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Archive for February, 2013

42 by Xanthippe

Posted by shirleycurran on 22 February 2013

Space time continuum 001“Wasn’t that the answer to ‘Life, the universe and everything’ in Douglas Adams ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’?”, I asked. “You got it!” said the other numpty – so, in a way, we had a head start for Xanthippe’s 42. All the same, that short preamble was worrying. I’ve commented before that short preambles seem to accompany complex endgames. For us, at least, this was no exception.

The early ease of solving didn’t reassure us either. There were some gentle enjoyable clues like that &lit. ‘Fine musical instruments (5)’ F + LUTES, and ‘Celeb backing English chap (4)’ E MAN rev, and our grid was soon three quarters full.

That was when our problems began. There was no mention of clashes in the preamble but clearly there were lots of them. We had spotted SIGH (‘Mercury is reflecting sound of wind (4) Hg + IS rev) but it clearly would not sit comfortably with MNA ‘Man forged Greek money (3)’ or EDITOR at 3d. Conscious now that there were clashes, our solve became rather more careful.

Not careful enough, though. C?N?INU?M went in as CONTINUUM. We already had MEEK (‘Submissive male sound of one who’s frightened (4)’) and, at this stage, we had pre-empted all the wormhole wriggling and gone straight to the solution. We realized later that the clue actually led us to CONTINUED.

42 by Xanthippe, wormholes 001With UNIVERSE and CONTINUUM in place, we decided that our SPACESHIP at 1d was somehow going to become SPACE TIME so that the 42 in the UNIVERSE (W?RMH?S?S) were  going to become wormholes – those strange means by which matter is supposed to mysteriously move instantly from one end to the other. Some letter moving was required.

Fortunately, we had the p.d.m. of recognising that there were pairs of letters involved in the clashes. The G/M and H/E of SIGH, were echoed in the G/M and H/E of NAME at 35ac. We performed an instant wormhole switch and produced the intriguing SIME and NAGH. Hmmmm! The usual numpty head-scratching moment! Then we realized

Wormholes 3D 001

that Xanthippe had cleverly incorporated the unchecked letters that preceded those pairs so that we had to ‘wormhole’, the A and I, to produce NIGH and SAME.

The brilliance of the construction dawned on us. The above scan of my grid shows what antics I went through ‘wormholing’ all those clashed letters until, ultimately, I had only real words in the grid. There had to be only eight pairs of affected words, though at first there seemed to be far more.

In the end, these were the wormhole changes we adopted: sAME/nIGH, spaceTIME/warSHIP, numerologiCAL/cubiSTS, tranTS/puCE, adORE/swEPT, piNE/toLL, erGO/manSE, and, of course, continuUM/stED. My weekly submissions must be dreadfully boring for Mr Green so perhaps I should send something colourful and different this week. I’ll see if I can produce this thing appropriately in 3D. Well, I tried!

What a sense of achievement we had. We felt that this was quite a step up in difficulty from the puzzles we have solved so far this year. Many thanks, Xanthippe.

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Listener 4227: 42 by Xanthippe

Posted by Dave Hennings on 22 February 2013

Xanthippe’s last puzzle was the first mathematical of 2012, all about number plates and the American states. It’s a couple of weeks until our first mathematical of 2013, so this is standard Xanthippe crossword fare. There are two unclued entires, 8dn and 42ac which somehow affect material in eight pairs of answers. “Material” sounded a bit vague, if not ominous.

Listener 42271ac was an easy reversal of HG IS to give SIGH, neatly planting the idea that 2dn Man forged Greek money began with a G; in fact it would turn out to be a simple anagram, MNA (after a transformation of 1ac). 11ac Stale talk of fruit among bananas (5) was an unuaual clue. I solved it from among bananas leading to MANGO, but, as well as the definition fruit there was also a second slice of wordplay in MANG (old word for talk) + O (of).

24ac Living obtainable from businesses (6, two words) was a straightforward hidden – IN ESSE. However, this didn’t help much with 31ac Denoting a state of being 4 24 (6), and it took some time to realise that only 24 related to a clue answer, the final wordplay reading IV (four) in ESSE, ie ESSIVE. We were certainly getting some innovative clues here.

Of course, what wasn’t mentioned by the preamble was that there were many squares where letters clashed, but how they were to be resolved remained a mystery for well over an hour. That was when I finally solved 4ac Include moving uniform to end — education resumed (9) and was COUNT IN with the U moved to the end + ED (education) to give CONTINUED. This meant that it looked as though 8dn was UNIVERSE and 4ac could transform into CONTINUUM, which agreed with MEEK at 9dn.

At last, the eponymous 42, which wasn’t quite the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything, but was WORMHOLES. Thus eight answers disappeared after starting at their clue number, to appear at the corresponding point in its pair with the pair undergoing a corresponding transformation. All this needed keeping careful track of how the various pairs were matched:

1ac SIGH 36ac NAME became SAME NIGH

Listener 4227 My EntryA final clue to comment on: 13dn Harry Potter aids regularly: he knew secret of philosopher’s stone (5), being ADEPT, an anagram of alternate letters: PoTtEr AiDs. All in all, these were a solid set of clues, and I’m sure there were others that were somebody’s favourite.

