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Archive for October, 2011

Listener 4158: Danda’s Two Little Words (and only a few more than that in this blog)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 28 October 2011

Listener 4158Yes folks, you guessed it … another setter’s debut, this time from Danda. Two Little Words starts off with just two little sentences in the preamble, so, unless it’s got something tricky up its sleeve, we might be on for an easy week. The only slight concern was that the seven unclued entries were equally divided between two types! It wasn’t rocket science to reckon that one (or more) would fit both types!

I must confess that it didn’t start off too well, with just a dozen or so solved in my first pass through the clues, taking about 20 minutes. After that, however, everything sped up nicely, and the grid was finished in well under two hours. I visited a couple of blind alleys! The first was thinking that the unclued entry in column 2 must be INNOCENT. Listener 4158 My EntryThe other was after I saw CHEAP in row 6 and, being such a happy soul, thought CHEERFUL would go nicely with it. How tawdry that the hidden phrase was CHEAP AND NASTY!

So the unclued entries turned out to be: SHODDY, LOVELY, SIXPENNY, INEXPENSIVE, INDECENT, A DIME A DOZEN and NAUSEOUS. It wasn’t initially obvious exactly how the seven entries were allocated to the two parts of the phrase. It needed Chambers to come to the rescue. It shows that ‘shoddy’ is “cheap and nasty”, and ‘lovely’ fits one of the definitions under nasty: “very good (esp US slang)“. So the allocation of unclued entries is as follows:

Cheap Nasty
a dime a dozen indecent
inexpensive lovely
sixpenny nauseous
s h o d d y

A nice bit of fun then from Danda, and just the question of whether to highlight ‘cheap and nasty’ in the grid!

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Two Little Words by Danda

Posted by shirleycurran on 28 October 2011

Yet another new name, Danda. It really is a pleasure to have a new setter and a new style each week. We were expecting something ferocious this week but no doubt that is still to come. Numpty Number Two had filled the top half of the grid while I was sharpening my pencils in anticipation of a shocker. He paused to discuss which way ZEUS/SUEZ should go into the grid (Jupiter, where canal’s reflection can be seen). We are not so fond of those clues that depend on reversal, but this one was fairly clear and we opted for ZEUS.

That gave us a useful and interesting Z in one of the unclued lights. We already had a putative SIXPENNY  and INEXPENSIVE, so it seemed that we were heading towards the theme. A DIME A DOZEN appeared when I fed my letters into Antony Lewis’s crossword compiler clue-editing facility. CHEAP seemed to encompass those.

Yes, I admit, I use any programme, website or book I can, to try to solve these things. I wouldn’t go anywhere without Anne Bradford’s Crossword Solver’s Dictionary. I admire the purists who use brainpower alone and wonder how they do it.

We numpties soldiered on and soon NAUSEOUS, INDECENT and  SHODDY appeared and the rather astonishing LOVELY. We had to look up ‘CHEAP’ and ‘NASTY’ to find what LOVELY had to do with it, and, of course, NASTY appeared as ‘Very good’ in US slang. So how did seven words divide evenly into two sets? Ah, clever. We looked each of them up, and, sure enough, SHODDY fitted into both categories. Chambers describes it as ‘cheap and nasty’! All done and dusted?

We were amused by a few clues along the way. There wasn’t much of the usual Listener heavy dose of booze, but Danda included a substantial number of randy antics – PICNICKERS removing their Knickers,  ‘People satisfying their appetites alfresco remove bloomers we hear’, ‘Support for  young girl leaving heartless men’s embrace’ AIDE (what was she doing with two men?) ‘Sister disturbed with tape revealing sexy show’ STRIPTEASE  (Some sort of nun involved in bondage? Dear dear!) and ‘Play willing’ giving us GAME. I suspect we have that rare thing, a lady setter here.

Lots of fun and a nice easy fill so that we had our complete grid in an hour or so. We learned a few new words along the way: DIDDER, OBSIGNS and APOZEM.

