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Archive for August, 2012

Talking Scouse by Lato

Posted by shirleycurran on 31 August 2012

We downloaded this week’s crossword with more than a hint of trepidation. We have been treated to some hefty workouts of late and one is sure to be in store with next week’s numerical crossword. There was a murmur of relief when Lato appeared on the title line. ‘Talking Scouse’?   What has that to do with anything  except the almost incomprehensible airport announcements we have screamed into our ears when there is ‘Above us only sky’ every two or three months as we fly through John Lennon Liverpool Airport?

(We are British, if Scots count, but we cope far better with announcements in Athens or Lisbon than those awful Scouse screams and once saw the distress of some poor souls who had failed to understand that their plane to Bâle was about to leave despite shrieked ‘ultimate and very final last’ messages about a plane to ‘Boyzul’.)

We are told that we have a set of characters linked in a particular way and that there is just one character  neither appearing nor suggested in the grid. In hindsight, that is subtle wording with no ‘who’ or ‘that’ to give the game away and one admires Lato’s pangrammatic grid where he has managed to include those awkward letters Z, Q, K and X in ZAIRE, EQUUS, SHAKILY and AVERIL.

We groan when we read that the wordplay is going to give us 17 extra letters in addition to those indicating the answer. Here we go again! ‘These will spell out a thematic hint.’ Here’s a Numpty confession; as usual, we solved this in the wrong order – first the clues, (or most of them) then the pdm, and last of all the message. ‘THINK SEQUENTIALLY’! One of us usually does but we had the Q of sq (following in 39ac) missing and a bit of a jumble lower down and it really did look like gobbledygook. I wonder how many other solvers worked the message out after they had satisfactorily completed the grid.

‘First the clues’, I said, but amusingly, our very last clue was the boozy Scottish one that demonstrates that Lato is a confirmed member of the Listener setter tipplers’ club. ‘Drunk Scots having shout on boat (7)’ No, it’s nothing to do with the bottles of malt being offered round on the MacBrayne’s Outer Isles hopscotch ferries. We have a beautifully deceptive FOU + ROAR giving us a FOUR-OAR double scull. Nice eh?

CLARIFIED BUTTER? That’s ghee, said a numpty after about an hour of solving. I wonder if these are in some way homonyms for characters of the alphabet (echoes of Qid’s wonderful ETAOIN SHRDLU crossword of a couple of years ago) but we had a full grid before the penny really clanged to the floor and we had to check that GHEE can also be GHI.

The endgame was plain sailing (to mix a metaphor) once we had realized that we were looking for a GERMAN CAR and not a MERC or COMPANY CAR.

So what were our characters?

The basics – ABC

Slang brilliance DEF

Clarified butter GHI

that missing J

Airline company KLM

Nationwide survey NOP

Fourth part (quarter) QR

Our friend STU who had to be highlighted

VW the second of the ‘two cases that are ‘less so’ being of only two letters, that German car and, of course, those crossword setters’ staples, the maths variables XYZ.

This was so compact and rewarding with none of that fearsome grid-staring. Many thanks, Lato.

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Listener 4202: Talking Scouse by Lato (or LMN tree)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 31 August 2012

A short follow-up on last week’s puzzle, Sabre’s Translation. I failed miserably on this as I was still suffering from house-moving blues (and that’s the only time I’ll be mentioning it this week … probably). Even if I’d identified the knights, I have no idea whether I’d have resolved the KOHB/KOHЬ dilemma. I did spend an inordinate amount of time on the clue: Small difficulty for classical bass — KEEP IT DOWN!. It never occurred to me that the ‘KEEP IT DOWN’ was an instruction to be followed after the first bit had been solved … and I never solved the first bit as I never took it in isolation. A bit of lateral thinking needed there that totally eluded me. I have to say that having read all the comments, I think that KOHЬ is the only acceptable answer, especially with the definition of keep down in Chambers. It’s almost as though Sabre devised the puzzle just to make use of it … as if he would!

However, is b = Ь?!

Now on to this week’s puzzle. Lato is a well-established and fine setter who has a long line of puzzles going back 20 years. He has used the ‘pairing’ idea before, primarily in his Inquisitor puzzles and I’m always worried that I won’t be able to make the requisite connections. Here we were told that “unclued entries correctly paired, suggest…”, and I wondered just how suggestive I would find them.

Like last week, I was starting this on the Tuesday before the deadline, a fatal mistake for a Sabre puzzle, but, I was hoping, not for Lato. The only clueing device used was for 17 clues which had an extra letter in the wordplay not entered in the grid and spelt out a hint. I hoped that it was a strong one.

