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Archive for January, 2011

4119: Mass Production — Listener Hedge-sparrow Crossword

Posted by Dave Hennings on 28 January 2011

This is Hedge-sparrow’s fourth Listener puzzle; the previous three concerned wormholes (3988 Travel Agents), Darwin’s writings on evolution (4067 S), and Einstein’s theory of relativity (the special variety, 4064 Metrical Variations). If I’d known that Hedge-sparrow was of a scientific bent, it might have helped; but there again, probably not. Here we had a circular grid with thematic things to discover in three of the rings and a number of circled cells which result in an end-product. All very interesting, and the usual groups of four radials each contained one entry entered inwards, one outwards, and two jumbled. Just to add spice to the jumbles, one was to a 6-letter word and the other to a 7-letter word with one letter being dropped before entry.

While the jumbling of half the clues didn’t necessarily mean a lot of cold solving, it did mean that I abondoned my usual quick first pass through the clues. Instead I found myself concentrating on groups of say 6 or 8 clues and worked my way more slowly round the grid. The clues were an interesting mix of the straightforward and complex. Take 2ac: Broken enamel hiding trace of yellow hydrocarbon which is obviously Y in ENAMEL* giving AMELYNE (although I needed Bradford’s to help with my hydrocarbons). On the other hand, 4 is End of fine maiden over with turning ball around close of play — it’s the start of something. In my opinion, there’s a lot going on here, and it turned out to be E (end of finE) M (maiden over) + ORB< (ie reversed) around Y (close of plaY) to give EMBRYO. I tend to dismiss clues that make my brain hurt until much later in the solving process.

So, after about an hour I had 16 clues solved, the last three being 33 LANOLIN, 34 ANNONA and 35 ABSORB. I normally pencil in the entries for this type of puzzle inwards, but since the second B of ABSORB cannot be in the innermost ring I entered it outwards. Looking at the grid after doing a full circuit, I saw LAB in positions 33, 34 and 35, and E..O at 25-28. It seemed obvious to me that I was looking at the European Laboratory for Particle Physics, known as CERN, from it’s original name, Conseil Européen pour la Recherche Nucléaire. It probably also meant that the LARGE HADRON COLLIDER (LHC) was lurking nearby! With 19 letters it would make up the letters not entered in all but one of the 20 segments of the grid. Voilà!

I won’t say that the rest of the puzzle was a doddle, a great deal of care needs to be taken with the Listener. However, I think I completed this one in about 2½ hours, so pretty good on that front, and certainly helped by early identification of the theme. Finally, the circled letters in ring 2 were SSIGBOGHON which could be made into HIGGS BOSON, entered in the central circle. The particle is named after Dr Peter Higgs, an English theoretical physicist, who predicted its exixstence back in the 60’s, I think. A lot of people have been looking for it ever since!

A really neat puzzle from Hedge-sparrow with excellent clues, nearly all of which had very good, and often devilishly misleading, surface readings. My favourites were 15, with its reference to the expenses scandal, Government given accommodation failed to declare income (GHOSTED); 33 Fat lecturer takes an old lodger in (but not ‘er dog sadly) (LANOLIN) which just made me smile; and 40’s comment on the greedy power companies Group of utilities about to seize money — not good! (TOOLBAR)! I’m looking forward to the next one from this entertaining setter.

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Mass Production, by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by shirleycurran on 28 January 2011

CERN's LEP seen from the front window.

Circular! Great, that must be the first circular since the very first Listener puzzle the numpties attempted, Frank’s ‘Rings’, way back in 2008. Then I read the preamble about ‘alternative’ indications, ‘clockwise or anticlockwise’ two entries in each set of four JUMBLED – those ‘all but one’ having an extra letter, and the circled letters being ‘constituents’ of a final product.  Perhaps this is a sign from above that it is time to bring the numpty solving career to a close. In despair, I gaze out of the window at CERN’s LHC that half fills the view between the bottom of the garden and Mt Blanc even in this dull weather. I muse about those particles zinging their way clockwise and anti-clockwise three hundred feet down and that elusive Higgs Boson. That’s the boson that is responsible for ‘mass’, according to current particle theory. Production of mass – Mass Production. Wait a minute! Could it be …?

That preamble was daunting but the clues are very fair. I’ve heard of setters who work in clue order from 1 across to 40 down but I wonder how many solvers impose that discipline on themselves as an added challenge. RENAME, AMYLENE, BEFOAMS, EMBRYO … It worked for a while, but gentle clues all the way round the rings were appearing and tempting us; ‘Inattentive sailor transported’ (ABSENT ), ‘Pigeon’s poor, poor imitator’ (EPIGON), ‘Land vehicle’ (ESTATE), ‘Edmund’s hooked finger placing explosive around Alabama’ (TALANT).

