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Archive for May, 2015

Listener No 4343: Bear, Bear, Bearing by Chalicea

Posted by Dave Hennings on 15 May 2015

I wrote my blog on Chalicea’s last Listener by the pool of our hotel in Portugal following a round of golf. The temperature was about 27° (81° in old money), but it’s not quite that warm here in Cookham as I write this (9°C/48°F)! A fairly straightforward puzzle this week with just extra wordplay letters and some endgame highlighting. But first…

Listener 4343… is Chalicea fond of an alcoholic tipple or two? There was a reference to limiting its supply in the desert (very wise) and trying to get some food (yeah, right) from the taproom, but it looked as though she was trying to convince us she was not fond of a G&T or glass of Malbec. Trying just a bit too hard I feel!

Having unclued thematic entries at 1 and A across was a bit annoying, so I tried my luck with the downs. 1 could have stumped me if I hadn’t thought of ACTS straight away (RE[D]ACTS – RE), and 2 brought back memories of schoolboy French with that lovely word for armchair, FAUTEUILS.

I was up and away… -ish. This was by no means the usual stroll in the park from Chalicea with some devious definitions and tricky wordplay. 13ac, for example had Horrible true story, axing a rook, one that hunts marine reptiles (7) giving tru[E]* + TALE – A + R for TURTLER; and 17 My people abandoning regal ceremony (3) was CO[R]ONATION – NATION, although I’m not sure I’m a fan of taking away more than you’re left with!

After about 30 minutes, I had the top row looking as though it might be FASHION GUILD. Two minutes later, with RATION finally being slotted in, it was obviously A FOREIGN FIELD and we were in WWI territory again with Rupert Brooke’s The Soldier.

If I should die, think only this of me;
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Only time would tell how this poem would manifest itself in the extra letters or what three things would need highlighting in the final grid, so I soldiered on with little additional help. I do enjoy a puzzle where I start at the top, drop down the right hand side, along the bottom and finishing with the left. It is particularly helpful if I manage to solve all the clues along the way!

21ac Humming Great Balls of Fire endlessly (4) obviously made me chuckle, being BOLID[E]S (a large meteor or fireball) without its ends, and I loved the definition in 36ac With Rear Admiral cunningly drag out ship’s Health & Safety precaution in port (8) leading to RAT-GUARD (RA + DRAG[O]UT*). However, I’m not really sure that the E-VE[T] at 40dn would be much help!

Listener 4343 My EntryEventually, the extra wordplay letters gave The corner. What is concealed in thirty-six fourteen. Poet, 36 14 being RICH EARTH. It didn’t take too long to discover FOREVER ENGLAND in the bottom left corner, A RICHER DUST in the leading NW–SE diagonal, and BROOKE himself in column 7.

As for the title: Rupert Bear, Brook (=Bear), e (Bearing). He died 100 years ago on 23 April as a result of one of the great killers of the 20th century… the mosquito.

Thanks to Chalicea, as always, for an enjoyable puzzle, remembering one of the great poets and poems of English Literature.

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Listener 4342: Triskaidekaphilia by BeRo

Posted by Jaguar on 8 May 2015

BeRo has been setting Listeners since before I was born, and today’s puzzle therefore marks the passing of another from the “old guard” of crossword setters. This would be the fourth time I have attempted a BeRo puzzle, and all four have been brilliant (even though I got none of the last three right in the end). Truly an inventive setter, and the crossword world will certainly miss him.


As to the puzzle itself, I wanted to start with a cautionary tale. As I opened this puzzle up and read the title, “Triskaidekaphilia”, which my minutes of training in Greek allowed me to translate as “three-and-ten-love” or “love of the number 13”, it took no time at all to guess the theme number. Further signs confirmed that, eg the clue numbering system 1, … , 9, A, B, C, 10 — ie base 13 — and then Z = 20 (= 26 in base 13), and so on. But still, I wanted to be sure, and so I went off to check the prime factors of 4342 and 2015.