Half a dozen across clues and twice as many downs were solved in the first thirty minutes, so I felt happy with progress. I was helped by ANI at 17ac, who has been around a lot recently, and T-CARTS at 3dn, thanks to Mrs B. Being a frequent listener to the Shipping Forecast on Radio 4 helped me with 31dn Votes for turning over south coast town (with Bill) giving YESES and its reference to Selsey Bill (between North Foreland and Lyme Regis in the Inshore Waters).

Having put off 7ac for some time, I now had A••L…. It was an anagram (plus an extra letter) of ‘charlie meant’, and trying AMAL… then AMEL… in Chambers soon revealed AMELANCHIER, and the top half of the grid was well under way.

The unclued entries in columns 3 and 8 seemed likely to be GERMAN and CHINESE so I suspected a country theme. Not having solved 13ac Swell — good spirits in evidence here? (6) (it was SEANCE with SEA + N[I]CE), I thought 1dn might be MATCH, although that didn’t seem to tie up with any country that I could think of. Finally solving SEANCE made 1dn MATHS, and sitting right above what could be VARIABLES planted XYZ and consecutive letters firmly in my head. This was confirmed by CLARIFIED in the last column and BUTTER in row 11 which gave GHI. (I will again mention how awkward for bloggers it is that some puzzles do not number unclued entries!)

The extra letters in wordplays spelt out Think sequentially, and for once I had. The final set of pairings linked in this way, with QR and VW being the two cases less so than the others (ie only two characters), was:

QR FOURTH PART (ie quarter)

Listener 4202 My Entry“Disregarding the only character neither appearing nor suggested in the puzzle”, which was J, this left STU to be highlighted in column 2. Sounding like stew, the meaning of scouse, we had the significance of the title. I’m not sure that it was necessary to give the unchecked letters in the preamble unless it was to put us off with its “Liver birds” reference.

So another good puzzle from Lato, and a welcome respite between Sabre’s offering and the following week’s mathematical with its misprints (aaaargh).

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Translation by Sabre

Posted by shirleycurran on 24 August 2012

I have just put our list of knights in the bin. We had 33 translated knights including RYTIR, BRUNINIEKS, SOVALYE, LOVAG and of course PAARD, KOHb, CAVALLO, CABALLO, CAVALIER and SPRINGER. We had guessed fairly early on, when we found LAVALIER clashing with CHOCBAR that a series of knights was going to provide the six thematic entries in the completed grid (though we hadn’t immediately realized that they were specifically the names of the chess pieces). One numpty went off to amuse himself compiling a potential list, while the other struggled with the knights’ moves.

On second thoughts, maybe I had better retrieve that list, as this was the second time I have jousted with Sabre’s knights and that list leaves him many more for a few more entries into the lists. Fortunately, this bout wasn’t quite as fraught as our last joust which, if I remember right, was my longest solve ever. However, like that one, we were unable to begin shifting our knights until we had almost completely cold-solved the crossword and that was after midnight last night. I slept on it!

Sabre had lulled us into a sense of false security as, even though I was entertaining visitors, I was able to sneak off and fill in a few clues and they were surprisingly approachable. I imagine the editors had rejected any real Knight mares, (sorry – nightmares – they came later) as too many gaps would make this crossword impossible to solve. We were left with 7d ‘Empty Bierkeller, maybe one character seen there regularly (4)’ What a stunning clue! The Bierkeller maybe  (BAR) has the character E  that regularly appears in it (BiErkEllEr) and gives us BARE or ‘Empty’. We also had 36d to solve (and still have, though the endgame confirmed that the ‘duds’ of the definition were RAGS). Hah – a postscript;  a fellow solver has explained that ‘in fine‘ is Latin – the endings, of course of  ‘foR operA goinG dresS. I should have seen that, I had the joy of teaching Latin to young Americans many years ago. (You should try reciting the declensions putting the accusative just before the ablative, as they do – it is on a par with knights’ moves!)

Of course Sabre provided us with the inevitable Listener compiler alcoholic clues with ‘Australian wine bottles Sabre mixed up, being old (10)’ A + HOCK + SABRE all mixed together producing AHORSEBACK, meaning ‘up’ once. A nicely thematic clue though the Bierkeller was empty and Bars in North Carolina too (those DOGGERIES). There was ‘Sparkling wine without limit lifted fish’ as well, in CAVA followed by ALL (rev) so it is not surprising that a couple of Johns and a lavatory appeared.
However, more to the point, a few potential knights were also emerging. I had to make a new little see-through bit of plastic (I should know better than to throw away such devices; a third knights’ moves feast is likely to appear one of these days) to isolate the potential moves of those letters that had appeared as clashes. I began work, putting to one side the concern about ABYE which had no inherent misprint and the obvious problem of that D/L clash in TOWELGOURD and STELE which clearly provided nowhere for the knight to go.

