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Archive for January, 2012

Listener 4170: Mango’s Aristocat (or Is He in Debrett’s?)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 20 January 2012

For those of you that don’t know, Mango is not an individual, but an occasional collaboration between Radix, Seth Mould and Shackleton. Given this pedigree, it’s safe to say that you can expect a fairly tough and very entertaining puzzle. Their last was City Tour back in 2008, its theme being the Tower of Hanoi puzzle. It was a superb puzzle, just predating my LWO activities.

Here we had the last Listener of 2011, and the last using Chambers (2008) as primary reference before (2011) takes over. Personally, I was still trying to catch up with puzzle solving after the Christmas and New Year festivities, which invariably leave me tired and zonked out (OK … blotto, if you must)! As a result, it was the second Sunday after publication before I started Aristocat, and I prayed that there wouldn’t be any tricky engame to beguile me. There was an interesting clueing device in all but seven clues: one letter had to be omitted or alternatively moved to the left or right before solving. I was sure that I’d come across this latter technique before, but wasn’t sure where. Knowing the fixation that at least one of the triumvirate had with symmetry, I laid odds with myself that there would be twelve of each type of letter movement (left, right or out).

Listener 4170Little did I realise how difficult the clues would be. After all, it was not obvious whether one or two words in a particular clue would be affected. If two words, then the whole ‘sense’ of the clue could change, and I felt that my brain was being deliberately messed with! This was borne out by my first pass through the clues. The acrosses revealed only 14 ETERNAL, 27 EATHE and 39 LAMAIST. The downs started well with 1 PRECLUDE and 3 YRENT, but despite seeing likely letters that needed dropping or moving, that was it. I wasn’t really surprised to see that the few that I solved all involved omissions, and thus just one word changing in their clues.

With the help of 1dn, however, things started moving a bit more smoothly. 21ac was my first clue requiring the movement of a letter: Posh oven returned to base for mother, although it was a sneaky liittle movement, with the M just hopping across the space before it to form other. Still, at least I had a left moving letter, and we were told in the preamble that movements would alternate direction.

19ac Sedate Queen, unwell, in train broken down on outskirts of Zaire (7) was irking me. I kept trying to fit TZARINA to the wordplay, and although TRAIN was there, Zaire was not ZA, and there was no sedate or seated monarch to be found. It wasn’t Bradford’s that came to the rescue, but Chambers Crossword Dictionary. Although I sometimes find the division of words into letter lengths useful (here I was looking for a 7-letter word), in this case it wasn’t. Luckily my eyes wandered a bit and I saw TRANQUILLIZE further down with QU and ILL in the middle. What a stroke of luck! Except that there was now a 12-letter word, obviously thematic, to fit into an entry of only seven spaces. A few minutes later, I finally doodled with ruin left ten at 9dn and up popped INTERFLUENT. These two crossing entries made me feel fairly certain that only the consonants were to be entered; NTRFLNT and TRNQLLZE. But that was thematic how?

Well, the downhill ski to the finish was on, except that those of you who’ve seen me on skis will realise that I’m only a red-runner. In any event, about 5 hours after starting, all the pieces were eventually in place.

The central entry was DUKE ELLINGTON, the aristoc[r]at of the title. The only quotation from him in my ODQ (luckily I have one of the two editions mentioned in the preamble) is Playing ‘Bop’ is like scrabble with all the vowels missing. There is also a reference there to Mills where what is spelt out by the naughty letters in the clues can be found: It don’t mean a thing If it ain’t got that swing (the slang, and lack of jazz knowledge, hindered me for a long time). The music for this 1942 song was written by Duke Ellington.

Listener 4170 My EntryAs the lyrics hinted, the vowels were to be omitted from the thematic entries (symmetrically placed, of course), as they were from PLAYING BOP at 1ac and LIKE SCRABBLE at 42ac, the two clues without definition. It had taken me a bit of time to realise that these last entries were not simple phrases straight from the dictionary. Finally, there weren’t twelve of each type of letter movement as I had surmised at the beginning. Instead, and also thematically, it was the vowels that were dropped and the consonants which moved left or right.

Well, I may not have been right about that last point, but I was certainly right about it being a tough, fair and delightful puzzle. Great fun, guys. And among many fine clues, my favourite:

40ac   So damn lazy up north (5)   (which should read Son dam lazy up north, to give SWEIR)!

Political correctness doesn’t even come close!

 

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Seaside Shuffle by Monk

Posted by shirleycurran on 13 January 2012

“Christmas Eve, almost, and last week’s was tough so surely they will give us a gentle thirty-minute romp this week.” I happily downloaded this one and smiled. Just a compact preamble, a mere 32 clues, an unusual reference book required, The Oxford Treasury of Sayings and Quotations, and four unclued lights. Lovely!

There was that mildly disconcerting word ‘transpositions’, but, at least it didn’t say ‘Jumbles’ so we shelved that anxiety. Hmmmm!

