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Archive for October, 2012

Links by KevGar

Posted by shirleycurran on 26 October 2012

The numpties blogging before dinner on Friday for the second time in a month. That really takes the biscuit! This was certainly our fastest grid fill ever as we had all but our last three clues in just about thirty minutes. This can only bode ill. We must be due for a real stinker – I hope somebody has tied Sabre’s right arm behind his back and banned all references to Klein bottles, graphs on tori and the like in Listener crosswords.

“VERSINE” said the other numpty for ‘Angular function is even? Odd! (6)’ “No,” I replied, “there’s an R missing from the anagrind. D’oh! Is that why it’s called Links? Surely we aren’t going to take an R out of every clue – VESINE”. Three clues later (Comandeer boat after exercise (4)’ P[R]E + SS, ‘Tea for example, upped load (5) CHA[R] + EG rev, and ‘BeST A[R]rangement’s part 2 perhaps (3)) and not only had we decided that we were doing that, but also we had found enough letters to suggest WITTGENSTEIN (well, actually Crossword Compiler suggested it when I fed the letters in!)

“The left-handed piano player, of course! Brother of Ludwig. While the other numpty slotted solutions in as fast as he could write, I did a quick visit to Wikipedia and, of course, produced all the composers who wrote for him, at his request.  We were clearly told that the loss of RIGHT was something ‘evidently not affecting the group of four’ and we had enough letters to slot in (with their right arms intact) STRAUSS, RAVEL, PROKOFIEV and BRITTEN.

The rest was a gift. We were solving so fast that I didn’t even have time to hunt for the usual Listener setter boozy stuff, just some tea in there and, oh dear, somebody dropping old trousers.

There was a moment of delight when the wordplay of 19 down led us to SHIPWS ‘Carpenters whip top to bottom within ends of stocks (6)’ and we realized that the entire word RIGHT had to come out of SHIPWRIGHTS. Of course, we had to apply that wisdom to understand why ASY was appearing at 3 down ‘Affectedly creative perhaps, in Aberdeen forever holding last of paintings (3)’ A[RT]SY – and PUIE at 28 across ‘Pick up that is more charming for cowboys (4)’ PU[RT]IE[R]

So there we were: a full grid but a little bit of head-scratching about some of the wordplay. SPI[R]AL seemed to be our answer for ‘Wind, from the east, almost drops ball into round one (5)’ but, even though we play golf, it took us a while to work out that A (one) was to go into LIPS (nearly drops ball into), heading east. And I still don’t understand the wordplay of OFF-COLOU[R]ED, ‘Description of inferior diamond: “ice” South African man initially extracted in winter? (10)’ Perhaps Dave will explain it in his blog.

What was left? That strange instruction that ‘Solvers must highlight the letters of Xs first name where they appear closest together (ie, the average distance between any two being minimised).’ What was the purpose of this? Did anyone think you could solve this puzzle without realising that it was the left-armed Paul the pianist and not the philosopher, Ludwig, that we were dealing with?

The mathematical numpty explained to me that in a total of 6 Ps, 10 As, 4 Us and 4 Ls, we immediately have 960 choices to make PAUL. There are six distances to compute for each arrangement of Paul (4C2) so a major computation is involved in proving one has the closest set.

I got my ruler out and measured what seemed to me to be the two most likely candidates. (Surely the total distance of the six relevant measurements is exactly analagous to the average distance between any two. I hope so anyway.) The PAUL in the top corner added up to 16cms, while the one in the lower centre of the grid came to 12cms. He does say ‘any two’, so we are totting up six measurements for any set (PA, AU, UL, PU, PL, AL –  not just PA, AU and UL). No, I refuse to work out the other 958 combinations of the four letters! I’ll just highlight that set of four letters with no idea what it has to do with the theme. A bit of a shame after such a light-hearted fill.

Thank you KevGar. A gentle romp.

