Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin

Archive for Aug, 2014

Hosta la Vista by Dipper

Posted by shirleycurran on 29 Aug 2014

Dippe's building site

Dipper’s building site

We are travelling again, on our way to the Baltic island of Gotland so I managed to work my way through the intricacies of the Internet and the printer in Swedish then looked with trepidation at what emerged. Were we in for a Sabre special of knights playing leap-frog or a mean editorial trick of a numerical shocker a couple of weeks early?

It was not to be. With a sigh of relief we found that we were on familiar ground; back in Dipper’s garden where we have already shifted boulders and played around with plants in the past.

I do my usual scan through the clues but find that Dipper doesn’t qualify for the Listener Setters’ Oenophiles’ Club though he has a predictable number of clues about gardeny things,”Section of stream is muddy (3)” giving us a corrected Muddy/Buddy misprint, and “Dyke, one surrounded by flowers gives a colourful effect (8)” giving us a U corrected misprint and IRIDISES (DI surrounded by IRISES).

I also wonder about Dipper’s other pastimes in addition to gardening when I find “beats cat, head to tail (4)”, but decide that he is talking about a different CAT, and that we are being given a Beats/Seats misprint with SPew becoming PEWS. Then there is “Move very gradually during sex session (4)” we change the X for a corrected misprint A to get EASE. Hmmmm! Dipper – clearly spending time with the “inadequate mistress” of clue 18 “Irritating hanger-on getting inadequate mistress into trouble (6)” we opt for Mistress/Distress this time and put GNA(w) Or “distress” into AIL.Dipper Hosta la Vista 001

Indeed some of these clues were tough but a message was emerging, and while we still had one unresolved clue and a couple of dubious corrected misprints, we were able to make a stab at a rather disconcerting message: GARDEN SOLD TO BUILDERS CLEAR PLOT BAR CLUED TREES! was Dipper really telling us that this is the end of his garden or just that we can expect no more garden crosswords – is he just down-scaling and will we find ourselves chasing exotic orchids around his greenhouse in a couple of years?

Of course, we still had three thematic clues to solve and these were going to lack a common definition and a common length, we were told. This was rather worrying, as the first two TREES that we found seemed to share a common length (both five letters) and were both trees. When we ultimately found MYALL, that seemed to share both the definition and length, so I still have some anxiety about the rather empty grid we finally sent with just three straggly, five-letter trees or was this simply a rather ill-expressed requirement?

Thank you anyway, Dipper and good luck with whatever the new pastime is.

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

Listener 4306: Hosta la Vista by Dipper

Posted by Dave Hennings on 29 Aug 2014

Another trip around Dipper’s garden this week, and ostensibly his last. There were just some misprints to uncover, so hopefully a relatively straightforward solve.

Listener 4306There was probably no point in solving the thematic clues just yet… after all, where would they go. However, a quick scan and the third one was OPEPE, a tree that I didn’t think I had come across before. The other two trees (presumably) eluded me though.

7ac Move very gradually during sex session (4) was EASE, a fairly gentle start despite Dipper’s attempt to distract me with its surface reading! 10ac Resect both extremities of joint in jaw (4) looked as though the corrected misprint would be ‘reject’. However, I hadn’t come across ‘resect’ before and a check with Chambers revealed it to be ‘to cut away part of, esp the end of a bone’. A short while later, and [c]OLLA[r] was in the grid. Next came 12ac TIAN, another word that was new to me… how many more?!

After my initial pass through the acrosses, during which I only got 20 DOMED, 21 ATHLETE, 24 AMI and 30 HATING, I realised how crafty Dipper must be at camouflaging his misprints. Having them anywhere in the clue, rather than in the definition, made for some entertaining and devious tricks from the setter. For example 6dn War Bar time, power is fickle (6) led to VOLTAGE (power) – T (time).

The trickiest clue for me was 33ac Wastefully cut pears, one at a time (8). Not having been to public school, I had no idea what ‘rears’ were, such that LO[o] + SINGLY gave ‘wastefully’. I also liked the simplicity and sneakiness of 35ac Insert two pages, back to front (4) for FLEA (‘insect’).

The corrected version of the misprints gave Garden sold to builders. Clear plot bar clued trees. Obviously OPEPE was in the last column, and Strain to move with delayed acceleration was HEVEA (HEAVE with the A moved to the end). Unfortunately it took Google to reveal Blues guitarist plucking first note as John MAYALL (aged 80), minus his first A, in column 2.

