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Archive for October, 2013

Listener 4262: One Across by Mr Magoo

Posted by Dave Hennings on 25 October 2013

Listener 4262Two things sprang to mind when I saw this week’s puzzle. Firstly, “Oh dear, it’s Mr Magoo, so a fiendish one is on the cards!” Secondly, “It’s too soon for the next mathematical puzzle surely.” It soon became clear that I was wrong on both counts. This wasn’t a mathematical, and, although indeed by Mr Magoo, it wasn’t too fiendish.

Only some letters of the alphabet were to be entered in the grid, and then it would be necessary to divide it into “different pieces”; no doubt one across would reveal all. Not that it revealed all straight away, as it wasn’t the first clue to be solved. Like last week, we were told the answer lengths , and they frequently disagreed with the entry lengths, so a bit of unexpected help from the maestro.

9ac SOMEONE and 15ac PAIRINGS came first, followed by the superb 20ac Two thousand and thirteen maybe shows this ultimately? (7) for ODDNESS. Both 9 and 20 had 7-letter entries, so, unless there was some real fun and games going on, it looked as though the letters D, E, M, N, O and S were among the letters which were to be entered.

5dn [u]N[k]NO[w]N, 6dn [b]OS[u]N and then back to 8ac IMMENSE. 1Dn DIS[ar]M and at last 1ac DOMIN[at]O[r]S. So I had the theme, and the worrying bit in the preamble about partitioning the grid didn’t seem so worrying.

And so, for a Magoo puzzle, I finished in pretty quick time. A couple of clue explanations held me up a bit. 21ac Reforming navy is sinking Britain in more out-of-fate debt (9) was MODERNIST, being RN (navy) IS in MO (old word for more) DEBT – B (Britain); and 7dn It’s in a way “strained” (9), which didn’t so much hold me up as stump me completely…even now.

Listener 4262 My EntryAll that remained was to divide the grid up into 28 domino pieces, with each of the letters D, E, I, M, N, O and S representing one of the ‘spots’ from 0 to 6. I solved it fairly quickly, even though the bars already in the grid tried to catch me out. It was just a question of taking each domino in turn, D-D first, then D-E, D-I, D-M, etc (or whichever order took your fancy) and seeing if there was a unique occurrence. If not, on to the next one, and starting again, when the list was finished, for a second and third pass through.

Thanks then to Mr Magoo for an easier than normal puzzle. However, it has me dreading his next offering which, I suspect, will be a little trickier.

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One Across by Mr Magoo

Posted by shirleycurran on 25 October 2013

Dominos 001There was a disturbingly small grid and a strange preamble. Surely not a numerical Listener. We saw ‘Mr Magoo’ and trembled. A friend said to me a few hours ago “I am hoping for one of the classic setters this evening!” Well he got one but that meant we might be in for a few days of struggle.

One Across! Now Mr Magoo appears sometimes in Araucarias’s creation, currently edited by Doc. Had he sent this to the wrong publication?

The preamble made it clear that we were in the right place. ‘Certain letters of the alphabet are entered every time they appear in answers; the others are never entered.’ An original device that promised to be challenging and fun. And it was! Though there wasn’t much Listener setter tippling in just 24 clues, just a bit of bondage. maybe ‘Beaten, oiled and bound, without sign of injury (10)’ was a generous anagram that gave us UNBLOODIED.

We’ve seen some stunning Mr Magoo creations in the Magpie and frequently ask ourselves how he does it. This grid was no exception as it dawned on us IMG_0625fairly quickly that only seven letters were appearing in our solutions that we had to enter. We were perhaps lucky in solving that give-away clue ‘Two thousand and thirteen maybe shows this ultimately (7)’ (ODDNESS spelled out by final letters) – clearly all seven letters had to be entered, so we were given five of the letters at once –  and working out that DOMINATORS had to be entered as DOMINOS. Light began to dawn.

Solving proceeded steadily with some delight. My favourite clue of the week is certainly ‘Not feeling, almost got over something felt (6) (N[u]M[b] + [ha]D rev. = NUMDAH, a felt rug.

Soon we had an almost full grid, just one cell empty, and, since we had realized that we were dealing with dominoes and had to partition the 7 X 8 grid into a complete set of 28 two-cell dominoes, there had to be 7 examples of each letter in the grid. Yes, I repeat, how does he do it! That meant that that final letter could be produced by counting. It gave us an S in our bottom right-hand corner. I still don’t know the solution to ‘Offensive IMG_0631wife does housework without question and spreads fine chips (8)’ but she was an SDSS and that gave us MODE[r]NIS[t] for 21ac. We were not confident about that either.

