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Archive for October, 2014

Elementary deduction by Rood

Posted by shirleycurran on 10 October 2014

photoElementary deduction huh? If this is by Rood it will be a tough challenge and not elementary. But wait a minute! They never waste words: are we going to deduct an element (maybe a chemical one?) from each clue? A quick run through a rather tough set of clues suggests that this is precisely what we are doing.

You would have to be stone cold sober to set this sort of thing but my scan through the clues suggests that these two setters are still members of the Listener Setters Tipsy Club with “Evil fool nearly drunk (5)” So (NI[T] + (Ti)GHT). Reassured of that our solve began.

After several hours of steady solving, extracting elements, we were able to construct a message “INITIATING AT COLUMN FIVE, USING D, OBTAIN EVERY FIFTH CLOCKWISE” then “CARE WITH POSITION OF TINY PARTICLES”; this confirmed that we were in the realms of chemistry, and, as our grid was almost complete, I began to read round the perimeter of the grid. Not far enough, at first, and my amazement knew no bounds when I read round a second and part of a third time and received a rather ambiguous message. “DRAW RINGS OF ATOMIC NO FIVE (or was it SIX?) There was a clash between GOAF/SLANK, VARIX/VASTY and SITE/SWOOSH. Dilemma!

I had to learn about atomic structure and looked up element No 5; there it was, BORON, smiling at me down the centre of the grid if I chose BORON from the SERES/BOSON clash, and the other Numpty gave me a quick course about VALENCY ELECTRONS which conveniently circled the atom. This was astonishing and I was really out of my depth – but happily highlighted that drawing rings round the valency electrons and the two further ones in the centre of the grid.

However, there was that final warning about the need for care with the position of tiny particles and my crash course had taught me that small e’s represent electrons. Carbon (which I know is element No 6) was appearing in a climbing diagonal. That should have six electrons and if I chose VALENCE over VALENCY (Chambers allows both) my carbon was perfect.

The dilemma grew; there had to be a solution and, of course, there it was in the preamble. “Solvers must highlight one word, whose resultant representation includes all occurrences  of a thematic letter  (my underlining)(which solvers may prefer to enter in lower case).

I repeat – this was astonishing. The thematic element had to be those spinning electrons. Of course, if I chose element No 6, that e in the perimeter disappeared so CARBON it had to be.

Wow! Stunning Rood.


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Carte Blanche by Chalicea

Posted by shirleycurran on 6 October 2014

'Stripey horse (5)'

‘Stripey horse (5)’

“You will be writing a ‘setter’s blog’ won’t you?” Well, the answer is “No” really. As so many setters have commented to me, about three years after completing the compilation, there isn’t a lot that you remember – but two issues were raised by friends and solvers. Why wasn’t NICE used as another thematic word when it was roughly in the right place in a map of France? Well, that ‘roughly’ half answers the question as Nice is a lot further east; the other half of the answer is that the other seven thematic words (Alsace, Moselle etc.) were geographic regions – yes, I know there is a Numpty  with an oenophilic tendency but they don’t produce much wine in Brittany, so they were not wine regions.

The other issue – the similarity with Samuel’s lovely January one about Napoleon’s sneer that the English were a nation of shopkeepers. The truth is that this one sprang directly from that and a discussion with Samuel (who consulted the Numpties just to confirm the French of that one for whom we did one of the test solves). My comment was that a real ‘Carte Blanche’ should be of France, not England – and this one grew out of a discussion of that idea.

A break from solving Listener crosswords

A break from solving Listener crosswords

However, I did wait a month after his was submitted before sending its ‘offshoot’ and he didn’t object to the ‘copy cat’ thing.

Starting earlyAnother comment that came my way was that there would be no artistic work in this week’s blog. Well, the Numpties have spent the whole month of September in Silicon Valley and I handed over all crossword solving to my one-year old grandson so that we could decorate his bedroom wall (with ‘Stripey horse (5)’ of course).

Yes, that’s Columba’s Spectator he’s just finishing off – but you have to start somewhere.

I was rather anxious that Carte Blanche would be far too easy for solvers and have been delighted by the lovely input so many thanks to all who wrote, and to our great team of test-solvers, vetters and very long-suffering editors.

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Listener 4311: Carte Blanche by Chalicea

Posted by Jaguar on 3 October 2014

Chalicea makes her second appearance in the Listener Series, after her debut Listener No 4244 last year themed around Emily Davison, who somehow or other ended up underneath the King’s horse. A relatively easy puzzle jam-packed with thematic material, and I guest-blogged that one. Could we expect the same this time? Well, probably, as that’s pretty much Chalicea’s signature puzzle: relatively easy clues with an artistic grid as a result. On we go then!


Only… this didn’t look quite so easy at all! “… roughly a third of the cells of the presented grid are not utilised,” said the preamble, and the already ominous blank grid became a step harder before we’d even started. On the other hand, it seemed likely that the shape of the grid would be somehow thematic, so that might be some help. Or not. Still, as always with cartes blanches you need to solve a fair few clues to get going, and at least I could rely on those being fairly easy.

4311 wrong

A botched first attempt!

