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Archive for Jul, 2014

Tour de Yorkshire by Jago

Posted by shirleycurran on 25 Jul 2014

Tour de Yorkshire 001Spotting the theme before we enter a single clue is getting to be a Numpty habit. Well I am Yorkshire Dales born and bred and we have been living with the hype for the past few weeks with several friends who live overseas, like us, going back specifically for the big Yorkshire event. Still, it could have been about Wimbledon (and Jago, by giving us a twenty-minute solve allowed us to watch Roger Federer win his semi-final). Roger is such a decent fellow and so popular over here where we live.

Yes, the Yorkshire Dales are all set for tomorrow’s departure and Holme Moss, where my sister lives, has been giving helpful advice to the cyclists who are heading their way.

We were so busy slotting in YORKSHIRE, GRAND DEPART, TOUR DE FRANCE CYCLE RACE, LEEDS, HARROGATE, DALES, RIPON and YELLOW JERSEY that I didn’t have time to scan the clues to check that Jago was maintaining his place in the Listener setters tipsy club (as if I had any doubt) but when, after completing our grid, I did a quick check, I found a surprising quantity of bananas, Ecstasy, sausage, headless kipper and pork but not much drink to accompany that queer diet.

Yes, these were very easy clues but, in a sense, they had to be, as so much of the grid was unclued. When I find myself highlighting 70 cells before even beginning to fill a grid that only has 150, there is almost a sigh of relief as the clues ARE going to have to be easy to permit solvers to complete the grid. And we do still appreciate a really easy solve from time to time. About five years ago when we first attempted a Listener crossword, one like this would have encouraged us to have the confidence to continue – or at least to have a look at them each week.

I am adding to that last comment twenty-four hours later. I invariably go to read the thread on the Answerbank when we have completed our solve. I know it isn’t approved of by the purists but there is considerable restraint demonstrated by the people who visit it and share their views and it does give a forum before the official one that appears on the Crossword Centre’s message board three weeks later. It is, I know, visited by some compilers who can test the air about their new creation (or newly published creation) as the reactions appear. There are a few almost rude comments appearing this week (Ho ho – you might be eating your words if we are treated to a Sabre’s Knights’ moves style treat next week or another Klein Bottle) but there is also the more thoughtful comment that a few new names have appeared on the thread – people who have been encouraged by the comments on the thread and who have braved the Listener for the first time. I believe this is what we are all hoping will happen and, (dare I be political without getting my hand smacked?) that the extra money The Times is netting as of this week, with our raised subscriptions, is going to the Editors and not into some obscure Times black hole.

Were there any difficult clues? Well we had to check on “Exotic timber found on the reverse of a watchcase (4)” to make sure that the hidden reversed word was TAWA (did you know that it is also ‘a griddle used in Indian cookery’?) and that “A sort of flowering plant, or type of tree, chopped back (5)” was OR PIN[e].

So thank you Jago – for giving Yorkshire a Listener mention too.

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A view from the roundabout: It’s over here! (Listener 4301)

Posted by Jaguar on 25 Jul 2014

Friday afternoon, and I am on the train from Edinburgh to Leeds, to see my family and join my Mum in watching the Tour de France on its historic visit to Yorkshire. What a day we have in store! The most famous cycling race in the world, passing no more than a few minutes’ walk from our doorstep.

I can never decide4301 if it’s a good or a bad thing to have a mobile phone that can connect to the internet. Sometimes you just want to be cut off, you know? Still, there I was, at a few minutes past four, just arriving at Darlington, and the week’s Listener is available, so I have a look. I was expecting to have a proper look at it on Saturday. Perhaps even while I’m waiting for the cyclists to pass by. A bizarre preamble, but the clues seem accessible, and after solving a couple I decide to draw the grid where there’s a convenient gap in Friday’s copy of The Times. More clues drop out, and within twenty minutes I’m entering YELLOW JERSEY in the relevant down entries and smiling to myself at how I’ll be enjoying watching the race itself the next morning. I’d not heard of ORPIN before, and WANNABEE took a while, but I have a full grid and still twenty minutes to spare before getting in to Leeds at a little after five o’clock. I think I’m not the only one who completed this in record time, but I enjoyed the clues and there’s a smile at seeing a theme so relevant to my weekend plans. And besides, I’m busy on the weekend, so no complaints about having an easy ride on the crosswording side!

