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Archive for August, 2010

Some Assembly Required by Mr E

Posted by shirleycurran on 13 August 2010

I am feeling like a very small numpty indeed compared with the intellectual giant that Mr E must be. I have been attempting to work out how he compiled Some Assembly Required. Three four-letter clues had to be normal but composed of twelve of the twenty-six letters of the alphabet. Their twelve letters (HIVE, ZARF, ONUS) had to correspond with the extra letters produced by the wordplay of twelve clues. Those clues had to contain extra words that, read in, for example, ZARF order, gave ‘Grandma’s tiramisu uses wine’ – a clue for ASTI, one of the seven unclued lights. (So Mr E confirms my suspicion that there really is an oenophiliac requirement for Listener compilers!)

ONUS gave ‘Each expert’s holding prize’ (a clue for APIECE), and HIVE gave us ‘Mistakenly cite Hopi tongue’ (the clue for ETHIOPIC), leaving us with four ‘potential’ words to sort out, ILLUSTRATEDS, ROSETTA, PACKMAW and LADYBUG and twelve extra letters still to place (J,Q,T and X). We could eliminate ILLUSTRATEDS and ROSETTA at once, as they both contained checked double letters, so our culprits were L?DYB?G and P?CKM?W, and, of course, they produced just what we needed – a clue for ILLUSTRATEDS, ‘Our people started rioting after hurtful publications’ and a clue for ROSETTA, ‘African city grew up by dry area’.

Dazzlingly brilliant but where did Mr E start in the compilation? My mind simply can’t get round it. (It would be great if he honoured us with a setter’s blog!) What an injustice that a crossword compiler earns peanuts for compiling this sort of astonishing work of genius when a mindless adolescent can earn millions cavorting on a stage or kicking a ball around.

However did we solve it? The clues were superb, weren’t they? I was especially taken with the one for WALNUT (‘What could make Queen Anne cabinet reverse [hurtful] old fine’ – producing UNLAW reversed and the necessary extra letter T). The normal clues filled the grid fairly quickly and, about an hour into our solve, those telltale extra letters Z and Q turned up, (in QUIEN SABE and KRANTZ) prompting us that the extra letters were panalphabetical. Soon, we had only the unclued lights to sort out.

Doesn’t this sound easy? Of course the numpties faced problems. I had realized that the twelve letters of the normally clued answers and the words L?DYB?G and P?CKM?Q gave all of the alphabet except JQT and X, but, for nearly twenty-four hours, simply compiled random clues for the unclued lights, not recognizing the letter-to-word link (which, of course, had to be there; no doubt seasoned solvers saw it instantly) –  a real head-scratcher. For example ETHIOPIAN, in my bungling, had ‘Mistakenly Hopi cite African tongue’. Allocating all the extra words seemed to be an impossible task and there was no way to know how to place the JQX and T.

What a relief when it was finally resolved and the twenty-six extra words neatly slotted into clues! I thought Mr E’s Some Assembly Required was outstanding! I have never solved anything like it.

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Listener 4095: Atom Smasher by Llig (or 50:50-ig)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 6 August 2010

This is Llig’s 13th Listener; let’s hope it’s not unlucky for him … or me! There are misprints in down clues and 13 clashing letters. I have to confess that clashes are not my favourite grid device as they tend to addle my brain far too much. Anyway, mustn’t grumble.

My quick run through the clues is quite successful with over a dozen solved in about twenty minutes. Unfortunately, there isn’t a single clash to be seen. Luckily, SPACEMEN and GLAD in the first column should enable a few more answers to be entered here, and some (hopefully not all) will be clashes, won’t they? And so some more answers go in on the left of the grid … but still no clashes, although the Q in 2dn looks probable.

Meanwhile, the correct letters of misprintes in the down clues are far too sporadic to give anything but a small hint, starting as they do T.EL…E.. which will probably be THE LETTERS.