Yes! PROTON BEAM/PROTON BEAM appeared, heading in two directions. This was inspired! We began, appropriately, to hunt for particles and, equally appropriately, found them heading in opposite directions, an ELECTRON heading clockwise and an ANTI-ELECTRON anti-clockwise (that was the way it was in LEP, the previous machine). Sure enough, the GLUON, KAON and MUON were there (and, even in this scientific environment, Hedge-sparrow didn’t disappoint, there was the obligatory oenophile touch to get the GLUON, he ‘knocked back drink containing essence of plum’).

Suspecting that we were going to find LARGE HADRON COLLIDER in those extra letters produced by nineteen of the jumbles was a great help. I can imagine that this step of resolving the jumbles was slightly more difficult for solvers who are not, like us, actually more or less sitting on top of the thing and gazing at it daily. Still, we had a bit of a problem with ‘Stirling’s one striving to get Walter’s friend into public relations’ from EPILGRN. We guessed at ‘Gilpern’ and ‘Pengril’ (some sort of lady penguin?) before hitting on one that Chambers liked, PINGLER. (But it didn’t really matter did it? The letters were confirmed when we had extracted our HIGGS BOSON from the little circles and written it in the centre.)

CERN has to go around the outside edge and ‘Laboratory’ and ‘Particle Physics’ are already evident, so clearly Hedge-sparrow must be using the name that is commonly given to the Organisation Européenne pour la Recherche Nucléaire (European Organization for Nuclear Research) EUROPEAN LABORATORY FOR PARTICLE PHYSICS. We complete our outer circle and find that four letters are left for CERN, neatly at the bottom. Perhaps that explains the unusual symmetry of the circles where No. 1 is offset at the top.

I thought this was a lovely puzzle. Just the encouragement I needed to keep going. Many thanks, Hedge-sparrow.

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Auf Wiedersehen, by Loda

Posted by shirleycurran on 21 January 2011

Bang go my New Year resolutions to kick the habit of solving Listener crosswords, to read a good book on Friday evenings and to quit the blog. I down-loaded Loda’s Auf Wiedersehen just to glance … but a couple of delightful clues caught my eye and I was hooked again.

‘Quickly, say to them inside, “Alastrim” – it’s spread all over Oz’ (8) “Whatever could that be?” I asked the assembled company. We were celebrating Hogmanay at the time and the replies reflected the whisky consumption. “Rabbit excrement?” “Kangaroo dung?” “No, alastrim is some kind of disease – STD?” (no, not the telephone network!) and on it went. Of course, ‘Alastrim’ was the extra word giving two necessary As but VEGEMITE was delightful (VITE round EG and ‘EM).

Equally captivating as a clue (and mildly appropriate for Hogmanay) was ‘Get dry scrumpy in support group at one’s workplace’. Good to see that Loda upholds the oenophile Listener setter tradition – do they reject a crossword that has no healthy slarting of alcohol in the clues or solutions? What do we have here: TT in AA + IN with ‘scrumpy’ as the extra.

It was a steady solve of nicely transparent clues from that point on and the extra words stood out fairly obviously so that we soon had SALLY, NATALIA,  OTTO,  FRAU NOWAK and  FRAULEIN SCHROEDER as well as a ‘man shaving at the window, woman in kimono washing her hair’.

The difficult clues proved to be the ones where two words were clued, together with the extra letter, in a single clue but I eventually teased out, 11ac (B)ELATED 26ac RESIT(E)S 35ac PANDA(R) 10d (L)EAST 15d PART(I) 36d E(N)SILE – giving me BERLIN. A quick visit to Google confirmed that we were in the world of Sally Bowles and Christopher Isherwood’s ‘Goodbye Berlin’. Of course, the quotation was also there, ‘I am a camera with its shutter open …’

All that remained was to move the G of ‘GOODBYE’ into the cell where a clash had appeared (MANIA intersecting with CADI) and to highlight the little camera that had appeared. I suppose the G was intended to represent one of those small square pop-up viewfinders on old-fashioned cameras.

Did I say, ‘All that remained’? Those two letters CI had to move into the centre of the lens. “I see” – well, that’s IC cryptically, isn’t it? They had to appear in ‘thematic order’. Does that mean the cryptic theme – being a camera with an open shutter, so ‘seeing’ (I see) – or the author illustrated in the crossword, Christopher Isherwood? Dilemma! It seems to me that either solution could be defended – but I opted for Mr Isherwood.

Thank you, Loda. A fine, fair start to the year.

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Listener 4118: Auf Wiedersehen by Loda (or Setting Off from Base Camp)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 21 January 2011

Listener 4118 Base CampWell, it’s 1st January 2011, and that can only mean two things! Firstly, for those of you still striving for an all-correct Listener year, here we are in the foothills, with the long trek to the summit lying ahead of us. It doesn’t look too bad ahead, does it? A bit rocky perhaps, but we’ve come to expect that! Secondly, after having been short-changed last year with only 51 puzzles, this year it’s 53. OK, so that means it’s a slightly longer trek to the summit, but we like a challenge … don’t we?!

So the first puzzle of the year is by Loda, one of the more prolific setters, especially in the Inquistor and EV series. But who can forget his Listener from a couple of years back, In Clue Order, On and On with its umpteen hidden messages resulting in the infinity sign being drawn on the grid? Here we have what looks like a German puzzle, Auf Wiedersehen, and a grid with what looks like a hole in it. Oh no, not more cutting out so early in the year.

The preamble starts quite encouragingly … “In one cell, two answers clash”. Just one cell … a bit bizarre, but at least there’s only one of those damned clashes! Every clue contains an extra word from which the first and third letters spell out thematic material.

The first pass through all the clues gives me 14 REPINED, 19 MIRIAM (not Tom!), 32 SPOTTER, 40 OATS, 41 OCARINA and 42 SCIATIC for the acrosses. A rather lean 2 ELEGISE, 3 ELIXIR and 39 DRAT for the downs. 26ac is the next clue to be solved and provides the first of six with two definitions to words differing by a single letter. On initial reading, I assumed this meant these clues would lead to two words like CAT and COT, but in fact it turns out the words are like CAT and COAT, one having an extra letter over the other; 26ac is RESIT[E]S. These extra letters are destined to spell out something else thematic. 1dn LORIMERS and 1ac LEXEME are next, followed closely by 4dn MANIA and 17ac CADI and voilà we have the clashing letter. The new down word must be MANGA or MANNA or MANTA, but only MANGA gives a real across word, GADI, an Indian throne (which I haven’t heard of before). Thus we have C and I to be entered in the central circle but in an order still to be determined.


I think the grid was finished reasonably quickly (for me), probably just over of two hours. There were some interesting points for me on the way: like GADI, I’d not heard of 1 LEXEME or 37 PANDA[R] before, and it took me a few minutes to realise that 12dn being ..RMT. actually was a word, and a simple one at that: WARMTH. It reminded me of the pub quiz question: “What’s the only English word ending MT?” (Actually there are three, but all variations on the same root word.) Finally, I had to satisfy myself about 30dn UNHATS (Removes tarpaulin, eg, one’s holding around [grain] — tons, grain being the extra word). I kept trying to put UNS (one’s) around HA and T (tons), before realising that one’s holding = one is holding = one has.

I’d managed to get the two tableaux and five names from the extra words well before actually completing the grid. They were MAN SHAVING AT THE WINDOW and WOMAN IN KIMONO WASHING HER HAIR, followed by SALLY BOWLES, FRAU NOWAK, FAULEIN SCHROEDER, NATALIA and OTTO. I’m afraid these meant absolutely nothing to me, and mistakenly thought they might be ‘characters’ in paintings by an artist whose initials were IC, maybe Canaletto (no, he’s GC), Cezanne (PC) or Carravaggio (he’s actually MM de C). The extra letters in the two-definition clues spelt out BERLIN, so a German artist perhaps. Well Wiki failed to enlighten, so I tried the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, always a trusty friend of the Listener, but this time it provided nothing. In the end, I had to resort to Google, which came to the rescue with Christopher Isherwood and Goodbye to Berlin. So it was CI in the central cell. Little did I realise that the 28 contiguous cells that needed highlighting would be staring me in the face, not in some devious diagonal or circular shape, but in a straightforward 7×4 block around the central lens of the grid: I AM A CAMERA WITH ITS SHUTTER OPEN. So why did it take me over ten minutes to find it?!

Listener 4118 My EntryListener 4118 Nudge NudgeI think I was expecting slightly harder clues from Loda … his Inquisitors are generally pretty tough, I think. I must say that I thought some of the surface readings a bit odd (eg Quickly say to them inside, “[Alastrim] — it’s spread all over Oz”), but I liked the reference to Georgette Heyer and the priests getting high on Ribena!

A good solid start to the year, and a nice implementation of the theme from Loda. Not for the first time, a Monty Python sketch popped into my head. Here, it was the one where Eric Idle plays the man in the pub who is constantly annoying Terry Jones with his double entendres and constant utterance of “Know what I mean” and “Nudge, nudge” (see Chambers under nudge)! Here he is asking Jones if his wife is interested in photography … “Nudge, nudge, snap, snap, grin, grin, wink, wink, say no more”.


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Posted by Listen With Others on 14 January 2011

Zaphod has kindly posted a setter’s blog for his soon-to-be-published puzzle. However, it is proving infinitely improbable to predict exactly where it will appear at Listen With Others, but hopefully it will be somewhere close by below (or above). I hope that those of you who are fans of Zaphod will appreciate it, as well as those of you who will actually complete this excursion into the 5th dimension. Normal reality will resume as soon as possible.


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