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Archive for October, 2014

Weak Force by Tut

Posted by shirleycurran on 17 October 2014

Work force by TutWe had a splendid venture into the realm of valence electrons last week and the title of this puzzle by Tut immediately suggested to us that we might again be in a world related to physics.and before long that suspicion was confirmed.

However, before beginning our solve, I, of course, scanned the clues to check that Tut’s application for membership of the tipsy Listener setters’ club could be considered and, of course, he/she qualifies with ‘For example, beer which with added helium would produce incomprehensible speech (4)’ (BREW which, with HE gives HEBREW) and a dose of Madeira in a clue that parsed rather oddly,’Crazy, pointless Madeira’s aid to road grip (6 two words) (E from MADEIRA* gives AIR DAM).

We worked steadily through Tut’s clues, wondering about some of the surface readings ‘The tree to attack with unpowered bolster (10)’ (GO AT + W + PILLOW less P) – does Tut go around charging at trees with a pillow as his weapon? – and enjoying the economy of others, ‘Shirt tucked into Fraser Kilt (4)’ SERK is nicely hidden there and the Scots indicator subtly included.

I have been avoiding the leading diagonal lately after criticism from some of the crossworld gurus about using it far too often for the thematic message. However, I still look there as I solve someone else’s crossword and something vaguely familiar was appearing there. Completing that rather enigmatic quotation from James Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake ‘…FOR MUSTER MARK’ helped us fill the more difficult north-west corner of the grid and, with typical Numpty back-to-frontedness, we then worked backwards to find our three quarks in the incomplete set of corrected misprints.

TOP and STRANGE gave us no problem but they used ten of our available letters so the third quark had to be the UP/DOWN quark, for which we already had a P that confined us to clue 12 across for the U; now that was sneaky,Tut! We finally sussed that the fat juicy thing that one pinches if one is a SCRUMPER grows on a malUs and was not some rather rotund malE’s corporation.

A gentle solve and all good fun. Thank you, Tut.

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Listener No 4313: Weak Force by Tut

Posted by Dave Hennings on 17 October 2014

The first newbie for a few months appears this week in the shape of Tut, and it seems that we are in for a continuation of the science theme after last week’s Elementary Deduction from Rood. I was very late starting this puzzle as a week’s golf in Portugal got in the way, so the Tuesday before the deadline had me hoping that this would be a quick solve. Only a dozen definition misprints to contend with had me feeling confident.

Listener 43131ac Madman in Austin briefly used to shoot down Jews (4) seemed likely to need ‘jets’ to replace ‘Jews’; the preamble was very helpful in saying that ‘capitalisation may need to change’, help that I didn’t think we really needed but the editors obviously did. Anyway, I still couldn’t get it, and 4ac Possible farmer of lac in taro cropped with fish (6) referred to 1ac (!), so I couldn’t get that either. Eventually I solved 14ac SKIMPIER and then another gap before 23 GESTAPO across the middle. With only another half dozen acrosses, my grid looked somewhat sparse.

The downs started off well, with 3 AERIE, 4 COMPUTERS and 5 CINEMATICALLY at last making my grid-fill looking substantial. Unfortunately, only 31 ABASE and 35 SERK completed my initial down solving, but eveything then speeded up nicely.

When I finally got 1ac FLAK (‘flake’ being a crazy person in the US), I was left wondering what A farmer/firmer/warmer of flak was at 4ac. It was some time before I realised that 1ac was lac, and a possible farmer of lac was the COCCID. There was a close call at 21dn Monsters: fifty donning episcopal robes (8) where I nearly entered CHIMERAE as the plural of ‘chimera’ instead of CHIMERAS (CHIMERS about A).

As I neared completion of the grid, I was getting worried that I only had 9 out of the 12 definitions identified. So far, I had T… P U P…P TRAN…. It was only with a bit more examination that I realised that coccid insects weren’t farmers of lac, but formers of lac… ie they formed it!

Listener 4313 My EntryThus I could see that we were dealing with quarks — TOP, UP and STRANGE. The PLAYER at 39ac was one ‘in the cast’ not ‘in the part’ as I originally had. Moreover, ‘commonly takes pear’ at 10dn should be ‘commonly takes gear’ (ie drugs) and leads to USES, while 16dn BLASH is ‘rain pounding on the brats braes’ (ie river bank).

Finally, appearing neatly in the leading NW-SE diagonal, was the end of a line from James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake: “Three quarks FOR MUSTER MARK”. This theme was also the subject of Inquisitor 1288 Matters in Particular by Radler.

In the end, this wasn’t a purely scientific theme but a literary one with a dash of science thrown in. I was lucky that it turned out to be a pretty straightforward and enjoyable 2-hour solve which enabled me to easily meet the deadline, so thanks for that, Tut.

