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Archive for November, 2013

Listener 4265: Ability by Kruger

Posted by Dave Hennings on 15 November 2013

Before I start, I will mention my win of a prize last week for Commission by Aedites. I do this, not to preen my feathers (after all, about 150 of us win a prize each year), but to say what an excellent prize it is… the latest 19th edition of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. It is a much slicker edition than my current 16th dating back to 2003, so thanks to the powers that be for that. And while on the subject of prizes, at the recent Budock Vean event that I mentioned briefly last week, I won a copy of Alan Connor’s book celebrating the centenary of the crossword, Two Girls, One on Each Knee. It is thoroughly entertaining, and covers a wide range of topics from Sondheim and Spooner to Simon and Schuster… and Simpson!

Listener 4265And so onto this week’s puzzle. Kruger has (and I hope he doesn’t mind me saying this) been around a long time! He has been setting EVs since their birth in 1992, but, having said that, this is only his second Listener. The first was the rather strange one about nobles, hounds and knights in East Barnet (#4213 A Spirited Performance).

Here we had extra letters in some wordplays (no indication as to how many1) and modification required to some answers before entry (ditto2) according to some ability. Mind you, the preamble read as though we wouldn’t be able to identify the ability until we’d entered the answers using that ability. There seemed to be a bit of a catch there.3

After a quick sprint through the across clues, I was not a happy bunny. Only two clues solved: the simple-ish hidden at 18 High priest visiting bazaar? Nonsense (5) gave AAR[n]ON, and the simple-ish anagram at 37 Needy director was high for a 24-hour period (9) for WEDNESDAY. At least I had the first of the extra letters from 18.

Of course, in hindsight, it was the mismatch between the length of the special answers2 and the entry length given in the clue that caused the slow solving. As I write this blog, I’m wondering whether it would have helped me to obliterate the enumerations at the end of each clue. They were a bit like a magician’s sleight of hand, where he dangles a (5) in his right hand in order to distract you from the (7) that he’s holding in his left. I’ll try and remember to cross them out next time.

Luckily, 7dn was the first clue which led the way for me: It terminates the whole US railroad, including North Dakota to Alabama (4). It wasn’t (4), or even (5), but (6): END-ALL, as in ‘the be-all and end-all’. Well, I was up and running, but with 9 and 34 as the only other down clues I got in my first pass, up and crawling seemed more appropriate.

Anyway, I guessed that the ability had something to do with squeezing more than one letter into a cell, a bit like Wasp’s Laureate earlier this year. Even with this knowledge, it wasn’t a particularly quick solve, but very enjoyable. I found that I was working my way down the grid fairly steadily, and the gist of the quotation was revealing itself with a bit of guess-work, such that I had to meet the challenge of… fairly soon. As I neared the end of the solve, …filling the space finished it off nicely.

I quite often find with extra letters that I end up with some that I think are — and aren’t — and some that I don’t see — but are. Since we were only told that there were some1, I had no way of knowing whether I had them all… or indeed too many.

They all seemed to be different, so that was a good sign. I had U N R L O M J A I E S. Luckily, I had the good sense to be unhappy with my parsing of 27dn which gave me the extra letter E. Grant third of tutees are enthralled by very bad novel (8) led to VILLETTE. Having had ‘second of diagonal’ giving I at 29ac, I thought that ‘third of tutees’ was more likely to be TE with ILL and VET…somehow. Of course, it was LET (grant) [tu]T[ee] in VILE (very bad), so there wasn’t an extra E after all.

Listener 4265 MyEntryThat left just ten letters, and I was determined not to look up ‘challenge’ or ‘space’ in my ODQ, but to try and work out the anagram first. I was obviously looking for a noun (an ability), but the letters didn’t seem to shout out any nounal ending very loudly. Until that is, after about twenty minutes, I got -ISM, and the JOURNAL came almost immediately. I had to look up journalism in the ODQ though, where ‘J.—an ability to’ led to Rebecca West’s quotation, revealed by all the cells which had more than one letter in the grid.

As expected, a good puzzle from Kruger… not too difficult, but enjoyable nonetheless.

