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Archive for Nov, 2014

Feature Film by Ferret

Posted by shirleycurran on 28 Nov 2014

IMG_1814Carte blanche and such a long preamble then all those clues. It didn’t take the Numpties long to work out that there were clues to far more letters than we were going to be able to fit into the grid. ‘Some cells contain two letters’ … It was going to be rather a lot of cells! No matter how I compressed the  clues, they were not going to fit onto two pages unless I printed the document in a size we couldn’t read. Still, experience has told us that a long preamble sometimes leads to a more gentle solve.

I read through the clues to check that Ferret is still giving us a fair sprinkling of alcohol. He confirmed his Tipsy Listener Setters’ Club membership already earlier this year, I believe, like Schadenfreude last week, we are having some repeat appearances! What do I find? Sadomasochism, a bit of dancing (!), a fair bit of travelling (Latin America, Australia, East Germany, Ionia, US islands, Italy, LA, Africa etc), and a rather queer diet of panini, grissini and fine vegetables, but not a trace of alcohol.

We solve upwards and it proves to be not such a bad idea, as we soon have the extra letters STA??C?SE, and it doesn’t require a huge leap to a putative STAIRCASE as the ‘one-word description of a prominent feature’. It is at this point that the other Numpty groans “It’s probably one of those archived black and white films that I used to see on the BBC on Saturday mornings – Rogers and Astaire always dancing up ****** staircases! When you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all.” I should have paid more attention to his mutterings but happily continued to solve.

These clues were extremely generous and about an hour later we had ‘CUT ALONG DIAGONALS’ and a rather strange ‘?ALLLEY FOLD ?ASHES MOUNTAIN FOLD D?TS’. I admit this didn’t mean much to me at this stage, but we had only just attempted to fit those words into the grid and I hadn’t yet seen that oh so evocative Listener word ORIGAMI anagrammed in the circles. How many veteran Listener solvers haven’t commented on Jago’s wrens as they Swingtime 001solved this one? Now I know what ‘valley’ and ‘mountain’ mean in the context!

Oh dear, the grid fill! What a relief that we had most of the words. We also had the hint that there were two extra letters in SARABAND and it didn’t require too huge a stride to realize that that was going to intersect with that astonishing word ANDVILES (SARAB& and &VILES) to begin our fill, balancing with TEEMS and GINGAL on the bottom row. Isn’t Mrs Bradford great – where else would we find GINGAL to match that clue!

Had I realized earlier that those pairs of letters that were going to intersect were in eight sets of diagonal lines, the grid fill might have been easier. As it was, my grid was rather a mess for quite some time, especially around the middle and the bottom right where we had still to solve WONGA, LOGGING, SANDAL and OLEA. However, this was an entertaining challenge and we were left with the task of working out the endgame.

Whenever we have a Listener crossword with more than one letter to a cell, I try to put the separating bar in the appropriate direction but when this was a key requirement, it proved to be a daunting task. By this time, we had spotted SILVER SLIPPER and SWINGTIME and realized that it really was a ROGERS and ASTAIRE event, so we were going to construct a staircase for them to dance up. I know it wasn’t required but I couldn’t resist the challenge in the end.

And sure enough, there they were, dancing up the stairs, with him on the left and her on the right, just as in the film. What an achievement – the staircase grid, I mean.

Thank you Ferret – this really was a stunning piece of compilation!

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Listener 4319: Feature Film by Ferret

Posted by Dave Hennings on 28 Nov 2014

This week was Ferret’s third Listener, following on from No 4207, Loco, about the British Rail logo, and No 4257, A Short Entertainment, about the Beyond the Fringe sketch with one-legged Dudley Moore auditioning for the role of Tarzan. Here we had a slightly odd grid — carte blanche but with lots of dots and dashes standing in for some of the normal grid lines, plus seven circled squares. Standard wordplay-plus-an-extra-letter clues, so on we go.

Listener 4319No clue numbers given, but the first was Dance orchestra’s backing Latin American measures first (8), and Mrs B confirmed a BAND-oriented entry, SARABAND, with the V of VARAS being the extra letter. I assumed that it would start in the top left corner, and 1dn SILVER seemed to confirm this. I also suspected the AND would be the “group of three letters” which would “be replaced by an appropriate symbol”, namely an ampersand. The fourth down clue Vandalise cast iron blocks from the 16th century (8) looked likely to be an anagram of ‘vandalise’, and &VILES was soon slotted in. It was nice to get that bit of the preamble out of the way early on.