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Listener No 4312, Elementary Deduction: A Setters’ Blog by Rood

Posted by Listen With Others on 13 October 2014

RO in a spin (again) – OD resolves “squaring the circle”

If anyone has not been acquainted with Rood’s two previous puzzles, they started with the tesseract Listener puzzle where RO needed OD assistance sorting out an almost impossible task fathoming out how to get across a cube within a cube in crossword format. Then the tables turned fitting a complete “Only Connect” wall puzzle utilising 16 nine letter 3×3 anagrams into a 12×12 grid for the Magpie. This time it is was role reversal again, let us fill you in on how the exchange took place:


I only recall the phrase VALENCY ELECTRONS from my chemistry lessons at school and so was surprised when I stumbled across the variant spelling in Chambers. The fact that the different letter is E (for electron) sparked an idea with a twist. Three and four valency electrons make up the elements BORON and CARBON and there are three or four e’s in the phrase.

How was I going to piece it all together? Time to phone a friend.

“OD what do you think of a puzzle with a solving dilemma that includes both electron rings of two elements. The words valenc(e/y) electrons are in Chambers and could form a ring around carbon and boron, there are no other e’s in the grid and solvers must decide which one to use. Problem is I haven’t worked out how to guide solvers yet”

Silence…I think I stumped OD with my excitement. A day later, whilst OD was brushing up with his science, I had a brainwave.

“OD, I have thought of a way of using the grid to give an instruction that has never been done before in this way (that I know of)…use the perimeter taking every so many letters and clashes to give something like DRAW RINGS OF ATOMIC NO SIX/FIVE. By counting the electrons in the rings only one element can be seen”

I chose SIX, because FIVE has a rogue electron in it. A number of subliminal occurrences then started to form. Because of the recurring letters in the perimeter THREE, FOUR and SIX were ruled out. FIVE was therefore chosen. BOSON a nice thematic word could make a clash and that would result in FIVE clashes. FIVE seemed predominant. The grid was now starting to form, but we still had to lead the solver gently to the correct solution, perhaps giving a warning might help…over to OD for helping sort that out with his clever way with words.


When RO came up with an idea concerning valency electrons, I needed to grab a crash course in particle physics, and by the time I was comfortable with the concept, he already had a working grid up and running. My role at that stage was little more than shouting frequent encouragement from the sidelines as a stunning construction emerged, complete with that ingenious double twist at the end. It’s a privilege to watch a gridmeister at work as the scheme unfolds, and I’m fortunate that I was theminor party involved in the generation of this fine puzzle and to be the first to see that grid emerging. 

Concept firmly in place, it was clear that quite a lot needed to be conveyed to the solver and messages were probably going to need more letters than one per clue, so I concentrated on thinking about how that could best be achieved. Aiming for something thematic, I first toyed with using numbers 5 & 6 (eg those letters from each clue) then it struck me that we could use those elementary symbols. That was not without its drawbacks; it offered a restricted alphabet, so e.g. there was no way to spell ‘GRID’ – but we eventually got a workable set of instructions together. There was even a bonus for those who like balance in their puzzles as RO spotted – we even had precisely the same number of two letter symbols as one letter ones. Our original warning was “CARE WITH RELATIONSHIP OF PARTICLES”, but was changed after an editorial suggestion. Even though a multitude of helpful words cannot be formed from chemical elements it was very fortunate for us that CLOCKWISE can be.

The rest is history (well 2 year old history anyway). The comments from JEG were very positive and we are glad you enjoyed this multilayered puzzle. To those who chose the wrong element, we apologise for leading you astray, despite it having been intentional. At the moment there are no other Rood compilations in the pipeline, but there are enough dilemmas out there, so anything is possible.

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Listener 4312: Elementary Deduction by Rood

Posted by Jaguar on 10 October 2014

If there’s any defined schedule for my own blogs then it’s “when I can, on puzzles that I find particularly interesting.” After that long fortnight in Southampton I’ve found three interesting puzzles in a row awaiting my return… This was the pick of the bunch.

Rood is actually two setters, who come together “out of desperation”, according to a setter’s blog on the Magpie. The results, though rare, have been fairly spectacular. Magpie solvers among you might have seen “Fourplay”, featuring a grid where every single cell was thematically fixed to give a “connecting wall” of linked nine-letter  anagrams; and 2012’s Listener series included their debut “Getting in Shape”, Listener 4215, about Tesseracts (or at least Chambers’ dodgy definition of a tesseract), which was also special. I actually completed neither of these, being not good enough to get into their Magpie effort, while a typo cost me in the Listener. Anyway, reading the setter’s name here was already a sign of a tough, but hopefully superbly rewarding, solve ahead.

