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Archive for July, 2011

Listener 4144: Shackleton’s Location³ (or Eagles on the Chinese Road)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 22 July 2011

Ah, one of my favourite setters this week. Remember his last? Dah-dah-dah-daaaaah!! This week it was a bit of help with moving house, which is excellent timing since my house is currently on the market. A carte blanche grid, and the preamble tells us that every clue has a misprint in its definition, and there will be one cell holding two letters and four others holding none. It also starts “Clues (which are presented in the normal order) …”, and I’ll remind you of this in next week’s blog. At least we were given entry lengths!

I was sort of off to a reasonable start with 1ac Where you might find capitans, whose latter half set about historic city harbour. The corrected misprint was obviously capstans and I was fairly confident that it would be something-PORT with an UR in there somewhere. The surface reading was a superb piece of misdirection for me, and it would be about an hour before I entered TAPE TRANSPORT, the old city being Petra.

I tried the other 13-letter entries. 51ac was an obvious anagram of a serene single. I didn’t use any help for this, so I wasn’t surprised that SALES ENGINEER didn’t immediately jump off the page, and would also be about an hour away from being solved. 1dn A spicy mixture in pastry, in the manner of Greek tastes; it wasn’t an anagram, but I remember a pantry / pastry misprint in a fairly recent puzzle … oh yes, Dysart’s Trailblazers :sad:. No joy, so on to the last long entry, 12dn Fox bolts with this equestrian sportsman jumping ditches as mist dissipated. This was likely to be an anagram of equestrian sportsman minus the letters of as mist, and a bit of doodling got the SPANNER bit which left TORQUE to go before it, the definition being Fix bolts with this.

Having tried the long entries, whose positions in the diagram made them natural to attempt to solve first, I concentrated on the first few acrosses and downs. A few minutes later, and I had a few pencilled entries peppering the top of the grid, including 13ac ATELIER, 14ac ORFEO, 3dn PEDIMENTAL and 6dn REINSERTED. Progress was reasonably steady from this point, and after about two hours the grid was about three-quarters complete. The correct letters for the misprints were beginning to reveal a couple of locations: Key West and Florida by the looks of it.

At this point, I had also discovered the square that contained two letters. The last letter of 7dn ARAGORN and the first letter of 31dn LANOLIN shared the central square in the grid. Determining how a line should appropriately divide them was still unknown. Plus, the four isolated squares were there just waiting to be filled.

About 30 minutes later and the grid was complete. Now, I have to say that this week the grid seemed particularly pokey (only 7½ cms square); how George can see messages in his grids is a mystery to me :wink:. Anyway, the first Shackleton PDM came as I saw that the grid bars made letters, and I doodled H I E G M B I W A Y. The correct letters spelt out Sloppy Joe’s Bar, Key West; The Ritz Bar, Paris; El Floridita, Havana, and having been to his house in Key West a few years ago HEMINGWAY was staring me in the face. Well almost … the central square needed to be divided in two diagonally to form an N, and the B I had to be read as 61, the “overlapping thematic year” of his death.

If you ask me, the preamble gave a bit too much away with its reference to a “resonant title”, and FOR WHOM THE BELL TOLLS took only a few seconds to reveal by filling the empty squares with F, H, B and S. A more sadistic preamble wouldn’t have mentioned the isolated cells, and would have just stated that in the final grid there were no empty cells but there was the title of a relevant work!

As usual with Shackleton, the clues were faultless with some excellent surface readings. My favourites were the fox-hunting clue at 12dn, mentioned above, and 35ac In depression there’s time for whiskey — single malt, giving STAG (single male); and the sneakiest was undoubtedly 50ac Greet international and domestic trading partners for INTENSE – Greet for Great and INT + ESNE (a domestic) with N and S switched round.

And finally I was reminded of a day about forty years ago when I was looking over the shoulder of someone doing the Guardian crossword. Across the middle of the grid was an entry that I was sure he’d made up. “What’s ERNES  THE  MINGWAY?” I asked!!

Happy days!

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The Bottom Line by Charybdis (Grow thin, Population!)