By and large this was actually true, although one or two caused more problems than perhaps they should have. 1dn was evidently GANYMEDE ((judgement + a  y[ear] – ju[ry])*, extra T), and after a while I had enough material from the first few clue numbers to try and get working on that jigsaw. Those clue numbers had been puzzling me, too, but of course I was being told rather generously that the top half of the grid was going to be rather thinner than the 14 cells available. Once I discovered CANINE and AD COURT crossing with NORMANDY, I was away! And this puzzle clearly was going to be French-themed. “Mais oui, monsieur,” you might say, “did not Chalicea’s last feature ‘cherchez la femme’?  Does she not live in the neighbourhood?” She’s in that neck of the woods anyway. What more natural inspiration for a puzzle than the view from outside your window?

As Friday evening came and went, I’d worked my way steadily through the top half, with just one problem: where did GANYMEDE fit? Perhaps I’d parsed that wrongly after all? And what’s going on near the left of the grid? Lots of unanswered questions. Time to sleep on it.

Saturday morning saw me finally break into that elusive bottom section of the grid and, eventually, I was all but finished. But still some annoying questions remained. Where was 8dn going to fit… TC or YM makes no sense! Why is the bottom row unused at all? And, still, what is 1dn? And why does it seem to have 5/8 cells unchecked? Surely there’s no way that would pass the editors, even after that recent Third Man puzzle that broke all the Ximenean unching rules in the book several times over? Oh, and, for that matter, France seems to have developed an odd land bridge near Vannes and Paris appears to have disappeared altogether! Maybe it’s representing the Black Hole that everyone was worried about at CERN (well, silly people were worried about anyway)? Or some satirical shot at the French economy…

And so, I would have to give the puzzle a third viewing, apparently… Off to have a go at the IQ instead.

Thankfully, Phi’s offering didn’t take too long and so I was able to look again in the afternoon, and lo and behold, GANYMEDE was there after all, resolving all those nasty unching problems in the middle of the grid! Some tidying up later, and 8dn RF (République Française) appeared, that strange geography sorted itself out, and all of the rows of the grid were used after all. Phew!

Naturally, after Samuel’s excellent Generalisation, No 4278, featuring a map of most of the UK (or, perhaps, all of it? As I type this the referendum is just five days away!), people were bound to draw comparison, but this was well done and certainly more accessible. Chalicea flexes her artistic muscles once more! What next from her, I wonder? And tune in next week when we’ll see a wonderful crossword grid in the exact shape of the state of Wyoming…



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Listener 4311: Carte Blanche by Chalicea

Posted by Dave Hennings on 3 October 2014

Chalicea’s second Listener this week, following on from last year’s puzzle about Emily Davison and the 1913 Derby. Here we had a carte blanche grid which would end up partly empty and with no symmetry. Knowing where Chalicea lives, and also the meaning of ‘carte’ I had a sneaky feeling where we might be going.

Listener 4311For a bit of fun, I quickly scanned the clues to see if Chalicea had any Listener setter alcohol tendencies. At first, I could find none. However, further scrutiny revealed that the initial letters of the clues could be anagrammed to give six well-known wines! I was not impressed.

As far as I could see, there was only one way to approach this puzzle, and that was to work down from the top. Knowing that 38ac was SCRATCHCARD was unlikely to help much. As it was, I solved 4ac CAA, 1dn GANYMEDE, 2dn POTEEN and 4dn CANINE pretty quickly.

I felt I had enough to start working out the top part of the grid, and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was actually quite tricky. After 10 minutes doodling various options, I finally had them slotted in, with GANYMEDE the only entry starting in the top row. Having started off well, my solving speed slowed down markedly, and the clues were not as straightforward as I had anticipated.

At first I thought that 7ac Harsh sound gripping mad Titan (8) would be something like TITAN* in SANE (with an extra letter floating around). I finally got the French theme when I realised it was one of the clues without a definition: TITAN* in BR[A]Y to give BRITTANY in the top left. 6ac Type easy to use (8), on the other hand, took a bit longer to see NORM + [H]ANDY.

I was really on a roll with 15ac BA’s erroneous opening of itineraries involved flight fatigue (12). The nice surface reading hid an anagram of BAS ERONEOUS I[tineraries], and after unsuccessfully trying AIR-something, AERO-something enabled AERONEUROSIS to get slotted in.

The clues were certainly a bit more difficult than I had expected with the extra wordplay letters succeeding in holding me up. Eventually, however, the grid was filled with a good representation of a map of France, with the seven clues which lacked definition being locations, approximately in their correct positions: NORMANDY, BRITTANY, ALSACE, MOSELLE, LOIRE, ALPS and PYRENEES. NICE was also in the bottom right corner, but not quite in its correct position and so was clued normally.

Extra letters in the wordplay spelt out Shade abbreviated state and currency, six cells, the first being RF, the unclued 8dn, the second being EURO. All that was left was to do something with the blank cells… or nothing. I began shading the Channel and Bay of Biscay blue before realising that I had also similarly shaded part of Spain also. Moreover, the top right corner was Belgium, and the middle right Switzerland. These should be green, but I decided that I was getting a bit fussy, and I decided to opt for the alternative and leave all the blank cells unshaded.

Listener 4311 My EntryWith all the messing around with the map colours, I nearly forgot to shade RF and EURO in the second solution grid I prepared, but all was well in the end, I think. So thanks to Chalicea for an enjoyable and entertaining puzzle.

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