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Archive for July, 2015

Listener No 4352: What’s Missing? by Artix

Posted by Dave Hennings on 17 July 2015

Only six months since Artix’s last Listener with its 12s 6d pre-decimal theme… oh! those were the days. I didn’t say so at the time, but I wonder how the kids of today would have coped. The same goes for distances like 3 miles 5 furlongs 17 yards 2 feet 3 inches (the length of my golf course)!

This week, we had some word wrapping with entries entered cyclically (off the right or bottom and reappearing at the top or left). What’s more, two vertical bars were not shown… did he run out of ink? Just to annoy me, I’m sure, there were no clue numbers in the grid or against the clues.

It didn’t take long to realise that practically no clue length given agreed with its possible entry. This, no doubt, was due to consecutive strings of letters being squeezed into a single cell. However, there were 25 across clues and 23 downs, and this came nowhere near agreeing with the grid. At least there were no misprints or wordplay obfuscation.

Listener 4352I started with the first across clue (that’s 15 characters instead of just 3 for ‘1ac’). Let’s call it (a) Bun with meat inside is US picnic fare (8). A bit of thought, and CLAMBAKE came to mind. It looked like it would go into the right hand entry in the top row which was six characters, so presumably three had to scrunch into a single square. (b) Broadway and Hollywood director, losing energy latterly, issues forth (5) could be EMITS or SPEWS or YERKS, but unless there’s a Yerkes, no director seemed to be lurking. (Mind you, there’s a Yerkes Observatory, but that’s in Winsconsin.)

Before I went any further, I noticed that there was an 11-letter entry across the bottom of the grid which actually agreed with a clue enumeration of the same length. A bit of cheating via Tea, and CHELSEA WARE was slotted in, although part of me wondered if it would be there at the end of the solve. How annoying that it wasn’t in an easier position at the top of the grid.

Luckily for my head, my armchair is some way from a brick wall, so it escaped much banging. As I expected from Artix, answers were teased from the clues very slowly. But, of course, they couldn’t really go anywhere yet, except on my notepad, since very little seemed to fit in my grid.

When I eventually identified the director as Orson Welles, losing his second E to become WELLS, I saw how that might link up with CLAMBAKE and lose the BAKEWELL to give CLAMS. I was reminded of Franc’s puzzle back in March 2012 with its Battenberg cake theme. In hindsight, I don’t think this false lead held me up much.

I slotted JEER in the top right corner together with JAMJAR (the best clue Traffic problem to cause vibrations in motor near Bow? (6)). A few more answers could also be entered and I was feeling confident. When PAGED and ENCHANT went into row 3, I could see that we were probably dealing with female personalities, probably from the entertainment industry.

I had a grid that was over half full when KARATEKA and NAWAB gave me Kiri TE KANAWA and I remembered that all entries in the final grid would be real words. KARABINERS was thus the likely entry in row 5. This also finally explained one of the missing bars which would have fitted between the B of NAWAB and the I of INERT. (The other would go between the A and T of CALCULATORS in row 9.) I seemed to have too many clues floating around this central part of the grid. It took me a bit of time to realise that the Tip clipped, taking off the front (4) gave HORN which would disappear entirely to give Dame Sybil THORNDIKE. OMG!

I was building up a nice list of entertainers, and finally had the following:

3 Actresses:
Diana RIGG

2 Authors
Muriel SPARK
Penelope LIVELY

2 Singers:
Shirley BASSEY

and not forgetting

“Well, that’s a motley crew,” thought I, and for some time I had no idea what, if anything else, they had in common with the other crew made up of the three unclued nautical coves SAILOR, SEABEE and MARINE “and their mates”.

It was good old Sybil who finally nudged me in the right direction. Unlike the others, I always think of her as Dame Sybil Thorndike, and a bit of Wiki-ing enabled me to verify that they are/were all Dames. This led neatly to that fine 60s musical by George Haimsohn and Robin Miller, Dames at Sea for indeed they were missing from the grid.

Listener 4352 My EntryExcept that isn’t in the ODQ, at least not mine. However, the index did point me in the direction of “There is nothin’ like a dame. title of song (1949) in South Pacific“. I was surprised that we were not required to enter the song title or show under the grid. After all, it wasn’t actually necessary to identify this link in order to complete the puzzle.

Thanks to Artix for another tough one. Getting to the final grid took from lunch until dinner! Identifying the Damely link and the Broadway musical took (despite my describing it so succinctly above) over an hour!