I still have the dominoes from a numerical Listener of some years ago. We spent ages on that and Mr Green marked us down because I sent a double blank rather than putting 00 in the two relevant squares! However, Wikipedia provided a new set (after Google had offered us a couple of pages of pizza) and I converted them to letters and began what I found to be a thoroughly enjoyable and straight-forward endgame.

All that was left to do was to draw in those bars. Did I have to put bars round the outside of the grid? I remember an event where solvers who had failed to insert essential bars in the outer edges of the grid were marked wrong, so clearly there can be no rule against it – and how else are we to delineate dominoes.?

All most enjoyable and impressive. Thank you Mr Magoo.

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Chefs by Cubic

Posted by shirleycurran on 18 October 2013

CharmAfter last week’s Mango challenge, we were hoping for some charming little easy-solve; and we got it. I particularly enjoy the device where the wordplay in each clue indicates the answer with an extra letter that is not entered in the grid. It is easy to forget, when you are solving, that the extra letter is in the wordplay, but, nevertheless, the device gives a cumulative effect as the quotation or message develops.

We were particularly lucky this time, as, starting from ANI (which appeared as I printed out the grid) ‘Bird specimen from VenezuelAN DIstrict (3)’ – hidden with an extra D – we soon had enough letters to guess at ROUND AND ROUND, and the ODQ helpfully completed the quotation from TS Eliot’s The Family Reunion: ‘ROUND AND ROUND THE CIRCLE COMPLETING THE CHARM’.

At this stage, we should have thought about THE CHARM and related it to the title CHEFS but it was, sadly, some time later that we realized that CHEFS was simply ‘F in CHES’. Oh what a clever and sneaky little title. Charm was there in the second clue too, and it wasn’t until I read through the clues to see whether Cubic was a member of the Listener Tipsy Setters’ Club (sadly, he doesn’t seem to be; there wasn’t much alcohol in his clues!) that I noticed how the birds were flying to and fro. There was that ani, and he had Egrets and a Brown bird, as well as other wildlife, one pig, a shot deer, jellyfishes and a repellant snake as well as a headless old skeleton (of what, one wonders!)

Perhaps those birds in the clues were a hint. They were certainly thematic but we had an hour of happy solving before we had to grid stare for a while to find that out. It was quickly evident where those cells had to be left blank as the intersecting clues provided the other letters. Clearly we had six blank cells in what could, with a stretch of the imagination, be warped into a circle. The Numpty imagination was not stretching very well and we had to have a dinner pause (and a glass to compensate for Cubic’s TT mode) before light dawned. We were looking for a charm of finches.

The Finch family of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird came first. There were SCOUT, JEM and ATTICUS. Clearly another finch family had to be symmetrically opposite and, with a bit of lateral thinking, there they were: REDPOLL, TWITE and SERIN. All that remained was to attempt to convert those 32 squares into an appropriate shape. The quotation said ‘Round and round’ so I did my best.

A gentle and enjoyable solve. Thank you Cubic.

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Listener 4261: Chefs by Cubic

Posted by Dave Hennings on 18 October 2013

Another new setter this week in the guise of Cubic, and hopefully there would be nothing that would tempt me into making another silly mistake like putting Newton instead of Gessler under the grid as I did in Mango’s Nuts and Bolts. (My only slight relief is that I don’t seem to have been the only person to have messed up.)

Listener 4261Everything this week did seem pretty straightforward, with extra wordplay letters that would spell out a quotation. Six answers were too short for their entry length and would need completing. Finally, a bit of drawing would be required.

My first solve was 11ac Hidden depleted uranium found in South American country (5) PERDU. As I went to enter it, lo and behold the entry length was (6). A quick check with the other clues, and there were exactly six where the answer length was too short, one across and five down. It looked as though the resulting empty cells would be unchecked letters otherwise there would be more than six. I confidently wrote in PERDU· at 11. I felt that Cubic was being generous with this bit of free information. The empty spaces looked as though they would form part of a circle in the grid, but that needed to be filled before everything could become clear.

Unfortunately, not all the clues were as easy as 11ac, and I had only about eight of each of the acrosses and downs in my customary first quick pass through the clues. However, with SPOOM, SPAER, ANI and ODIST, these gave me a strong foothold in the top left corner, and from there everything spread out nicely.

It wasn’t too long before I had the beginning of the quotation: R·und·ndr··n·, and my ODQ obliged by giving Round and round the circle Completing the charm from TS Eliot’s The Family Reunion. It was an unexpected bonus to reveal the remaining extra letters in the wordplay with only about half the grid filled.

I was impressed by the entertaining surface readings that Cubic presented us with, especially the scrambled embassy call (34ac ALLOCATE), the smelly stew (39ac OLENT) and the dirty rugby player’s boot (4dn MUCKLUCK). There were also a couple of tricky constructions. 21ac So I regulate opening of channel, keeping back river in full flow? (10) was an &lit and anagram of (S[O] I REGULATE C[hannel] – R (river)) and 31dn Turn out almost the best possible team dropping aged back (5) was EVERT, being EVER[y] (the best possible) + TEA[M] – AE< (aged).

