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Archive for Apr, 2014

Listener 4288: A Birthday -A-B-C(E-F) by KevGar

Posted by Dave Hennings on 25 Apr 2014

KevGar’s first Listener in October 2012 had Wittgenstein, and more especially his left hand, as its theme. This one looked totally different, with seven clues that were mathematical expressions, and seven that contained an extra word whose initials meant something. The mathematical clues used the letters A–F, which were the first six numbers in a series defined by the initial letters of the extra words.

Listener 4288My first pass through the clues wasn’t particularly earth-shattering with only a dozen being solved. However, the downs gave me ·CH··L····E·, and it didn’t take me long to speculate that SCHOOLMASTER was the answer to 1ac A+B+C+D+E. I also had extra words ‘shoddy’ and ‘uerthane’ from 12ac and 32ac.

Now… if my memory of a whole slew of puzzles five years ago had been better, 1ac might have given me an inkling of the theme and — did I mention the five cells that were circled in the grid? — what to put in the five cells that were circled in the grid. Unfortunately, my memory is becoming less retentive as the years go by, and ‘schoolmaster’ didn’t ring any bells (no pun intended).

Soon after, I got CACOLET at 18ac with its extra word ‘queen and it looked like the first series, A–F, was going to be squares. The garden feature at 9dn Pointless garden feature includes coloured engraving on last broken stone (11, two words) was ROCKERY – E (pointless) including C (coloured) + LAST* giving ROCK CRYSTAL.

It also looked as though 6dn was MIRACLE, 10dn PHILOSOPHER and 37ac RECREATIONAL, and the word spelt out by the circled squares was… oh! it’s Haydn again! I do recall that he had a long list of symphonies, many of them with nicknames, and a quick calculation of 1ac gave 55, the number of the Schoolmaster symphony.

After that, the grid was finished fairly quickly, with the following list of symphonies included in the grid, with A=1, B=4, C=9, D=16, E=25 and F=36:

1ac A + B + C + D + E = no 55, The SCHOOLMASTER

16ac A + BE = no. 101, The CLOCK

26ac -C + D + F = no. 43, MERCURY

36ac -B – C(E-F) = no. 103 DRUMROLL

6dn -B + CDE/F = no. 96, MIRACLE

10dn A – B + E = no. 22, PHILOSOPHER

29dn A – C(D – E) = no. 82, The BEAR

Listener 4288 My EntryFinally, a search for a further symphony (3 letters). It didn’t take long to find The HEN in row 3, symphony no. 83. Using all six letters A—F in order, we didn’t need to use “all four basic arithmetic operations”, but only + and – , to make 83: A – B + C + D + E + F, ie 1 – 4 + 9 + 16 + 25 + 36. The title becomes A Birthday 94A Birthday Surprise.

Thanks to KevGar for an enjoyable puzzle, and farewell again to Haydn for another five years (at least).

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A Birthday Surprise by KevGar

Posted by shirleycurran on 25 Apr 2014

KevGar 001There was Numpty consternation when we saw that title, A Birthday -A-B-C(E-F) by KevGar, then read the word ‘numeric’ in the preamble (quite a pre-ramble this time!) ‘Seven clues are numeric expressions in which the letters A to F represent the first six numbers in a series. The answers to these clues are members of another series, deduction of which will allow solvers to translate the answers into the corresponding grid entries’.

Nothing to do but solve. Well, there was the initial read through the clues to see whether KevGar qualifies for the Listener Setters Tipsy Crowd membership and he is one of the rare setters who doesn’t! Not a single alcoholic clue: that is truly rare! Ah, wait a minute, that was sly! DEPOT at 33ac – he TOPED in a revolutionary way.  However, there were quite a few musical clues: we had SHELLAC from ‘Uproar in endless pillage – 78 for example (7)’ (HELL in SAC[k]), INCISOR ‘It cuts poor Rossini missing start of sonata with four beats in a bar (7)'(ROSSINI* less S[onata] round C), and RECREATIONAL ‘Amusing record, well-balanced, covering half of extended play (12)’ (REC + RATIONAL round E). The penny didn’t drop yet.

Those seven extra words stood out, especially the Q of QUEEN’S (after all, what a kinky surface reading! Whatever would a king be doing in the queen’s cat litter?- The mind boggles!) That was probably going to be followed by a U, and URETHANE stood out (Intermittently spray this URETHANE on garden feature – (we are learning to look for potential extra words hidden in clues which use the ‘regularly’, ‘now and then’, ‘oddly’ or ‘intermittently’ device – clearly that is the subtle place to hide such a word). SHODDY, AUTHOR, RESTING, ENGRAVING and SCOTTISH completed our set, all of them being obviously redundant in their clues, and we had the indication that we were to use SQUARES.