1  there were 10
2  there were 25
3  22

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Ability by Kruger

Posted by shirleycurran on 15 November 2013

JournalismThe initial numpty reaction to Kruger’s preamble was that this sounded conventional and totally fair – nothing to really frighten us as we were actually, for once, solving with just the Times and a pencil, on the road towards a crossword event where the compiler himself was standing holding a glass. Now I insert that snippet of info as reassurance, as, otherwise, I would have no evidence at all, from the surface readings, that Kruger is a fully qualified member of the Listener setters’ tipply club. We had Metallica, rejection of a terrible mate, a pinch of Scottish snuff, some massage, a posh car and some rather odd desire to eat snake but otherwise a series of alcohol-free clues with no small dose of rejection, forgetting, worry and bugging everybody!

‘Beginning to bug everyone’ – well, that was clearly going to give us B + ALL but we were certainly ‘bugged’ as, on the first read through, we could solve a mere five clues. Our frustration mounted as the resolution of the wordplay just didn’t seem to lead to words that corresponded with the definitions. LIBERO, HERS, THERIAN, PEEK and KNEAD – yes, no problem, but 1 across, for example, seemed to say STONE HAMMER ‘One must hear intro from Metallica distorted – this could destroy rock (9, two words)’  (anagram of ONE MUST + M[etallica]) but that’s 11 letters long! Consternation!

Back to the preamble: ‘an ability that will be needed in order to enter some answers, whereupon the exact nature of the ability will be evident …’ Something fishy here. Clearly this ability was going to be needed to help us fit ETHERIAL into six cells (‘Heavenly look reflected in a Barrymore’) If we  reflected AIR and took not John Barrymore, but Ethel, we had our word for ‘Heavenly’ but again we had two letters more than we had room for in the cells.

The numpty solve continued and we were cursing soundly and regretting the passing of our Sun, coffee-break easy clues, stripey horse Z___A (5) days, when a certain pattern began to emerge. TORMENTORS at 5 down (They distress soldiers constrained by wrong orders, discharging ordnance (9) TORT round MEN with ORDERS less ORD) may be rather a clunky clue but did give us a potential TO intersecting with the TO of  STONE HAMMER. Were we going to fit two letters into a single cell?

MESNE, at 10 down, suggested that this was the case – a generous clue ‘Intermediate section of ensemble stood up (4)’ There was MESNE, reversed, or standing up in a section of ENSEMBLE and MESNE apparently means ‘intermediate’.

There was a lot more solving of what were totally fair and nicely set clues (once we had sussed out the fact that those word-lengths were deceptive) before a sort of message appeared ‘reading from left to right and top to bottom’ (I imagine the editors insisted on that stipulation – there must be Listener solvers in exotic places who might read bottom up or right to left but I have yet to meet one!) We learned that ‘TO MEET THE CHALLENGE OF FILL …’ and when I fed that into Google, together with the word ABILITY, the entire Rebecca West quotation appeared.

Journalism – an ability to meet the challenge of filling the space. (Is she serious? Surely the challenge is compressing all that has to be said into the 200 words or eight column inches that are allocated!) Still, it was a gentle and enjoyable downhill coast from that point on and when we found that SOMA was a body, and worked out that the J of journalism was coming from ‘Limit my leap (M’ + [J]ETE) we were even able to convince ourselves that we had a complete solve in front of us – a most enjoyable one too. Thank you Kruger!

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Comission by Aedites

Posted by shirleycurran on 8 November 2013

Aedites Commission 002For once the preamble was not too daunting and we were almost reassured when we read that ‘each clue contains a misprint’. That is so much easier than being told that, say, sixteen of the clues contain misprints. We are on safe ground as we have to find one everywhere. I immediately highlighted those words ‘the incorrect letters’. I remember being told by an editor several years ago that the convention is for the ‘correct’ letters to spell out a message, but bravo Aedites for cocking a snook at convention and giving us all a nasty shock, as I am willing to bet that I am not the only solver who repeatedly had to rethink and insert the misprinted letter rather than the corrected one. Haven’t we all built up a whole library of Listener habits!