Posted by shirleycurran on 15 July 2011

I know that there are setting styles: I believe there are solving styles too. Looking back at Charybdis’ The Bottom Line, the clues all seem so transparent and logical, yet I, Numpty 1 (busy packing for a 20-hour drive home in humid 35° weather) found this one really difficult, while Numpty No 2 simply filled in the answers and had an almost complete grid in a couple of hours.

I glanced over his shoulder and completed the quotation “Something wicked this way comes”, and jointly we pieced together “We need to see a downturn at ten!”  We had a rather strange word at 10 NO?TA?U?OP. Obviously, if it was going to perform a downturn, we had better examine it the other way up. Aha! POPULATION!

Now those squares with multiple letters in them began to make sense. We had SPEC(tres) and (gutt)IES giving us SPECIES, FO(otie) and (flo)OD(water) giving us FOOD, (fat)WA and (typeset)TER providing the WATER and (Kung)FU and (evang)EL the FUEL.

Soon Numpty 2 was giving me a lecture about the linear nature of the increase in those four, and the exponential nature of the other part of the Malthusian argument – the growth in population that appeared on ‘The Bottom Line’ and climbing up to 10. Surprise, surprise, we turned the word down and real words still appeared. Cleeever!

Obviously MALTHUS (MAL – ‘Something wicked’ and THUS ‘this way’) had to replace that peculiar word we had slotted in at 19 across. (‘A thematically relevant name to replace the entry at 19’).

Food, fuel, water and thus species are going to run out, so we obviously had to delete those, leaving just one letter in each of those lights (sometimes resulting in non-words – that was a shame but it isn’t fair to expect miracles of compilers).

So there it was; a Friday finish with just that rather strange METICAL to relate to its clue, ‘Quote encapsulating capital prevailing mood’. What has the currency of Mozambique got to do with that? Capital? Well, a thousand miles further away from that solve and two days on, I have finally understood that the clue is (as the preamble so succinctly said) a cryptic one, so CITE had to ‘encapsulate’ LIMA (the capital) to give CLIMATE (prevailing mood) and that was to be cryptically changed.

Thanks to Charybdis. I thought this one all came together very attractively with a convincing theme.

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Listener 4143: The Bottom Line by Charybdis (or What Goes Up Doesn’t Necessarily Come Down)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 15 July 2011

Charybdis is always entertaining … remember Out to Work last year with its Jack jumping out of the box? Great fun! Here we had a seemingly straightforward grid, but some sort of graph to find which had several consequences to be found. Then there was a quotation which was the clue to a relevant name which had to replace the entry at 19ac. Already my head was beginning to spin, so on with the clues.

Well, I don’t remember Out of Work being this easy to start with, but I probably had the most fruitful first pass through the clues for many a year, with very little need to refer to Mrs B. A dozen acrosses and at least as many downs, including three answers that were too long for their entries in the grid. And all within 35 minutes. I couldn’t help thinking that my come-uppance was lurking round the corner, especially since the extra letters generated by the wordplay currently looked uninspiring.

Twenty minutes later, and another eight clues had succumbed, and the hidden message now started ••M•T••••W•C•ED••ISWAYC•MES and the quotation from Macbeth was there: “(By the pricking of my thumbs,) Something wicked this way comes“. Two book titles in one here: the first by Agatha Christie, the second by Ray Bradbury. How long before every line in Shakespeare has been used as a book title?

Unfortunately, this didn’t really give me any idea as to the theme, and I certainly couldn’t solve it as a clue to the name to go in at 19ac. Needless to say, the solving process slowed down after the initial flourish, and it took over an hour to finish the grid. The last clues I got were 6dn TYPESETTER, 15ac PEST and 27ac FATWA (I couldn’t get Pan Am out of my head having forgotten about poor old TWA, which, by the way, was a really good airline).

There were eight answers which were too long for their entry length: GUTTIES/SPECTRES, EVANGEL/KUNG FU, FATWA/TYPESETTER and FOOTIE/FLOODWATER. Here SPECIES, FUEL, WATER and FOOD had to be removed from the clashing squares, to represent their probable disappearance sometime in the (relatively near?) future. This left just T, G, T and O in the grid.

Oh, and did I mention how much trouble 19ac itself gave me? Having got it starting with an M, I didn’t see CLIMATE until METICAL was the only entry that would fit the crossing letters. And there was Climate Change!