2dn was REALIST and 3dn ALARMIST, with extra letters U and T respectively. It looked as though a bit of scissor-work was going to be required in the endgame. The second across clue was Girl comes back with fine vegetables (5) and looked like it could be FLORA, [C]AROL + F reversed, but I wasn’t happy with the ‘vegetables’ definition, despite Chambers giving it as “the assemblage of all forms of vegetable life of a region or age”.

A few clues later, and the across message started with Vclley… so that seemed to confirm my doubts about FLORA; the 5th and 7th down clues gave ORAL and ABLATOR, so there was still a chance!? Moreover, the 6th Regretting undoing spell (5) looked like it was RUING, but I didn’t identify the nounal nature of ‘undoing’ until much, much later (RUIN + G[o])!

Listener 4319 Top LeftSo far, the extra letters in the downs were spelling out Cut al·ng d…, and either dots or dashes seemed possibilities. More clues bit the dust, including TSUBA and INLY, and these enabled me to get SAYSO running down. Finally, Mrs B suggested OKRAS, OK + SAR[A]<. At last!

The top half of the grid was coming along nicely with lots of bars that could be placed symmetrically in the bottom half. I wondered whether the diagonal lines dividing the letters were also symmetrical, and I assumed that they were. This worked nicely for the top right and lower left quadrants of the grid, but caused all sorts of problems elsewhere. This was hardly surprising when you see how I (and others, no doubt?) had entered the diagonals for the north-west corner (see left). I suspect that this was a deliberate, and mischievous, trap!

I’m not too sure now how I unravelled it all, but the grid was finally complete. The extra letters spelt out Valley fold dashes, mountain fold dots and Cut along diagonals. Staircase. The circled squares gave the ancient Japanese art of AGORIMI ORIGAMI, and it was pretty obvious how to fold valleys and mountains. I tried my hardest to get a reasonable double-staircase, and my final effort is shown below. [Ed: 4/10, see me!]

Listener 4319 My EntryListener 4319 GridAll that was left was to identify the nightclub (two symmetrically placed words) and the film title, together with its rising stars. Thank god for Google. However, my first search for a likely nightclub name “SILVER SANDAL” gave a lot of results for women’s shoes at Debenhams, House of Fraser and the like. “SILVER SANDAL nightclub”, however, provided the film Swing Time and that was sitting nicely in row 7, ready for highlighting. Finally, the film’s stars could be identified rising up the staircase: FRED ASTAIRE & GINGER ROGERS. Luckily, we were not required to “carry out the manipulation”, and I assumed that meant that we didn’t even have to cut the steps.

So ended another excellent puzzle from Ferret, with a fantastic grid and enough thematic material to dance a waltz to. Thanks.

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Wordplay by Schadenfreude

Posted by shirleycurran on 21 Nov 2014

Schadenfreude 001Schadenfreude! Well we know that we are in for a bit of a challenge but that we are in safe hands. There has been more than one Schadenfreude crossword around recently – indeed, there is one in the new Magpie (we actually solved it when we had completed this one but no comments allowed as it is still current!) A six-line preamble telling us that the ‘wordplay leads to the answer with a single letter omitted’ in 12 clues and that ‘in row order these spell out an appropriate word, which can also be read as an instruction …’

When things become more complicated, like this, we realize that it is time to examine the title carefully then begin solving. The title doesn’t tell us a great deal.Obviously there is going to be ‘wordplay’ so I do a quick skim through the clues, noticing that there is a smattering of food, some dancing and sex appeal but not a lot to confirm Schadenfreude’s adherence to the tipsy Listener Compilers’ Club – Ah, but he has ‘A spirit is able to return on small boat (6)’ Could that be CAN in COG giving us COGNAC? Membership renewed!

We expect fairly difficult clues from Schadenfreude but these are pretty generous and we have the good luck to solve APNEA ‘Breathing problem apparently almost finished (5)’ (AP + NEA[t]), ANNATTA ‘A dye turned brown after a time (6)’ (AT + TAN< + O or A – Oh dear, our first dilemma), LAMEDH, ‘A letter plate that is German (6)’ (LAME + D.H. = Dass heisst) and HAMLET ‘Play actor suffered (6)’ (HAM + LET) and we surmise at once that our across answers are going into the grid in reverse. We have very recently solved another crossword that required that device, so perhaps our minds were ready for it. At any rate, it makes for a speedy grid fill.

