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Archive for August, 2012

Listener 4200 (and others): Shackleton’s Missing Vowels Round (and others)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 17 August 2012

This is my first blog at LWO for three weeks, the result of being totally snowed under by the trials and tribulations of moving house. For those of you who move house fairly frequently (say, every five years), this may seem to be a lame excuse. However, this was my first for just over 25 years, and it was depressing to realise how much accumulated … well, let’s just call it ‘stuff’ … had built up. In itself, this might not have been a problem, but my move was from a four-bedroom house to a two-bedroom cottage. A fair-sized living room, kitchen and garage exacerbated the problem. Put it this way, it’s not an experience that I look forward to repeating to soon.

So, to pick up where I left off, I need to make just a couple of comments about the two weeks that I missed. Firstly, there was Pilcrow’s 24 Across and his hero Arsène Wenger who transformed into Arsenal Manager. That was a very entertaining puzzle, despite football not being my favourite sport, and I made sure that my submission had a’s that looked like rotated e’s. For some reason, I had always thought that Wenger was Dutch and not French.

Following on from Pilcrow’s relatively straightforward offering, we had Kea’s Scattered. Well, with Kea you just know that you’re going to get something special, and I think we’re all agreed that we weren’t disappointed. The clues were typically tough, and it took me about six hours to solve the grid. I didn’t find the endgame too difficult, but that was made up for by admiration at the whole concept and implementation. I have to confess that it took me three attempts to make sure that I had identical letters to Hedge-sparrow’s grid three weeks previously (and what a nice, and essential, touch to use the puzzle whose solution was printed in the same paper).

And so on to puzzle 4200, and another setter whose puzzles I enjoy, Shackleton. For a start, the grid was a fair size, 19×11, and the clues had misprints in their definitions leading to two sets of words. I know Shackleton can be at the tricky end of the spectrum, but I thought that I might just get away with starting this puzzle on the Sunday before the deadline, which was also only three days before all my possessions would move house with me.

Although the clues weren’t as tricky as Kea’s had been the previous week, they were certainly taxing. I was chuffed that I got 1ac and 7ac straightaway, with the misprints of ‘lone’ for ‘love’ and ‘loved’ for ‘lived’ respectively. I was lucky to remember that Clinton had been governor of Arkansas before he became president. 14ac came next, with ARABA as a kind of carriage.

Like many a Listener, however, initial optimism gave way to reality and the rest of the grid took another five hours over a couple of sessions. But what lovely clues we were treated to on the way, my favourites being:

22ac BORNEO Site of Brunel’s tunnel, short dilapidated one
The definition is ‘Site of Brunei’ with BOR[E] (tunnel) + ONE*, and nothing to do with the funnel on Brunel’s SS Great Britain
1dn BARBARA Old sovereign aside from acting shy could be Windsor
Nothing to do with the Queen, but with Barbara Windsor of Carry On… and Eastenders fame: ‘shy’ becomes ‘she’ and BAR (a sovereign coin) + BAR (aside from) + A (acting)

It’s normal with misprints to be able to guess some letters that may be missing in a message and get help with the clues they represent. This was a little bit trickier here, as it turned out that some letters of the words were missing. Eventually we had, with the O’s being omitted, Victoria Circle Northern District Central colour Slower Deeper Shakier (although I initially had ‘colours’ and ‘lower’). It’s certainly true that the last three words can describe the first five, being London tube lines.

The colours of the tube lines in order are Blue Yellow Black Green Red, and I instantly recognised them as the colours of the rings on the Olympic flag. (Of course, when I say ‘instantly’, it actually took me about 40 minutes!) Looking up the motto of the Olympic Games, I found it to be Faster, Higher, Stronger, or in Latin Citius, Altius, Fortius.

All that remained was for me to find my colouring pencils that I had stupidly already packed away in a box labelled ‘Office’ (of which there were nine), and colour the five Olympic rings. As well as passing through the ten O’s in the diagram, they also passed through all the occurences of the other letters of OLYMPIC, each ring containing at least one of each letter.

As usual, another superb offering from Shackleton, and apologies for not making time to create an animation to go with this blog (and forgetting to scan my entry). And thanks also for not tripping me up … that would have to wait until Sabre’s puzzle the following week!!!

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Scattered by Kea

Posted by shirleycurran on 10 August 2012

Just two weeks ago I was saying how good it was to get two for the price of one. Wow – here we go again.  I am surrounded by versions of Kea’s ‘Scattered’ and simply dazzled. (Learnt a new word, too: ANOESIS ‘Sensation or emotion not accompanied by understanding of it!’ That’s Numptyville, or was for a while last night after we managed to complete this challenging grid.)

Was that a new device? ‘In each clue a word in the definition must be unjumbled with the removal of one letter before solving; the removed letters should lead solver to a 16-letter description of what constitutes the final grid.’

Some of the jumbles were fairly generous and delightful too. How lovely that a ‘Lake tactitian’ became ‘Lake Titicaca’ or that ‘Airline’s literature’ became ‘Israel’s literature’. Words like Homerids (Dhirems), Gingko (going), Rapeseed (speared) and Intelsat (talents) were
gifts to solvers and we laboriously completed the grid with the usual numpty grumbling about unjustified capital letters (‘Pork pâté from fancier [France] back order, seized by Customs (9)’ (TELL rev in RITES), and an obscure OED word. I hope my CARROS for ‘Madeiran vehicles that shield arrival in island (6) is correct (ARR in COS) but have no way of checking that it isn’t some obscure ZARRUS  Well, I do have a way, actually! That superb endgame confirmed the word didn’t it. Wow, wow!
Clashes appeared, though, with our abysmal ability with wordplay, we are never sure that we have the right ones. However, it was fairly evident in all seven cases, which word had to be inserted and which was going to somehow become a real word. (For each clashing cell, one of two answers must then be entered normally.) We were going to opt for POSTDOCS, ROSOGLIOS, LOFTIER, SOAPIER, EGG, ORGONE and MINDANAO.