First came the clues… thankfully that “elementary deduction”, so suggestive of chemical elements, turned out to be just that, as 19ac was clearly RONINS (hidden, Lu extra for Lutetium), and I was away. Sort of. But these were hard, hard clues all the way! And with chemical elements being one or two letters long, it was often very hard to fathom the wordplay. As Friday evening came and went, I had managed the bottom right and most of the top-left, but that was about it, and a lot of the time having to go backwards with the clues anyway. But there were some gems in there, my favourite being 30dn “Islamic body has collapsed laughing” (Has*+Ria[n]t; is the delicate situation in the Middle East really so funny? Perhaps not…). The rest of the grid would have to wait for Saturday.

And it did, at last, fall out, those clues eventually yielding one-by-one, mostly, until at last I was staring at an almost-finished grid. Now what? Unfortunately my first solve through the clues had led to a garbled message with a few annoying gaps. Obviously 14ac was VARIX but it took a while to find Va[in]+R+(F)ix for the extra In; while Fit = song in 23ac was a new usage to me and I found it only after I’d figured out that the message should read “Column Five…”. And so on. Along the way I had to sort out the clashes; clearly 1ac ended in S, so I had 6 clashes presumably in my first attempt, but it turned out that 31a was SITE (Si[N]te(r)) rather than SPAS (hot springs; Spy = locate, Ash = deposit? Seemed plausible at the time…). Once all that had been cleared up I was staring at a rather bizarre message. “Initiating at column five, Using D, Obtain every fifth clockwise; Care with tiny particles.” (Particles at the end was a surprise, I’d been seeing “articles” for so long and was almost expecting one of those quotes where you ignore “the”, or something.)

At least that wasn’t too hard to interpret. In the fourth row from the bottom, there is a little two-word phrase ROW ONE. DRAW RINGS soon appeared in the outermost parts of the grid, starting from the D in row one, column five. Well done, Rood, for hiding that… now draw those rings where? Let’s follow that spiral round a bit… “DRAW RINGS CHROUU…” Oh. Hmm… Not following an inwards spiral, then? I suppose we’ve done our spiral hiding for the year with Wan’s effort recently. Can’t just be “draw rings”, can it? But then, I’ve not finished going round the outside of the grid… so, DRAW RINGS OF ATOM… Oh, this is promising! Keep going round the outside? Nice! We’re going to have a pretty picture of electron shells in the middle!

So, “Draw rings of Atomic No.”… number what? Five or Six, presumably, but then five uses all the clashes and six doesn’t. So it must be five. Element five is Boron, of course, and there it is, sitting proudly at the centre of the grid, with a few electrons dancing round the centre… hang on. There are six e’s… Unless this is some sort of ion, of course, that’s a bit of a problem. And then for that matter there’s a seventh e at the end of the five. And that preamble tells us that the rings will include “all occurrences” of the letter E. So perhaps it should be SIX(S) and Carbon?

Sure enough, running up the diagonal, there is CARBON. So after all there are six electrons in the shell, and order is restored to my vague knowledge of GCSE Chemistry. My goodness me, what a lovely puzzle this has been!

But wait, there’s more!! I still have a bit of uncertainty about 24ac. Could be TIRR or TIRL, and I can’t parse it. Ir, or Irl, is Ireland, which isn’t much help to resolving the problem. I do hope I don’t get caught out by a 50/50 choice. But running in that outer ring is yet another hidden element in the grid: VALENCE E?ECTRONS. So it’s “Tirl” to make Electrons. This is the puzzle that just keeps on giving.

With not much of the year left to go, this has to be a serious contender for the Gold Cup. A stunning effort. Thanks Rood. More desperation please!4312

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Listener No 4312: Elementary Deduction by Rood

Posted by Dave Hennings on 10 October 2014

Rood’s first Listener (No 4215, Getting in Shape) required the solver to draw a tesseract in the final grid. I believe that caused a bit of a stir regarding how the tesseract should be drawn. Although I got that puzzle right without too much difficulty, I hoped that no such quandary lay ahead of me this week. Mind you, it seemed we were still in the science arena, probably dealing with the elements, and the preamble contained some intriguing — and therefore worrying — phrases!

Listener 4312So on with the clues, with wordplay requiring “an elementary deduction” to give the answer. I hoped my hunch was right that this referred to the chemical symbols for the elements, eg H, He, Li, Be, B, C. These would spell out an instruction and provide a warning. Blocking my path were, among other things, five clashes.