The remainder of the extra letters from the clues now spelt out We need to see a downturn at ten. 10dn, unclued, was NO•TA•U•OP. This was obviously not a word going down, but it didn’t take long to see POPULATION going up, completing the rather depressing graph started by the bottom row GROWTH IN HUMAN POPULATION. The message told us to reverse the growth and enter POPULATION downwards from 10. I highlighted it in a rather disgusting shade of brown to indicate the scorched earth of our future world! (I suspect this was lost on John.)

Finally, the name which needed to replace my hard-fought-for answer at 19ac. I’m afraid I hadn’t heard of him, but he’s there in Chambers under Malthusian. Thomas Malthus was a nineteenth century scholar who wrote, among other works, An Essay on the Principle of Population, an early warning that everybody obviously ignored! And his name: MAL (something wicked) THUS (this way) comes.

So thanks to Charybdis for another very entertaining, if depressing, puzzle.

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Noye (Not Yet) by Samuel – jus wha he numpies waned!

Posted by shirleycurran on 8 July 2011

Samuel certainly earns a double numpty/nudnick vote of confidence this week. This was the crossword I have been pleading for for a few weeks, as we struggled with Sabre’s Knight’s moves or looked in dismay at those cartes blanches. We are still nearer the Sahara than London, with very limited resources and right from that delightful streamlined preamble, we were hooked.

‘Noye,’ we said, ‘that’s drowned in the local speak: is this one going to be about Ophelia?’ But it was not to be. There was something very slightly tantalising about that preamble (or should I say analising? No, ha would be cheaing, as we didn’ spo wha i was unil much laer when we realized here wasn’ a single EE in he enire compilaion excep for ‘THREE WORDS’ and ‘TWO WORDS’ and wha a giveaway HREE WORDS would have been!)

In retrospect, that was probably the most satisfactory preamble of the year so far. Three and a bit lines with

a comment about across answers being penned in and suffering (some kind of drought-affected sheep?) – but no, not the RASTRUM type of pen of clue 15ac, but just a simple pen (But does Samuel really believe we have the confidence to work in PEN? We’ve seen Dave’s little red pencil stub already this year and mine is even tinier.)

It didn’t take a genius to see that we were going to remove a letter (or even two or three) from each across clue. The fact that it could be more than one suggested that it was going to be the same letter.

‘Each down clue has a similar change.’ Were we going to add or remove that letter? Fairly quickly we saw that ‘Rue woman changing hands for sail’ suggested VERA changing to VELA. Vera is a ‘TRUE woman. That T seemed to be appearing in a few of our across solutions, LOVAT – ‘Vessel following slow away from borders is bluish green’ – VAT after (s)LO(w) and SMELTER ‘Ore processor sensed erbium’.

TENTS clinched it ‘Glaswegian heeds old fashioned probes’. Two Ts had to go, so our theory was confirmed. From here on it was magic as we added Ts to down clues and produced relatively approachable conundrums, though I have to have a grumble, I wasn’t happy with the definition part of ‘Over one African Queen’s overwhelmed by SARS’ leading to HEREROES (presumablyHEROES round ER).

Solving the across clues and entering words with the Ts removed was not so easy. I wonder whether that was the same for everyone else or whether it is a feature of our solving ability (or lack of it). However, the grid was soon complete with lots of enjoyment along the way.

That repeated clue at 12 and 31ac, ‘Vessel following slow away from borders is bluish green’, producing both LOVAT and LACTEAL [(s)LAC(k)+TEAL] was one moment of delight. We are not naive enough to believe the Listener Editors have made an error – no, this was a touch of Samuel subtlety – and what fun.

TINATION had appeared down the centre of the grid when we put a couple of Ts in those barred-off cells (just where we were expecting something to appear) and completing the word with that PROCRAS gave us a fine T in our grid and tied nicely into the theme, that obviously had nothing to do with Ophelia after all.

‘Nine more cells require shading, which reveals a germane warning phrase; a pair of words also modified as Across answers are.’ The usual head-scratching. Nothing was obvious. Were we going to put STITCH into TIME or find some sort of CARPE DIEM in our grid. Obviously these words had to have at least one T in them and to fit a concept into two words, Latin was going to be the best option – English equivalents like ‘Thief of time’ would tend to be three words.