And disaster! My first hit on Google was this site, which assured me that 4342 = 2*2171 and 2015 = 5*403 and that 403 and 2171 are therefore prime numbers! What?! And thus began five minutes of frantic head-scratching as I tried to confirm that the prime-factor calculator on that site worked. Turns out that it does work most of the time but for whatever reason thinks that 403 is a prime number despite giving 390 = 30*13 and 416 = 32*13, and then obviously 403 = 31*13. I can only assume that there is a bug in the code such that a number has to divide by 2,3,5 or 7 in order to be considered “not prime” — as a remarkable check of this you can try 121 (=11^2) on that site and it will confidently tell you that this square number is prime! Ho hum… Don’t use that site. Thank goodness I believed BeRo enough to not trust the result, although really I should have just checked that 13 goes into 2015 and 4342 myself.

Headache over, it was on to solve the puzzle itself. With plenty of endgame promised, BeRo was kind enough to give us normal clues and in general they were not too hard either. Probably the trickiest thing was keeping track of the clue numbering as Crossword Compiler insists on sticking to decimal numbering. More than once I was puzzled by clues not fitting before remembering they had to go elsewhere… but with clues like 36 ac SLEDGED (S(trauss) +(Be)l(l) + edged), with its surface reading evoking memories of the 2006/07 Ashes Test at Adelaide, to enjoy, it was worth the pain of switching between bases.

Eventually, then, the grid fill was complete, and the 13 consecutive 13th letters starting from 21ac gave “SIX x NINE ADAMS”, with the famous answer 42 as revealed in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. 42 in base 13 is 54 in decimal numbers, as some clever people spotted… but not Douglas Adams, as it turns out.

I also noted that the middle row so far contained only the letter A, and there was an abundance of A B C D E letters in three corners of the grid.  This was spoiled rather by a possible O due to one clash, and a G and N nearby, and of course the bottom-left with no apparent pattern at all. So what was going on, I wonder.

At least the clashes led naturally enough to GEORGE ORWELL, although having still read none of his works I wasn’t necessarily further forward. The problem turns out to be that I wasn’t really thinking cryptically enough, stuck on the idea that the sequence was made of 169 individual numbers (or maybe 13 separate sequences of 13 numbers), both ideas of course going nowhere until it dawned on me that “additionally” meant ” by adding [the numbers in each shape]” and “multiple” meant … well, multiple — as in 13, 26, 39 etc. rather than multiple separate sequences.

This hurdle crossed, it was easy to complete the middle row entirely with A’s, check that the total of a 5-5-3 shape in the top-left corner was 26 if you chose E rather than O, and following the logic around allowed all clashes to be resolved into numbers 13, 26, 39… 169. Goodness only knows how much work went into setting up the letters in the grid to make that work, and BeRo can be easily forgiven for allowing a few non-words to creep in.

Which left me with the “striking thematic example” to sort out. This, too, turned out to be what it meant literally rather than “a thematic example that is particularly noteworthy”, as 1984 opens with some reference to the clock “striking” 13. Converting this into B98 and we’re done.

BeRo’s last Listener, then, and one that joins Shackleton’s recent effort in setting the benchmark for 2015’s Gold Cup. Wonderful stuff.

Readers may care to note this blog contains 793 words, a number also divisible by 13.


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Listener No. 4342: Triskaidekaphilia by BeRo

Posted by Dave Hennings on 8 May 2015

This week saw the last of a long line of Listeners from BeRo, following his death in January. His puzzles have ranged from Dryden, Donne, TS Eliot and Heraclitus to Sudoku and the pub drinking game Fizz. This week we had the love of the number 13, although Chambers only has its counterpart ‘triskaidekaphobia’… fear of the number 13.

Listener 4342There was a lot going on the preamble, most of which related to the endgame once the grid was complete. If I’d wanted to, I could have had a peak ahead at part of the theme by extracting the ’10th letter of 10 consecutive clues’. Of course, since everything was in base 13, this was the ’13th letter of 13 consecutive clues’. I must say that the inclusion of the phrase ‘don’t panic’ was a bit of a giveaway, with DOUGLAS ADAMS being the writer formed by the C (12) clashing letters†.

