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Archive for January, 2014

Listener 4276: Fore and Aft by Poat

Posted by Dave Hennings on 31 January 2014

A Poat puzzle this week, he of the England flag (No 4134, Cruciverbalism), the Babington Plot (No 4102, Something Brewing) and the 8×8 word square (No 4048, Rules of Construction). These three, and probably his previous Listeners as well, were tricky little blighters, and no doubt this would be no exception.

There were two grids here, the one on the left labelled Fore, the one on the right labelled Aft. Clues were in pairs with two forms of modification possible after the grid was complete, although they would only determine which words went in which grid. Extra word(s) in clues would define the modified words.

I was happy to solve the first clue of 9ac Rough sea we manage adrift without leaders (6) as AEGEAN (extra word ‘Rough’) and entered it in the left-hand grid—well, it was as good a place as any. 11ac EARD and 13ac ESTER came next, and I had three in the NE corner, although they may not necessarily end up in the same grid. I snuck a peak at 7dn, and found that clue (b) Regularly clean off washerwomen’s strips (9) gave UNDRESSES [LAUNDRESSES – LA (cLeAn regularly)], which crossed nicely with the last letters of the three clues I already had. Was that just luck? I, for one, wasn’t complaining, although I half expected to have to move one of them to the other grid later on.

Next came 14ac (b) Leafy plant that’s unknown in Portwenn, strangely (9) PENNYWORT, which can’t intersect UNDRESSES, so I slotted it in the Aft grid. Next came 17ac (b) LEAST, 20ac (a) PAS and 22ac (a) EARL, none of which could be slotted with confidence in either grid, so I pencilled them very lightly in both. Then came 6dn (b) Indian bread serving-boy once turned inside out? Yes and no (4) which had to go in the Aft grid, but as what… the answer could validly be either ANNA (bread = money) or NAAN (bread = food)?!

Listener 4276A short while later, and a flurry of clues gave me 4dn (b) BELLYACHE, 1ac (b) SARABAND and the succinct Scour Sun and Times, say (9) for SANDPAPER at 1dn (b).

Listener 4276 My EntryFor some time I had focused on the words ‘glass ovenware’ in 24ac (b), which shouted out Pyrex® and helped everything come together nicely when I got 21ac (b) PYRE. The modifications would lead to new words resulting from additional letters being added in front of the entry in the Fore grid, and after the entry in the Aft grid.

Once the grid was complete, it was fairly easy to tie in the definitions provided by the extra words with the grid entries augmented by extra letters. Each letter of the alphabet was used once, and once only, 13 before words in the Fore grid and 13 after words in the Aft grid. It was nice to see VIDEOPHONE, PENNYWORTH, WASSAILING and DIGITALISE appear. I had indeed been lucky that my initial choice of where to put AEGEAN resulted in everything ending up in the correct grid.

Time to mention some of the sneakier clues.

17ac (a) ALPHA [Convert to binary] a coded record — I’ve got it outside (5)
‘Convert to binary’ defines DIGITALISE at 7dn Aft; with A-HA (I’ve got it) containing LP (coded record) to give ALPHA (defined by ‘a’)
20ac (b) POA [Scots promise] grass wastes my time (3)
‘my’ referring to POAT and losing his T (time)
21ac (a) ITCH Desire expressed by one chindit after another (4)
hidden in chindIT CHindit
8dn (a) LOOE [Summer attire] can be seen at last in Cornish resort (4)
where ‘can’, obviously a verb in the clue, is actually a noun leading to LOO + E (last of bE)

Finally, those pesky ambiguities. I have to confess that it took me the best part of 15 minutes to realise what Poat was referring to. Luckily I did realise, because I had put PACO on the left and PAVO on the right, and with the third letter being unchecked, they could go the other way round. In fact, the other way round was the way to go, since the C and V had to correspond to the modifications in their half of the grid. (I must admit that I thought that this was an unnecessary final, final step!)