What do we notice next? On every row, in one of the unchecked cells, we seem to be inserting not one, but two letters, revealing our doubts about which of two options to choose. ANATTO or ANATTA? DIKA or DITA? AREOLE or AREOLA? CHAD or CHAR? ALMA or ALME? HERN or TERN? BENNE or BENNI? EVAN, EUAN or EWAN? GAIA or GAEA? BRAISE or BAIZE? and LIBERIA or SIBERIA? We will probably need LIBERIA because we have already found TOGO, INDIA, SRI LANKA, ERITREA and maybe CHAD which seem to be countries and SIBERIA doesn’t exactly qualify as a ‘country’ does it? Five of those consisted of wordplay only, so we can eliminate the CHAD/CHAR choice as there was a ‘Fish’ in the definition.

Clever stuff this! We ponder for a while then see that those ambiguities can be resolved to give the word ALTERNATIVES.  More Numpty head scratching until we recall that we have just talked about that intriguing clue ‘Shellfish I see stopping behind (7)’ (IV in NATES = NATIVES – only this week we learned from another crossword that oysters raised in a British bed are known as natives. Fascinating things, oysters, aren’t they? Many years ago, I visited an oyster bed that my brother had designed, near Oban and learned that the creatures can actually change sex and fertilise themselves – how’s that for a thought!)

The preamble told us that we had to change two letters in the grid and now we are told to ALTER NATIVES – ‘This will reveal a definition of the five answers whose clues consist of wordplay only’ … Well, that gives us NATIONS doesn’t it? Simples! … and a word that has a definition confirming the way in which across answers are entered. I am enjoying this. STERNS has appeared and I need a definition of that word which = 4,8. Something to do with BACK obviously but I have to go to Chambers and smile aloud when I read ‘ROW BACKWARDS.

I would echo what the editors said some time ago (in that one that caught lots of us out – ho-hum!) More like this!  Many thanks for the enjoyment, Schadenfreude.

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Listener No 4318: Wordplay by Schadenfreude

Posted by Dave Hennings on 21 Nov 2014

This was Schadenfreude’s second Listener of the year, the last (No 4291, Maxon) being snooker-related with its 14×7 grid. A standard 12×12 grid this week but with a Definition to be entered in the space underneath. Twelve clues had wordplay missing a letter, while five were unclued and would be defined after a bit of endgame shenanagins which would also reveal how the across answers were to be entered.

Listener 4318I decided to bypass the across clues.

1dn Play actor suffered (6) was obviously HAMLET, and 2dn Arboreal creature died climbing a tree (4) probably had a sloth lurking and giving a tree. D + AI< with the third letter omitted from the wordplay would do the trick, except Mrs B gave two trees, DIKA and DIKA. What was the betting that each of the twelve special clues could lead to ambiguous entries?! Anyway, I had HD starting the top row.

I decided to try the across clues.

I know that the German for ‘that is’ is ‘das heisst’, abbreviated to DH, so 1ac A letter plate that is German (6) looked like it could be a Hebrew letter ending in DH and LAMEDH fitted the bill and would also fit 1ac if it were entered in reverse. Would this apply to all acrosses? 11 was unclued, but 14 Fire-power once encountered by the French in retreat (5) was METAL and could also be entered in reverse having LA at the start.

4dn MELEE, 5dn LILIAN and 16ac WEANERS came next, but 19ac Spain’s tenor to settle (4) could be either NEST or REST, the N/R fitting in an unchecked square. It looked as though my initial idea about the clues with wordplay minus a letter was proving correct.

After 23ac SINUATE was slotted into place backwards, the unclued 3dn, E··TREA, was almost certainly ERITREA, so it looked as though these would be countries. What the connection was between countries and words going backwards only time would tell. The only confusion that I had with the country entries was caused by my entering STRAIK (rather than STRAKE) at 20dn. It seemed more likely that a country would end with IA rather than K-something. SRI LANKA thus took a bit of unravelling.