The final task was to highlight two affected entries, which were thematic. SPACE-TIME CONTINUUM were the two and brought Xanthippe’s enjoyable escape into the fourth (or fifth?) dimension to a neat finish.

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Polar by Kea

Posted by shirleycurran on 15 February 2013

Kea's Polar 001My all-time favourite Listener crossword was the one where Kea managed to chop the tree down, leaving the axe leaning against the stump. That was magic (though I am told that his safe-breaking, which was before my time, was even more spectacular). We can expect something special (and probably tough, as his usually are for us).

Surprise, surprise! The clues are not as difficult as we expected. However, we solve for a few minutes and begin to wonder whether he is losing the place. ‘Punk movement’s humourless arrival (7)’ It has to be POGOING as that fits with all the other clues that are already in place in that corner. I search the BRB to see whether any obscure definition of GO can be ‘arrive’. (You never know!) But it can’t, so we insert POGOING and move on.

The south-east corner yields quickly and again we are head-scratching. ‘Female name change in Reno, Nevada (6)’ A quick Internet check confirms that Nevada gives NV, so we change NVRENO and produce VERNON. It fits but that is a ‘Male’ name. What a lovely penny-drop-moment. So that is why it is called ‘Polar’.

Suddenly it all makes sense. We change BLACK to WHITE, LOOSE to TIGHT and WRONG to RIGHT noticing, of course, that Kea is naturally one of the Listener Compiler oenophiles with his ‘Tipsy when reaching garden district (5)’ (AS + KEW). He’s even ‘dropping barrels’ later in our solve (‘Money discontinued with bad construction worker dropping barrels (7)’ – with G(ood) BUILDER dropping B we get GUILDER) and suffering because there is ‘Someone soaking my meagre drinks (6)’ (I don’t understand the wordplay of that one but it had to be BATHER to give a real word, BATLER, in the converted grid.)

Hunting through, for the alcohol, as I habitually do, I couldn’t help noticing the quality of most of the surface readings. But then, Kea ought to be a star at that! There were some delightful word pictures like ‘Adolescent’s absent for late English bird (7)’ We have a mental picture of a stroppy adolescent standing up his date, and English bird because she’s late. That was my favourite clue because of the superb way LATE (one of those sixteen polar changes we had to make in the clues) became EARLY so that A(bsent) replaced E(arly) E(nglish) in TEENAGER, giving TANAGER. (Yes, that will be this week’s conversation stopper. “Seen any tanagers on the bird table lately?”)

Naturally the changes will be symmetrical. That helps us work out the more difficult corner and we opt for HEAVY, changing to LIGHT. It seems that difficult 19d has to be BATHER which will, thus, become BATLER and with lovely phonetic symmetry, we have five new words ‘WHITE, TIGHT, BRIGHT, LIGHT and RIGHT’ – how very right that sounds.

We have to run a check to confirm that only 16 of the solutions are not involved in the changes, and that we have managed to find a word changed to its polar opposite in each of those clues. As we do this, we find some amusing and subtle changes. ‘Partially roasted alive in Spenser’s case (5)’ led to the hidden solution STEDDE in ‘Partially roaSTED DEad’. In ‘One ruminates on seizing day Thatcher goes forward (7, two words)’, the Thatcher, or REEDER went backwards, seizing D(ay) giving a ruminant RED DEER. Wasn’t that lovely?

‘Everything occurring twice in Runaway Bride’s doings (7)’ was a fine example of an ongoing message-board discussion. Is it the clue or the adapted clue that should give the better surface reading. (Or, ideally, should it be both?) Here, it was the polar ‘Nothing’ (or O) that had to go into an anagram of BRIDE, giving DOOBRIE (or a thingummy or ‘doings’). What a superb clue – and it does seem to opt for the surface reading of the clue the solver sees (which, to my mind, makes sense).

The entire crossword was a model of impeccable setting with an integrated end-game – no flailing or hopeless attempts to leap through impossible hoops (and no stray red herrings). Many thanks, Kea.

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Listener 4226: Polar by Kea (or Quite a Sleight)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 15 February 2013

Listener 4226As I saw that this week was Kea’s annual outing, I wondered whether we were in for a bit of playful fun or a gargantuan tussle with our editor. The preamble gave nothing away. All we were told was that some entries needed to undergo a transformation after the initial grid was completed, and that a word in 16 other clues needed to be similarly changed before solving. My initial thought was that there could be anagrams or misprints involved, and then discounted both ideas as they would probably be too obvious.

1ac was BADER and 12ac was APODS, neither of which needed to have a word in the clue changed. I was tempted to concentrate my efforts on the top left corner, but decided instead to do my more customary jaunt through all the clues in sequence. This proved somewhat depressing, as very few jumped out at me. 17ac Partially roasted alive in Spenser’s case (6) looked like it should be STEDAL, but that wasn’t in Chambers, at least not that I could see.