As usual, we were treated to a fine puzzle by Poat, so thanks to him for that.
[SPOILER ALERT! Those of you interested in coincidences may like to visit fifteensquared where it was my turn to blog Kcit’s Enigmatic Variations puzzle for the same weekend, Loss of Life. That also had letters added before and after words in the grid… except there it was the same letter every time!]

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Fore and Aft by Poat

Posted by shirleycurran on 31 January 2014

Poat Fore and Aft 001Two little grids for the price of one – that looked promising, but the preamble of Fore and Aft had the Numpties seriously concerned. We re-read it several times, attempting to understand what it told us.

We noted that there were going to be two complete sets that were identifiying which grid the solutions had to be entered into. We also noticed that we had two sets of 13 double clues. Now that was promising; was this somehow going to be pangrammatic? The words ‘Fore’ and ‘Aft’ suggested, too, that something was going to be adjusted at the start and end of solutions.

A quick check confirmed that Poat still qualifies for the Listener Setters’ Tipsy Club – even if only just. His ‘Speak of old chap, gone without a drink (4)’ gave MAN + G[one] so that drink was missing. There was vintage further down: ‘This local variety could be vintage with good [fruit] (6) VINTAGE less G* = NATIVE. Then there was a cocktail: ‘What cocktail of lye and bleach could give you (9)’ LYE + BLEACH* = BELLYACHE. Indeed it could! Cheers, Poat!

That generous clue was our first solve and happily I placed it in the second grid and progressed from there to SARABAND, DIGITALIS, PENNYWORT, ALME and NAAN before realizing what was going on. It was when we began to pair off what were obviously extra words or phrases, like ‘Convert to binary’, fault-finder’, and ‘a small sum’ that we suddenly made sense of the preamble and recognised that words in the ‘aft’ grid were going to add a letter ‘aft’ or at the end, so that we would get PENNYWORTH, BELLYACHER, and  DIGITALISE. (Of course, it was only after completion of the puzzle that we were able to pair off our dangling definitions and lengthened words and be sure that all matched.)

Obviously, then, a number of words in the ‘Fore’ grid were going to add letters at the front.  This was helpful as it placed words for us. Clearly, for example, UNDRESSES (Regularly clean off washerwomen’s strips [c]L[e]A[n] removed from LAUNDRESSES) could only take an S at the start and become ‘Summer attire – SUNDRESSES and thus belong in the ‘Fore’ grid.

Filling the grids now became an enjoyable task and was soon completed with some lovely finds like QAJAR for a ‘Dynasty’ and JASPEROUS for ‘Quartz-like’. Of course, we now realized how our complete set was going to be formed. With ZESTER, QAJAR, JASPEROUS, VIDEOPHONE and UPAS in our list of lengthened words, Poat was evidently taking us through the entire alphabet. What a feat of construction! Not only to manage to find 26 words of which half would add a letter in front and half behind, but to be able to fit them into two grids! This was truly astonishing.

We had full and convincing grids but had somehow overlooked that final sentence of the rubric. ‘In ambiguous cells, the letter must be chosen to match a modification from the same grid half.’ We Numpties always have quite a lot of ‘ambiguous cells’ so there was the usual head-scratch before we realized that we had entered PAVO and PACO without a second’s hesitation. Could this be the ambiguity? Of course it was, and, for once, we had struck lucky, solving VAVS and PAVO as our final clues and fitting them into the first grid (where the V was already going onto IDEOPHONE)! Thus the C in PACO was going to match the C that we were adding to LENTI to give LENTIC (swamp-dwelling).

This was undoubtedly a stunning creation but possibly far more complex for the setter than the solver.  (Well, I suppose that is true of any Listener puzzle!) However, to do justice to Poat, I have carefully worked through the definitions and extended words, right to the final one, where GELATI had to add my only remaining letter, N and had to correspond with the definition ‘size’. That took a bit of lateral thinking. Many thanks, Poat.

