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Archive for May, 2013

Listener 4239: Laureate by Wasp

Posted by Dave Hennings on 17 May 2013

A couple of years have passed since Wasp’s last Listener, SPAD, which I completed without see the connection between ‘bits and bobs’ and ‘odds and ends’. It was likely that I would need to understand everything about this puzzle to complete it, including, as it did, seven unclued entries. The preamble seemed strangely worded: “… the omitted letters thematically describe the unclued entries, which give six more thematic items as 2ac…”. The word ‘more’ seemed superfluous … unless the omitted letters also formed a thematic item.

Listener 4239Since the entries across the top, and down the left, of the grid were unclued, I decided to start with 1dn Subsistence money invested in debt, taxes (4). BTTA was hidden in ‘debt, taxes’ and I wrote an A beside the clue since BATTA is ‘subsistence money’. 8ac R[E]TINA, 2dn MI[T]HNIC and 13ac MAN[T]A came next, and the top left corner was off with a bang. Unfortunately, 15ac [R]OSINA and 3dn KANDA[H]AR would have to wait to be entered.

As well as GLORIA, there were some straightforward anagrams to be solved with 4dn ERAS[A]BLE (LAS[t] BEER) and 5dn U[N]ABLE (TABLEAU – TA) which helped get the NE corner under way. Getting the top half finished was hindered by the lack of a clue to 2ac. The unclued 10dn looked like it would be GUFFAW, but that hardly seemed thematic to anything, although prefixed as it was by THE made me wonder whether it was a sister work to Edvard Munch’s The Scream.

I moved on to the bottom half of the grid, and was intrigued by 21ac Sloane possibly rebuffed in outskirts of Reigate — crazy (6). Obviously a reference to Sloane Rangers, but HAYWIRE was about an hour away from being solved since I didn’t realise that YAH was a noun as well as an upper-class ‘yes’. 16dn Skull fragment a medical officer found in suspect Albert (9) also had me trying to fathom MO in an anagram of ‘Albert’. That turned out to be A MO in SUS AL (I initially just had ‘medical officer’ leading to A MO in wordplay which I’m thinking isn’t acceptable).

Eventually, the grid was complete … except for the unclued entries. As well as the GUFFAW at 10dn, 2ac M • K E • U • L E looked like it could be MONKEY PUZZLE. Anyway, as is my wont these days, I did everything arse about face. Although I had Entered with a squash and a squeeze, I saw absolutely no reason to Google it! Instead, I tried to work out the ‘illustrative surname’ … obviously an illustrator. I had RFFECLH as well as what was in the circled square of 12ac. Now was the time for Google. I tried CHEFFLER, although I’d never heard of him/her.

As well as some links to unknown Chefflers, Google obliging asked me “Did you mean scheffler“. I said “Yes”, and top of the list was a Wiki article about Tony Scheffler, also unknown to me, but an American football tight end (whatever that is) … almost certainly not the subject of a Listener crossword! Next on the list, however, was Axel Scheffler. Needless to say, I hadn’t heard of him either, although his collaborator Julia Donaldson did ring a faint bell. And so their works MONKEY PUZZLE, THE SNAIL, THE WHALE, ROOM ON THE BROOM, The GRUFFALO, STICK MAN, and TIDDLER were revealed … as well as A Squash and a Squeeze. I had been right about the description containing a thematic item.

Listener 4239 My EntryNow I had originally assumed that ‘letters ultimately found in … unchecked cells’ meant that one letter would be entered, and since all the unchecked squares in the titles equated to two letters, it was only the last letter that needed entering. Wrong! SCHEFFLER required the circled square to hold both S and E, so there was no reason to think that the other squashed, stuffed, squidged and squeezed squares were to be any different.

So thanks for a pleasant and relaxing jaunt, Wasp, although I’m not about to dash off and buy any of the books!

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Laureate by Wasp

Posted by shirleycurran on 17 May 2013

LaureateNumpties were travelling again with only pencil and paper (and an  iPhone with Bradford and Chambers but no Internet access) I’ve commented before that I truly admire the setters and solvers who can complete a Listener crossword with only pencil and paper. We were fine this time until the end game, when with a full grid and even a name that almost resolved itself from those eight letters, and a sneaking suspicion that a familiar character was appearing at 10d, we were flummoxed.