And work it was. We have learnt our lesson; I painstakingly traced every move of the correct letter that was leaving a word, and listed the original words and the misprints and laboriously worked through the grid. The joy when it all fitted together was unbounded as was my admiration for Sabre. How on earth did he compile this? Did he start with his knights (they were a great help, as putting them into the grid put correct letters into each corner)?
I hope he will tell us.

Of course, we encountered a problem (the numpties always do!) There was that issue of the Cyrillic script transliteration of the Russian Knight into English. Apparently it needs a lower case ‘b’ , but we had the original clash with PROB ‘Small difficulty for classical bass — KEEP IT DOWN!  Was that telling us to enter KOHb? No, as you can’t ‘keep’ something down that isn’t already down and ‘Bass’ in Chambers is an upper-case B.  So it must be a rather salacious clue about BASS losing ASS. Anyway, any information about entering lower-case letters would be in the preamble wouldn’t it, not in a clue? (Like that contentious issue of Arsenal Manager and the silly business about the accent that appeared in this week’s solution – are our editors losing the place?) We took the risk and entered our upper-case B cursing these ambiguities that appear.

The worries that had been shelved resolved themselves. With almost all the moves worked out, there were still some words that needed misprints and some errant ‘correct letters’ to allocate – that Z from BAZAN had to create a misprint in ROZES, sending the little S knight into CHOCBSR, to create a misprint there. The spare P of Prat, had, of course, to give us one of our knights, the PAARD, and that worrying D/L clash was resolved by creating clashes in CIRCUS where it met DEGRADE.

At three o’clock on the dot, our grid was complete and I calculated that a total of eight hours had gone into solving this.  Sabre’s last errant knights took us 24 hours of solving – if anything, I enjoyed this one more. Thank you, Sabre!

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Listener 4201: Sabre’s Translation (ou Merde!)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 24 August 2012

Those of you who are regular visitors here will probably be fed up with my bleating about the major hassle that I found moving house. I will therefore not mention it again … until a bit later!

Sabre’s last puzzle was number 4140, Jumping to Conclusion in which entries had to be entered in knight’s move fashion. To say that I found that difficult would be an understatement. One of the problems was not being able to solve one of the clues: Fossil elephant — tips of decayed ivory missing (9) which turned out to be DINOTHERE, D(ecayed) I(vory) NOT HERE (missing). Not being sure which clues ‘crossed’ other clues was a real nightmare.

This week, a knight’s move also made an appearance, but luckily only one per clue. Each answer had a misprint, with “the correct letter being translated by a move to another cell”. Well, did that mean that the correct letter was to be found a knight’s move away, in which case why not say so. Obviously “translation” was a key word. And so, the Tuesday before the deadline (or, to put it another way, the Tuesday after I moved in) I started Sabre’s puzzle. I knew that I was taking a huge risk leaving it so late, but I only had myself to blame. The week leading up to the move, as well as the move itself, had been hectic (and that really is the last time I’ll mention it).

I didn’t get 1ac: Typo in new version of Lear (7), which seemed like an anagram, but of what — TYPO IN N or IN N LEAR? I was pleased to get 13ac fairly quickly Excellent grips on front of Meissen jugs (6) for BOSOMS … outrageous! And 18ac Checked bag’s gone astray containing piano (9) gave SPONGE-BAG, but that looked like a noun, and having ‘bag’ in the clue meant it was unlikely to be the answer (hey, what do I know!). Answers continued to come thick and fast, and I wondered if I had been worrying unnecessarily.

Obviously, I could initially only enter any answer lightly since each contained a misprint, but after 50 minutes I had nearly a couple of dozen clues solved, with 12 letters in bold (where across and down agreed). Eight clues later, including TOWEL-GOURD and SPONGEBAG and my first real worry occurred: I had ABYE at 21dn, but there were no clashes with the crossing entries spongebAg, caBalle, Yacht and doggEries. Help!

I ploughed on, as did the day around me. It looked likely that SPRINTER and LAVALIER, with a crossing G and C respectively, would become SPRINGER and CAVALIER and were presumably two of the six thematic entries that would appear in the grid. They were two types of spaniel. I looked around for other possible dogs in the grid, but none appeared.

And so, the final clues that I had to solve:

1ac LITERAL Typo in new version of Lear (7)
LIT + LEAR*; even now, I have no idea where the LIT comes from
7dn BARE Empty bierkeller, maybe one character seen there regularly
Nothing to do with emptying BierkelleR, but BAR (bierkeller) + E (letter seen regularly in biErkEllEr); a staggering bit of composition
10dn OVERGOT Local recovered from failure to play in public
I tried to fit OVERACT in for ages (with OVER being ‘recovered from failure’, albeit not ‘local’, + ACT for ‘play’), before seeing GO (play) in OVERT (public) … easy?
… and finally …
4dn 😕 Small difficulty for classical bass — KEEP IT DOWN!
To put it bluntly, I HAVEN’T A CLUE!

