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Archive for August, 2011

Listener 4148: More Collusion by The Magpie

Posted by erwinch on 19 August 2011

A second Listener outing for the mighty duo and we were reintroduced to the Brains Trust of Bright Spark, Clever Clogs and Smartypants who all appeared in the first, Collusion, in 2008.  I had a look at my file but could not fathom Collusion at all – I would have had to solve it again to understand the theme.  My comments were: Great! Hardest of the year to date (it was only mid-March but at the 2009 Dinner in Fife it received an honourable mention in the AGC deliberations).  So, I was expecting more of the same, as the title suggested, but the first grid turned out to be a surprisingly straightforward fill:
How do two people go about setting a puzzle?  Do they perhaps each write a full set of clues and then decide on the best?  Well I would bet that Pieman was responsible for 16ac since it contains his now trademark as = a’s:
Means to forget as is going slow (6) verges – (A)VER(A)GES
Only those who have not been paying attention are going to be caught out by this device again.
On to the second grid where we had to pick out an unnecessary letter from each clue.  In many cases this was by no means an obvious choice, starting with 1ac:
One hunting meant to use this for storing plucked catch? (7, two words) game bag – GAME + BAG
Either E, on or N, meat would fit and before I had even solved the clue I fell for the seductive O, string (plucked).
Others I was just blind to and did not get until they were used to replace a portion of the first grid:
17dn What might produce eel or remover in the old world? (7) eloiner – ELO IN ER gives eel or
I considered E, el and R, remove but  failed to spot L, word although the reading of the clue does not make a lot of sense with either world or word.
So, where to place these unnecessary letters?  A 5×7 rectangle read in clue order, Across then Down, replacing the centre of the grid was my first thought:
However, for some inexplicable reason I placed the start (the NW corner) in row 4, column 4 instead of row 3, column 4.  I would have finished three days earlier had I been less careless.  Instead I went on to fill the rectangles by grid order (1, 2, 3, 4 ….) and also tried placing them elsewhere and at 45°, etc.  I became fixated on the idea that the centre column of the second grid would read: ?THIS?PLAN?, to be changed to give the third and final grid.  All of this was to no avail and I was on the verge of giving up for the second time this year (after Sabre’s Jumping to Conclusion) until a friend told me that this was a clever puzzle but on the easy side for a Listener.
He was right!  Returning to my first thought, the letters now slotted in smoothly:
The jumbled letters of this plan were immediately apparent, making the finding of the third grid and solution a formality:
One quibble that I have with the preamble is that they did not all arrive at the same solution and so did not think alike, at least not until they colluded.
Well, I was kicking myself for making such a meal of the second grid.  We know that our solving ability will inevitably decline with age but not yet surely.  I cannot even blame the distraction of an all absorbing Tour de France since that had finished the weekend before.  Let us just say that I allowed the setters’ formidable reputation to get to me – thank you both for a splendid puzzle.

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OZ and WR by Theod. Dvandva!

Posted by shirleycurran on 12 August 2011

As this rolled off the printer and a longer and longer preamble appeared (were we going to get any clues this week? The one with no clues is yet to come – or has it appeared before my Listener days?) my face fell; Playfair! Ah well, nil desperandum. That comes later!

One redeeming fact about the crosswords with knight’s moves, playfair or invisible ink gimmicks seems to be that the clues have to be relatively straight-forward in order to give solvers a chance to get somewhere. This one with that strange title, ‘OZ and WR’ was no exception.

We worked our way steadily through the clues, debating which was the extra word giving us those two key letters. Some of those extra words were not too evident to us, causing a sense of trepidation. There was a dose of schoolboy humour too. Now why were the men around me laughing at that clue, ‘Left [home] with incontinence in the rear and ran furiously for the bog near Argos’ (5) while I was racking my memory for the name of that swamp? (L + (incontinenc)E + RAN* = LERNA)? And what was amusing about ‘Love [triangle] heading for sex in bunk bed’ (5) (O + S(ex) in ROT = ROOST)?