I have to kick myself that it took so long for the penny to drop. We soon had enough letters to make DRUM-ROLL, SCHOOLMASTER, PHILOSOPHER and MERCURY the only options (or almost) in those clues with the lines of letters. All the same, it wasn’t until the letters in circles spelled out HAYDN that it all came together.

CLOCK, BEAR and MIRACLE filled our remaining empty cells and, in well under two hours of happy solving, we had a full grid. The math Numpty did some speedy calculation: 1² +2² +3² +4² +5² = 55 and Symphony 55 was the Schoolmaster, and so on. The Internet confirmed that the Clock was 101, Mercury 43, Drum-roll 103, the Bear 82, Miracle 96 and Philosopher 22. and we didn’t even need to check on the Internet that Symphony No 94 was the SURPRISE, giving a birthday Surprise.

We had that rather intriguing ECCO at 35 across and wondered why there was the odd clue ‘Beginning of eighth chapter about [AUTHOR] over there (4) when B + C + E would give ECHO. Perhaps KevGar will honour us with a setter’s blog and explain that strange omission (was it an editorial deletion or requirement?)

All done, with not a single groan! That is rare for the Numpties. Well, not quite all done. We had to find another three-letter symphony and convert it to a numeric expression. The HEN stood out, (poor little thing, who would write a symphony to a hen!) and was quickly converted to the expression A-B+C+D+E+F.

Thank you, KevGar, delightful!

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Primed to Begin by Spud

Posted by shirleycurran on 18 Apr 2014

Spud Gay Marriage 001Since that wonderful Rubik’s Cube crossword, way back was it in 2011, we have been looking forward to the next one by Spud. Here it was, with a very modest little preamble that seemed to be saying that we would be able to choose what to highlight, as long as we stayed within the 30 to 33-letter range and ‘five sections’. There was that standard device, ‘In most clues the wordplay leads to the answer with an extra letter that is not entered in the grid; these letters lead to advice to be followed when highlighting.’

Of course, anyone who has struggled to produce an entire message convincingly using misprints or third or fifth clue letters knows that this device is the most forgiving. Less forgiving was the message that we ultimately deciphered, since those repeated words at the start of clues were rather a giveaway. Your first vetter or test-solver would be saying, “You have used ‘Unchosen’ twice”: “You have ‘Highlighted’ and ‘Highlight’ in your clues, you’ll have to change one of them”, and so on. We spotted that hint immediately and attempted, at once, to make sense of the first clue words. But, of course, the device was nicely concealed in prime numbers, OBSERVE PRIME NUMBERED CLUE FIRST WORDS as we learned later.

That was to come. First, I did a quick run through to check that Spud qualifies for the Listener Setters ‘ Imbibers .Org. and, sure enough he was indulging in ‘Medicinal drink implicated in parts (6)’ giving PTISAN* with an extra R, and ‘Spirit, not ancient rum, swallowed by father (6)’ (PA round NE + [R]UM = PNEUMA).

Solving proceeded steadily for a couple of hours with that message slowly emerging though we had one Numpty red herring when we decided that the Indian bird had to be an ARGUS in the clue ‘Indian bird bears hurtful, seedy coverage (7)’ AR[G](ILL)US we parsed, producing a peculiar FIRGT in our message. Clearly it had to be FIRST. Back to Mrs Bradford, as usual, and she told us that a SARUS is an Indian bird too!

I have a list of primes saved as a favourite since a recent crossword, so the message was quickly revealed. HIGHLIGHT ONE OF FOUR COUPLES / UNCHOSEN NAMES FULLY OR MOSTLY HIGHLIGHTED COMING AS GUESTS. (A quick parenthesis here. As we solved, I was muttering “We don’t seem to be producing an additional letter in MOST clues” – and the math Numpty put me right, “MOST only has to be more than half – 34 out of 51 – that’s MOST.” The same with this MOSTLY highlighted.)

We immediately spotted what was going on; not one of those days of grid staring that some of us in the Listener-grid-staring-club commiserate about.  A WEDDING, PLEASE JOIN ADAM AND EVE, R.S.V.P. Then we saw STEVE and recalled something about a movie called Adam and Steve. We saw MAC and MIA too, lurking on the sidelines but the preamble was clear about ‘comprising five sections’ and they were marginalised and evidently not invited.

MOSTLY highlighted – clearly that meant that we could marry off ADAM and EVE, and STEVE would be ‘mostly’, or 3/5 highlighted and eligible as a guest, as would ADA, who would be ‘fully’ highlighted. Or we could marry ADAM to STEVE or EVE to ADA and so on. Just then, SKY News was talking about this weekend’s celebration of the legalisation of gay marriage in the UK, so, of course, we were reminded that this is a topical issue. (YET AGAIN! Hasn’t the media gone to town on this! They must be attempting to compensate for about a couple of centuries of ludicrous prudery and boring us all to tears with the fact that, at last, we are being treated like intelligent beings and allowed to cement relationships with whomsoever we like!)