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Listener 4275: Make a Connection by IOA

Posted by Dave Hennings on 24 January 2014

It’s 2014, and start of a brand spanking new Listener solving year! Last year, I messed up on three (that I know of): no 4231, Vera by Elfman, where I had OF LATE for OBLATE; no 4256, Boxes by Radix, where I stupidly copied my entry from an interim grid which had one of the ambiguities wrong; and no 4260, Nuts and Bolts by Mango, where I put NEWTON (instead of GESSLER) below the grid. Of course, only the annual stats in March will show whether I managed to make a silly mistake somewhere else as well.

Listener 4275And so on to this year’s first puzzle. It was from IOA, and his fourth Listener. His last was a mathematical puzzle back in May 2011, but the previous two were standard crosswords. Here we had some extra letters in the across clues, some missing letters in the downs, and some works by a famous person. It didn’t sound too tricky, especially as we were told, contrary to recent practice, how many extra and missing letters there were: five and four respectively.

My first scalp came with 15ac in the NW quadrant, Points changed in planet’s character (6), giving NATURE. I decided to concentrate on that corner, and was rewarded with 1, 2, 4 and 5 down. (The exact reason why 5dn was RESEAL would have to wait!)

3dn Burgess or Pope possibly commuted royal command (6) came next, although I wondered why IOA had chosen Burgess as one of the WRITERs… King and Pope would have made a more misleading pairing. And 1ac Drake and cob or suchlike in sign of hesitation with vessels around (7) looked like BOWLERS, but ‘Drake and co’ meant nothing to me.

Anyway, I had two of the four missing letters to be found in the down clues: L (missing from ‘learner’ in 1) and A (missing from ‘heard’ in 2dn).

11ac came next, We are prepared to protect boy sapper (8) for WEAKENER, and the NE corner sparked into life. That corner was polished off fairly quickly, except for 7ac Website reported bent outlet (5) for which U-TUBE, sounding like YouTube, took a bit of teasing out.

And so the rest of the grid was pretty soon complete. The extra letters in the across clues were B, O, U, N and D in 1, 14, 19, 26 and 29 respectively. However, I only had L, A and U as missing down clue letters, in 1, 2 and 20. Don’t you just hate it when that happens?!

There was only one thing to do, and that was to examine every down clue very carefully. Unfortunately, that helped me not one jot, so I concentrated on the across letters, BOUND. The preamble says that ‘what these letters do represents a well-known work’. ‘What these letters do’… that seemed strange. A few minutes cogitation, and I had nothing.

I referred to my Listener Crossword Solver’s Guide. Rule 11 suggests going and doing something mundane, like topping up your coffee… it was 7am, so that seemed appropriate. B, O, U, N, D. What do they do? As the microwave heated up my brew… well, they spell ‘bound’. Spellbound! And Alfred Hitchcock seemed to be making an appearance.

Back to my desk with some hot coffee, and I make a long list of Hitchcock movies. Well you’d think it would be long, but despite having made over fifty films, my list comprised only half a dozen of them. Luckily, it included The Birds and North by Northwest, both of which I could see in the grid: OWL, CROW and TIT in rows 1–3, and NBYNW in row 5.

I decided that it was time to sort out the missing letters from the down clues: L, A, U. I began to wonder about the U in 20dn Recalled anything for local number for dad? (3), the U missing from ‘duad’. Except it could be a Y missing from ‘dyad’. That gave L, A, Y, and it took only a couple of seconds to see that The Lady Vanishes was the movie in question. So where did the D come from? Well 5dn was the culprit, Run over direction from London, nearly quite close again (6), where the D was missing from Dover, which is ESE of London! And that explains R+ESE+AL[l].