* * * * * * * * * * * *

It’s now Saturday morning, and after being dragged out of bed early, Mum and I have made our way to the first of two roundabouts near where Scott Hall Road crosses the Ring Road. The peloton won’t pass us for another three hours but already there’s a fair number of people here. Still, we’re able to set up in a pretty good position, with a clear view up the hill to the next roundabout. It’s cloudy at the moment, but we set up our camp chairs next to the barrier and settle back. More people arrive, and with two hours to go it’s suddenly packed. Then some cars and floats start to arrive, along with a smattering of enthusiastic amateur cyclists who are cheered along. The loudest cheers are reserved for the family cyclists. A mother and father pass by, young kids seated at the back of the bikes, and are treated as if HRH Prince George himself were honouring us with his presence. One enthusiastic young woman across the road loses her balloon, and is applauded when she manages to retrieve it. The various policemen get the loudest cheers of all so far, especially when they respond. One cheekily waves his hand: “louder! I can’t hear you…” he seems to be saying. The crowd responds.

The clouds disappear, and it’s a glorious sunny day. A red kite hovers in the distance. The crowd is now huge, ten deep in some places. More floats, cars, gendarmeries, voitures officielles pass by. It’s now gone 11am and the peloton is about to set off from the Headrow. Ten minutes to go. And still the crowd gets bigger.

The imminent arrival of Froome, Cavendish et al is first signalled by two helicopters hovering almost directly overhead. Then we hear the loudest cheers of the morning start from the other side of the roundabout, and here they come, Froome and Cav in the lead and the rest behind. The whole of the peloton passes in no more than 20 seconds. But still the show isn’t over, and we are treated to some stragglers, the technical crews for the various teams (Team Sky’s truck receives another loud cheer), and then another set of amateur cyclists at the start of perhaps their own attempts to cycle the same route as the main Tour. The crowd thins, but those who stay continue to egg them on. At last, there’s no-one left to cheer for, and we head off home.

My first-ever experience of live sport. I’m not sure that Road Cycling is as much of a spectator sport as tennis, or rugby, or track cycling for that matter, but it was great fun. Another million people thought the same, it seems, as the Tour de Yorkshire has apparently the highest attendance ever for a Grand Depart. Great fun, anyway, and I’m sure I’ve got the bug for live sport now. Who cares that I didn’t get to see much? The atmosphere is what it’s all about.

As I type this, it’s Saturday evening and Cavendish is in hospital after a nasty crash near the finish line. I hope it doesn’t ruin the rest of the Tour for him, but it’s not looking good. Perhaps, as you read this, things will be going better for Chris Froome, as he makes his way into Bergerac in, hopefully, the Maillot Jaune. (20 July edit: Or not. Oh well!)


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Listener No 4301: It’s Over Here! by Jago

Posted by Dave Hennings on 25 Jul 2014

It was a beautifully sunny Sunday lunchtime, and a quick visit to the local pub was in order. The Crown seemed the obvious choice since there were chairs and tables outside which enabled drinkers to watch the world go by. The previous day had been taken up with golf, so my Listener hadn’t been started and this would be the ideal opportunity to dabble with a few clues. This week’s wasn’t by Sabre or Kea, but Jago, so I guessed that I might be able to make some progress… assuming there were no origami wrens needing to be folded.

Listener 4301As I approached the pub, I couldn’t see anyone that I knew sitting outside, so it was a safe bet that I could tackle my Listener in peace without outside influence. This was especially true of Mark the Bull, who was also a Listener devotee, but invariably tried to show off about how simple he had found that week’s puzzle and then proceed to spill the beans about some of the clues, or worse, the theme.

The outside bar was open at the side of the pub, so I bought my beer (lager on hot days) and sat at a table with an umbrella that would provide some shade if the sun got too intense. I opened the paper at the Listener page and looked for the pen that I was sure I had clipped to the top of the paper. It had obviously dropped off somewhere on the way to the pub, so I went over to the bar.

“Got a pen or pencil, Ryan?” I asked.

“Sorry, ” he said, “someone has just borrowed it, but try at the main bar inside.”

“Thanks” and I went in the side entrance as suggested. Just as I asked Peter for a pen…

“Aaah, I was wondering if you might be down here today” boomed out a voice from one of the tables behind me, and I froze in my tracks. I turned round, knowing exactly who I would see… the Bull! “I think you owe me a pint, don’t you?”

“No, I don’t!”

“Lager, please. And Colin will have one too. He’s just gone to the loo. Oh, and some salted peanuts.”