Rant over! Did you notice that I had A WEDDING two paragraphs above. We were given free choice about what we highlighted with the constraints that it must be five sections and 30 to 33 cells. I wonder what JEG will do to an entry that highlights 31 cells inviting ADAM AND STEVE to A WEDDING of ADA AND EVE!

Thanks anyway, Spud. Piece of cake? Not quite! Let’s raise our glasses to the compiler and to the happy brides, grooms, whatever!



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Listener 4287: Primed to Begin by Spud

Posted by Dave Hennings on 18 Apr 2014

Spud’s first Listener was over three years ago, with No. 4107 European Revolution. The theme there was Rubik’s Cube which now seems to be making a comeback… or didn’t it actually go away? This week, we had most clues with an extra wordplay letter — now was that going to be 26 of the 51 clues, or 50? Moreover, and somewhat unusually, we were to be given a choice as to how many cells to highlight in five sections of the grid.

Listener 4287A lot of the clues were fairly straightforward, and after fifty minutes, most of the NE and SW corners were complete. During this time, a couple of things crossed my mind. With 13ac Unchosen, finally dividing fresh gains — country vegetables (6), ‘unchosen’ seemed a strange word to use for its last letter. Even more strange, the word started off one of the down clues as well. Moreover, ‘highlight’ started off a couple of clues, as did ‘coming’ (although this didn’t stand out until much later).

At this point, I had the following letters from the wordplay: ob···rv···nu···ues···ir···t···or···, with the possibility of OBSERVE at the start and CLUES in the middle. I finished the remaining clues relatively smoothly, with a couple of pleasing &lits on the way: 20ac Jumbled, a mostly g[e]rmane answer (7) for ANAGRAM; and 32dn Rest [w]ho must be different (6) for OTHERS. The full message was then revealed as:

Observe prime numbered clues’ first words

Going through the across clues 13, 19, 37, 41, 43 and downs 2, 3, 5, etc, I got:

Unchosen fully coming as guests. Highlight one of four couples. Unchosen names, or mostly highlighted, coming

A puzzled look must have crossed my face as that sounded a bit dubious. It was alleviated a little by seeing the invitation that needed highlighting in five sections of the grid:


I looked for guests in the grid, only to be met with an army: Reg (two), Inga, Lew, Roy, Jo, Mac, Mia, Steve, Alf, Joy, a couple of Umas and a whole slew of Eds. I seemed spoilt for choice, so went back to the message spelt out by the first words of clues. Obviously, the way that was intended to resolve the rather weird message was to recognise the significance of the two ‘unchosens’ which were both at prime number 13, one across and one down. I can’t say that I consciously took this logical step, but I found myself writing the first words down in the order 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 13 (just once), 17, etc. That made a much more satisfactory message:

Highlight one of four couples. Unchosen names, fully or mostly highlighted, coming as guests

Listener 4287 My EntryEverything thus became clear. The four possible couples were Adam and Eve (a total of 31 letters) or Ada and Steve (32 letters), or — and the whole point of the puzzle — Ada and Eve (30 letters) or Adam and Steve (33). The date of the puzzle is the date on which same-sex marriages became legal in the UK. The guests names were the ones not chosen as marriage partners.

So, despite the somewhat circuitous route of getting there, thanks to Spud for a really fun outing. This is probably the closest link between a Listener puzzle and a current event that there has been.

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No Robbery by Radix

Posted by shirleycurran on 11 Apr 2014

RoddyNumpty surprise. There is a Mango solution this week (the Vivaldi Four Seasons), then I open No. 4286 and it is set by Radix, with the addition to the preamble that ‘This puzzle is published posthumously, as Radix (Roddy Forman) died in January. His family has instigated the Radix Auditorium Jug, a new prize to be awarded each year for the first-time Listener solver who sends the most correct entries. The first recipient will be the best new solver for entries from this puzzle to the end of 2014.’

What a beautiful trophy it is too. We were able to get a preview of it at the Listener Setters’ Dinner which took place in Cheltenham the following evening with an astonishing 140-strong company but sadly, no Roddy.  Sadly, especially at the end, when Roddy’s charismatic presence with the late group in the bar at 4 a.m. was lacking (I was ticked off for calling them stragglers this year – they were ‘the intellectual giants who could stay the course’.)

I have my doubts that the new solver who earns that distinguished trophy will start his (or her) solve with this week’s astonishing compilation but perhaps there is another solver like Roddy himself,  Simon Long or Neil Talbot waiting in the wings.  I wish her good luck and hope that one day, she has a shot at this crossword.