So that was the sneaky clue of the week. My two favourites, on the other hand, were 28dn Concoction of Vladivostok, viz, eclipsing poor slivovitz? (5) for VODKA, and the superb 38ac 38 Curse taken to heart by assistant Lewis (inspector replacing Morse) (5) for SWEAR, simple yet effective.

Listener 4275 My EntryFinally, back to the grid in search of the missing two Hitchcock movies. I needed to refer to a list on his Wiki page for this. The 39 Steps was there in the bottom row, but Rear Window was a bit more elusive as I was looking to see if WINDOW was reversed in one of the rows. However, it was reversed in one of the columns, which was justified using ‘rear’ in the sense of ‘erect’ (verb).

I was a bit disappointed that Torn Curtain wasn’t one of the movies, and I spent some time hoping that I Confess was hidden in the guise of ‘IT WAS ME’.

A quick count ensured that the number of cells that I’d highlighted agreed with the 26 required, and an enjoyable trip into the world of Alfred Hitchcock came to an end, courtesy of IOA.

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Make a Connection by IOA

Posted by shirleycurran on 24 January 2014

make a connection IOA 001The first of the new year and we Numpties like the look of this. There is nothing too daunting in the preamble; no mention of playfair squares and only five clues where an extra letter has to be removed and four down ones where a letter has to be discovered and added. We are looking for ‘works’ by a person (not, I note, an author, so these could be sculpture or films, even art works).

There is that intriguing word DO in the phrase ‘what these works DO (in clue order) represents a well-known work’ and the reassuring ‘without any jumbling’, which suggests that some other form of wordplay is going to be required in order for us to ‘Make a Connection’. No complaints: this is a fair and generous preamble.

A quick read through to make sure that IOA qualifies for the Tipsy Listener Setters Club. Membership assured. There are ‘vessels around’ in the very first clue and these turn out to be bowls (of course, I expected SS). ‘Drake and co[B] or suchlike in sign of hesitation with vessels around (7)’ What a fine first clue with its oblique reference to Drake at Plymouth. (BOWLS round ER giving BOWLERS with the extra B, the first of our required five letters).

I read on and find ‘Consuming less Nuits St Georges, say during slump (6)’ (VIN in SAG giving SAVING) but IOA compensates for the reduced VIN in ‘Concoction of Vladivostok, viz, eclipsing poor slivovitz (5)’ (Subtracting SLIVOVITZ from VIZ VLADIVOSTOK to get VODKA – another fine clue and he/she’s into the hard stuff now!)

Solving, after that, goes unusually fast and in about an hour we have a full grid and the word BOUND appearing from the extra letters. ‘Arab leaves [O]x for example, with a chance of survival (6)’ We had to work backwards from VIABLE, reasoning that AR was being  removed from VARIABLE (X).

‘Mo[U]sey curl on sweetheart’s skin’ (6) gave us S[weethear]T + ROLL. ‘Getting on a gee-gee absorbs [N]one in Vienna (6)’ misled us at first, as we tried to introduce KEIN into AGG but soon realised that we had an extra N here, producing EIN in AGG (AGEING). The D came easily when our grid showed that OFFEND had to be the answer to ‘[D]anger from side and rear (6)’ OFF + END.

We had the usual Numpty red herring as we had noticed an unusually large number of creatures in our grid: CROW, OWL, TIT, DOG, FOX, MAN, for a start, but could Aesop or La Fontaine’s fables be considered ‘a well known work’? Those letters ‘Spell BOUND’ don’t they? Penny drop moment.

Naturally there was a little bit of grid-staring before we found four more Hitchcock ‘works’ but there they were, predictably cryptic but reversed, (REAR WINDOW), defined by example (BIRDS), a number/ letter combination (39 STEPS) and a crosswordese abbreviation (NORTH BY NORTH WEST). All that remained to do was to work out what the LADY was doing there. I have commented before that there are not enough ladies in the crossword world and, true to type, this one, of course, vanishes when her letters are missing from the clues (THE LADY VANISHES). A regretful departure from what was a gentle piece of crossword fun. Many thanks to IOA.