Listener 4306 My EntryThanks to Dipper for an enjoyable puzzle, but I am left wondering if there is a word for all the bits of rubber that are left after erasing most of a crossword! I also have a sneaky feeling that Dipper will shortly be buying a new house with a garden requiring a lot of horticultural crosswording.

Posted in Solving Blogs | Leave a Comment »

Listener 4305: Not a Blocked Grid by Lavatch

Posted by Jaguar on 22 Aug 2014

Home once again, this time for a lengthier break. I was on the train again, but unlike in Jago’s Tour de France puzzle, No 4301, there was to be no speedy solve scribbled on a gap in Friday’s copy of The Times. Instead, I opened up this week’s Listener, saw the name Lavatch, and realised I’d probably need rather more than a quarter of an hour…

I’ve now seen four of Lavatch’s puzzles, including three Listeners. Of those I suppose you could say that I probably have been defeated by two — I may have submitted an entry for his Christmas snowflake puzzle, In Season (No 4221), but I needed rather a lot of help for that one. And his Carte Blanche (No 4252) was also far too tough for me. On the other hand they were both utterly brilliant conceptions, so that while I knew I was in for a tough challenge I was looking forward to it. So this was my chance to take the score to 2-2.

4305 initialNot that Lavatch was going to give up his lead without a fight, it seemed! At least the overlong entries were clearly signposted, but the clashes weren’t and indeed for a long time I had a clash in the wrong place. At last opening the puzzle on Friday night, two hours later (on and off), I’d managed to nail down most of the top-right, but not much else. It took another couple of hours in the morning to get to a 90% full grid, but with that mistaken clash in 11ac (I had Redescribe, don’t ask me why…) I still couldn’t see what was going on. It was the bottom-left corner’s fault…

Then it all clicked. That weird-looking clue at 46ac looked like it needed a J and a K somewhere, but then JACEK isn’t a character in The Odyssey — and good thing too, since I would never have been able to fit anything at 27dn. But finally I found MUJIK (mu + I in JoKe), and the various letter pairs all made sense. “….ON TRAFF?CJAM” was emerging, and of course gave TRAFFIC JAM in somewhere (probably London). And the other letters give something-or-other SOLUTION.

So armed, I could repair the damage of some lazy work at the top of the grid to put REDECORATE at 11ac (Not parsed as Eco in Dr. + something, but as Red + Rate (drive by scolding) about Eco), and the rest followed rather quickly. Oh, and 27dn, that had confused me for ages, turned out to be DISHELMS from Dish + Elm + S… what a deceptive surface!

And at last, all that was left was to resolve all those clashes. But indeed that was rather quick: the “solution” to the “London traffic jam” problem was of course the Congestion Charge, introduced by that universally popular politician Mr. Ken Rivingshone.

And there’s the equaliser! I hope… some super clues, some that are perhaps just a little too tough, quite a few that only made sense once I had the answer by other means. But oh well, another fine puzzle by Lavatch and I’m looking forward to the next one.

4305 final

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Listener No 4305: Not a Blocked Grid by Lavatch

Posted by Dave Hennings on 22 Aug 2014

Lavatch’s last Listener had Swift’s Afric-maps as its theme, and I finished my blog with: “So, a real toughie, but well worth the struggle. I will add Lavatch to my list of setters who send a shudder down my spine.” That was No 4252: Carte Blanche. This week’s puzzle had all the bars, but was a 14×14 grid and, not surprisingly therefore, a fair few clues… 54 to be precise. Some long answers and some clashes would result in two letters in some squares and would reveal what to do in the endgame.

Listener 4305My first pass through the clues confirmed my suspicion that I was in for a fairly long solve. 12 was TEAR, 18 was PRE and 25 was SIMA. There were a couple of others, but with clues like 47 I put in order in court to use symbolism (10) for EGO in ALL RISE, I knew a bit of lateral thinking might help. I did notice that we were given the word lengths of the overlong answers rather than just the entry length, so a bit of assistance there.

I had pretty much the same lack of success with the down clues although 2 Cheat stops when in difficulties (4) was delightfully short and to the point, and 3 Feels silly meeting duke that’s inbred (6) gave SELFED, which was new to me. 7 TEREK and 8 SNARES at least gave the top of the grid some meat with which to work.