25ac finally resolves itself as COLLISION (COLL + IS + ON) and the central I clashes with the R of SUPERNOVA. Soon after this I get GNOMON crossing GONZO, and suss the method of resolving the clashes … wow! this is really early for me. I have I/R, C/Q and M/Z and it seems that the letters in one half of the alphabet would take preference; from the title, this is likely to be the letters N-Z.

Not that that helps much at all in completing the grid from this point on. Not to mention that some of the clues are, in my opinion, quite tricky, albeit totally fair! For example:

1ac: What may serve a dual purpose in Internet cafe (4) took me ages to get JAVA!! And I designed the Crossword Database! (OK, I didn’t use Java)
23dn: It leaps in the Lion’s tail — study African source of virus (8) with a corrected misprint giving leams!
33dn: Cloned gene finally isolated by Minister? There’s no good in it (5) where the final E of GENE is ‘isolated’ by DD (minister) less the G to give ENDED (closed not cloned).

Finally I have a completed grid, with 13 first/second half of the alphabet clashes. The message spelt out by the correct forms of misprints gives THE LETTERS A TO M ARE ERASED. I have a moment of self-doubt as I consider that the letters A-M in the entire grid should be erased. After all that would, in a somewhat sledge-hammer way, resolve the clashing letters. However, if this were the case, I think the message would read ALL LETTERS A TO M ARE ERASED or EVERY OCCURENCE OF THE LETTERS A TO M IN THE FINAL GRID ARE ERASED. No … it is just the clashes that need considering, giving the final grid below.

This puzzle proved a bit of a struggle, but was very enjoyable nonetheless. Thanks to Llig for that. As I double-check my solution, I wonder if Llig is Welsh!

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Atom Smasher by Llig

Posted by shirleycurran on 6 August 2010

The numpties are too dependent on solving aids, like Anne Bradford’s indispensable Crossword Solver’s Dictionary and the big red book and its CD versions, so, although friends moaned that Llig’s Atom Smasher was easy and not sufficiently challenging, we, dumped as we were by Easyjet at midnight, two hours after the plane was due to leave, with no replacement flights for three days, had a tough time coping with this one during a 20-hour drive.

Llig again! We have only just solved one of his in this month’s Crossword (together with Curmudgeon – who on earth is he?) and it was fairly challenging so we might be in for a struggle.

Just a large sheet of paper, a pencil and our limited brain power. Ah well. SPACEMEN, NEREID, NEURAL, SUPERNOVA, GNOMON and a few more obvious anagrams appeared easily but we needed the Internet to reassure ourselves that DAMOCLES was a flatterer and not just the fellow of sword notoriety or that DENEBOLA shines in the tail of the Lion constellation. There seemed to be an unusual density of scientific words and an unlistenerish lack of alcohol this week – just JAVA, a plastic beaker of Internet cafe coffee at 1ac. We were travel-weary and ready to moan when we met the crosswordese ‘Top star eager to make a comeback’ yielding DIVA at 42ac. Yes, obviously we have joined the ranks of toffee-nosed Listener snobs who scoff at an easy clue – SHAME!

For us it was a laborious grid-fill with an immense struggle to sort out the south-west corner, even though YOICK (one gets to laugh about call to spur the hunters) had been the obvious solution to 34ac. Those clashes were the problem. (Numpty note – look for the obvious hint! 13 clashes make 26 letters!)  A kind friend said “Why don’t you write down your 26 clashing letters and examine them closely?” Of course, by then, we had worked out that the down misprints yielded ‘THE LETTERS A TO M ARE ERASED’ so it was fairly obvious what remained to be done. I can hear the purists saying’ “What a pity that real words were not produced in both down and across lights!” – but hang on a minute. Simply fitting all twenty-six letters into the grid probably took a few days’ hard labour and combining that with coherent words in both directions would have been a tall order – wouldn’t it?

For me, listing those letters solved the clue that was still causing me to scratch my head – or did it? . BanK/E gods steer to harvest (6) I needed an X – DIOXIN or DIOXAN? I still don’t really understand the wordplay. Thank you Llig for entertaining us during a very dull overnight journey!

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