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Archive for November, 2010

Listener 4109: Not a Black and White Decision by Brock (or Will there be a Marina?)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 12 November 2010

OK, so an 11-line preamble with a hint that there are (at least) two ways to complete the grid. Plus another ambiguity and lots of highlighting. And 18 clashes … my favourite!! But Brock takes pity on me and tells me they are all in three consecutive rows. It’s a shame that a couple of answers, including 1ac, are only in The Shorter Oxford Dictionary, but luckily my library provides access to the OED site, so I can check things there.

Listener 4109 AttemptsAnd 1ac is a bit of a doddle, although playing with BEASTS-something delays me for a bit. STABLE BLOCKS is the answer and no need to look it up really. I start on the first half dozen down clues as any there could help with placement of the top half acrosses. 2dn/b is TRONE and that goes on the left, and 4dn/a CUT DOWN goes on the right with the other half BEOWULF on the left. 5dn begins with either E or S, and ECOLOGIC goes in. Trying some acrosses now, and I realise that, unusually, I’m not really approaching this puzzle in a very structured way. Oh well, variety is the spice of life. 6ac/a is BUSY, a word for detective that I came across only a few weeks ago, and 5dn/b beginning SY… provides SYLLABIC. 12ac gives WEB and LEG, and still no sign of a dreaded clash.

Marching on, I finally get to 14, with /a being ELDEST (/b was to come later, with its lovely misdirection of flat for BEDSIT). Anyway, we have our first clash, and it looks as though rows 7, 8 and 9 are the three with the clashes; I’m assuming it’s 9 in each half.

Progress is steady from then on and, with HORSES / HOUSES in the bottom row providing the final ambiguity, it’s done. Except, of course, as predicted by Brock, I have only SIX clashes!!! And what makes it worse is that I hadn’t made any conscious decision about colours at all.

So, back to the drawing board, and you’d think it would be a cinch to sort it all out, having all the answers and knowing that there are 18 clashes. Well my brain just goes into befuddled mode as it seems that almost any answer could go anywhere. After what feels like an hour, but is in fact considerably less, I have the second, and hopefully correct, grid.

And now there are the 28 cells to be highlighted in four rows. That should be easy? No, that actually does take me an hour to spot. I can see FIELDS, but that doesn’t trigger anything. (I should have concentrated on the colour hint in the preamble a bit more even though that seemed to refer to the actual solving of the grid.) Anyway, remembering Rule 13 in my Top Tips for the Listener (especially if you’re stuck): If you’re at a loose end, let your eyes glaze over and wander aimlessly around the grid for a few minutes. Well it finally works as my eyes spot the B of WEB and put it together with SROWFN in the next row. And there on the left is G plus RSEENF. And the FIELDS come into their own as well as I highlight GREEN FIELD SITE and BROWN FIELD SITE. Excellent stuff!

Well done Brock. A really good puzzle that, like a few this year, had me panicking at times. And a debut to boot, I believe. I’m intrigued as to what came first, the two types of building site or the possibilities provided by STABLE BLOCKS. And when did the HORSES and HOUSES come into the equation, with HORSES going under STABLE and HOUSES under BLOCKS??

Thanks for all the entertainment.

So what's this called?

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Not a Black and White Decision, by Brock

Posted by shirleycurran on 12 November 2010

Two years of Listener solving (or attempting to solve Listener crosswords) are behind us and we have the good feeling that we are making progress and can be fairly confident that we will reach a solution of some kind. We sometimes have strokes of luck, too, like instantly spotting that anagram ‘Rip up stalks and cobble where animals used to be kept’ at 1 across. STABLE BLOCKS. With the rest of the crossword divided into two halves, this was clearly going to be significant, and when we moved down to 20ac and found clues that gave us HORSES and HOUSES, we didn’t hesitate for long. Obviously, the horses were going to belong with the stables. Here, perhaps, was a theme.

We confidently worked our way through the rest of the grid, thoroughly enjoying some of the fine clues, for example, that well disguised ‘high explosive’ in 7ac. (‘In the morning with island cut off, HE – leading to AMATOL).

A complete grid and six clashes! I wonder how many other solvers were as naive as we were – automatically breezily slotting in the words where they fitted best to be brought to a standstill by that dearth of clashes.

How generous of Brock to have added that giveaway sentence, ‘Solvers finding they have almost completed the grid with fewer clashes should consider what might have coloured their decisions in these areas’.