Fortunately, Colin the Chimp didn’t know one end of a crossword from the other, so there was a chance that we would stay off that subject. Unfortunately, Colin could talk for England about cycling, a sport about which he had become obsessive in recent years. It wasn’t unusual for him to take a 50 mile bike ride to work, even though his offices were only about 800 yards from where he lived. It was also a sport in which I had absolutely no interest at all.

Taking the easy way out, I ordered two pints of lager for them. “And one for himself,” shouted Mark to the barman. I shook my head, and was given just the pints for the other two and the pen that I had originally requested. The day was suddenly beginning to take a turn for the worse, and my Listener would have to wait patiently outside, held down by my beer in case there was a sudden gust of wind.

As I walked over to the Bull, Colin joined us. “Thanks,” he said as I gave him his beer. Mark remained silent, but downed the half pint left in his glass and started on the one I had bought him.

“Sit!” he demanded, but I remained standing. “Have you done this week’s Listener?” he continued, and, not for the first time, I regretted that evolution hadn’t endowed us with a way to close our ears as well as eyes and mouth.

“It’s all about the…” but the rest of his diatribe was drowned out by Colin who wasn’t listening to anything Mark had to say.

“Did I tell you that I went up to Yorkshire yesterday?” began Colin. “The Tour de France cycle race started in Leeds this year — it’s called the Grand Départ — and finished at Harrogate. I stationed myself in Ripon. Brilliant, one of the best days of my life. What I’d give to touch the Yellow Jersey — that’s what the winner of each day’s racing is privileged to wear the following day. I was so near the front of the spectators I could almost touch the cyclists, only about six back, but the thrill as they went through…”

Twenty minutes later, and I could see that Mark had gone into a catatonic trance. I was close to joining him, so took the opportunity to return to my table outside since neither of them was at all interested in what I was doing.

I sat down and took a sip from my still-cool pint. I picked up the Listener and read the preamble. My jaw dropped open in disbelief as I realised that it wasn’t Mark who had spoilt my enjoyment this week, but Colin and his bloody Tour de France exploits!

Listener 4301 My EntryA quarter of an hour later, and the puzzle was complete with TAWA being the only word that I hadn’t come across before. This was surely one of the easiest Listeners in its history, and I could almost hear the moans of disappointment from solvers who were wondering how they were going to fill the remainder of the week!

I’d be playing golf.

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22 Across by Calmac

Posted by shirleycurran on 18 Jul 2014

Black Hand Gang 001I can add one to my tally of Listeners where we have guessed the theme before filling a cell. Well, hands up those who logged in to the Times site convinced that they wouldn’t fail to commemorate this hundredth anniversary of the opening of that conflagration that probably affected about half of the more elderly Listener solvers in one way or another. Apart from the photos on mantelpieces, when we were small, of ‘Billy who went down on the first day of the Battle of the Somme’, we women began to escape from total male domination (even if you lot still dominate the crossword world) as a result of it all.

The size of the grid was the next hint. A couple of years ago, I dabbled with this theme, convinced that it had great potential, and abandoned when long words like GAVRILO PRINCIP, FRANZ JOSEF, BOSNIA HERZEGOVINA, MILJACKA and SERBIA didn’t make for a very comfortable grid. So congratulations to Calmac that he persisted and even made them come together – no, I can’t say harmoniously can I?

With this rather dismal theme, there had to be a bit of Listener setter tippling amongst the clues but could I find any evidence of Calmac’s membership of the club? Sadly, no! However, for Numpty solvers, there was a lovely preponderance of anagrams and hidden clues. We started at the bottom right (such a good place to start!) and within minutes, had TEEN, SUMAC and PULP in place, so leapt to the conclusion that GAVRILO PRINCIP was going to fill that unclued light. Logically, his victim would fill the other unclued light at 1 down and we tentatively slotted FRANZ FERDINAND in there.

BOSN was our next lucky find and we surmised that it was going to be part of BOSNIA and soon I was hard put to write as fast as we solved. In a little over an hour, we had a full grid, with SARAJEVO completing that vertical column.

The late Enigmatic Variations Editor, Mr Leonard, in one of his gently encouraging messages to me, said ‘Attempting to get a misprint into every clue is biting off more than most setters can chew (or words to that effect). Leave it to the top setters and adopt a more generous device.’ I was reminded of that advice as we found one or two really forced misprints ‘Deaf eater’ for the Koala ‘leaf eater’, ‘Plant that’s brown for dyeing’ for ‘plant that’s grown for dyeing’ but have to admire the almost convincing set that Calmac produced.