So we laboured to a full grid and an astonishing message: CELLS MATCHING IN GRID FROM THREE WEEKS AGO. Of course, I have just put up a blog on Hedge-sparrow’s ‘Here and There’ and the solution has appeared on The Times site. Can this be serious? We remove it from the file and highlight the letters that correspond with Kea’s (surely a kea is a big coloured chatty thing and a hedge-sparrow a tiny twittery dun thing – what has happened, is this one and the same bird lurking under two identities?)

We superimpose one grid on the other. Two remarkable things emerge: first a message with 16 letters, THESE ALL RECYCLED. Second comes the intriguing fact that of our seven clashes, five obviously correct choices are echoed in the Hedge-sparrow crossword. So what are we recycling? The rejected letters from the clashes (F,T,N,H,P,M and G) – obviously not, where could I put those? The letters we are choosing or changing in the unches? That produces a similarly unpromising set.

Our biggest problem is that we need to change ANTEFIX and ROSTRUMS which now look like ANOE?I? and ROS?R?ES, but these give us a few choices. We console ourselves by admiring the surface reading of the clues. Kea, of course, once again confirms his membership of the oenophile Listener setter crowd with a couple of tipsy clues; ‘Oraters wiser [rise] to speak on these rough sorts drinking liquor (8)’ (SORTS* round RUM) and ‘Vine fruit’s their key tenderising [ingredient] secret, chiefly imbuing inverted cane sugar (9)’ (SOIL + GOOR + S(ecret) all inverted).

My absolute favourite, though, is ‘Angler [learn] hastily beginning to coat with batter (4)’ (C + RAM) what a gem with its fish and chippy misleading surface reading!

We admit defeat (it is heading for midnight) and sleep on it. Saturday – we read the preamble again (remember the Numpty rule no 1) and fumble and flounder, attempting to redeploy varies series of letters. But what is that ‘ALL’ doing in the 16-letter instruction? No, surely not. We know Kea is dazzlingly brilliant (I shall always have his ‘Admission‘ ‘I can’t tell a lie, I did cut it with my hatchet’ as my long term favourite – that cherry tree falling, leaving the hatchet propped up on the stump) Surely he can’t be recycling ALL the letters of the Hedge-sparrow crossword – but we had noticed how those clash resolutions appeared in both this grid and the one from three weeks ago.

It didn’t take long to confirm that this was the case.  I deleted all the shared letters and was left with SSAI. They will confirm that ROSARIES and ANOESIS fill the two remaining lights. Wow wow wow! I don’t have words for this sort of brilliance so had better stop. It’s depressing really. Kea makes the rest of us feel very small indeed. Back to ‘stripey horse (5)’

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24 Across by Pilcrow

Posted by shirleycurran on 3 August 2012

Here I am, sitting in front of my completed grid and wondering about the preamble. A speedy Friday solve produced a full grid, and, as the fireworks went off all around the house as the local French celebrated le quatorze juillet, la fête nationale (Bastille Day), we saw that a French topic was the theme. Could it be Arsène le Lupin (detective hero of French adventures). No, of course it was Arsène le Wenger. “They can’t be serious!” said one Numpty, as the other, soccer hater, fiddled on a piece of scrap paper, turning the lower case ‘e’s into ‘a’s, inverting the W or Wenger to get an M and fiddling with five of those central letters to produce Arsenal Manager. “They are!” she replied – a living person as the theme of a Listener crossword. I thought that contravened the rules. We’ll be getting Wayne Rooney and Andy Murray next or even that Scottish manager fellow. Heaven forbid!”

Solving had been fun with the linked clues giving convincing surface readings and sometimes deceptively concealing the split between the A and the B part. I was keeping a careful record, as we had been told that there were ‘ten pairs each way’ but I needn’t have bothered as our last two  sets proved to be one of each kind.

There was a moment of satisfaction when the resolution of the endgame produced only real words. SEA-KING became SNAKING and FORE-HORSE became FORM HORSE (I had to look that one up in Chambers but of course, any frequenter of Ascot could have told me what it was). Radix would surely approve!

‘Vessel used by Easterner, on the drink for an /eternity, getting tipsy after one Scotch’ had to be my favourite clue. Not only did Pilcrow demonstrate his participation in the habitual Listener compilers’ tipply club but he also beautifully concealed the join between PRO + A (for an) and AE  (one in Scotland) + ON (getting tipsy).

So why am I sitting here, staring at the grid and wondering about the preamble? It’s that word ‘Initially’ (Our hero is to be deduced at 24 across – ARSENE WENGER -, with an article befitting his country of origin inserted before his surname, – LE – and initially entered in lower case apart from the initials of his forename and surname (to remain as capitals).)

An ‘initially’ implies a ‘subsequently’ or an ‘ultimately’. When we have performed the turning and repositioning of five letters, are we expected to leave those letters of Arsenal Manager in lower case, or do we submit, as usual, in upper case? Oh the dilemmas of these preambles! Well, I suppose that a crossword submitted entirely in lower case would be acceptable and this won’t be the first that requires or tolerates a mixture.

Still, this moaning numpty thought the preamble was ambiguous and loathes the wall to wall soccer that seems to dominate much of British ‘culture’ but thank you, all the same, Pilcrow for some entertaining clues.

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