We started solving with  enthusiasm and didn’t it go fast! The other Numpty is an avid historian and we had less than half the grid filled when he announced that we were looking at signatories of the death warrant of Charles Stuart with Cromwell in first place. A quick visit to Wikipedia produced those of the list that he wasn’t able to fill in from memory (I am eternally amazed at the mass of arcane facts that he has stored away – CROMWELL, BRADSHAW, IRETON,  and OKEY were in place before the Wiki article completed my perimeter with MARTEN, WALLER and LUDLOW. What possible value can it have in life to know that OKEY signed a warrant to remove the head from a bloody king?)

With those names in place, we were able to complete the message down the side of our grid. SIGNING DEATH WARRANT SIXTEEN FORTY-NINE. That required another Wiki visit to see whether this was an anniversary (My initial suspicion had been that we were looking at a Guy Fawkes event but, of course CATESBY has seven letters and wouldn’t fit into that list of word-lengths of co-commissioners – or people who committed, as I had suspected!) No, it seems the events all took place in January 1649 (and, of course, in 1660 when so many of those commissioners had to flee or be hanged, drawn and quartered).

We were solving full tilt but I did take a moment off to check whether Aedites confirmed his status as a member of the Listener tipplers’ club and he only just qualified with his ‘Hint of e[R]osin lacking in cocktail of retsina for herbal infusion (6) (RETSINA less R[osin]* = TISANE – a poor substitute for the usual wealth of boozy clues – ah me!) However, these were a convincing set of clues and our grid was soon full – or almost. We had a yawning gap at the bottom right and that clue ‘Swinish family of herself are dying in Glasgow (6)  TEA produced nothing for the letters SU?DAE that seemed to fit the bill but we learned that SUID are porkers and there in Chambers was the pig family, SUIDAE.

I am not really sure why DISH was the answer to ‘Distribute rare torpedo (4)’ DISH is ‘distribute’ and we needed an R misprint – Fare? And the Torpedo  – is that an old wreck or a dish? A triple definition clue? Perhaps someone will put me out of my misery.

Misery – yes, there was the usual grid stare at the end of our solve and we could see KING CHARLES 1 in the shape of a C. The victim ‘appearing symbolically in the grid’. Is a C a symbol. I checked with Chambers and decided that a letter probably is a symbol so those had to be the twelve letters we were looking for.

No complaints. This had to be the quickest solve ever for us – just a little over an hour – but it was very enjoyable and left us with a glorious autumn weekend to enjoy. Many thanks Aedites.

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Listener 4264: Commission by Aedites

Posted by Dave Hennings on 8 November 2013

Before the main blog this week, I just need to comment on the crossword break I attended for the first time at Budock Vean in Cornwall, now in its fourth year. It consisted of an excellent two days of crosswords and discussion (and food and drink) organised by Tom ‘Doc’ Johnson, editor of the Spectator crossword (or ‘Speccy’ as I discovered it is known). The main solving competition was won (not for the first time, I believe) by John ‘Nimrod’ Henderson, editor of the Inquisitor (or IQ). So thanks to Tom, and well done to John. I shall be practising hard over the next twelve months so that I can improve on my somewhat puny performance.

Listener 4264So on with this week’s blog for Aedites, he of the Glasgow underground puzzle in February 2011, as well as the tricky ‘What is a church?’ puzzle in 2009. In Commission, we had a misprint in each clue, with the incorrect letters spelling out an act and a date. I knew that I would fall into the trap of noting the correct letter if I wasn’t very careful. The misprints could appear anywhere in the clue, a device that I always found a bit tricky, but oftentimes fun. Finally, the victim would need highlighting.

AsI have said before, having an unclued perimeter deviously disguises the unchecked letter count, but hey, I’m a big boy! My first pass through the clues was fairly quick, with only six acrosses and four downs were obvious to me. The grid was therefore a bit sparse at this point, but a few more clues came a few minutes later and I was on my way.

After only 35 minutes, I had · · G N I · G O · · spelt out by the misprints at the start of the across clues, so it looked like it was the signing of something. I pencilled the F against 19ac, which went nicely with the O at 18ac, where I had fallen into the aforementioned trap of entering the correct, rather than incorrect, letter in the misprint (‘woad’ the misprint for ‘wood’).

The end of the downs also looked promising, with  · ·X ·E E N F · · which would probably turn out to be something like 164x or 165x. Whichever, it looked like we were in Charles I and Cromwell territory.

