Listen With Others

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Listener 4235: X and Y by Ron

Posted by Dave Hennings on 19 Apr 2013

It was 7pm Friday evening, a time when many Listener solvers were putting the finishing touches to their submission of the puzzle that had appeared online only a couple of hours or so earlier. I, on the other hand, was frantically looking for my notes so that I could write my Listen With Others blog for the previous week’s puzzle, X and Y by Ron. Try as I might, the exercise book that contained the notes eluded me. There was only one thing to do … go down the pub.

Listener 4235The Crown was fairly empty, but Mark Bull was sitting in a corner drinking a pint of bitter and finishing off a bowl of salted peanuts. Two empty crisp packets showed that it wasn’t his first snack of the evening, and I was sure it wasn’t his first pint. Although he was tolerable in a group, one-to-one he could be a bit overbearing, and I wasn’t really in the mood for Mark that evening. However, before I could slip out the way I’d come, he spotted me and called me over.

He asked me what I was doing in The Crown on a Friday, the Swan Uppers being my Friday pub of choice, and then later at about 9. I explained the problem with my missing notes on Ron’s puzzle. Mark was also a Listener addict, but I hadn’t told him about my involvement with Listen With Others. As far as he was concerned, they were just comments to a novice solver who had asked for my help in becoming better at the Listener. I also avoided him like the plague while there was an ‘active’ puzzle that I hadn’t finished as he was liable to blurt out comments on the clues or, worse, the endgame!

“That puzzle was a doddle”, he said, polishing off the last of the peanuts. “Tell you what, buy me a pint and I’ll do the notes for you.” Despite my protestations, he shooed me towards the bar, and, as I looked over my shoulder, I saw empty crisp packets and the peanut bowl being swept aside and a scruffy piece of paper and pencil pulled from his jacket pocket. Suddenly, there before me Mark started morphing into the character from the Star Wars films, Jabba the Hut. It reminded me of the fabulous Hideous Hog from Victor Mollo’s excellent bridge books such as Bridge in the Menagerie. I shuddered, and Mark returned to his former shape.

As the two pints were being poured, I dredged my brain for the opening lines of the blog that I would eventually write. From what I could recall of the puzzle, it had an interesting preamble, so the first two steps had to be “Read the preamble” and “Reread the preamble”. I also remember being very appreciative that the clues for the carte blanche grid had been numbered. I’ve mentioned the lack of clue numbering in such puzzles several times in the past, and it looked as though my pleas had been heard by the editors. (Or not!)

When I returned from the bar with our drinks, Mark shoved a piece of paper under my nose. It had a list of points in what can only be described as kiddies’ scrawl! His name was in large letters at the bottom.

“There you are. How everyone should have solved the puzzle. Let me know what your protégé thinks, and keep my name at the bottom.” Mark left a short while later without buying me a drink in return, and I was able to relax at last … before going down the Swan Uppers.

Unfortunately, despite looking high and low for my notes the following week, I couldn’t find them. So here is the scrawl provided by Mark. Whether it ties in with the way you solved the puzzle, only you can tell.

Listener 4235, X and Y by Ron, Notes by Mark Bull

  • Solve the clues.
  • Fit them in the grid with the bars.
  • Begrudgingly congratulate the setter on the thematic nature of the ‘false’ clue (42): Beastly “pal”, mugging that foolhardy nit (6).
  • Determine the quotation, given by alternate letters in the extra words in clues:

    And some of the bigger bears try to pretend
    That they came round the corner to look for a friend;

  • Check your favourite book of quotations and determine (if you didn’t already know) that it came from When We Were Very Young ‘Lines and Squares’ by AA Milne.
  • Make the association between the theme of the puzzle, ie the poem ‘Lines and Squares’, and the title, X and Y: ie X = Lines and Y = Squares.
  • Determine the desription of the required bar rearrangement given by extra characters in clues, understanding the significance of ‘character’ as opposed to ‘letter’:

    4 X 9 Y, cut twice, align sillies.

  • Understand that the phrase ‘by titular reference’ meant that X had to be replaced by ‘Lines’ and Y by ‘Squares’ so that the resulting grid was divided into nine 4×4 squares.
  • Seeing SILL in one of the columns, cut the grid into three pieces along the two horizontal lines, such that the Y in row 5 was free to be aligned underneath to give the first ‘SILLY’.
  • Align the pieces so that the five other ‘sillies’ run down columns: HATTER, NUMPTY, GALAH, DINGBAT and GOOF to give six in total, as specified by the numeration in the false clue.
  • Stick the three peices together and highlight the six theme words.
  • Sit back and think what a simple and straightforward puzzle it had been.

Listener 4235 My EntryIt vaguely agrees with the way that I did it, although some of the steps explained above in just a few words took a considerable time. Luckily, I don’t have to put times against each step … that could be embarrassing! All that remains is for me to say thanks to Ron for a thoroughly enjoyable puzzle and look forward to another outing from him soon.


To complete this blog, here is the poem in full:

Lines and Squares

Whenever I walk in a London street,
I’m ever so careful to watch my feet;
And I keep in the squares,
And the masses of bears,
Who wait at the corners all ready to eat
The sillies who tread on the lines of the street
Go back to their lairs,
And I say to them, “Bears,
Just look how I’m walking in all the squares!”

And the little bears growl to each other, “He’s mine,
As soon as he’s silly and steps on a line.”
And some of the bigger bears try to pretend
That they came round the corner to look for a friend;
And they try to pretend that nobody cares
Whether you walk on the lines or squares.
But only the sillies believe their talk;
It’s ever so portant how you walk.
And it’s ever so jolly to call out, “Bears,
Just watch me walking in all the squares!”

3 Responses to “Listener 4235: X and Y by Ron”

  1. georgethebastard said

    Mark Bull is very welcome to write a guest blog at George vs the Listener Crossword anytime! Thanks for cracking me up.

  2. George, glad you were entertained. However, I suspect that letting the Bull loose on our blogs would be far too stressful for both of us!

  3. […] one of my local hostelries. My fellow Listener solver, Mark Bull (whom you may remember from X and Y by Ron) was walking on the other side of the street. Despite desperate attempts to bury my head in my […]

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