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SONAMB by Porlock

Posted by shirleycurran on 17 January 2014

Porlock SONAMBLast of the year. We wonder what they have in store for us! At first sight, it looks like a bit of a sleepless night ‘SONAMB’. The Numpties mutter and grumble about the combination of seven thematic clues which include ‘a continuous jumble of letters’ and another part to be answered in the grid. Jumbles, I would say, are my anathema (but then next week, someone will probably think up some other device for me to loathe even more). On the whole, I tend to regard them as a ‘cop out’ for a setter who is not willing to struggle to make the grid contain real words – at least, that is the case, I think, in a circular crossword. Rant over.

What else do we have? Eight clues with an extra word and 25 others where the wordplay leads to the answer with an extra letter that is not entered in the grid. Well, that combines two devices but it is conventional and acceptable isn’t it? Clearly a long message is going to be spelled out. We are going to receive another thematic clue, too, and are prompted that the title and those circles will give us yet another.

MB? Chambers tells us it is Mark of the Beast, Manitoba or Bachelor of Medicine. We play those ditloid games in the overnight quiz at the Budock Vean Crossword gatherings, where we have to identify 76 T in the HP, 3 M in a B and so on. What is this one? Spots on a mark of the beast? Well we had better start solving.

No, first a scan through the surface meanings of the clues just to confirm that Porlock is applying for his (her?) membership card for the Listener complers’ tipply club. I find an eclectic set of clues with a couple of Fords, a few girls, drugs, trains, quarrels and so on but there is Porlock trying to ‘Get mortal on glasses of Bacardi (6)’ Later on we learn that this clue represents ‘Gallons in a Bushel’ (the ‘gallons’ hidden in a jumble and the B representing the Bushel) so with gallons of Bacardi as evidence, I don’t need to stress about Porlock.

We solve steadily finding the clues generous and enjoyable. The eight extra words stand out so that soon we have an intriguing message; TAKE ONLY CLUES’ CAPITAL LETTERS AND INSERT (then what seems like gobbledygook ININAORONA). NUMBERS ARE SIGNIFICANT FOURTEEN L IN A S.

In retrospect, the fact that we had gaps in the words SPO?S, JU?Y, HA?D and P?AYERS should have led us straight to the endgame but, even though the other Numpty recognised that we had LINES and SONNET in the grid and that there must be a link with that 14 L IN A S, we had to live through one more post-Christmas party before returned home and really saw the light, working out that there are 21 spots on a die, 12 good men and true on a jury, 25 pounds in a pony, 4 inches in a hand, 8 gallons in a bushel, 31 days in August and 22 players on a football field. Of course, the clue numbers indicated the relevant number (NUMBERS ARE SIGNIFICANT!)

Ah, so we were inserting IN, IN A, or ON A to make the ditloids.

Now all those rather strange clues that hadn’t made much cryptic sense suddenly became clear (Scooby Doo’s seen insIDE comics – I like the inclusion of the alternative DICE that we more commonly hear!) We filled our empty cells, highlighted LINES and SONNET and smiled. Er, wasn’t there a requirement to work out the title too? The clue was now evident. LIVERPOOL ST filled our circles, so clearly SONAMB was not going to be SPOTS on a MOOSE’s BEHIND.

This must be the MONOPOLY BOARD. Squares? There must be 42 if you count Chance and Community Chest in the centre of the board. Think again! You can’t highlight 42! There are only 37 numbers. Streets? Stations? Those were RAILROADS on the original board weren’t they. This would be a moot point for anyone over the pond. Well, I know there is a Liverpool Street but think we’ll play safe and go for Station (£50 rent and £200 when I owned all four – cheap at the price!) We highlight the number 4 and breathe a sigh of gratitude to Porlock for providing an entertaining final puzzle of the year.

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