The rest of the grid was filled fairly quickly. The twelve entries missing a letter in the wordplay were a mixture of different spellings of the same word (eg ANATTA and ANATTO) and totally different words with the same meaning (eg CHAD and CHAR). I reached the final stage of the puzzle with the following choices for the letters in each row:

A L K A D N A H E U* E S
O S T E R R E T I V* I Z

* I originally thought that the options for the boys name at 34dn were EOAN and EVAN, but Chambers (2011) gives EUAN, EVAN and EWAN. Either way, it didn’t take too long to extract ALTERNATIVES — “an appropriate word that could also be read as an instruction” to alter NATIVES in the grid. Luckily, NATIVES was a word that had been fairly late in my solve, so was immediately identified. I suspect that if I had solved it near the beginning, I wouldn’t have remembered it quite so quickly! Thus, altering NATIVES by “changing two letters” in the grid gave us NATIONS as both the new entry and the definition of ERITREA and SRI LANKA, as well as LIBERIA, TOGO and INDIA.

This also resulted in STERES changing to STERNS at 24dn, and a check in Chambers finds “vt to back, to row backward”. ROWS BACKWARD is therefore the definition to be entered below the grid, finally explaining the entry method for the across answers.

Listener 4318 My EntryIsn’t it pleasing when seemingly disparate aspects of a puzzle finally get resolved and take you neatly from beginning to end? This wasn’t a difficult solve on the Schadenfreude scale, but the construction couldn’t be faulted and was very satisfying. Thanks.

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Listener 4317: Only Connect Two by The Tall’n

Posted by Jaguar on 14 Nov 2014

Forty-two down, ten to go… A couple of hiccups earlier mean that I’ll have to wait until next year for an all-correct Listener year, but it’s about enjoying the puzzles as much as getting them right, isn’t it?

In the last puzzle of October we find The Tall’n, who is a setter that’s been around for ages it seems — although I’ve only come across him once before myself, in a Magpie puzzle earlier in the year. This time he’s offered us that ominous thing, a grid without bars — but with each clue having entry lengths clearly indicated it might not be too bad, perhaps. Some answers might not go where their number is, and there’s some intriguing clue pairs to sort out…

Nothing mysterious in the clues, though. Indeed, they seem relatively simple. Coming home after a night out on Friday, I first looked at the puzzle in the evening, and an early pass saw 7ac EROS (sore<), 16ac IND (in+d), 31ac E.T.A. (ate<), 36ac RAMI ([I mar]<), and quite a few others dropping out with not too much thought, although it wasn’t too long before I cast the puzzle aside anyway in favour of sleep (I hoped!).

And so, it was only on Saturday morning that I really got going. First breakthrough: solving 51ac as HIYA (first letters of Hammer Impertinent Youth About) and Ominous (Sumo< about in+O; “fashionable” = in twice? Yet another bit of generosity from the editors there…), and after not too long of course the entry had to be HYMNS, dropping all the vowels. The show’s title this time is indeed thematic — long-term solvers may remember Shackleton’s puzzle “The Missing Vowels Round”, Listener 4200, which turned out to be all about the Olympics rather than the game from Only Connect. This time, here it was in complete honesty. So, six words in the grid will be consonants only.

That second breakthrough came shortly afterwards. Evidently 43dn’s clue gave YORK (Roy<+K), but just as evidently it wasn’t going to fit in the grid there. The lost obvious place for it to go instead was crossing the K of STREEKS, and with 5dn being LAN apparently (LA+n; isn’t this a second abbreviation along with 31ac?), we had LAN??????YORK in that column. “Lancaster/ York” jumped out at me: royal houses, perhaps, in those three down columns? Yes — DORS can form park of Tudors, Over can be in Hanover, etc.

After that, it wasn’t too hard to get most of the rest of the grid filled, apart from some fiddling to sort out the column on the right (Brrrs took a while to find, but eventually I parsed 39ac as BeeRieR + ReSeau from E’er in Bier, ea in Sure*), and plugging the gaps in the top two rows to give Consultor/ Toreros and Dinosaur/ Rypeck — not instantly obvious, but makes the link nicely. The other row links include “Idol(a)/ Land-agent”; “Indi(c)/ Conceded”; “Craps set/ set copy”; “Eta, Theta, Iota”; “Rami/ trunk/ grub (not quite sure of the link between trunk and grub, though); and the final “mew/ par/ terror” that still eludes me. Never mind.

Despite the unbarred grid, and so much shuffling, this wasn’t too difficult at all but still quite enjoyable and could easily be a good puzzle for newcomers. Thanks, The Tall’n! (Also, nice to see one of my favourite athletes, USAIN Bolt, making an appearance!)

Obviously bars are just for information!

Final grid. Obviously bars are just for information!


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