Of course, there was a bit of Numpty head scratching, as our extra letters had spelled out ‘HIGHLIGHT TWENTY-TWO CELLS SYMBOLICALLY’ but the first part of the message was ‘Gobbledygook NEAR RIVERSIDE’. ‘Mask word by jolly ref’ (6) was holding us up but eventually, we decided that had to be a clue to VERMIL, which Chambers told us was a kind of bright red (giving VEIL round RM), so our last misprint told us that EVENT OCCURRED NEAR RIVERSIDE. That was clearly a prompt that our twenty-two letters were going to be the river and the city, and, of course, that added up.

‘Symbolically’! Well, they made a cross, didn’t they and that black cross was the symbol of the Black Hand Gang; but black? Can you ‘highlight’ in black. I can see some sparring ahead if that is the requirement and half the solvers have used the pink or yellow highlighter that came to hand.

Well, it was speedy, topical and a rewarding solve. Many thanks Calmac.

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Listener 4300: 22 Across by Calmac

Posted by Dave Hennings on 18 Jul 2014

Calmac’s last Listener was back in 2011. The subject then was metrical feet (a phrase which probably causes the French apoplexy!). This week, some nice simple definition misprints, an isolated cell to complete, and a place to find.

Listener 4300Off to a good start with 1ac FORDS (‘wadis’ for ‘wades’) and 5ac Rates fancy device for delivering colts (5) TASER, although I wasn’t too sure whether the corrected definition was ‘device for delivering jolts’ or ‘device for delivering volts’! Whichever, TASER was the subject of a recent Inquisitor where I discovered that it stood for Thomas A Swift’s Electronic Rifle. I was surprised then, as I was here, that it isn’t in the hardcopy of Chambers, is in the softcopy version as Taser©, and is in the ODE as taser US trademark.

Having got the first two across, I failed with the third Nick in Perth where sun is hidden in smoke (5). That was hardly surprising, since the misprint could be with ‘nick’ or ‘smoke’ and Perth could be the one up north or the one down south. (It turned out to be CRAIG: neck in Scotland and RA (sun) in CIG (smoke, ie cigarette).)

I tried a few of the downs dangling down from the top line and got them all except 2 Rare northern ruminant that controls gorse (4). This turned out to be a simple (!) two meanings, with ‘gorse’ for ‘horse’, although rein for reindeer was a bit unusual.

I then proceeded with a pass through the rest of the across clues, but they proved to be a bit trickier than I had hoped. However, by the time I finished, the unclued entry in the last column ended PR···P and it seemed that we were dealing with the events that sparked the First World War. Unfortunately, I thought that Princip’s first name was Gustav, so was unable to complete the down entry. It also looked certain that the first column would be FRANZ FERDINAND. Stupidly, I failed to examine the central column… after all, it wasn’t unclued, although it did contain that pesky isolated cell.

I completed most of the bottom half of the grid and then the top half — who said you had to do things in a logical order? I must confess that teasing out the last few clues took a bit longer than I expected given how well the early clues had gone. My favourite of a fine bunch had to be 42dn Stink at Oval: first umpire disallows boundary (six) (5) for STUMP (‘stick’ not ‘stink’; firST UMPire missing the outside six letters), and I’m annoyed that I din’t get it on my first reading of the clue.

And so, the corrected misprints gave Event (yes, a taser is a device for delivering volts) occurred near riverside; highlight twenty-two cells symbolically. I wondered how symbolic things would turn out to be. It was at this point that I read the central column and filled in the missing O to give SARAJEVO, BOSNIA.

Well that was fourteen cells to highlight. I had another eight to find. A bit of googling was required to investigate the exact location of the assassination of FF and his wife. (Princip’s first name had also been revealed as GAVRILO.)

Listener 4300 My EntryI had always thought that it occurred at the bottom of the steps of the city hall, but that was just where they started the ill-fated journey. It transpires that they were shot by the Cumurja Bridge which crosses the River MILJACKA. So there were the remaining eight cells for highlighting, R being the abbreviation mentioned in the preamble, and the J already accounted for in SARAJEVO. Symbolically simply meant in the shape of a cross.

Thanks to Calmac for a fine puzzle: an excellent grid, as well as some excellent clues.

May I also take this opportunity to recommend the recent BBC dramatisation of the run up to the start of hostilities, 37 Days. This had a truly star cast, headed by Ian McDiarmid as Sir Edward Grey. It made chilling viewing.

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