We don’t have access to a library either so what did Julia Donaldson write in addition to The Gruffalo? We’ll have to pay a visit to Waterstones tomorrow to find out. (Well, we’d be doing that anyway!)

Solving went relatively well from our earliest solutions, ‘Didn’t have hot drinks too regularly (5)’ (H[ot]D[ri]N[ks]T[oo]), ‘It detects light element coated in radium (6)’ (RTINA) establishing Wasp, along the way, as a confirmed member of the Listener tipplers’ club with his preference for cold drinks and ‘Not quite last beer drunk? That’s not permanent (8)’ LAS BEER* giving ERASBLE).

We were perhaps lucky in spotting solutions to the longer words. After all, these were generous clues. I am almost relieved when the number of clues is small (only 36 in this case as so many lights were unclued). That seems to mean that the clues will be relatively straightforward as the compiler has to allow his solvers some sort of handle to grasp. The anagrams ‘Gym class tweet confused American bird (8)’ PE + TWEET* giving PEETWET, ‘Cut from stone on wreck somehow (8)’ ON WRECK* giving ROCKEWN, and ‘After big game, one is running north line (10) NORTH LINE* LIONHUNTER almost peopled our grid and we were left with just a few problems.

‘Sloane possibly rebuffed in outskirts of Reigate — crazy (7)’ looked like an anagram with that deceptive ‘crazy’ but we smiled when we realized that the Sloane YAH was being rebuffed and ‘crazy’ was the definition for HAYWIRE (entered as HAYIRE).

Even the extra letters, that had now almost completely appeared, were generous. The two Qs and the Z gave the hints we needed and ‘ENTERED WITH A SQUASH AND A SQUEEZE’ rang a memory bell, especially as we had a peculiar unclued light that could spell GUFFAW but seemed far more likely to give us GRUFFALO, a familiar couple of Julia Donaldson titles.

We were left with a dilemma. We found the other titles, MONKEY PUZZLE, ROOM ON THE BROOM, STICK MAN, TIDDLER and THE SNAIL AND THE WHALE but the preamble seemed to be telling us that, of those double letters that were clearly needed in sixteen squares, the ultimate (presumably the second) should be entered to anagram to ANT, BAT, ZOOPHILOUS. We did that but it didn’t quite make sense since that left us with only eight letters of SCHEFFLER, the illustrator (Yes, we had some Waterstones‘ help now and had made his name out of RFFECLH and a putative S) but we needed another E.

Laureate 001We had assumed that the instruction to enter the thematic unclued  entries ‘with a squash and a squeeze’ meant that, like the other entries, letters were to be squeezed out, but clearly not! In order to produce that extra E in the circle in THE SNAIL AND THE WHALE, we would have to squash and squeeze the extra letters in – so that’s what we did. Is this dilemma going to lead solvers astray (has it led us astray?) and are we in the throes of another KOHb crisis? We’ll find out in three weeks’ time, won’t we!

Thank you Wasp for an entertaining work out.

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Listener 4238: Typtoing in Grammar’s Footsteps by Jaques (or A Blog in the Style of)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 10 May 2013

A strange title, a strange preambles and some strange clue. Either it were part of the theme or Jaques and the editors was on drugs! Despite hoping the latter for, it was more likely the former. Each clue had an word extra (so much preferable than some of the clues), but every down answer was to be entered jumbly.

1 GLADE, 5 TUND (a word to me new) and 11 ENCLAVE are solved soon, giving ‘quick’, ‘undeservedly and ‘occasionally’ as the words extra, and it looked like we were on the lookout for quotation. However, the i, o and n didn’t correspond words in their clues to, so perhaps it were just a quote.

Listener 4238I’m not sure that the clues all had in them errors (12ac Will’s tempted Tendulkar — departs after deceptive ball seems OK … -ish), but it must have more than difficult at first sight been to get the grammar wrong or for the clue to read gibberishly.

For once, the lacking smooth surface readings in the clues was forgiven, but they conjured up some interesting images thenoneless and were hugely entertainsome. For some reason, I very liked much 28dn I’s appearing early in French city hawking thongs for RIEMS.