Anyway, I decided to go through the clues in order, a habit I’ve got out of recently. Unfortunately, my knowledge of Ecuadorian fruit is lacking, so 1ac passed me by, but getting 6 REBECCA, C (really 12) ABELE and 10 (13) GAEA was encouraging. I was pleased to get 13 (16) Jerk, New Jersey man, New York finally backs (4) KNOB. However, by this point I’d encountered four American states in the clues, and I thought BeRo was trying to tell me something. A quick scan of the remaining clues identified nine more, and they were, of course, the 13 original American states, represented by the stripes on their flag.

The solving progressed smoothly. I wasn’t even phased by the 48% in clue 19 Note New Hampshire’s latest Government edict, 48 per cent cut refused (7) where 48% was really 60%, nor 1Adn 3B with Miss Farmer’s assistant (8, two words) where 3B = 50 = L.

A couple of clues gave me a bit of a problem, especially 14ac Taking south, not north, man’s lost bearing (4) which led to WEST from WENT (lost) with S for N; I wasn’t particularly happy with ‘lost’ defining ‘went’ and the man seemed superfluous. Never mind, it was stuck in my head and I stick it in the grid††.

As the solve progressed, I was also worried that the clashing letters included some Es and Rs, none of which appeared in Douglas Adams’s name. Moreover, I couldn’t think what the preamble was referring to with a reference to one of his works containing a ‘striking thematic example’.

Eventually, I had a completed grid. The clashes were finally resolved as E G E R L G and O R L E W O, and it was †GEORGE ORWELL and he only wrote one book with a number in it that I recall: 1984. However, I was puzzled that it didn’t have 13 as a factor, so in what way was it thematic?

A bit of head-scratching came next, assisted by a cup of tea. One of the rules in my Listener Crossword Help Manual is to look for strange or significant words in the preamble. This week it was that use of ‘striking’ to describe the thematic example, and, of course, that clock striking 13 in the first sentence of the novel didn’t take long to come to mind. All we had to do was covert 1984 to base 13 to get B98.

Time to identify the 13th letters in 13 clues. (Actually, I did cheat and did this about two-thirds of the way through the grid when I came to a bit of an impasse.) I wasn’t surprised to find, in clues 21ac through to 1dn, Six x nine, Adams. This relates to The Restaurant at the End of the Universe where Arthur Dent, trying to determine the question to which the answer is 42, pulls random tiles out of a Scrabble bag and gets “What do you get if you multiply six by nine?” Rather than being wrong, this is actually 42 in base 13.

Listener 4342 My EntryFinally, it was time to divide up the grid. I liked the word ‘notionally’, which meant that we didn’t have to use scissors to physically mutilate the diagram. I read it that we didn’t even have to (indeed, shouldn’t?) delineate the 13 shapes in any way. It didn’t take too long to work out the shapes. The top left corner was a bit of a giveaway with all those As, Bs and Cs. And obviously the middle row was all As.

††Of course, it was at this stage that 14ac came back to bite me! In fact, the answer was GEST (GENT with S for N). Without that endgame, I’d have left it as WEST… what a lucky escape. Finally, reading from top left to bottom right, I had the totals as:

26 143 39
113 65 156
117 78 91
169 104 52

What an excellent final puzzle from BeRo. There were so many steps along the way, all coming together nicely at the end. He will be sorely missed.

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Triskaidekaphilia by BeRo

Posted by shirleycurran on 8 May 2015

BeRoIt didn’t take the other Numpty long to see that we were dealing with base 13 here. ‘A = 1, B = 2, …, Z = 20,’ he read – well, that’s Base 13. I breathed a despairing sigh. When a putative ORWELL had appeared some time later from the misprints and he informed me that 1984 is B98, my depression grew deeper and he was howling abuse by the time he had explained (or so he thought) that BBC made 2014.

Of course, that is the advantage of solving as a team, as his patience rarely lasts to the end of working out the endgame and I was alone with my calculator, checking that I had all the multiples of 13 in the putative shapes – but I am leaping ahead, that was some time later.