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City Crossing Tour by Merlin

Posted by shirleycurran on 19 October 2012

This was one of those rare occasions when we knew where we were heading   even before the very first solution was slotted in (and that was the familiar word ULNA, ‘Bone left in possession of girl (4)’. That belongs with TSETSE, ANT, MERI and co. in the ‘Stop me if you’ve heard this one before’ category, doesn’t it?) The other numpty said, “This must be Euler’s seven bridges of Königsberg problem – but he proved that there was no solution to that, so perhaps we should stop right now!”

Of course we continued, with the advantage that a lot of solvers must have shared, of having a good idea what the down clue misprints were going to produce. However, some of those were the last ones we understood. Towards the end of our solve, we needed the B and E of Königsberg and had only ‘Doctor in agreement with thirst to slake (4)’ as the potential B. ADRY gave us a poetic word for thirst, so we decided the misprint had to be Blake for Slake. Now that really is working backwards!

SRADDHA had to be an anagram of ‘Rash dad’ – ‘Rash Dad could make offering to forefather (7)’ in the following clue, so our missing E had to come out of ‘Such as Clegg’s maths in old grammar school initially’ (7) (DONNATS). I had completed and sent my entry before a friend explained to me that Clegg appears in ‘The Last of the Summer Wine”. I wonder how many other people living overseas were stymied by that solution!

Happily, the misprints in the across clues were more generous, alerting us, in good time, that we were to SHADE RIVER BLUE. Of course there is always a numpty red herring or two, so I immediately began to hunt for the Pregel or some modern Russian version of it, but it was not to be, and, in any case, we needed a fairly extensive river that had to circle round the two islands of the classic problem.

Lucky finds of DUTCH AUCTIONS, REVIVOR, REVERIST, SRADDHA, SHAVUOTH, TARLATAN and PALSTAFF (just a few more words to innocently drop into dinnertime conversation this week) had helped us towards a fairly speedy grid fill and we were heartily reassured to see that Merlin shared the usual Listener setters’ love of the hard stuff, with a healthy number of tipply clues (‘Brewery’s by-product, one limited in stuff to be fermented’ (8), giving us MUST around LTD – MALTDUST, ‘Brandy perhaps, grounds for poet’s getting drunk’ (6) MARL + ON – though I don’t really understand the boozy reference – why the ON? ‘This pub in south-east is type from posh area’ (4) Interesting that one, as Merlin has split the hyphenated ‘south-east’ to give himself an S and an E to wrap round (S)LOAN(E) and finally, that ‘Doctor in agreement with thirst to slake?’ (4) AY around DR = ADRY according to Blake, we suppose).

There we were with a full grid and an astonishingly clever reconstruction of the Königsberg of Euler’s day that echoed the map that Google produced. Of course I always head there at once: the librarian in our little French commune would be somewhat challenged if I turned up there to do my hunt. Now we understood why we had those funny new words with all the Rs in them, REVERIST, VAIRY, REVIVOR and RORIER. I can just imagine Merlin’s compiler joy when he managed to find those to produce the bed of his river. Of course we coloured all the letters of R I V E R blue and hunted for bridges.

There they were: TAY, LONDON, FOOT, BAY, PONTOON, HUMPBACK and TOLL. I am stupid enough, after all these centuries, to imagine that Euler might have miscalculated, so, of course, I fiddled for a few pointless minutes attempting to escape from some remote area of Königsberg – was there a hidden airstrip, stilts, a wet suit, a ferry or something that would allow a leap from one side to the other of the grid? Of course, the other numpty is the scientific one. “Euler demonstrated that the addition of a bridge would solve the puzzle – there has to be another bridge!” SEA BRIDGE? It is there, but, sadly, it provides a fourth way off the island, only compounding the problem but EUREKA – sneaky Merlin has offered us an escape route. A TUNNEL!

We weren’t home and dry yet. I had pencilled routes all over my grid and inevitably ended up crossing my own tracks, so I handed over to the other numpty who finally produced the winning route.

What an impressive compilation. Thank you Merlin!

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Listener 4209: Merlin’s City Crossing Tour

Posted by Dave Hennings on 19 October 2012

Well, it looks as though I worried unnecessarily about last week’s puzzle, Flying Tortoise’s Good to Go and I completed it correctly. My main gripe was that it was possible to complete the puzzle without fully understanding the theme. Actually, ‘gripe’ may be too strong a word; ‘niggle’ would be better. I also felt that the bottom row would have been better had it been BY THE PRICKIN’ OF. Anyway, I seem to be in the minority all round on this, so may I extend encouragement to Flying Tortoise for another puzzle sometime (assuming that he/she isn’t an old hack using a special pseudonym). Thanks also to Gail for help with the ninth clue missing its G.

And so, on with this week’s puzzle. It was with some trepidation that I opened my copy of The Times on Saturday morning. I was off for a week of golf on the Monday, so only had bits of two days before I went and the Tuesday after I got back to finish the puzzle. I was dreading a Sabre, Pieman or Shackleton, and while it wasn’t one of those, Merlin was a name that brought back memories of a past defeat, namely Olde Treasure Hunt. I guessed that I would probably be faced with a challenge.

I read the opening of the preamble: “The crossword is based on a famous puzzle.” A glance at the title, and I assumed that the theme was going to be the seven bridges of Königsberg, possibly involving Euler’s proof that you couldn’t take a walk that crossed all bridges once and once only. It looked like I was half way home.

Make that ‘a tenth of the way’. The clues, as I expected, turned out to be tough to start with, many of them (about 60%) containing misprints. Surmising that Euler could be the ‘relevant name’ spelt out by some of the misprints didn’t really help much. And anyway, I might have been on completely the wrong track with that line of thought.

Listener 4209I started fairly slowly: 12 ULNA, 31 ANGST, 35 NOTANDA and 37 BAYOU were the only acrosses I got early on, followed by 3 OLD SALT, 23 SRADDHA, 30 MAYOR and 32 GOTHS for the downs. With so many misprints, I think it’s just a question of getting a smattering of normal clues and possibly some obvious anagrams or hiddens with misprinted definitions (such as gANGSTers in 31ac defined by Feat Fear, and ghost GOTHS with brief grief in 32dn).

Progress was steady, although it wasn’t until half-way through Sunday that I had a finished grid. There were some nice distractions along the way:

18ac SHAVUOTH First signs of vicious shark attack happening out at sea, start of horrific feast for Jaws
anag of (V[icious] S[hark] A[ttack] + OUT) + H[orrific]; OK, the misprint was fairly obvious, but what a lovely surface reading
28ac REVIVOR Increase speed of steam engine from North Wales reliving action
fond memoories of Ivor the Engine based at Llaniog
42ac ASSAYS Ganges composition like, for instance, Indus ultimately
misprint is Ganges for Gauges
17dn LOAN This pub in south-east is type from posh area
pub for sub; LOAN in SE gives Sloane

And so onto the endgame. The corrected misprints spelt out Shade river blue. Konigsberg. Euler. At last my hunch was proved correct, and I searched for the River Pregel in the grid. There were four Ps and only two Gs, but no R, E or L that could combine to spell out the river’s name. I printed out a large version using Sympathy, something I often do if I can’t see anything obvious with my scrawly writing in the grid. A few minutes later and I was highlighting all the Rs, Is, Vs and Es in the diagram, et voilà, a nice representation of the city of Königsberg with its seven bridges. Each bridge was marked with a type of bridge or the name of one: TOLL, BAY, TAY, LONDON, FOOT, HUMPBACK, PONTOON.

While searching for the thematic objects, I was lucky, as no doubt many of you were, to come across the devious little TUNNEL going up in column 2. This would obviously make possible the impossibility of crossing the bridges without additional help.

And then, early on Sunday evening, with essential packing for my golf trip still in front of me, I came to an abrupt halt. Try as I might I couldn’t find the route across all the bridges and through the tunnel in a single continuous path. I printed out my grid, with the river shaded blue, the bridges green and the tunnel grey. This grid accompanied me to Portugal, where I dipped in and out of the problem and suffered the strange looks of my fellow golfers (luckily only five of them). It then accompanied my back to the UK a week later … still unsolved.

And so, on the Tuesday before the deadline, I sat down and attacked the puzzle afresh. The first thing to do was to read up on the problem as Euler saw it, and his solution. If each point in the city that was cut off from the others by the river were joined to its adjacent points across the bridges, a necessary condition for the walk to be successful was that exactly zero or two points had to have an odd number of connecting lines emanating from them. (I think that’s a layman’s explanation of it!)

I drew a simplified map of the city, and joined up the various points, labelling them with the names of the bridges. Unfortunately, the positioning of Tay, London, Foot and Humpback meant that I couldn’t find a way of creating the path without having lines cross and that was forbidden by the preamble. Moreover, Toll and Bay entered the right hand side of the grid, but only Pontoon left it. The options available for the tunnel looked like being AIG, MES, NEL, NEG, AES or ORL. I Googled the first, and was surprised to find that it was a hole, pit or tunnel in the Sudan. Could that really be the way out? It certainly made the walk possible, requiring two tunnels to cross the river, now a total of nine times.

After a bit of further investigation, I could find no other solution. Not for the first time this year, I pitied anyone without access to the Internet … and also wondered whether I had gone up a blind alley, and the solution was stupidly straightforward. After all, how did Merlin manage to find the Aig?! Whatever the outcome, this was great fun. Thanks.

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Listener 4208: Good to Go by Flying Tortoise (but where?)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 12 October 2012

Another new setter hits the Listener this week. It’s Flying Tortoise, and he has a special interest in 1ac, the top row of this week’s puzzle. There’s part of a quotation lurking, with its continuation providing a musical context for which 1ac is the title, and the only clue jiggery-pokery is that nine clues are modified in accordance with this theme. Oh, and the clues to the words descending from 1ac had to have a letter added at the front to give the full entry, with 1ac being unclued. Onward and upward…

The clues turned out to be remarkably straightforward, nay easy. Inside fifteen minutes, the grid had a good smattering of about twenty entries. Thanks, FT. Sadly, none of them required any amendment to the clues, and I was still very much in the dark about 1ac. Of those descending from the top row, I currently had 1, 3, 4, 6, 7 and 8. Of those, only 4 EVER SO, 7 ENEW and 8 STRIDE appeared to have unambiguous extra letters added to the front, giving REVERSO (!), RENEW and ASTRIDE.

29ac was In public I love a smoke, and it looked like the answer was CIG, which meant that a G was probably missing from the beginning of ‘love’. I must say that having only nine of these pesky clues to spot, I frequently forgot to remind myself about them. For instance, 42ac Cover with some lacier material was ICE, and I wondered what that had to do with lace! Eventually, of course, another G had to be added to the clue to give ‘glacier’.

Listener 4208And so the grid gradually filled up, although not quite as quickly as the first twenty clues made me think it would … typical Listener then. I got the bottom row BY THE PRICKING O[f] which I had originally dismissed as an anagram because ‘key pitch robin’ only had 14 letters. With my new found knowledge about missing Gs, I eventually revisited the clue and realised it should read Key pitch robing trills since the Gs weren’t all added to the front of a word. I was a bit puzzled by the omission of the F since it seemed to be a forced requirement just to fit the 14 cell wide grid.

So there were nine clues which had a G dropped … actually all Gs dropped, since 2dn Lances furtively stolen from kin, hidden in sediment became Glances furtively stolen from king, hidden in sediment, ie R (king) hidden in LEES (sediment). So this device explained the title, with G for good going from these clues.

Eventually, 1ac revealed itself. Having toyed with the second word being TRAGEDY and TRAVESTY if 6dn RAVEL became TRAVEL, I found GRAVITY with 6dn becoming GRAVEL. 1dn DOCETIC meant the first word began with D … for DEFYING. REVERSO was, of course, wrong, and became NEVER SO; I liked the way that the two words notation applied to the clued and the extended word. I was disappointed, however, not to find the phrase DEFYING GRAVITY in Chambers under either word, although the G that was dropped from the clues also related to gravity.