And so the endgame began in earnest as I tried to identify which letters went where in the clashing cells. I found a few anomalies where neither of two clashing letters could be found a knight’s move away from the square, so presumably were replaced by a third. Perhaps I had misunderstood the preamble after all. All I can say is that, since I had very little time left, at least I didn’t spend 24 hours on it, like Jumping to Conclusion had taken me. The following day, Wednesday, was a work day in the big city, but the half hour I had for lunch didn’t enable me to progress very far and so the blank grid I had for my solution remained blank.

I have no idea what was going on here. Was it staring me in the face all the time and I just couldn’t think outside the grid. Whatever … Sabre beat me, so well done for that. I find it quite interesting to look forward to seeing the solution to a puzzle that has defeated me. It’s almost as good as the PDM, just nowhere near as satisfying. Can’t wait…


Commiserations to Simon Long on the end of his all-correct run of 412 Listeners. A staggering achievement, let down by putting TAYRAS for TAIRAS in Shackleton’s recent Olympic puzzle. It makes my best of 126 look positively puny!

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No 42 The Missing Vwels Rund by Shackletn

Posted by shirleycurran on 17 August 2012

There was no doubt at all that the numpties were expecting this theme. It was rather like crosswords on the sinking of the Titanic or the faithful Christmas themes. Still we had a long hard solve before we could confirm our suspicions.

Shackleton,we know, is one of the stars of the compiling world, and, of course, some of those misprints were well hidden like the ‘site of Brunel’s tunnel, short dilapidated one (6)’. I’m a bit of a Brunel fan and know that his splendid engineering works stand out, so there was something fishy there, but wasn’t that clever? [BOR(e) was the short tunnel followed by dilapidated ONE giving us the site of BRUNEI – BORNEO, of course!] Shackleton must have hooted with joy when he thought that one up.

Some solutions came quickly, though. Whoever needed a ‘Warning about approaching tame hens, keeping wide (4)’? The answer for this ‘warning about approaching tIme’ was OMEN so were we women the ‘hens’ and were we losing rather than keeping that W(ide)?

We floundered our way through these clues adding some fine new words to drop casually into table talk this week, “Just happened to spot MOERA in the NARTHEX, organising the ROSELLE and BIXA in a ROSTRE”. Of course Shackleton gave his fair share of tippley clues too: we had a ‘Vineyard holding’, ‘drunk maids’ and ‘Drink with mild taste drained by John’, though, as so often with such boozy clues, that one had its touch of bathroom humour, when it turned out to be LATTE – a drink with milK and T(ast)E was drained or emptied out by a LAT or John (tut-tut says the prudish numpty!)

As soon as we read that there are misprints or extra letters producing a message, that yellow highlighter strip goes alongside the clues and this one was producing a most odd truncated message: VICTRIA CIRCLE NRTHERN DISTRICT CENTRAL CLUR SLWER DEEPER SHAKIER.

Even we overseas solvers have some notion of the London Underground and it didn’t take a genius to work out that there were five – yes FIVE Os missing from that message. What’s more, every freebie diary that comes our way when the bankers are in a super-generous mood has a dinky little underground map that isn’t a lot of use in Geneva but heigh ho: it does show us that those lines are blue, black, red, yellow and green.

I thought the preamble was beautifully unambiguous this time. With that lovely touch of humour, we were told that ‘SLOWER, DEEPER, SHAKIER’ might describe those underground lines. I remember that Marylebone used to be described as the deepest underground station in the world but I am sure there must be others deeper now: I was astonished how shaky the DLR seems to be: but ‘slower’? You spoilt Londoners should try to cross Geneva one day!

We had to write the classical antithesis of those three comparative adjectives beneath our grid. Of course we fitted the picture together and immediately slotted in the Olympic motto CITIUS ALTIUS FORTIUS (by this time Her Majesty and Daniel Craig, aka James Bond had leapt from that helicopter and the 204 teams were seemingly endlessly making their way into the Olympic stadium).

We were playing a silly game predicting which team was going to appear next and generally failing miserably as 2 a.m. local time approached (well, could you predict who was going to follow Turkmenistan? See below) and, as usual with Listener endgames, I had a fixed idea in my mind that didn’t quite square or circle with the five Olympic rings I needed to see in the grid. They represent five continents don’t they? And I expected to find Europe, Africa, America, Asia and Oceania there. (Post script: I have just learnt from Derek’s message board that I am totally out-of-date and that those colours had something to do with the flags of the relevant countries. I am not convinced but …)

The usual putting it to bed (though for a short night) produced those Olympic rings and all that was left to do was to draw the circles in the right order being careful to leave the cell contents legible, and to congratulate Shackleton on a crossword that came together beautifully.

(Yes, it was Tuvalu!)

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