Onto the downs, and 2 Overhaul resort retaining unsure supports (6) was A•P••• which looked like APPUYS, being SPA reversed around PUY or SPA around YUP all reversed. PUY doesn’t exist, and I failed to see how YUP meant ‘unsure’. (Well it doesn’t does it!) 4dn Diminutive girl, willowy perhaps, raising top as far as possible (5) was R•S•• and was probably ROSIE … OSIER with the R moved to the top. And so the penny dropped. It wasn’t the top that was raised, but the bottom, and the transformation that was required was to replace a word with an antonym. YUP meant ‘sure’ and that clue now made sense.

And so a very entertaining couple of hours (well… more like three, I think) was spent trying to identify the rogue words in the clues. Some were fairly obvious, such as ‘unnatural natural order’ in 6dn, but others weren’t quite, such as ‘period of activity inactivity’ at 5ac. Other clues that I particularly liked were:

16ac KYRIE Prayer guide for heroic souls neglects trinity at start (5)
Nice use of ‘trinity’ to drop first three letters from VALKYRIE.
17ac STEDDE Partially roasted alive dead in Spenser’s case
I got there in the end.
28ac TANAGER Adolescent’s absent for late Early English bird (7)
TEENAGER (adolescent) with EE (Early English) being replaced by A (absent).
33ac WOE UNTO Doctor won out, injecting drug, to see a plague off on (7, two words)
As in ‘a plague on both your houses’.
19dn BATHER Someone soaking my meagre drinks
BAR=maigre=meagre containing THE (my, as in ‘the wife’, I think); tricky!

Listener 4226 My EntryAll that remained was to replace the five entries not touched by words with transformed clues with their antonymns: LOOSE became TIGHT, HEAVY became LIGHT, BLACK WHITE, WRONG RIGHT, and STUPID BRIGHT.

Top marks again to Kea for a finely-crafted and thoroughly enjoyable puzzle.

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Innings/Outings by Mohawk – A Setter’s Blog

Posted by clanca1234 on 10 February 2013

I’m afraid this blog will be a little sketchy – it’s four or five years since I compiled the puzzle, and my memory of the process is not what it should be.

I can’t even remember how I hit on the idea of a pub cricket puzzle – I think I wanted to do something with pub names, and this seemed a good way. I played the game on car journeys as a child, and introduced it to my own children, though the growth of motorways and A-road bypasses has made it increasingly difficult. But I was aware that not everyone would be familiar with pub cricket, so the first thing I did was to google it.

The first entry that came up was Wikipedia, unhelpfully calling the game ‘car cricket’, which I’d never heard it called. But the game I knew came next, and – you’ll have to believe me here – at that time my search produced no reference to other versions involving drinking games or sexual harassment, which I’m afraid a number of solvers found.

The variety of pub names in Britain is such that I felt I needed some way of making them verifiable, so I checked in my Brewer’s (14th edition, but I don’t think the chapter’s changed much), and sure enough that aptly-named tome had a reasonably long list, if far from comprehensive. Some solvers have pointed out that it gives Bear and Ragged Staff rather than just Bear and Staff, though I’ve certainly seen pubs called both, so apologies for that.

Next I needed a clue gimmick that could generate PUB CRICKET and a brief summary of the rules. A LEG IS A RUN NO LEGS IS OUT or some such. And I needed a final step. I decided to make it a game between across and down, and hit on the idea of a substitution to convey the x for y scoring format. I honestly can’t remember what order the next steps came in –I just know it was a very complicated process pairing the pubs to get scores that I could reflect in the grid, and getting the right number of clues that were not involved in producing pub names or scores to convey the message. Oenophile/xenophile was a very happy spot when trying to turn two into six.

I first thought of the title Innings, as a way of linking pubs and cricket, then moved on to Innings and Outings to reflect the fact that it was a driving game, thinking this would also allow me to construct an apt clue gimmick. But having constructed a grid around a 33-letter message, I decided to split the clues into three groups, in, out and “in and out” – less satisfactory in terms of the theme, but perhaps more challenging to solve.

This was the third advanced cryptic I set as Mohawk. One was rejected by the Listener and published in Crossword, another went in the Magpie, and this one sat in the Listener slush pile for the next few years, until I got a surprise email in December to say it was being considered for publication, and could I have a look at the following dodgy clues. It was quite hard to reimmerse myself in the mindset of all those extra/omitted letters and misprints after all this time, and to work through all the possible alternative solutions thrown up when you have three different types of clue. Roger and Shane did a lot to improve the clues and eliminate ambiguities.

I then had to re-solve the edited puzzle myself. Even though I knew what the endgame was going to be, it took me 45 minutes. I wondered, slightly in awe of my 2007 self, how I could have been so devious as to want to inflict this pain on my friends and fellow Listener solvers.

So it was lovely to get the puzzle into the Listener after a gap of a few years, and I’ve had a very gratifying response to it so far. It’s a lot of work putting together an advanced thematic puzzle, and as a dilettante debutante I have the utmost respect for all those setters who continually keep coming up with new ingenious ideas and putting them into practice.

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