[It’s a sign of something (suggestions on a postcard) when I can’t solve a lot of the answers to a set of clues when preparing this blog two weeks after completing the puzzle!]

Anyway, after a couple of long, persistent sessions, the grid was nearly complete although I only had thirteen cells containing two letters. I wrote them down anyway:

? ? T D R N T R S O F U C J O ?
? ? N E O T H E A F L I T I A ?


At first, I thought I must have gone horribly wrong as nothing jumped out particularly quickly. I think it was the J in position 14 that, probably not in the middle or end of a word, enabled me to see TRAFFIC and then LONDON and JAM before and after that.

This left the instruction ENTER THE SOLUTION, and the CONGESTION CHARGE was, at least for me, an easy final step. I was also able to finish the grid with LEASES at 1ac, TOOTSY at 5ac and 43dn Dash shaking over motorway, almost run over (4) for BRIM… another tricky definition. All that remained was to highlight Red Ken in the eighth row.

Listener 4305 My EntryNow, I say I finished off the grid with LEASES at 1ac, which became CEASES in the final grid. However, it took me a few minutes to convince myself that it wasn’t LEASED/CEASED. The clue was What may be for instance covered by “country fields” (6). I read it as an &lit clue with AS (for instance) surrounded by LEES (country fields), leases4 being pasture.

So thanks to Lavatch for another testing puzzle, and what a delight to have two London-centric themes in a row 😉

Posted in Solving Blogs | Leave a Comment »

Not a Blocked Grid by Lavatch

Posted by shirleycurran on 22 Aug 2014

LavatchI always appreciate it when the letter count at the end of the clue immediately identifies which solutions are going to behave differently. Of course, although we were told which eleven solutions had to have two letters squeezed into one, we still had to find five clashes. Looking back, on completion of the grid, I smiled when I realized that Lavatch had to include both devices in order to make his double message and the final entry letters fit into the grid – quite a feat.

I believe Lavatch is busy with a young family: I haven’t ever seen him in the happy drink till dawn gang at the Listener Setters’ dinner, so I had to do a careful run through his clues to check that he qualifies for the setters’ tipsy club but the evidence was there. He had ‘Wretched people dropping in for parties (5)’ (INSECTS less IN), ‘Local wanton imbibing foreign booze, shows old piercing (6)’ (RIVING = RIG round VIN) and ‘Glaswegian picks women’s drinks (W + ALES) so all was well.

August 1st is the Swiss national day, with a magnificent firework display as soon as night falls, so we set to with our solve at breakneck speed, and, with a few grunts of pleasure at some of the really subtle and rewarding clues, had the grid almost full before dinner. It became clear, very early on, that the clues with two letters squeezed into one cell were performing that trick in the unchecked cells, so clearly the five clashes were going to be in words where the endgame hadn’t permitted that.

Those clashes were the difficult ones to find and we struggled for a while trying to find a word STEM?S for ‘Incline to fill vessel in Highland springs (6) (to intersect with BRIM – ‘Dash shaking over motorway, almost run over (4) BRI(o) + M) It was the other Numpty who finally pronounced that to ‘stend’ is to bound in Scotland. Another of our Lavatch2clashes!

Of course, the top area of the grid was the tough part to complete as there were three clashes there, but I hit lucky and spotted that the letters we already had in the grid gave ???DON TRAFFIC JAM/ ???ER THE SOLUTION. It didn’t take much imagination to work backwards from that to LONDON. (Surely not another Londoncentric crossword after we ‘minded the gap’ just a week ago!) That gave us our final clues and clashes and I called to the London-based children who were clearing the supper dishes downstairs “What was the solution to the London Traffic Jam? And who was the ‘instigator’?” “Every fool know that! CONGESTION CHARGE – Ken Livingstone’s thing!” responded my son.

I had enjoyed the crossword, finding the clues difficult but compiled with Lavatch’s usual panache but it was his endgame that produced a broad smile. As each of those letters created a real word, or two real words where there were clashes, I was almost excited and remembered why we besotted Listener addicts do these things every Friday. BETHER and TRUSH held me up for a moment but then, of course KEN appeared, just south and east of symmetrical, and all was well.

Great stuff, thank you, Lavatch.

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »