Listen With Others

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Diary of a Failure (or Back to Square One)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 6 Jul 2011

I hope that regular visitors to Listen With Others will forgive this posting, a self-indulgent blog if ever there was one, but one that is a necessary part of my healing process. I’m sure that I will find it therapeutic, maybe even cathartic, and hopefully will enable me to start from square one all over again.

For those of you who missed my blog last week on Listener 4141, Trailblazers by Dysart, it is still available below, and is my first Listener failure for just over 2½ years (I believe). Not that I’m alone in falling after a long winning streak. Of those whom I joined in the all-correct list for 2009, most failed to make it the following year, with one stumbling after a run of 182 without error, and another after 168.

However, having taken over Listen With Others from Chris Lancaster, I feel as though I am on a pedestal each week, with my solving experience available for all to see. (I’m sure that Shirley feels the same!) Of course there is a big difference between making a silly little mistake, or transcription error that some solvers confess to, and not getting the main idea of the endgame. I remember a few years back putting GASPS instead of GASPY, when a simple analysis of the clue would have told me I was wrong. Getting one wrong on the scale of Trailblazers is a whole different kettle of fish. It feels like having been knocked off the pedestal, put in the stocks and having rotten tomatoes thrown at me. Not that anyone has had anything but sympathetic words for my hiccup, but I’m looking forward to the annual statistics to see how many others failed to solve this puzzle. From comments at the CWC message board and also at (deep breath!) AnswerBank, it has been easy for me to get the impression that I am alone in not getting this one. However, in the ten years from 2001 to 2010, there have only been four puzzles where there were less than ten incorrect entries, so I’m guessing I’m not.

So why did I have such a problem with Father Brown? I think it was not realising that the phrases ‘five-letter sequence of letters’ and ‘seven-letter sequence of letters’ were used for a reason, namely that what they referred to were not words! Obviously BLUE X wasn’t a word, but I failed to take that forward to the replacement sequence. Getting something in my head and not being able, or not thinking it necessary, to move on, I always find tough. With a lot of endgames, if you’re on the wrong track, trying to look at a problem in a different light is tricky. And in the Listener, always be suspicious of strange wording – it’s that way for a reason!

Friends have asked me why I undergo the weekly torture of attempting a long all-correct run. Well, as someone who was rubbish at school sports, especially the dreaded Friday afternoon/evening cross-country run (yes, they frequently finished in the dark), the chance of being in the vanguard of anything is totally invigorating. Of course, I’m getting on a bit in years and a 30-year all-correct run is quite (!) unlikely, but starting with Samuel’s Noye I’ll give it another bash.

Congratulations to the two Ascot Gold Cup winners that I voted for: Kea in 2009 and Shackleton in 2010. I won’t have a vote this year, but if the first half of 2011 is anything to go by, it’ll be a close contest. And here are some over the last 2½ years that have caused me most grief or panic.

4031 Much Ado About Nothing by Shackleton Making sure that all the coloured squares of the Jackson Pollock rendition were correct
4036 Base Jog by Brimstone The numerical with 714 and 715 being Ruth-Aaron pairs
4048 Rules of Construction by Poat with its 8×8 word square
4052 Question by Aedites “What is a … church?” except that, like many others, I put “campanile”. Personally I think we should have been marked wrong for that!
4061 50-50 by Phi A really tough puzzle
4075 Square-bashing by Arden A subtle numerical trap at 1ac, with Left and Right being entered under the grid
4090 Refrain by Dysart Long John Silver’s LEFT BOOT
4104 Merchandise by Adam A hidden Mutton-Pie message in every third letter of the columns
4109 Not a Black and White Decision by Brock Greenfield and brownfield sites
4114 Three-Square by Elap Another numerical minefield, this time triangular numbers
4120 Cross-country by Mynot That red and white Swiss flag
4126 Arthurian Legend by Corvettes Where not accurately reading the preamble made this harder work than it should have been
4140 Jumping to Conclusion by Sabre The one that should have tripped me up, but didn’t need to!

Looking through my records for the last 2½ years has made me realise how spectacularly good the Listener series still is with a consistently high quality and some superb puzzles. So thanks to all the Listener setters and vetters for maintaining this great tradition.

And finally, congratulations to all those of you who were successful with Trailblazers, and to Dysart for a really fine puzzle. I look forward to our next tussle, Andy.

3 Responses to “Diary of a Failure (or Back to Square One)”

  1. Simon Long said

    Hi Dave,

    Please accept my commiserations on the end of your run – however, 2 and a half years without a mistake is an achievement to be proud of, and one that very few solvers manage. A bit demoralising to go back to the beginning and start again – when my run comes to an end, as it surely must at some point (and very nearly did most recently with Sabre, not to mention a couple of others this year), I’m not sure I’ll be able to look a Listener in the face for some time!

    Interesting to see your list of problem puzzles – I came very close to submitting an incorrect solution on Arden’s Square-Bashing, and I struggled hugely with both Brock and Adam.

    All the best for the future, and congrats on two and a half years!


  2. Simon

    Thanks for your words of sympathy. I forgot to mention in my blog how utterly impressed I am by the run of all-corrects notched up by you, Neil T and others. I have wondered for some time how a failure would affect my Listener solving … so far I consider it a minor (!) inconvenience and hope that in January 2014, all being well, I will pass my current record.

    I hope that your successful run continues, and that we can meet up sometime, either at a Listener Setters’ DInner or at one of the other crossword shindigs!


  3. shirley curran said

    Yes, to manage the Sabre then be tripped up by the Dysart is really tough but, from the point of view of LWO, you are appreciated for keeping things running and for your invaluable crossword data base, Dave, not because your name was up near the top of that list of ‘all corrects’. That is a more personal thing, I know, but there must surely be some relief at not having that stress every Friday.

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