No problems? Ah well, now you ask – of course. As usual, we had slotted in a few guesses that seemed to fit the definition, without fully grasping the wordplay and, as usual, we now had to work backwards to find the seven words that gave us CHEAP AND NASTY and work our what was missing from the wordplay. Sure enough, we found (e)CHE missing from ‘Ecstasy supplement used by Will’; AP(ozem) missing from ‘Returning singer’s heartless product of concentration’ (MEZZO returning heartless); ‘Date English cleric’ gave us (de)AN; ‘Old risingmeadow in the Pennines produced STY(ing); ‘Put on Thousand Island’ gave us (M isle) AD; ‘Before getting advance settle your debts up front’ gave us (pre)P(a)Y; and finally we found HAR missing from the word-play of ‘Cold marine phenomenon causing fuzziness in Dunbar finally?’

It was surprising that we weren’t asked to highlight CHEAP AND NASTY, though I imagine the reasoning was that you would not be sure of your solution had you not found it.

Thank you Danda for a gentle bit of fun.

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Listener 4157: Easy Win, Setter’s Blog by Ilver

Posted by Listen With Others on 22 October 2011

As a heathen I gave up Latin at school as quickly as I possibly could. This has left me at something at a disadvantage in the crossword world, particularly with Latin themed croswords, which are my Nemesis. Of course this led me to want to set a “Latin” crossword, which poked a bit of fun at the more usual high-brow offerings. I recalled from years ago that there was a way of altering words called Pig Latin, but could not remember how this worked or indeed whether it would be too obscure to use as a theme. Without expecting much joy I looked it up in BRB and slightly to my surprise there it was with a decent explanation of how the manipulation worked. Off to a good start. This also caused me to think it would be great to have a puzzle which only needed BRB for reference material.

Next step was to think about how Pig Latin might be used for a series of PDMs all related to the theme. Clearly pig in Latin was an obvious start and I had also been toying for a while with trying to incorporate the derivations part of BRB, which seem to be little used in crosswords. As pig needed to be verifiable in BRB I looked up pork as even with my basic Latin I was fairly sure Porcus was the word I was looking for. There it was. So this seemed like a potential finish – highlight the word PORCUS in the grid. Not a fantastic finish and a bit obvious, maybe a little more thought needed here.

Next step was to include some Pig Latin words in the grid. Clearly there needed to be some logic and link between the words included and pig jumped out as the thing to use. Back to the BRB, plenty of Pig related words in there and a surprising number of 4 letter words. So maybe a 12×12 grid with 6 letter pig related Pig Latin words around the outside and PORCUS somewhere in the middle. There were a decent number of words to choose from so I felt it give enough flexibility to get the grid to work. I scribbled out a quick grid with some ideas, swapped them around a bit to avoid Is on the right hand side etc. But what about all the AYs? they might have been a bit of a giveaway, so next step was to put in bars hiding as many of the Ys as possible.

Nearly at the stage of having a grid now to try to populate, but I still had the issue with PORCUS and maybe seeing if I could fit one more thematic element in. I turned to the internet to look up Latin for pig and there were in fact two alternatives PORCUS and SUS, and SUS would fit through the U of PORCUS. Again needed to check if SUS was in BRB and there it was both under pig and swine so that was fine. This happened to trigger the thought that swine in Pig Latin was WINE SAY (actually this later turned out to be wrong, INESWAY is the correct version as the editors pointed out) – maybe a title. The PORCUS with SUS crossing was still a bit obvious but perhaps the last two letters of PORCUS could somehow be used…SUS in Pig Latin is USSAY so this would work but I was not sure how it could be clued, but ESSAY or ASSAY with a letter change might work. This seemed to indicate a final step with a letter change to give PORCUS and SUS in Pig Latin – that certainly felt better.

Started populating the grid and in the course of it RAZORBACK popped up as a potential word across the middle. Might as well put it in as another thematic. After a fair bit of fiddling around got to a grid that worked, unches were fine, but rather a lot of open lights. Perhaps this could be fixed if the perimeter fill was not very obvious – I still needed to decide how to clue this. Maybe I could get away with not cluing at all, which then would help on the open light side as these would semi-count as unches. Back to BRB, were the words around the outside unique or was there some ambiguity? I probably checked this five times, yes the solution was unique, so no clues were needed for the perimeter.

All that was left was to decide on a device in the clues to hint at Pig Latin, write the clues and decide on a title. Putting Pig Latin into extra letters/misprints etc. in the clues seemed a bit simple so maybe an anagram – PLAITING was fine and suitably random. I had been doing a lot of extra letters and misprints so really wanted to do something different. Here I made a dreadful blunder which my test solver picked up, I decided to have a clue with definition and definition of another word with an extra letter which was an anagram of the answer, so what was in the end “Muted or said?” for SORDA started as “Muted broadcasting channels”. Of course this was an indirect anagram, but in my desire to find a slight twist on extra letters this passed me by. Finished off the cluing, deciding along the way to clue RAZORBACK without definition as it would have been too easy with a pig definition.

Back to the title – WINE SAY – this did not seem particularly good but with a bit of thought EASY WIN was a good alternative. I like the titles that are familiar phrases with a twist. Put that in, checked the clues and sent it off to my test solver. The key comments were the open lights and the indirect anagrams and the advice “polish it, get a couple of other test solver’s input and perhaps send it to the Crossword Club”. The open lights I felt I would have to cross my fingers on and hope they were OK. The indirect anagrams had to be fixed. In retrospect here I think I should have gone for misprints given I only needed to cover 8 letters which would I think have increased the challenge a little, but having started on the anagram route I thought I would see if I could include an anagram plus an extra letter in the clue, this was more straightforward than I thought it would be and the surface reading still worked.

Polished it and ignored my test solver’s advice completely. I had always wanted to try to write a Listener puzzle (for reasons relating to my university interview many years ago) and while the cluing here did not feel at the right level at least the thematic elements were standard Listener fare. What did I have to loose? I was in no rush (Listener wait time was rumoured to be about 7 months) and at the very least I would learn how the process worked and how the editors operated, which would help me in the future. So sent it into the Listener and forgot about it. Very surprised and happy when a few months later it was accepted. With some superb editing from Shane and Roger it was in shape to be published.

Very many thanks to Shirley for test solving to Chris for an excellent solver’s blog and to Shane and Roger for editing and most of all to those of you who took the time to solve and hopefully derive some enjoyment from my poke in the eye at Latin puzzles.


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Easy Win by Ilver

Posted by clanca1234 on 21 October 2011

Friday evening – best night of the week. Work’s finished for a couple of days, and we get a new Listener to look at. On the plus side, I’m home pretty early (6 o’clock). On the minus side, I’m still trying to shake off a bad cold and cough I’ve had for over a week, and my brain is working at a fraction of its normal power (no jokes, please).

So what do we have? A new setter, which is good. Strange pseudonym, though – Ilver. I’m going to have to make a conscious effort not to type Elver throughout this blog (which, co-incidentally, I’ve been asked to write as one of the normal bloggers tested this for Ilver). Anyway, enough wriggling about, and let’s read the preamble.

Even before reading the preamble, whilst waiting for the printer to do its stuff, I can solve a few clues. 1ac is a simple anagram – I SHUT A* = HIATUS, and 11ac must be ALBUMS (A + L + BUMS). I can do 16ac straight off, as I recently clued YAPP myself for a puzzle, and 20ac is obviously TART< in SA. Hmm. I’m not sure how much of a challenge this is going to be, as the clues seem pretty straightforward so far. Right, print off complete, let’s read the preamble.

Well the obvious thing to do is to try to find the 8 DLM+1 down clues. I can see one straight away – “Kara’s large vessels” at 21dn must be ARKS + A. Hmm. I think the key thing here is the wording of the preamble. Normally DLM clues CONTAIN a definition of the answer and a jumble of the answer. Here the DLM clues CONSIST of a definition of the answer and a jumble of the answer + one letter. Whilst it’s good to see DLM clues, I fear that these will be too easy to spot. And yes, some of them have to be the shorter clues, so rather leap out of the page.

40 must be ASCI, 43 REA, 32 ENTERA, 30 TRAINER, 35 SORDA and 10 UNESCO. Not sure about the other one. So what does that give us as the extra letters? LAIINGT. So the hint is a jumble of LAIINGT?. Let’s have a scan at the other clues and see if we can find the 8th DLM clue. Ah yes, there it is – A TERRE at 4dn. So it’s a jumble of LAIINGTP. Ummm… PIG LATIN? That certainly fits. Let’s remind of ourselves of the definition of PIG LATIN in Chambers… okay, so move the initial consonant to the end, and add ‘AY’. So PIG = IGPAY. Fair enough. I’m pretty certain that PIG LATIN is what’s going on here, as having slotted in the 12 or 13 answers I already have, I can see that the penultimate letter of four of the perimeter entries is A, which fits in with a pattern of *A?. Surely it’s all downhill from here! I do hope that I’m wrong about the theme, though – otherwise I’ve cracked it in about ten minutes, which surely can’t have been what the setter had in mind.

Anyway, that’s a good time for a break. Time for  a lemsip and to see if can open the cough mixture. No, that’s not because I’m too feeble to do so (although I suppose I can’t entirely rule that out). You’d have thought I’d have learned the lesson when it comes to buying Sainsburys own brand cough mixture by now. Every year I buy it (as it’s about a third of the price of other branded names), and every year I get about a third of the way down the bottle, and then find that it’s impossible to open the childproof cap anymore. I don’t know if this is a design fault or a Chris fault, but suspect the former, as Emma also can’t open this bottle. I’m sure there’s some Benylin somewhere. Quick break whilst I go to find it.

Hmm, that took longer than I planned. I made the mistake of going upstairs to change, sitting on the bed to do so, and somehow fell asleep. I can’t be well. So back on with the puzzle. Let’s concentrate on a corner or two, and try to work out the Pig Latin entries.

Right, twenty minutes later, and I’m obviously missing something, or Pig Latin isn’t actually the theme. For the two entries in the bottom row, I have ?I?TAY and ?ADLA?. Taking the latter of these, the entry could be either the pig latin form of LEAD or LOAD. But which? That seems like a massive ambiguity. And the left hand entry could be anything with the pattern T?A?, of which there are MANY possibilities. And we also have ?RDHA?, which could be H?RD…. Oh, hats off to Ilver for that one. That must be HERD, the LEAD/LOAD one must be LEAD, as both of those are words that can follow PIG – PIGHERD and PIGLEAD. Which makes the other one PIGTAIL. I like that idea a lot. Well done to Ilver! Should be plain sailing from now on….

As indeed it is. Another twenty minutes and the grid is complete. There’s a handy looking PORC down the centre of the grid, and if I dust off my Latin, I can see that one changes ESSAY to USSAY, giving a pig latin form of SUS, and that reveals PORCUS to highlight. Lovely! Good stuff from Ilver, and a nice interpretation of the theme.

I do have a few moans, however. The unching in the puzzle is very, very generous to say the least. I know that the perimeter entries effectively add unches, but even treating those as unches, there are still many fully checked entries – 9ac, 15ac, 17ac, 41ac, 44ac, 47ac, 24dn, 27dn, 10dn, 28dn, 12dn, 21dn. That makes the whole fill very easy indeed. I also wasn’t a fan of the DLM clues, as they were just too easy to spot and solve, thus giving the theme away far too easily. But yes, I recognise that the Listener series does need easier puzzles as well as harder ones, so I’ll chalk this up as a good one for newcomers to the series.

And one minor clueing query… in the down clue for KIPP, is the final P really ‘on’ KIP? Surely ‘under’ would have been more accurate here?

So, a good puzzle, that I enjoyed. With a few more unches, and a less obvious clueing gimmick, it would have been very good. Hats off to Ilver though, for a  nice idea.  I particularly liked the Latin part of the endgame (SUS, PORCUS), and the linked nature of the Pig Latin entries. Very good stuff indeed. I look forward to the next Ilver!