1ac Gazelles run by fertile tract without restriction (4) was probably GOAS, but I had trouble parsing it. Was it GO + [g]RAS[s] with R as the element to be deducted? Unlikely, since there isn’t an element R. I pencilled in GOAS anyway. Next came 8ac Indian clerk to perch on Irish toilet flushing last two letters (6) which was SIRKAR — SITIR + KAR[zy] — but did that need IT or TI removed for the answer? If it was an element, it would have to be Ti titanium. 13ac Madras pot reflected much of coral island with lid (5) came next with LOTAH — ATOL[l]< + HAT. At last, At astatine was the required element, and I felt happy at last.

With two of the three top row answers already in the grid, I decided to concentrate on the top left and top right quadrants. I was rewarded with 2dn Approach committee involved in producing replica (8) which was ONCOMING (the noun) with COM in CLONING – Cl chlorine, followed closely by 3dn Air-conditioned car picked up railway clerk (7) ACTUARY where we had AC + AUTO< +RY – the element O oxygen.

Having been encouraged by some relatively straightforward clues, most of the rest were less so. 14ac VARIX and 15dn VASTY I found especially tricky top right, not least because of that damned clash! However, the top half was beginning to look half-decent, as I dropped down the right hand side and along the bottom.

There was some self-imposed stupidity on the way. 31ac Locate most of deposit from hot springs (4) SITE, had me trying to find most of a word for ‘deposit’ taken away from a word for ‘hot springs’, rather than just SINTER (new to me), a deposit from hot springs, losing its last letter and N nitrogen. I had also entered 49ac incorrectly: Drug users omitting first name circulated postal surveys (7) which I eventually got as MAINLINERS minus its first N to give MAILERS with In indium having been omitted. What it should have been was MAIL-INS with Er erbium the offending element.

Eventually the grid was complete, but those elements really did cause some heartache on the way. Even the final string of elements read in order caused a bit of a problem with the odd sequence SiNGdOBTa, but they finally got disentangled to read Initiating at column five, using D, obtain every fifth clockwise. Care with position of tiny particles. It didn’t take long to find the “two-word phrase in the grid” that helped with positioning: ROW ONE in row 10 confirmed that we had to start with the first D of DODGEMS, not the second.

Tracking every fifth letter around the perimeter (twice), I came up with DRAW RINGS OF ATOMIC NO followed by some of those damned clashes to give FIVE or SIX. Well I should have seen that coming! I was obviously nowhere near finishing this puzzle. After all, I still had no idea what the warning care with position of tiny particles meant. 22dn had ‘tiny particle’ in the clue, but so what!

Near the end of filling in the grid, I noticed the BOSON/SERES clash in the centre. At the time, I thought we might be dealing (again) with the Large Hadron Collider. However, BORON had atomic number 5, so I suspected that was the required element here.

After some time — don’t ask me exactly how long, since this part of my solve was a bit of a blur — I saw CTRON in row 4. Tracing it back, I came upon ELECTRON VALENCE. I looked up electron in Chambers, but that told me nothing. I had the good sense to try valence and got “valency or valence electrons“. Damn! The E/Y were an unresolved clash in GHERAO/YAWING. What’s more, the ELECTRON didn’t run along column 4 as I had first seen, but dipped down to form a circle with the rest of the phrase. Was that the warning that we were alerted to?

A bit of googling followed to acquaint myself with exactly what valence electrons were. I have no intention of embarrassing myself by trying to give a detailed explanation here. Suffice it to say, its to do with the orbits (or shells) of electrons in an atom. My brain was beginning to hurt big time… quantum mechanics is not my strong suit.

And what about the “resultant representation” that included every occurrence of a thematic letter? That could only be the Bs for Boron. But there were only two of those, one in each of rows 5 and 6. More grid-staring time passed, and I spotted CARBON in the leading SW-NE diagonal. This was atomic number six and there were six letter Cs in the grid, albeit scattered willy-nilly.

It finally dawned on me what the “resultant representation” was. It wasn’t the symbols B or C, or even an e-word like electron, but the carbon atom with its two shells comprising 6 electrons which we had been told to draw in the first place. Thus CARBON was the word to be highlighted in the finished diagram.

Listener 4312 My EntryWas I there? 95% of me said yes, but part of me still had doubts… and that normally meant that I was wrong! Nonetheless, I was running out of time as I was off to Portugal for some golf on the Monday before the deadline. I drew the two circles through the six electrons and converted my six occurrences of the letter E to e in my final submission.

All in all, this was a fantastic puzzle from Rood. There were so many steps along the way, and the grid must have been a real pain to construct. And I do hope that the 5% of me that thought I was wrong was wrong. This week’s animation would look pretty silly if the 5% was right!

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