We opted for a swim in the pool that was edging above 30 degrees by now (and the sun was edging over the yard arm sooo…) and then Numpty 2 gloated, ‘I’ve got it’. There it was – TEMPUS FUGIT – or EMPUS FUGI, flying like a natty little pair of wings down below the T (or time) that had been escaping from clues and solutions and even the preamble. I’d beer do a Lisen wih Ohers blog and say how much we liked Samuel’s offering, I said.’

‘Don’t you mean Tinsel with Otters?’

Hank you, Samuel. Delighful!

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Listener 4142: Noye by Samuel (or Don’t Expect this Blog to be Written in the Style of the Puzzle)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 8 July 2011

It has only been six months since Samuel’s last Listener outing, and that was the wonderful advent calendar at Christmas. In that case we had two grids to fill, and then paste one on top of the other. Here it’s just a single grid, but two squares in the central column are completely barred off. “Across answers suffer from being penned in”, whatever that means, and downs have a similar change. Plus there looks like a lot of highlighting to look forward.

I started on the acrosses, but failing to get 2 or 6, I realised I was being dumb, and switched tack to the down clues since they would be entered as is. 1dn, nothing, 2dn nothing, 3dn … now don’t ask me why I looked at Lain aside, roll is excessive and thought Lain could be Latin! I hadn’t seen anything fishy with Hear or Miser, even though they started their respective clues. And they too could have a T added, as could plans, Pi, Seer, etc. Well that took all of 90 seconds, and I guessed that the across entries all had one or more Ts removed.

1dn was ORDEAL, and 2dn was an anagram of M (French Monsieur) + FIRSAROMA but I refused to use an anagram finder to solve it; this meant that SAMARIFORM had to wait quite a while to be solved. I decided to concentrate on the top left quadrant to see where that led, and got 11ac [T]RANSFIX, 17ac AR[T]EFAC[T] and 20ac LI[T]HE, all of which confirmed my idea of how the acrosses had to be entered. 6dn OXIC had me worried for a bit, since I couldn’t find it in Chambers, but I finally reread the preamble to find that it was only in the Oxford Dictionary of English.

I finished the grid in about 2½ hours. I’m sure I should have been quicker. Perhaps the feeling of dèja vu over Vessel following slow away from borders is bluish-green (7) and Vessel following slow away from borders is bluish-green (5) was the culprit this week. This was either (S)LAC(K) + TEAL = LACTEAL (vessel) or (S)LO(W) + VAT = LOVAT (bluish-green). Lovely stuff! How premediated was this, I wonder?

However, my favourite clue had to be 35 Delia’s closing, overcome by schedule for baking day (7): ROASTER, with its superb misdirection of baking day.

Now for the highlighting. I read the preamble again (you can’t read a Listener preamble too many times): “Nine cells require shading, which reveals a germane warning phrase; a pair of words also modified as across answers are.” Reading across the rows, PROCRAS was soon found, and TINATION dropping down the centre to form a large T; very pleasing to see the only two Ts in the grid in the barred off squares. And so we had PROCRASTINATION IS THE THIEF OF TIME, and although this has appeared elsewhere in the not-too-distant past, this was an excellent implementation of the theme.

It took me some time to decipher “a pair of words also modified as across answers are”! Are what?! Perhaps it was referring to the two identically worded clues to LACTEAL and LOVAT. Of course what I had done was to read the colon between “… warning phrase” and “a pair of words …” as a semi-colon, and thus two loosely connected phrases! In fact, the second part was an explanation of how the phrase was to be found in the grid, and then it wasn’t too hard to see in the bottom left and bottom right corners diagonally: [T]EMPUS FUGI[T]. The title of the puzzle was NO[T] YE[T].

I must confess that it was only after I’d put my pencil and highlighter down that I realised that the letter T was totally missing in the preamble and all the clues. (It would perhaps have been too much of a giveaway to have “Primary reference is Chambers; 6dn is in ODE.”)

A fine puzzle, as we have come to expect from Samuel. I guess it was somewhat on the easy side, but after recent trials that was quite welcome. And lastly, apologies for not having the time or patience to write this blog without the letter T … it did cross my mind for about a nanosecond!

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