Theod seems to have been suffering the effects of the Listener Oenophile club, too. There was the incontinence in 29 and his drunken hobo, ‘Ilkley [hobo] drunk? Probably’. (6) (Ilkley*  = LIKELY) though there was perhaps a move towards good food with the lobster and mozzarella. Are we beginning a new cheese club? ‘Bacteria in first of [water-buffalo] cheeses and Cheshire supply ultimately indicating a pathological condition’ (11). (C(heeses) and CHESHIRE* with IA, the suffix indicating a pathological condition – hmmm, I thought that was rather a sneaky clue, but what a stinker to clue!)

After a break for supper (no lobster but a bit of wine and cheese), we attacked the final corner – as usual the top left one and after an astonishing four hours or so of solving (astonishing for us) had an almost full grid.

Yes, we cheated and used a web site to find the key word. TRAGI-COMEDY appeared and we had soon sorted out the message contained in the Playfair code: A COMPOUND WORD, EACH ELEMENT BEING EQUAL IN STATUS, E.G. PLAYFAIR CODE WORD/ WORD HIGHLIGHTED IN THE GRID. Of course, working that out resolved issues about which were  the extra words and gave us our essential lead into the encoded words that still remained unsolved. When Dubai moved out of the clue, we could spot BOOKED ‘Express contempt for [Dubai] and fly as prearranged’ (6) (BOO + KED) and TULIPS, which had previously evaded identification – showy things.

We know where to look (usually) for these hidden words and BITTERSWEET appeared on the diagonal. English-teacher Pavlovian responses came into play. Aah, that’s Oxymoron, says numpty no. 1.

Well, we have to have a numpty red herring don’t we? The preamble said ‘…the theme word, which must be written below the grid; the components of the title should help to identify it.’ OZ and WR – were we looking at Oxymoron here – some contrast between the open spaces of Oz and the West Riding (we did have drunken hobos in Ilkley, after all)?

Encolding those letters gave us DV and VA (back to last week’s  ‘What it says by Waterloo?) and surprisingly, when I fed that into an anagram solver, (yes, ‘cheating’ again – or is it?) nothing appeared except a DVD van.

What next? Well one of the best tips I was given by a superior solver was ‘Look up every element of a clue or a word in Chambers!’ VA, of course, gives Victoria, so I was back in OZ, but with DV I struck gold. Deo volente (of course), Drive (in street names) and when the eye strayed down one line Eureka ! DVANDVA, (grammar) n. a compound word, each element being equal in status (e.g. tragicomedy, bitter-sweet). [Sans dvamdva a pair].

There’s nothing to describe that fabulous surge of excitement (well, yes there is but that sort of comment is not appropriate here) when the magic of a Listener endgame is ultimately revealed and this one has such perfection. This was superb, thank you Theod for a crossword that came together so beautifully in the end.

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Listener 4147: OZ and WR by Theod (or Little Shop of Horrors!)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 12 August 2011

This is only Theod’s second Listener, the first being way back in 1998, well before my current Listener solving habit. This time, there’s a Playfair codeword involved, not my favourite gimmick, but hopefully it will be easy to sort out. I hoped that the answers to be encoded would be relatively easy to solve (no DINOTHERE). Meanwhile, every clue had an extra word which spelt out a message.

Listener 4147 Finished GridThis turned out to be a good straightforward puzzle with excellent clues. A smattering of acrosses began with 5 ENCODERS, 10 U-BOAT, 17 ABASE, followed by two words to be encoded, 18 RANSOM (hidden word) and 27 LIKELY (anagram). A similar smattering of down clues, including the third of the answers to be encoded, 6 TULIPS. The fourth was a bit more elusive: 26 Express contempt for [Dubai] and fly as prearranged (6), which had me trying to get PREBOOK (fly as prearranged) into a 6-letter space. It turned out to be BOOKED, BOO + KED (a fly).

The grid was finished in about an hour and a quarter, fairly quick for a change. So on to the Playfair codeword with these encodings:



Listener 4147 PlayfairListener 4147 Final GridThere seemed to be several in-a-line codings of three letter sequences, namely RAG from 18ac, ULY from 27dn, CTU from 6dn and EDC from 26dn. Not being a great expert on Playfairs, I didn’t know whether this was par for the course or not. The RAG could go in as RAG•• , •RAG•, ••RAG, or even G••RA or AG••R … and either horizontally or vertically. From this point, it just seemed to be a question of jiggling around with some of the known sequences, and hoping that a good proportion of Q, U, V, W, X, Y and Z would go in the last two rows.

And so TRAGICOMEDY appeared after about 15 minutes, enabling the four empty squares to be filled in the grid. My next thought was: I’ve just finished the grid, so how else is it to be modified?!

Writing out the first and last letters of extra words with their Playfair codes took another 10 minutes or so …

Code Chart

… and it was fairly clear what the hidden message was :

A compound word each element being equal in status eg Playfair codeword word highlighted in grid

The last few words of the message seemed very contrived and convoluted, so I turned my attention to the title, decoding it from its Playfairisation. I was initially convinced that DV and VA were initials of something, and I thought they might be characters from a play, but Venus and Adonis were the only ones that came to mind. Dv.. always makes me think of Dvorak, so I thought I’d check on any words beginning with DV.., et voilà, there was DVANDVA, a word I’d not come across before, and everything fell into place beautifully. Its definition in Chambers reads:

A compound word, each element being equal in status (eg tragicomedy, bitter-sweet)

Listener 4147 My EntryAnd so the final modification became apparent. I particularly liked the fact that you weren’t actually told to highlight BITTER-SWEET, but it was almost a prediction given by the hidden message. Great stuff!

A really enjoyable puzzle from Theod, with fine clues and good surface readings. I’ll never be able to shop at Argos again!!

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No 4146 What it Says by Waterloo (But what does it say?)

Posted by shirleycurran on 5 August 2011

There’s a very anxious numpty blogging today. It was magic when the grid appeared dense with bars (clearly the Listener powers-that-be had responded to grumbles and decided to give us the ones that have been forgotten or missing over the past few weeks) all stuffed into a strangely-shaped, non-symmetrical, 12 by 10 grid. Eighty-seven clue numbers as well as forty-eight indication of clue lengths. Now, with the preamble, that’s over a third of Waterloo’s total word allocation used up. Something fishy going on here!

(A complete non sequitur but X for ‘by’, as in 12 X 10 isn’t in Chambers. What is the consensus about using it in a crossword?)

This was no twenty-hour Sabre solve. With delight, I instantly spotted my first alcoholic clue. Yes, of course Waterloo is a member of the LOSS  (Listener Oenophile  Setters Society) they all are, even if now and again it is just that grid-filling Asti. ‘Out of the sun, holding new drink’,  though, of course, it was just boring old SHANDY.

SH and Y went in and we were off.  The grid filled steadily with an astonishing range of AND and OR words: C(or)I(and)ER, S(and)W(or)M, D(or)MIT(or)Y, M(and)AT(or)Y, SF(or)ZA. We were lucky in that OMNIV(or)OUS was an early find and we realized that the clue numbers were in conventional order (like Phi’s last week!) even if that wasn’t the order in which we were entering the solutions.

About three hours, with a meal cooked and eaten at the same time, and we had a complete grid fill with just some doubt about PANDORA. She had an AND and an OR. The P and A were already in place at 61 as parts of PORCELAIN but what had to go in 62d? We already had an A as part of TRANSF(or)MATION so we decided it had to obey the AND/OR rule twice; we put in PA. Not totally satisfactory, I know.

Why the anxiety? Erwin’s warning is always subliminally echoing – paraphrased roughly as ‘If you are not sure it is right, then it most probably isn’t!’ Where is the endgame? ‘What it says’ is the title, so it must say something. What is the reason for that strange sentence in the preamble, ‘Solvers are charged with entering what it says’?