I know that sadly BeRo is no longer with us but that doesn’t preclude his continue membership of the Listener Setters’ Tipplers’ Club. He never missed the pre-dinner gathering at the annual Listener event (to my mind one of the most enjoyable parts) and he will be with us in spirit for a few years to come and, of course, in his clues: ‘Leader of rioters sloshed beer about Salmond’s drive (7)’ (I wonder whether that is a pre-electoral anti SNP comment!) We worked out that we had BEER* + C + CA’ (Scots) giving us REBECCA. Then there was ‘tipsy cake’, ‘A better British Rail introduces tipsy cake (6)’ BR round CAKE*. Cheers, BeRo!

Relatively easy clues so the grid was quickly filled with just a couple of empty cells and the usual couple of doubts. The clashes spelled out ORWELL for us, and that hint in the preamble ‘among whose works is one containing a striking thematic example’ took us straight to 1984 as everybody’s school literature included that fine opening sentence about the clocks striking 13 as Winston Smith emerged from Victory Mansions. So we had the title.

Rather pointlessly after we had understood that 48% in a clue actually referred to 60% in base 10 (Note New Hampshire’s latest Government edict, 48 per cent cut refused (7) RE + N + (Hampshir)E + G + ED(ict), I worked my was down the tenth letters of clues, looking for ten significant letters. How deeply ingrained is base 10, even if we think we are not particularly number-minded.

Changing that to the thirteenth letter at last took me onto home ground – SIX X NINE ADAMS appeared. I had to check with Mr Math that 42 in base 10 gives 54 in base 13 (well, I suppose I can just about stretch to that!) so we had the answer to everything as the conundrum at the bottom of the grid. and had to enter the anomalous 6 X 9 = 42.

Guddle 001We were left with the requirement to complete the central row, which was to be the first of thirteen shapes of equal area into which we were to ‘notionally’ divide the grid, that were to give us an ‘unbroken, multiple, thematic sequence’. This clearly stated that our thirteen shapes needed to be of thirteen cells each and it didn’t take a lot of imagination to realize that if A = 1, the central row was going to be a row of As, adding to 13.

Were we, then, to have shapes whose base 10 totals gave an increasing series of multiples of 13? We worked on that principle but oh what a guddle our earliest attempts produced. (I’ve included a thumbnail of my mess!)

Enough – we got there with a sigh of relief and rather sad reflection that this will probably be the last crossword by BeRo that we’ll solve. I hope he’s somewhere up there enjoying a heavenly Listener tipple and aware of how much solvers appreciated his swansong.

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Listener No 4341, What’s On?: A Setter’s Blog by Nod

Posted by Listen With Others on 3 May 2015

I decided to investigate the possibility of a puzzle where each entry could be written as a combination of symbols for elements which would then be encoded to their atomic numbers.
First I created a database containing a plain dictionary and then I wrote modules to identify letter-pairs as elements and convert them into their atomic numbers or to identify single letters as elements and convert them. The plain dictionary became a dictionary which contained concatenated atomic numbers, the pertinent elements and the original words. Any words that did not lend themselves to such a treatment were discarded. The concatenated numbers were then converted to new “words” by changing 1 to A, 2 to B, etc. Each new “word” was scored from 1 to 100 by a formula derived from the length of the concatenated number compared to the length of the original word. It was now a simple matter to design a suitable grid and use Crossword Compiler to fill it using the scored word list. I increased the score of the fill until I was happy with the final grid.
I wanted a title that might hint at the entry method and the homophone for Watson seemed appropriate. Although Sherlock Holmes never exactly said “Elementary, my dear Watson” it is a well-known phrase. I also thought “What’s On?” suggested “What’s Going On Here?”
There have been a number of puzzles using elements and their atomic numbers and I was surprised to see AN Others by Radix and AN Other appear in the Magpie well after I had submitted my puzzle to the Listener. Roddy and I had independently set puzzles using a very similar idea but his had overtaken mine by the time it was published.

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