The letters initial of the extra words finally all read Quote and speaker in Brewer should be highlighted. I did suppose the first step ought have been to look for something that stood in out the grid. I did see EGO SUM in row 3, but really didn’t expect the quote to be quite as long as it out-turned. Instead, I looked just up Grammar in Brewer’s, and reward with the words of Sigismund:

Ego sum Imperator Romanorum, et supra grammaticam (‘I am the Roman Emperor and above grammar’).

That was wow! The central six letters of rows 3–9 spelled the quote out, and there be SIGISMUND in the bottom row. A shame that he wasn’t positioned central. But, of course, upon again reading the preamble, that sneaky little word ‘symmetrically’ made think me again. Rereading the entry in Brewer’s showed that it wasn’t just Sigismund any old, but Sigismund I, and the I following his name could be confidently highlit.

Listener 4238 My EntryFinally, it were only when I started writing this blog that I looked typto in Chambers up, and found that there is such a word: ‘to work at Greek grammar’. All endings had been neatly tied, although suspect I that many of you tied that particular end at the beginning right … right? Many thank for a fun puzzle, Jaques.

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Typtoing in Grammar’s Footsteps by Jaques

Posted by shirleycurran on 10 May 2013

Grammar 002We Numpties solved this at breakneck speed, laughing all the way, and we are laughing still. What’s more, Numpties soared to famous heights again – not walking on the cracks as we were a couple of weeks ago in Ron’s X and Y but with a head docked this time! ‘An indefinite number, idiot having no [enumerate] number (5) [N]UMPTY.

No, I tell a lie! Consternation was our very first reaction. Have the editors gone completely bonkers? Is that a typo in the title? What would I do if my Grade Seven wrote a sentence like ‘Each of the clues contain an extra word, none of which have less than four letters’? Three red pen howls there, but it gets worse: ‘In clue order their first letters spell a message about what solvers must do symmetrically in the completed grid out.’ Then the first joyous guffaw as we get to ‘Down answer’s …’ Hah – grammar! The fun continued as the grammatical errors piled up in the clues – and what a BRILLIANT idea, Jaques, to select a theme like this where you are freed from that sometimes horrendous task of attempting to give a recalcitrant clue a plausible surface reading by the need to include some atrocious grammar.

I just went back to a communication from an editor where he quoted back at me a totally implausible surface reading – I was going to quote him but the embarrassment is just too great – Did I really write that? Well Jaques did! We get things like ‘I’m completely surrounded, even [occasionally] swimming, chlorine are ingested (7)’ (EVEN CL A)* giving us ENCLAVE. Sadly, though, Jaques wasn’t claiming membership of the Listener setter tipply club – I think chlorine was the only thing he are ingesting!

Solutions just flowed onto the page and we soon had enough letters to sort out some of the down jumbles. I thought I hated jumbles but, a couple of days ago, treated myself to Ross Beresford’s TEA. What an amazing tool it is. Yes, indeed I will use every device on the planet to help solve a crossword; Anne Bradford’s Crossword Solver’s Dictionary, Quinapalus’ website. They add to the fun rather than diminishing it and, somewhere deep down, I have a sneaking suspicion that the game is meant to be about pleasure.

Pleasure it was! QUOTE had appeared in the message with the first five clues we solved. Next came SHOULD BE HIGHLIGHTED and, with TEA’s help, we teased out AND SPEAKER IN BREWER. Instantly Brewer led us to SIGISMUND I and there he was, of course, at the foot of the crossword. ‘Symmetrically’ was such a generous gift to solvers. Almost all our remaining gaps were filled as we fitted ‘EGO SUM IMPERATOR ROMANORUM ET SUPRA GRAMMATICAM’ (‘I am the Roman emperor and am above grammar’). What a delightful story, too!

(Just one mini whinge in parenthesis too! I say goodbye to a wonderful group of International Baccalaureate Literature A students next week as they head for their final exam. They are stars at grammar and all ‘quote’/verb and produce ‘quotations’/noun, and pick each other up if any one dares to talk of ‘quotes’. OK OK, Numpty pedant! Even Chambers allows, now, that ‘quote’ exists INF as a noun, and I suppose Jaques was eschewing grammar.)

