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Archive for April, 2011

Rattle by Augeas – Partlet

Posted by shirleycurran on 15 April 2011

The numpties’ first reaction to Augeas ‘Rattle’ was gloom when we saw that we had only 26 clues for the 38 entries. What’s more, we were going to find extra words and have a final ambiguity to resolve.

However, our spirits were lifted as the grid filled with astonishing speed, especially the down clues, and republic ?? appeared. For once, it was an advantage to possess an outdated copy of the ODQ. Nancy Mitford’s “An aristocracy in a republic is like a chicken whose head has been cut off. It may run about in a lively way but in fact it is dead” was clearly what we needed, (does a headless chicken really run about in a lively way? I recall something about the first step being the one that counts!)

We had two missing entries and the daunting prospect of filling all those empty lights with beheaded chickens, clearly running about all over our grid.

I can’t say it often enough, “Thank you Mrs Bradford!” She didn’t give us much in the way of chickens, but the hens were invaluable. (I come from a poultry-farming family but some of those were new to me!)

Yet again, the endgame was far more challenging than the grid fill, especially as we had a few candidates for the six-letter chickens. We had the added problem of needing two elusive clues, 33ac ‘Edmund’s bird’s breast … unique activity in chine follows (7)’ It sounded rather naughty, and, indeed, was mildly so, when we found TIT … MOSE. We had to look up the ‘mose’ bit to be sure.

D-Mark should have been obvious, ‘Country loses unit — it used to circulate in its southern neighbour (5)’ Clearly we were looking for a currency, but it wasn’t until we had fitted in and sorted out our SULTAN that we saw it (Denmark, losing EN).

We had initially attempted to simply fit birds into the grid, as ?NDO? suggested a headless condor, and a manx shearwater fitted those letters in the central column. That was the habitual numpty red herring. Chickens proved to be far more palatable and we struggled until we had only odd bags of letters left after ticking off the letters of A RUN ON GUINEA (fowl, I presume). There was a bit of juggling of the final N, N, O and I and we had a happy grid – but such potential for error!


So our Rattle was not Shakespeare’s ‘temple-haunting martlet’ but a ‘partlet’.

Thank you, Augeas, for a fine challenge.

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Listener 4130: Augeas’s Rattle (or Animal Farm)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 15 April 2011

Augeas is the third new setter this year in the Listener stable (pun intended). The Augean stables housed vast numbers of cattle, and the title seemed to shout out a misprint; either that or a tailless ‘rattler’, so a couple of animal references before I’d even read the preamble. Little did I know that the theme would turn out to be related to another animal.

With only an extra word in every clue to contend with, I was much relieved after the multiple clue types of recent weeks. I solved over half the acrosses in less than thirty minutes. Half of the down clues were the next to go, and I was quickly on the way to completing the grid. In hindsight, I’m surprised how easy some of the clues were. The two long anagrams, T MANN ECHT plus E N and ELLAS WORSE plus the drug E pretty much jumped off the page when I sribbled them down: they were ENCHANTMENT and SLOW-RELEASE respectively. And Very small [pointless] war between Germany and France didn’t even try to camouflage ‘war’ as ‘conflict’ or ‘struggle’ for DWARF.

The only real difficulty was with the unclued entries, most of which crossed each other. This resulted in only about half of their letters being checked, and it was necessary to wait for the quotation to reveal itself, from the first letters of the extra words, before any further progress could be made with them. The beginning of the quotation was finally revealed as “An aristocracy in a republic is which was finished with like a chicken whose head has been cut off; it may run about in a lively way, but in fact it is dead”, from Nancy Mitford.

So, the unclued entries were anagrams of chickens after their initial letters had been dropped. For once I found Chambers Crossword Dictionary far more useful than Bradford’s. Using the first letters of the unclued entries, A RUN ON GUINEA (note chicken run and guinea fowl), plus a bit of logic, all but the unchecked letters of 4ac, 20ac, 34ac, 1dn and 17dn could be deduced. These were then required to be entered alphabetically. This sounded a bit weak when I first read the preamble, but I found it an enjoyable little endgame. The chickens and corresponding unclued entries required were as follows, with the letters entered alphabetically underlined:


I needed help from Tea to resolve the title. Far from being bovine related, it represents an anagram of Partlet, a hen, without its P.

All in all then, I’d like to thank Augeas for a nice straightforward puzzle. I suspect that this was deliberate planning by the editors given what was to manifest itself the following week!!

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Letters Lament by Tangram

Posted by shirleycurran on 8 April 2011

Are the numpties becoming numptier or has the new team of vetters decided to select more and more difficult challenges each week? I dread to think what sort of carte blanche, double numerical playfair squares with misprints in every clue and three quarters of the clues in invisible ink they will be throwing at us by the back end of the year!

We met Tangram with his (her?) eightsome reel in Crossword a couple of months ago. Is this a first Listener Tangram?

Like that eightsome reel, this was tough!  Some clues yielded their secrets quickly. ‘One of Finnish stock rarely used command to lower head’ (ESTH with the H moving to the foot for ‘hest’), ‘Clumsy? Sheer dead drunk’ HAM + MERE + D, ‘Fruit tart consumed has nothing to replace energy’ TOM ATE with O replacing E, ‘Sounds possibly made by special wartime entertainment group’ S + ENSA, and so on. Of course, these turned out to be the type A clue where the initial letter of the solution was needed for the quotation.

The numpties had more trouble finding our letters latent and misprints but admired the subtlety of using an anagram of ‘verdant foliage’ with ‘oft’ removed and producing WALDGRAVINE. What seemed to be an extra ‘in’ – ‘Rebutted in love, I, painfully eating away’ held us up for a while but we finally opted for omitting the N of EROSION and that gave us our Y in 31d ‘take refuge …or in this road trip with top fully down YOURT.

SHELLEY suddenly seemed like a probable culprit – self indulgent Shelley, and the title was prompting us that this was a lament. We already had the bare bones of a quotation about ‘Win… come and gone …’ and the memory plays strange tricks. One numpty recalled the entire quotation and (admit it) Google quickly confirmed that this was from Adonais, ‘Winter is come and gone,/But grief returns with the revolving year’.

Suddenly we understood why TWELVEMOETH (with an E misprint in the solution) had to be ‘revolved’. Clearly we had to find some synonym of ‘grief’ returned somewhere in the grid.

If I say the rest was straight-forward, it would be a downright lie. We struggled till after midnight and still failed to understand 20ac, ‘More strikingly frocked, inspiration for a Darin hit’ – we needed a C misprint either in the clue of the solution and I was wondering whether Bobby Darin’s ‘Baby Face’ was going to produce a FACER – but with a misprint in the solution, what could a FAMER be? It is strange how we fail to spot the ‘French-based’ clues, when we are using French every day. I think there is an automatic brain cut out that comes into operation that blocks the French possibilites, even when they could be of use to us – as with LA MER.

TENE, for the returned grief was our very last clue to go into the grid. Once we had understood that the misprint had to be in the solution, it all came together. ‘Sorrow no more, take refuge in wine’ TENT, good Spanish red wine. Nice to see that Tangram shares the Listener setter oenophilic tendencies (I promise that wasn’t intended as a comment on presence at the bar after the annual dinner but here’s a rather woozy photo of some of the Listen With Others team, past and current, taken by the other numpty! Erwinch represents, of course, one notable absence from the line-up.)

Thanks to Tangram for an extrememly difficult but very fair and respectable challenge.

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Listener 4129: Letters Lament by Tangram (or Back in Time, Sadly)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 8 April 2011

Tangram is the second setter this year with a debut puzzle, following on from Navajo (and not counting Corvettes, who was a collaboration between three old hands). Three clue types this week, Normal, Letters Latent and Misprints; the misprints could be in either the definition or in the entry itself (so four clue types really!). In fact, the Letters Latent clues could be identified straight away because the number of letters in the answer, as opposed to the entry, were given. All this would lead to a quotation, four words of which would be missing and would be represented by two clue answers requiring further treatment in the grid.

I found the across clues quite tough, with only 14 HORNI[E]R, 18 SENSA and 25 ANISE (for ANIME) coming to light first time through. If I had solved 35ac at this stage, it would have made life much easier later on. The entry was obviously an anagram of LOVE THEM WET, and looking at it now, I can’t believe I didn’t get it!

The down clues were marginally more forgiving: 5 [W]AITERS (not that I was 100% sure of that, as they may recommend fillets was a bit vague), 6 INDICAN, 11 FOS[T]ERING, 13 TELE-something (?), 16 ESOTERIC, 19 SERRATE and 24 LEETLE (second time in three weeks). At least I had a presence in all four quadrants. From there I gradually finished the grid with some tough clues on the way. I especially liked 22ac OR E’EN Before even a surprise declaration, ruff King and 4dn ROARED One, about to tuck into perch, chundered (for thundered). It didn’t help that I originally entered LANDGRAVINE at 1ac!

And so back to 35ac, and in the process 29dn which had been causing me problems. I had finally got TWELVEMONTH (but with an E for the N on entry), and that fitted nicely with the last E of SERRATE, the last E of LEETLE and the E of MISS[H]APE. However, it didn’t fit the M of INT[E]RIM, the last L of LOCAL or T of [Y]OURT! It all worked nicely, though, if it were entered as ETEOMEVLEWT! The seasonal quotation that had emerged was “Winter is come and gone, But [grief returns] with the [revolving year]” from Shelley’s Adonais. So there was the revolving year at 35ac, and the word for grief in reverse appeared as I resolved my problem with 29dn. This was TENE (with T for the second E on entry), an old word for grief, that didn’t mesh with the E of [G]I[G]LET unless it was to be reversed (upwards) on entry.

So the “further treatment” required by the preamble was to reverse the two entries. However, part of me wanted to correct the misprints in the process! After all, we weren’t really returning the year and grief, but misprints of them. There were, I thought, two reasons for not doing this. Firstly, it would result in two other entries being changed: 28ac into ENERNT and 19dn into SERRATN, and secondly, “further” implied doing more, and not also undoing what had already been done (the misprints)!

So, a good debut puzzle from Tangram, although I feel sorry for those solvers for whom Bobby Darin’s La Mer caused problems … especially if they opted for GAMER instead!

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Listener 4128, Ringtone: Setter’s Blog by Trev

Posted by Listen With Others on 2 April 2011

I’d asked Jago at the 2010 Dinner to aim for 12th March this year, as it would coincide with no 4128, the 1,300th (25 years) puzzle check since Mike Rich handed over the reins in 1986. Nobody else would have been aware of the milestone if I didn’t mention it, so I did.

It was only later in the year that I thought it would be nice if 4128 were a Trev. I’m not sure when or how the idea of anagrammed elements came up – probably seeing an example in some puzzle.

I’m not a techie, so the preparation was all manual, first checking for all possibilities via Chambers Anagrams. Next came the grid. It is beyond me to produce a grid as I go along; I have to construct it first, in this case including several 8-letter entries (the largest anagrams) to give maximum scope. Then it was just a slog, with Chambers Words and Crossword Completer to help. I would have liked to get a tenth element in, but a satisfactory grid emerged with nine. I had really tried hard to include SEMILUNE (selenium) but couldn’t. The final total of the atomic numbers was never going to be a significant figure, and I rather enjoyed the prospect of solvers wondering if they’d missed one (or more) and crossing their fingers until the solution was published.

In writing clues my equal priorities are accuracy, soundness and surface reading. I hope all were achieved (with thanks to the editors for ironing out a few faults).

With my checker’s hat on, my favourite puzzles are those which ‘Give ‘Em A Chance To Go Wrong’ (FAIRLY!). Here my schadenfreude was rewarded with several dozen solvers producing 40 different incorrect totals (by no means all of them under 489; the highest was 1,522). In addition, a few dozen fell into the deliberate trap (but with a watertight clue) of ADIEUS for ADIEUX.

I hope the puzzle was enjoyed, at least by those who got it right.


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