Finishing off the grid went well, and the misprints spelt out SIGNING A DEATH WARRANT, SIXTEEN FORTY NINE, and we had to enter seven Commisioners who had consigned Charles I to the block. I saw CROMWELL lurking in the top left corner, and he confirmed the entries in that quadrant. Well, he confirmed the first letters of some words, but what of the last letters, especially 4dn Fast times not including tin shoot (4). This was LEN·, and seemed to want to be LENT. Of course, there was a misprint to deal with, and I eventually ended with LENTS (fast times) – T (tons, for tin) to give LENS. I suppose Lent can be plural: “For the last three Lents, I haven’t given up anything!”

Listener 4264 My EntryFinally, I had to complete the perimeter and find the victim, Charles I. According to Wiki, there were 59 Commissioners who sat in judgement, but it didn’t take long to slot them in the perimeter. After looking for CHARLES in the diagonals, he could finally be seen (as KING CHARLES I) symbollically around the centre of the grid, ie in the shape of a C.

A bit of royal highlighting thus ended a relatively easy week, courtesy of Aedites.

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Listener 4263: Coordinates by Sabre

Posted by Dave Hennings on 1 November 2013

Oh dear… Sabre! Last time we had the chess knights, although I didn’t get as far as stumbling into the KOHB/KOHЬ trap, as many did. Looking at the grid, without its clue numbers, and reading the preamble, with its reference to clashes, and I knew I was in for a rough ride. And lots of cold solving!

Listener 4263I made a list of all the clue numbers (none of which were given!): 3a, 3b, 3c…3f, then 4a, 4b, 4c, etc. 4b Els’s party seen on tee would cause shock and Sabre was obviously trying to woo me with his golf image, JOL being a South African word for party and Els being a South Africn golfer. 4d was OWL with its nice ‘member of parliament’ reference, a word I’ve always associated with rooks, but which Chambers doesn’t mention (as far as I can see).

So, 2 out of 6 isn’t bad, and on to the 4-letter words. 3 out of 8, with just EINS, JASP and LOOM. Of course, none of this could come anywhere near being entered in the grid. That would hopefully prove to be the case when I got to the 8-, 10- and 13-letter words, of which there were two, two and four respectively.

Sadly, this didn’t prove to be anything of the sort. After doodling with the letters which almost certainly were anagrams of the answers at 13b (‘yoga pose Saul e’) and 13c (‘one privileged’), nothing became obvious, and a bit of ‘help’ was required to give GO-AS-YOU-PLEASE and PIGEON-LIVERED respectively.

At the end of six hours of on and off solving, I was still nowhere near being able to get anything in the grid, and the phrase ‘uphill struggle’ seemed particularly apt. I was still in cold-solving territory, and decided to give up for the day. CHEESEHOPPERS was the last clue to be entered, not into the grid, but into my somewhat scrappy-looking list of clue numbers.

Day 2, and I felt bright and breezy. I had 18 clues still to solve, including one 8-, two 10- and one 13-letter word. I initially thought that there would be just one clash per column/row, but that was far too easy… and wrong. TROUBLE-HOUSES was the breakthrough… sort of. I say sort of, because as I finally managed to place the four 13-letter entries, I entered it as TROUSER-HOUSES! This caused quite a few problems in columns 5, 6 and 7 as you can imagine.

As MAK·N· appeared near the bottom in the left column that formed part of the perimeter, the idea that it might make a word came to mind. Indeed, perhaps the top row might as well. It was quite late in the grid fill that TROUBLE MAKING manifested itself, but it was fairly obvious that the top row wouldn’t be anything sensible.

Listener 4263 My EntryFinally the grid was complete, and the final two letters got slotted into the top row. How typical of Sabre to include one entry that could only be resolved as BLOWZE, rather than BLOWSE, because the S was used elsewhere; and one letter that wasn’t part of any clash, Q, but was slotted in because there was nowhere else for it to go.

All in all, probably 12 hours for me, but no doubt a lot fewer for the experts among you. Certainly a puzzle to sort the men/ladies from the boys/girls. Hopefully I got everything right in the end. Thanks, Sabre.

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