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Listener 4157: Ilver’s Easy Win (or Eckchay ethay Izespray!)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 21 October 2011

I reckon that 2011 is out to break the record for the number of puzzles by debut setters. Unfortunately, somebody is going to have to trawl through twenty years of puzzles to see what the current record is! Any takers?

So what does debut setter Ilver have in store for us with Easy Win? Across clues are fairly straightforward, but down clues contain an anagram of the entry with an extra letter which must be removed. These letters would need arranging to give something that would help solve the eight unclued entries around the perimeter. The anagram-and-extra-letter device was used only the previous weekend by Ploy in his EV puzzle Mix-up. It struck me as unusual then, and here we are with something similar only a week later!

A recent Crossword Club message board thread asked a question about how solvers tackle puzzles. As you probably know by now, I go through the acrosses then downs in order, hoping that some answers will be easy enough for me to get without much effort. The only thing to which I have given thought is how long to spend on each clue during this phase. It tends to be about 20 or 30 seconds, and perhaps that explains why I sometimes only end up with eight or ten words in the grid.

So how many this week? Well, a fair few as it turned out: 9 HIATUS, 16 YAPP, 17 RERUN and half a dozen more. These included 20 Nazi militia contains prostitute moving right to left identifying levels of society, for which I initially entered STRATS (which doesn’t even exist) instead of STRATA, but much as I tried, the mental image I got from the surface reading didn’t really gel. However, 31 Ironing lady, perhaps, is questionable second career for CREASER, and the simple 39 Dish ain’t cooked, TINA, were spot on!

The down clues didn’t yield quite as many, but within 30 minutes, half the grid was filled. It was only at this point that I noticed the level of unching in the grid. Even taking into account the unclued entries in the perimeter, it was very low. This probably helped explain why I finished the grid (except for the unclued entries) in less than 90 minutes. That included solving the across answer that was without definition, and which I suspected all along would be the entry in the central row: RAZOR (precise) BACK (in reply). Now was this going to represent a whale or a pig?

I’m sure that a lot of you spotted the many As and AYs in the perimeter and got the theme before deciphering the extra letters, but not this solver. The extra letters to be exluded from the anagrams in the down clues turned out to be PLAITING, but I didn’t spend too long wondering how this was relevant since we were told by the preamble that the letters would need arranging. I doodled them next to my grid as LAPITING, and it took about ten seconds for me to see that PIG was there; crossing out those letters, LATIN remained! I was lucky that my doodle provided the letters to be arranged in their correct sequence, as indeed the original PLAITING also had them!

Luckily I was told about Pig Latin about forty years ago (thanks, Terry). It involves speaking in a sort of code whereby you move the first consonant(s) in a word to the end with -AY added after. Thus, LISTENER becomes ISTENERLAY and CROSSWORD becomes OSSWORDCRAY. I believe there are some slight variations to the exact method used.

And thus I saw the perimeter entries as pig Latin forms of words that could be prefixed with PIG: SICK, JUMP, TAIL and LEAD for the acrosses, and FISH, LILY, HERD and MEAT for the downs.

Finally, there was an entry to be found that could be pig Latinised to reveal a thematic word. At first I thought this might be UNGLAD at 37ac which could become UNGLAY for LUNG. Luckily there’s no such thing as ‘pig lung’. 36dn looked more promising, ESSAY, and I confess that it took me longer than it should have for me to try realise that SUS (with just one S) would become USSAY, and complete PORCUS in the central column. Crossing that in row 6 was COCH, and I wondered if Ilver had been toying with COCHON (French for pig) as a red herring.

Another good puzzle from a debut setter, and thanks to Ilver for a reminder of something I heard in about 1970.

Oh yes, and the title is an anagram of Inesway (pig Latin for ‘swine’), and the title of this blog refers to the change in prizes for the Listener starting with this puzzle, although I suspect that most of us will already have invested in the 12th edition of Chambers by the time we get drawn out of the hat!

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