Is there some secret message encoded into this grid? Cut along fault lines: fold into an exotic bird?

I’ve gazed at the completed grid for hours and spotted ‘TEDIUM’, ‘CREATION’, a whole gang of people (ALEX, TED, TIM, CLARA and even STING) but can’t see what else could be done – except thank Waterloo for (perhaps) giving us a break from the fearsome weekends of solving we have had recently.

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Listener 4146: What It Says by Waterloo (or Boxing Clever)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 5 August 2011

Another puzzle this week from ‘Mr Quirky’ himself – Waterloo. His last was almost two years ago, and entitled fiDlEDE, requiring repeated letters or groups of letters to be entered in red/blue and lower/upper case. Not so much fiDlEDE as fiddddly. Hopefully this week’s puzzle would prove more straightforward.

The grid was certainly unusual, with great swathes of real estate, as well as single and double squares, separated from other swathes of the grid. Plus the clues comprised 1, 2 or 3 separate entry spaces strung together.

I have to say that, probably along with a lot of people, I got the theme (actually it turned out to be only half the theme) after just one clue. For me, it was 7a,3d SORTED (although I didn’t realise the meaning of well-organised/equipped was ‘esp with drugs‘); it seemed likely that the two entries would consist of S or TED, although in this case it was obvious which went where. My hunch was confirmed by 16a,49a,70d (1,3,1) which was CORMORANT, ie C or M or ANT. 28a,7d CORSET was next and then something I was almost (if not hopefully) expecting 29a LANDE or L and E to be put in the same entry space. So OR and AND both needed to be removed from answers and the bits entered separately or together.

Surprisingly, the grid took the best of two hours to fill. I think this was because sorting out the different elements of clues was a bit fiddly (oh dear, we’re back to that again!). Plus some of the clues needed detailed analysis to be sure that they worked (one of the trials of having to do the weekly blog). For example, 18d,64d Perhaps Star Wars force ring traps Tarzan? No thanks, emphatically (2,2) led to SFORZANDO [SF (perhaps, Star Wars, ie science fiction) OD (force) O (ring) holding TARZAN – TA (thanks)]. However, I had a real problem with 53a,16d Peace lost in the past after fashionable herb (1,4) [HISTORY (the past) – HIST (peace) after CHIC (fashionable)] which gave CHICORY; I just wasn’t happy with the definition herb. Was it just me?

I had my own little tangent to go off at with 1a,68a Change from Sinatra, not total scene change which also took a bit of time to work out. An initial flash of inspiration (which turned out to be totally ill-informed) fed MANDARIN CANDIDATE into my brain as one of Frank Sinatra’s films. This would need to be entered as MARIN CIDATE, but that wasn’t enough letters. I pretty soon realised that I was thinking of The Manchurian Candidate and it wasn’t relevant here at all! The simpler TRANSFORMATION was the required anagram of from Sinatra not.

Now when I said ‘the grid took the best of two hours to fill’, what I really meant was ‘the grid took the best of two hours to fill, apart from two squares’. Yes, 61a,40d,62d Unlucky opener to obtain zero runs in most of day (1,1,2) was there to rouse us from our complacency, even though we had the letters P, A and •A. No doubt many of you got it immediately, but I’m hoping (in a caring way) that there were others, like me, who were truly stumped by it. It obviously had OR (zero runs) in it, and presumably there was another OR in there to make it spread over three entry spaces. If only I’d just taken the easy way with most of day just being DA, rather than MONDAy, FRIDAy or MARDi; I might have got PANDORA a bit sooner. Actually it was being convinced that opener to obtain led to an O that was the real stumper. As it was, it took about 7 or 8 visits over the next couple of hours before she finally materialised, needing to be entered as P or A in 61a,40d and P and A in 62dn. Unlucky opener indeed!

So another dose of playful enjoyment from Waterloo, and a bit of a break from the run of testing puzzles by the likes of Shackleton and Phi … or is it the lull before the storm of toughies to come?

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