The light dawned – or I thought it had, when I switched round some of my words in rows 7,8 and 9, the rows that clearly contained the clashes. SOWFF and ELDEST went left and REENS and BEDSIT moved right. I counted my clashes and ‘Eureka’, 18! It looked as though all that was left to do was find something to do with horses, houses and colours that would occupy 28 cells. Sure enough, there was a putative ‘GREEN FIELD SITE’ and ‘BROWN FIELD SITE’. Elated, I decided to check it in the morning and went to sleep to dream of happy horses. 

Saturday morning and gloom descended. With the grid as it was, I had my 18 clashes but an inexplicable F in my ‘green sield site’ and I had two exceptions to the rule that was imposed of selecting the across letter from a clash in one side and the down letter in its partner. I wonder how many other solvers reached this cul-de-sac. Clearly more rethinking was required. The obvious answer was to shift the entire bottom half of the crossword over – and, of course, it worked.

I thought the construction of this crossword was brilliant and I am still attempting to get my mind round the complexity of setting it so that solvers were led astray and had to rethink, possibly twice, to reach the required solution – and the astonishing way those pairs of clashing letters echoed the pairs on the other side of the grid. Superb, thank you Brock.

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Listener 4108: Past and Present by Emkay (or 19th Century Texting)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 5 November 2010

Giving a whole new meaning to 'mobile phone'

An interesting entry technique in this puzzle that I had not seen before: 3-letter entries in the outside section of the grid were augmented by one or more letters from the central 8×8 square. I thought it strange that this central section was ‘numbered’ a-h left to right in the bottom row of squares, and 1-8 upwards in the right column of squares. I would have expected them to be in the first row to the right and the first column downwards. Perhaps it was to put the idea of a chess board and its notation in my head … or there again, not.

The first thing that worried me was that these clues using central squares might need a lot of cold solving. As it turned out, this didn’t cause a problem since the clues were all pretty straightforward (I hesitate to use the word ‘easy’). I liked the way that the 3-letter entries in the outer section were all words in their own right. Even the wordplay-only clues weren’t too hard, although the connection between VIVIEN, MERLIN, MESSAGES and MOBILE PHONES wasn’t apparent to me until I solved 39ac TENNYSON (NY in TENSON) and spotted SQUARE and TEXT in the central section, which led to the quotation:

A square of text that looks a little blot. [The] text no larger than the limbs of fleas;

A bit further on we have:

And none can read the text, not even I; And none can read the comment but myself;

If Tennyson were alive today, I’m sure that this would be his view of what people actually put in their text messages!!

Finally, there was the matter of the phrase below the grid. The letters not used in any clue were ELLORHE which, with the missing article THE probably gives HELLO THERE, rather than ETHEL HOLER (who can be found in the University of North Carolina Greensboro – Pine Needles Yearbook – Class of 1949)!! I must say that I thought this last step was a little weak and contrived, but it was an enjoyable puzzle nonetheless.

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No 4108 Past and Present, by Emkay – Hello there!

Posted by shirleycurran on 5 November 2010

This was fun. The numpties were expecting greater difficulty after the last few weeks and began by assuming that each word was going to be scrambled. TATTOO, for instance, our first solve, was going to give us a choice of three Ts two Os or an A in that central box. The prospect was daunting. However, tentatively writing the letters and coordinates in the given order soon proved to be the correct method.

From there on, it was plain sailing – or solving and within a couple of hours, we had an almost complete grid. Emkay, of course, joined the long string of Listener compilers who incorporate a little tipple – two even – a nip and a Stengah!

Rather surprisingly, a potential quotation, or parts of it, appeared in two directions. Reading down, we had TITANS and QUOTE, while reading across, we had LOOKS and SQUARE.

MOBILE PHONES, VIVIEN and MERLIN had already appeared, and their secret was quickly revealed by the Internet – completing the quotation, ‘A square of text that looks a little blot, the text not larger than the limbs of fleas’. That, of course, gave us TENNYSON and we could guess at MESSAGES from ‘Herb in hash’.

What was left to do? I wonder how many other solvers enthusiastically filled in the rest of the quotation then were left wondering which had been their extra seven letters that had been needed to complete the quotation. Doh!

I laboriously back-tracked (twice, as the first time I had nine letters) and found THE ELLORHE. After briefly wondering whether Tennyson had been writing about the ETHER, I opted for HELLO THERE!

Thank you Emkay! It was great, for once, not to spend half the weekend struggling and attempting to get my mind round obscure new words and tricks, and this seemed like an inventive new approach to a crossword.

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