With the grid complete, it didn’t take long to see RED POLL, then TWITE and SERIN, forming part of the 32-cell circle. They were all birds; indeed they were all finches. That left SCOU··E·ATTICU·. Given that all grid entries in the final grid would become real words, my initial guess was for PERDUE at 11ac and PENNATE at 2dn, but that seemed to indicate SCOUT, JET and ATTICUE. Of course, PERDUS and PENNAME gave the required members of the Finch family from Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird: SCOUT, JEM and ATTICUS.

Listener 4261 My EntryThe trickiest part of the puzzle for me was drawing the circle accurately enough for it to significantly go through the 32 cells but only through the points between the cells containing O/L, E/S, O/U and T/I.

Thanks to Cubic for a fine debut.

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Listener 4260, Nuts and Bolts: A Setters’ Blog by Mango

Posted by Listen With Others on 12 October 2013

This puzzle was Mango’s problem child. Steve (our main ideas man) came up with the core idea (pun intended!) as far back as April 2004, and the puzzle was number 14 in our list of puzzles. In fact this ended up being the last puzzle that Mango completed (though there is still one more to appear, number 34, started many years later but completed earlier).

The very first grid actually just had APPLE falling onto a reclining ISAAC NEWTON with the downward force represented by an arrow (4 ‘I’s and a V) intersecting with the ‘I’ of GRAVITATION in the top row. But very early on, Steve suggested an interplay between that idea and a standing William Tell dispatching an arrow horizontally towards the apple on the head of his son. However every attempt to develop this idea either failed or became too complex. We explored many ideas (even including a link to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code) but eventually gave up and put the puzzle into hibernation.

Listener 4260Roddy resurrected the puzzle in August 2009, and, based on an earlier grid/fill of Steve’s (in which the protagonists were horizontal, and some clue device spelt out an instruction to rotate the grid ‘A QUARTER TURN CLOCKWISE’), introduced HERR HERMANN (GESSLER) to share the bottom row with ISAAC NEWTON (thus allowing NEWTON to disappear in the TELL interpretation). As Roddy wrote at the time: ‘Gessler is appropriately positioned because William would have shot him with a second arrow had the first one killed his son (or so the story goes).’

This was now close to a workable idea. However we felt that there was a problem in that APPLE was upside down for the NEWTON interpretation. After much discussion, we decided that REFLECTION would be a better mechanism than ROTATION, but this continued to be problematic, as it did not allow the solver to submit the rotated solution. We discussed this on and off for over a month until I realised (inspired by a Shackleton puzzle that I had been working on in parallel – still to appear) that we could create a reflectively symmetric grid which allowed both the Newton and the Tell solutions to be validly entered in their correct orientations. It would require side-by-side clues, but it obviated the need for a hidden message.

Having side-by-side clues raised an additional problem, namely – what should we do with the clues corresponding to the 3 unclued entries? This was solved by incorporating 3 clues for APPLES with a misprint in the ‘core’ letters whose corrections spelt out BOW, an excellent idea suggested by Roddy (as he said in one email: I had been hoping to make BOW triply thematic: the apple fell from a bow Tell refused to bow before Gessler, and the arrow flew from a bow — but I don’t think this will wash.)

At this point Roddy started work on the tricky preamble, and we also thought about what the title might be, with some suggestions being NUTTER (N = NEWTON, UTTER = TELL), NONPAREIL (a person or thing without equal; a fine variety of apple), and COSTARD (a large variety of cooking apple; the human head) before finally settling on NUTS and BOLTS.

Clueing was tricky due to the side-by-side mechanism and took a couple of months to complete to our satisfaction. We also had to be careful in that reversal indicators embedded in the clues (‘back’ versus ‘raised’ for example) should reflect the true orientation of the solution (these would also serve as hints to the solver). Hopefully solvers will agree that our problem child turned out all right in the end.

In general the feedback has been very positive, so thank you to all who commented. It is apparent, though, that some solvers felt there was an ambiguity as to whether Newton or Gessler should be shown below the grid; a setter (at least this one) never likes to present any ambiguity that is not resolvable, but I think that in this case the preamble makes it clear that it is the earlier of two events that was to be depicted. The only other general question mark was the meaning of the unchecked letters WM L, N R? HELP! This referred to William left, Newton right? Help! (all standard abbreviations in Chambers).

John Guiver for Mango
[Ed: For those of you not in the know, Mango is a triumvirate of setters: John Guiver (Shackleton), Roddy Forman (Radix) and Steve Mann (Seth Mould).]

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