It was a partying night anyway so the numpties happily solved a few long clues – ‘Black dog mainly after huge bird that’s stalked (8)’ Well, that has to be B + ROC + COLLI(E) and that will give us an extra L. (At least it wasn’t Brussels Sprouts – Oh dear, that’s tomorrow!) ‘Dog bark, say, lifted tail (9)’ RIND with EG< and BACK gives us RIDGEBACK with an extra N. ‘Poltergeist almost shocking old composer (9)’ That has to be an anagram of PERGOLESI with T extra (I love his Stabat Mater – rather Easter than Christmas, as was the ‘Horse, at first sight rather old, died in festival (8)’ R(ather) O EASTER round D = ROADSTER producing E).

Another easy anagram gave us INDISCRETE,  ‘Homogenous work isn’t recited (10)’ and another spare T. We teased out CORNED BEEF from ‘Jailbird and hooligan quarrel about rule that’s preserved (10, 2 words)’  – producing an N from the CON and NED – and lots of shorter words, and shrugged our shoulders when none of these intersected convincingly with each other. Party time.

It was after midnight when I took another look. We had a vaguely coherent extra letter message: ?LL TH? RI?HT ?OTE?S ?UT NO? IN THE RIGZT ……… (Yes, I know now that BELIZE is both BZ and BH – what useful things we Listener solvers ingest, as well as Monk’s healthy sprinkling of wine. He lived up to the Listener compiler tradition with the SOAVE, the ‘cultivated wine in Belize, and the Chief magistrate drinking a lot of ale – even if the wine bar in 4d stayed closed. There was a surprising presence of dogs too!)

That message was familiar. It was Eric Morecambe’s response to Andre Previn, wasn’t it? It boded ill. I jumped to the flawed post-party conclusion that we had to move do, re, mi etc. to the end of clues, or something like that. The prospect was daunting. ORDER, the last word of the quotation, would give a DO and a RE, but so what? REDOR, DORER, EREDO?

Fortunately light dawned in the morning and I understood that all the letters except ABCDEF and G could stay in their preordained positions, but that every word save one, had to have shifted notes. The one was clearly PREVIN as he had only an E. Grid filling was underway. But what a task! So much for my gentle Christmas treat!

The biggest problem was, of course, the missing clues. It is easy to write all the potential letters, squeezed into each vacant square, and eliminate them as they are used elsewhere in the word, but this system falls down when you haven’t solved a clue. We had several we hadn’t solved. I now know that IBEX has a plural IBICES, that there was a star eighties and nineties football player called BARNES and that AMEN CORNER was a fifties somewhat oxmoronic ‘famous Welsh rock band’. Even ARROGANCE had me stumped for a while – ‘Side’ indeed!

I think DOGBEE was the toughest clue of all, but when I commented to a friend who had finished this one long before me, he said “Well, yes, it was tough, but what do you expect? It is the Listener after all!” Well, I have already told you what I expected – a gentle Christmas treat – so I had to produce my own. Thank you, Monk!

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Listener 4169: Seaside Shuffle by Monk (or Two Men Sat in Deckchairs!)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 13 January 2012

There I was, on the Tuesday before the deadline and only just starting Monk’s puzzle. That’s what all the shopping and festivities of Christmas and New Year do to this crossworder. Still, it was chucking it down outside, although still mild for the end of December, so a good day’s solving ahead. Monk’s last Listener was way back in 2003, so no real knowledge of him as such, but I’d tackled the odd standard Saturday cryptic by him, and I was pretty sure they had been tricky. I was thinking that a late start might not have been smart!.

Extra letters in the wordplay were straightforward enough, and transpositions were required in every entry, so perhaps two letters swapped for some reason. The quotation (‘exchange’) was in The Oxford Treasury of Sayings & Quotations, which I don’t possess, so I could see Google coming to the rescue on this one.

Listener 4169I was right with my foreboding about how hard Monk is as a setter. Clues were slow to be solved. After 1½ hours, I had less than a dozen: 13dn PERGOLESI (although I’ve never heard of him), 3dn BAIT, 15ac DENE, 9dn RED BOX, 20ac BORAX, 19dn FARE, 25dn BRED, 23dn ZAGREB, 28ac EDDY and 5ac GROCER … although not necessarily in that order. There were some squares where the letters coincided, but there were a lot of clashes, and I suspected that a simple transposition of two letters in each entry would not work.

After three hours of relatively slow progress, I had the following extra letters:

A L • T H E R I • • • • O T • S • U • • • • I • T • • R • G H •

My brain went into random mode for about two seconds and came up with “All the right notes, but not [necessarily] in the right order” from the famous Morecambe, Wise and Preview sketch in their 1971 Christmas Special (so says Wiki). A nice touch in the preamble to say that the quotation was ‘necessarily’ short.

Thus the four unclued entries, suitably transposed, were ERIC (CRIE) MORECAMBE (MORABEMCE) and ANDRÉ (ANERD) PREVIN (PREVIN). It still took another hour to finish the puzzle, plus another half hour to re-enter the answers into a new blank grid to make sure that everything moved around as required.

As I suspected at the beginning, Monk is a tricky setter. Here are some clues that took some time for me to unravel:

27ac AMEN CORNER Old band instrument cut short in unusual manner
CORNE[T] (instrument, cut short) in MANNER* (the N being the extra letter); they were a rock group from the 60’s who really had only a couple of hits that I recall! I’m sure if it had been clued as ‘part of a round at Augusta’ I’d have got it sooner!
7dn GRECO-ROMAN Clasical memory held by old yeoman missing both daughters
RECORD (memory) in GOODMAN (old yeoman) – 2 Ds (both daughters); O is the extra letter, and I was trying to fit computer ROM in there for a long time
8dn BINNACLE Dump salt on the vacated ship’s housing
BIN (dump) + NACL (salt) + TE (T[H]E vacated); T being the extra letter, and NaCl being the correct formula for salt (I never did get on with Chemistry)
12dn CORNED BEEF Jailbird and hooligan quarrel about rule that’s preserved
CON (jailbird) NED (hooligan) BEEF (row) about R (rule); N is the extra letter; as with 10ac (‘that’s stalked’), I was treating ‘that’s’ as a linkword and looking for an adjective, rather than looking for a thing which can be described as preserved — hmmmm!

 
Morecambe, Wise, Previn

So, as suspected, a tough-ish puzzle from Monk — a lovely theme, well implemented and bringing back fond memories. I’m sure that the title is a play on the seaside town of Morecambe, rather than Eric’s joke (without its very risqué punchline): There were two old men sat in deckchairs. One man said to the other “It’s nice out isn’t it” ….
 

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Phiz by Be-Ro

Posted by shirleycurran on 6 January 2012


Phew! I started this one 24 hours ago and worked at it till after midnight, and most of today too. My third check has just convinced me that those Os Is and Ts must be eyes, nose and teeth. Phizog? Decidedly there must be a few ‘all corrects’ lurking out there and the dastardly editors have decided to opt for the evening of all the drunken office parties (the ROISTERS) and morning-afters to finally eliminate them.

We were in the middle of a snow blizzard as I attempted to download Phiz and the power failed and re-failed and re-re-failed, leaving me just enough time to read that preamble. I almost abandoned on the spot! The other Numpty did just that and disappeared to cook dinner.

No, it wasn’t the clues. We had all but five (NABK, ROULES, TERETE, STALL and TRIE) after a few hours of head-scratching and a lot of grumbling. We managed to fit TIE around R (‘Ed’s to turn out, take a bow outside’ (4)) but we got TIRE and decided that that must be a Spenserian version of ATTIRE (in the sense of a smart ‘turn out’) Oh dear the pitfalls! But just look at those words! (And BANIA, JATROPHA, POITREL, PROINE, PHOTS, ATROPOUS – what language is this?) Yes, our blizzard continued so there was no ski-ing today and I’m feeling pretty ROYNISH!

Knights’ moves and things like this get thrust into my camp so I set to work and made fine progress until MARQUETRY and RE-ENTRY refused to make bedfellows. Second attempt: ATROPOUS and ROULES clashed – and so it continued with the light slowly dawning that it was important to keep track of my moves. However, as with those Knights’ moves, the remaining words suggested themselves as I progressed. Apart from that bit of ‘grid help’, this was almost a 100% exercise in cold-solving wasn’t it? What I would have said a smidgin over two years ago when I first attempted a Listener crossword. I dread to think!

Fitting those words in was fiendish, as all but the north-west corner presented problems. NEEDLE (Ah, the Laced Utah alcohol – at least BeRo upheld the Listener compiler tradition of incorporating a drop of alcohol into his clues) went in in every direction before it agreed to live side by side with DIRL.

At last a full grid that seemed to work. Of course, we hadn’t finished. We had to complete another forfeit and copy those unchecked letters into the last little grid. (Just as an irrelevant aside – the Fizz-Buzz game is a wonderful way to teach language-learners to count in their new language – numbers divisible by 3 get BUZZ, 5s get FIZZ – so Un, deux, BUZZ, quatre, FIZZ, BUZZ, sept, huit, BUZZ, dix, onze, douze Oh dear, I’m eliminated! I gather there is a rather more racy adult party game along the same lines too.)

Our first attempt produced a rather odd PHIZOG (obviously that was what we were aiming at) as it had an extra squinty eyelash dangling, so I took myself in hand and coloured and numbered squares as they were used once or twice, finally producing the desired result. (Look at her hideous smile above!)

What a lot of bloggy grumbling about what was in fact a magnificent challenge. What a wonderful feeling of achievement, too, to have got there in the end.

Thank you, BeRo for filling my entire Saturday with this demoniacal puzzle. (Back to ski-ing – it reminds me of my small son’s map of the ski resort when we had stretched him:  – Blue Pistes = fun, Red = difficult, Black = impossible – this was verging on the black!)

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