE ANSWERS!)? The puzzle needed an additional ‘cautionary message’ (an excellent phrase suggested by the Listener editors) and that surely had to come from the clues, and I went for ‘rogue’ letters. In order to continue the ‘double’ theme, thereby reinforcing the title, I decided that in each ‘clue’ (i) it might be the right clue before the wrong one or vice versa, (ii) the rogue letter might appear in either, and (iii) the rogue letter might need to be either removed or restored: so there were to be 2 × 2 × 2 = 8 different types (to allow both myself and the editors to keep track of things, I had to devise a notation: 1/2 meant the right/wrong clue, and the eight types were 1+2, 1–2, 12+, 12–, 21+, 21–, 2+1, 2–1), and I further decided that there should be the same number of each type, a fairly typical Radix decision, as I hope some of my few fans will admit. So the number of clues had to be a multiple of 8, which in effect meant 40 (32 is hopeless in a 12 × 12 grid, and 48 is much too great). So the cautionary message had to be 40 letters long, and after a lot of this and that I came up with YOU MAY NEED TO CONSIDER THE OTHER CLUES INSTEAD (again, I liked the way YOU MAY NEED TO CONSIDER came from the across clues, the rest of the message from the downs).

Now I could write my preamble (Radix and the consortia to which I belong decide on the preamble, more or less fully, before turning to the grid and fill, let alone the clues!), which read:

Each ‘clue’ is actually two clues side by side, with a rogue letter either inserted or removed somewhere along its length, twenty of each; after a few obvious case adjustments, repairs always leave proper words behind (one of them not in Chambers), but the surface sense does usually suffer. Only one of the two clues need be solved initially, but the rogue letters spell out advice that may prove helpful. Solvers must finally highlight a thematic instruction and write the alternative beneath the grid. The Chambers Dictionary (2008) is the primary reference.

The editors altered this a bit, some of which (‘cautionary message’, for example) I liked.

So now to the grid. There had to be 20 across slots, 20 downs. And the unching had to be Radixean — of course! Radix follows Ximenean principles (4/5 letters = 1 unch, 6/7 letters = 1/2 unches, 8/9 letters = 2/3 unches, 10/11/12 letters = 3/4 unches), but insists further that a shorter slot should never have more unches than a longer slot.

So now to the two fills. No great problem there, although it was not easy to find two fills that I was more or less satisfied with (not too many ‘bad’ words — plurals and the like).

So now to the clueing, which I found incredibly difficult, subject as it was to my 8 × 5 requirement, especially since I further required that the 8 types should be distributed as evenly as possible among the forty clues. The difficulty, of course, is how to marry two clues so as to produce one sensible ‘clue’. For instance, how to clue AHAB and OLLA: my solution, after a lot of head-scratching, was: “Hello Sailor!” — Captain | [u]RN in variety entertainment [AH + AB, Two meanings]. But what about KILERG and ENJOIN, what about GRISEOUS and BLESSING? After writing about ten ‘clues’, I gave up in despair, and only returned to the task, about two years later, having been encouraged by the brilliance of a fellow setter in this area. I worked and worked and worked on every single clue, one after another, and finished with forty that I felt were 100% sound, and so was somewhat disappointed that the editors thought it necessary to fiddle with so many.

I was reminded of Don Manley’s “Ten tips for editors” in his Crossword Manual, number 8 of which reads as follows:

Faced with a clue, you have three options: (i) leave it, (ii) amend it slightly, or (iii) rewrite it. If a clue is sound and sensible (and hasn’t appeared recently), you are best to leave it (option (i)) unless you can think of a small amendment which will add a touch of gloss (option (ii)); …. Only make the change if (a) it adds finesse or (b) it renders an unsound clue sound. Go for option (iii) if the clue is grossly unsound or doesn’t make sense. …

In my case, the editors never went for option (iii), which would have been unwarranted, but in my opinion went for option (ii) a bit too often.

P.S. In the event, nobody submitted a blank grid, but a dozen or so submitted the ‘wrong’ grid. So the two instructions and the cautionary message proved inadequate, for which I apologize.

Radix, 01/05/2010

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