So there it was … a finished grid, with DEFYING GRAVITY at 1ac and BY THE PRICKING O at 45ac. And absolutely no idea what the connection was between the two. Or three, if you include Flying Tortoise. I obviously knew that the continuation of 45ac was from Macbeth “By the pricking of my thumbs, Something wicked this way comes”, but, apart from seeing another explanation of the title, I was none the wiser.

Ans so I could have happily (or, rather, unhappily) popped my entry into its envelope and posted it without having a clue as to what was going on. Except that Google came to the rescue again. Defying Gravity is a song (the song?) from the musical Wicked, currently in the West End, but not a show that I have seen. But I hadn’t needed to know that to complete the grid. Was I missing something? I held off posting my entry for a few days wondering what that something was … apart from only having eight clues missing its Gs. I had 29, 41, 42, 44, 45 across and 2, 23, 26 down. Where was the ninth? Twice through the clues and it still eluded me! Oh well, it must be there somewhere.

Listener 4208 My EntryThis was a very unsatisfactory state of affairs, but the entry finally went off to St Albans with questions unanswered. I decided to await the publication of the solution to explain what, if anything, I had overlooked. Expect to see a postscript here later if I’ve messed up!

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Good to Go by Flying Tortoise

Posted by shirleycurran on 12 October 2012

This must be the first time I have written a Listen With Others blog before dinner on Friday. No, I am not complaining but rejoicing that Flying Tortoise’s Good to Go was such a gentle and enjoyable solve. We were laughing even before we started as the setter’s name itself provides an enchanting picture and I had visions of people quitting Ryanair, where, we are told, it isn’t so
‘Good to Go’ and opting for a ride on the back of a tortoise.

No, but seriously, we did wonder, right from the start, whether G or Good was somehow going to go. Of course, the endgame demonstrated that that was, indeed, the case as we added a G to ‘Key pitch robin[G] trills’ to anagram and complete those familiar words (I played the third witch once and know that Macbeth scene by heart “By the pricking of my thumbs/ Something wicked this way comes”).

We had been marking clues where the wordplay didn’t quite make sense as our speedy solve progressed and were now able to understand clues like ‘Distributer provides work for Jud[G]e apparently’ (ISSUER), and ‘Fizzy cola with ice for the ca[G]y diner’ (COELIAC) – a bit vague, that one, I would say.

It was one of those nine clues that had to have extra letters added that gave us the confirmation of the G thing. ‘Lances, furtively stolen from kin, hiding in sediment’ There seemed to be two Gs missing from that clue, as LEERS was the obvious solution and they are GLANCES, but we also needed the KIN to become KIN[G] to produce the R that was to go into sediment (LEES).

We had actually found DEFYING GRAVITY before the Macbeth quotation led us to something WICKED and I have to admit that I know nothing at all about the musical, ‘Wicked’. Yet again, I give thanks to Wikipedia. I thought this all fitted together so nicely – the curtailed quotation (well, Shakespeare did use o’ for ‘of’ didn’t he?) leading to the musical containing ‘Defying Gravity’ and that inspired title. I wonder whether Flying Tortoise is a new pseudonym for a familiar setter who simply couldn’t resist the idea of a great clunky tortoise defying gravity and lurching into the sky, with that lovely ambiguous phrase ‘Good to Go’ telling us that Gs had to disappear, as well as the fact that it might be a positive experience to fly on the back of a tortoise. (I remember how people hostile to the old BOAC used to claim that it meant ‘Better on a Camel’.)

There wasn’t much of the usual Listener oenophilia in Good to Go so I shall have to go and cook dinner and drink a toast to this fine little compilation that had not a single misprint, no clashes, no carte blanche, no jumbles. It provided all the enjoyment we look for in a crossword solve.

Many thanks Flying Tortoise.

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