All that remained for us was to fill in a few missing letters in the jumbles, and they were particularly helpful too, as we had to have three identical letters in the unches in 15 down, for example, and the I of SIGISMUND told us that they were all Is. Only two of the remaining clues caused a head scratch. ‘One [excused] over sin? Unusual snuggle up and speak whiningly (8)’ COSE + CANT – that was devious, using that variant of sine! And ‘An old bribe, it a negligible [daily] amount turns up (4)’ ‘T + FIG (rev)

Delightful, thank you, Jaques!

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Restitution by Schadenfreude

Posted by shirleycurran on 3 May 2013

Restitution by Schadenfreude 001Our first reaction? “Schadenfreude! Well he promises a challenge but it is sure to be a worthwhile one with a satisfying endgame.” Then “Hmmm, it’s one of those alphabetical jigsaw things! Well, that has the advantage that, as you solve, it becomes easier because you can fix solution answers in their alphabetical place. Let’s do what we usually do and mark the clue lengths”. Mumble, mumble, numpty grumble. “Well, there seems to be little correspondence between the clue lengths in the grid and those of the proposed solutions – there’s something fishy here!”

Of course, ASH, BRA, EYE, LEA, OBI and YES were almost our first solves but where were the 3-letter spaces? Suspicions surfaced. There were spaces for  four 8-letter words but clues for only two, spaces for eight 7-letter words but clues for only two. Something was going to happen round the perimeter.

We had 36 clues and misprints in 26 of them – almost one in four and then that rather disturbing OTG ZTOG TZCLGAS OUO HZG EUTH OGOGAH CAL UATL LGEUOOCH SGOHGE to solve. There was no clue in any letter-frequency there unless it was all those Os, but there was the capital L on Lgeuooch.

Nothing for it – get solvingI It was a generous set of clues with only the slightest hint of Listener compiler tippling in ‘Take ecstasy in sickly-sweet Manhattan cocktail (6)’ (R + E in ICKY) Oh dear Schadenfreude, mixing the drugs and alcohol! There was a generous smattering of disease, fungus, mental agitation, sickness, shocked staring and sore unopened spots, though. I wonder what those surface readings that we almost skip over unnoticed in our attempts to suss out the wordplay, do tell us about the state of mind of the setter!

MALTHUS gave us the way into the grid, though. That leading M (not one of the ETAOIN SHRDLU letters) so conveniently placed at the start of a word, was likely to intersect with EMOTED. We tentatively began a grid-fill, assuming that those six 3-letter words were going to turn into 4-letter words when the long perimeter ones appeared. That, of course, limited where we could put them – well,  BRA, anyway – there aren’t many places one can put a bra – no, seriously, we tentatively placed BRA? at 7 across. Yes, we were working on a numbered Antony Lewis Crossword Compiler grid. I have said before that I don’t know how anyone solves one like this with just pencil and paper!

I love this jigsaw part of the solve. As the grid filled, words suggested themselves for our solutions that were still missing. B?D?E?E? ‘Did bather, injured, get almost embarrassed? (8)’ Another of those kinky surface readings? Do we have an image of a shark-mauled swimmer worried about his torn nasty little elastic speedo? Ah, no, it was BAD + GE[t] + RED.

A full grid and yawning spaces where those perimetrical 7s and 8s had to go. Whilst the other Numpty worked out the cipher, I attempted to insert all the possible letters and deduce those four words. Neither of us initially succeeded. He was muttering “C, Z, O, L, G, O, S, Z, G, U, I … No, must be doing something wrong …” and I was mumbling, “LASBA?P? – what could that be?”

Fortunately, BOOTH and OSWALD put us out of our misery and the usual visit to Wikipedia introduced us to Czolgosz and Guiteau, so that we were able to insert their four victims. (McKINLEY, GARFIELD, LINCOLN and KENNEDY, with, of course, Lee Harvey Oswald as one that is unproven.)

It remained for us to work out our last instruction. There was a satisfactory sense that this puzzle was rounded off when those 26 misprints were put to good use in a final act of deciphering. I have been attempting to think my way through the order in which Schadenfreude must have set this (I hope he will tell us!) The difficult thing, after he had spotted that those four names would fit symmetrically and had worked out a grid that allowed partial ‘real’ words to intersect with them (Wow!) must have been finding those tough misprints in clue order. Of course, he just added to our struggle by removing clue numbers and originally placing the clues in alphabetical order of their solutions.


Many thanks, Schadenfreude.

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