There was no Numpty need to scan the clues to see whether Radix qualified for the Listener Setters’ Distinguished Oenophile Elite, with James Leonard, he was a founder member, but it wasn’t the ‘[Cooly] to search north of the border when Senor imports liquor of French origin (5)’ (SR round KIR = SKIRR) in his hand in that photo of last year’s finale in the bar, but a glass of his favourite malt.

Fair Exchange is No RobberyOf course, we started by admiring that beautifully symmetrical grid. A model grid!

I’ve said it before: a Mango or Radix crossword is bound to be impeccably set, so we launched into our solve with a confident smile and slotted in solutions with ease, pleasure … and growing consternation. They just didn’t fit together! What was going on? With two-thirds of the clues solved we had realized that only the clues where a word was to be removed could go into the grid, so we created a skeleton grid with the words LATELY, MINT, REENTER, SKIRR, SPOUSAGE, SEE, AT HOME, TIER, ACADEME, ISOTHERM, ETUDE and EYE.

Mystified now, we attempted to work out the way that letters and words were to move, as not a single one made sense to us. This was not typical Radix. First penny-drop-moment (and I had been ‘on-the -solve’ now for about six hours) – I kicked myself. ‘No Robbery’, I should have realized hours ago that that was telling me which twelve letters were moving and my FA??E??HANGE resolved itself to FAIR EXCHANGE.

Didn’t Roddy have us struggling to cope with Base 24 some weeks ago? The next break-through was to think alphanumerically (Aaah so that was what that word ‘Added’ in the preamble was telling us. When will I learn to listen to the message I keep spelling out in the Numpty blog? READ THE PREAMBLE!) We had to add those single letters to the words that were clearly the intruders in the twelve clues identified by those letters.

So ‘Girl who may wish to gulls two girls with sailor returning [f]are (9)’ was telling us to add F (=6) to GULLS, getting MARRY, and we had a coherent explanation of INAMORATA, which we had already entered into the grid. Some alphanumeric calculation followed and we were able to justify a number of words that hadn’t quite convinced us before: ARIOSTO, ATOCIA, DRAFTEE, (oh how clever, that OZ + E = 5, gave us the TE that anagrammed with F[e]ARED to justify DRAFTEE – this really was spectacular compilation!) LEADERENE, OILSKIN, NATURE (was that a mildly smutty clue? I had to ask the other Numpty to explain the ‘creative JISM’ that seemed to appear when I added H (=8) to BAKE – but this was already dazzling us by its ingenuity and we hadn’t finished!), PERSEVERE, AMAUROSIS, ARRANGE and RECIPE.

Almost all of those words had already been slotted into the grid because they were the only Chambers words that would fit or because, like AMAUROSIS, they were clearly related to the definition word ‘blindness’, but that was not so with the remaining 12 words that seemed to have no relationship at all with the clued word. Obviously LADYBUGS was clued by ‘North American predators fancy bald guys (8)’ (You flatter the bald gang, Roddy, I think they go for the Leonardo di Caprio filmy types!) but we were entering something like FISTICAL.

Several clues had unambiguous solutions and we could enter MEDUSA, ILL and ACTIN but why was I entering ILL when the clue gave me EWE (‘Crone’s an old one – jug’s not right (3)’ EWER less R)? By this time it was after midnight and hailstones and snow were beating on the windows – and we had to drive south from the Dales to Cheltenham in a few hours, so I decided to sleep on it.

Brainwave and Numpty red herring at 4 a.m. Add EWE and it comes to 33 and so does ILL. I spent those F. Scott Fitzgerald hours (between midnight and the dawn when the past is all deception and the future futureless) doing mental calculations that didn’t work, but, of course, the seed of the solution was there and Roddy, with typical kindness led the way with that other preamble word that we should have listened to. LIKEWISE.

Of course, those twelve extra words had to be added to words of the same length to give the entry word, so we were adding DOG to EWE to get ILL, ALL to MOD to get NAP, THOUGHTS to LADYBUGS to get FISTICAL. How long did it take Roddy to find such astonishing fits AND to disguise them so convincingly in clues?

It was a joyous downhill coast now, adding EDAM to GAGE = LEHR, LIQUIDLY + FRANKEST = RARITIES, ACTS + FOAL = GRUE, BATHING + ANTLIAE = CONTROL, CINEMA + BEEPED = ENSURE, BLESS + COOLY = EATER, TOILET + SPUING = MEDUSA (I am sure Roddy is up there somewhere smiling about that one – I am), INEPT + ROOST + ACTIN. I could even work backwards to the clue we hadn’t solved and find that IMMERSE minus FELLERS gave us CHASMAL (‘Contralto’s complaint, I’m not really gorgeous! (7)’ C + HAS MAL).

Sorry, this an unusually long Numpty blog, but then again, it was an unusually long Numpty solve and an unusually stunning piece of setting.

Thank you Roddy for everything.

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