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Failed Attempt by Wiglaf

Posted by shirleycurran on 10 July 2015

Wiglaf Pisa 001Wiglaf is a familiar name in Crossword Magazine, the EV and IQ series and he has appeared in the Magpie but I hadn’t solved one of his Listeners previously. However, Dave Hennings’ Crossword Data Base tells me that he had one appear in the Listener in 1999. That’s quite a long break so I had to do a speedy check to confirm that he still qualifies for the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Elite.

Gloom at first as the across clues produce decomposed vegetable matter, ‘Vegetable variety almost resembling decomposed  vegetable matter (5)’ (PEA + TY[P](e) = PEATY), an object of abhorrence ‘Country without leader embodies the object of abhorrence (8)’ ((P)ANAMA round THE giving ANATHEMA) and stewed tea ‘Substantial goodness in stewed tea? Just the reverse (5)’ (MY round TEA* giving MEATY) but not a drop of alcohol.

Fortunately, as well as an antelope, another frequent inhabitant of Listener clues, ‘Pen erected with electric current (5)’ (BIRO< + I = ORIBI) and a bit of nudity, we finally found ‘As with McEwan’s beer from the south, not entirely promising (6)’ (LIKE Y[I]L(l)<, giving LIKELY) and with that not very promising Scots tipple, Wiglaf confirmed his LSOE membership.

A number of other lovely touches emerged as I worked my way down the clues. POLSKA was beautifully concealed in its clue, ‘Cut off retrospective music from Caribbean country for its citizens (6)’ (LOP< + SKA), the imaginative prompt of a hidden word (TEMSE) in ‘Local’s to sift through items exchanged (5)’, the original anagram indicator in ‘Clapped-out structure cited to receive rising support’ (CITED* round P[I]ER< = DECREPIT) and that delightful clue for VAV, ‘Hebrew character produced when one splits the letter WW (3)’ (VV round A).

By the time I had read through those clues, the other Numpty had half filled the grid and when the south-east corner of the grid revealed REVIVER, pronounced the word ‘Palindromes’. ROTAVATOR, TENET, STATS, MALAYALAM – the choice was limited and soon we had only one to fill ‘Worshipped as a god’. With the D of DECREPIT already in place, that could only be DEIFIED and within an hour, our grid was full.

A few unchless words had produced no extra letters as we hadn’t needed to solve them and we had unexplained wordplay for another couple, so there was a brief head-scratch to see whether we could find letters in the wordplay that led to RAI, REM, and BATE that would give us some semblance of a palindromic sentence and we found AS I PEE SIR I SEE EIFFEL. We smiled but were mildly disappointed. We had hoped for something more along the lines of Napoleon’s apocryphal ABLE WAS I ERE I SAW ELBA or SATAN OSCILLATE MY METALLIC SONATAS but had to settle for a urinating Parisian.

However, we knew what we were looking for in the grid now. “It has to be PISA and it is probably leaning.” said the other Numpty and of course, there it was! Thank you Wiglaf for a bit of fun.

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Listener No 4351: Failed Attempt by Wiglaf

Posted by Dave Hennings on 10 July 2015

I greeted Wiglaf with a feeling of familiarity. However, a bit of research revealed that this wasn’t through the Listener page, but pretty much everywhere else. Indeed, the one and only Listener was over fifteen years ago and was his/her first published puzzle. This week, we had wordplay leading to an extra letter which would reveal a “failed attempt (owing to an incorrect name)”. That sounded odd. Definitional clues were to entries with the same thematic property.

Listener 4351I ignored the definitional clues, mainly because they lacked entry lengths. I moved on to the across clues and was immediately rewarded with 6 STRAP, 9 ECHO and 12 REM then a bit of a gap to 21 IMARET, 22 AVATAR and 27 RAI. Sadly, that was it, with even the simple hidden at 32 Local’s to sift through items exchanged (5) for TEMSE passing me by at this stage (via trying to work out an anagram of ‘ITEMS’).

2dn ECCE HOMO then 4 Promise to be 20 Native Americans short (3) IOU (despite not having solved 20), 5 DIES IRAE and 7 AIRT got the top of the grid going nicely. This enabled me to get 10ac A fat cartoon character by the sound of it (8, two words), not GARFIELD but OLIVE OIL that hapless girlfriend of Popeye.

The unclued entry in column 10 (damn the lack of a number) was now RO····T·R and looked as though it might tie in with the definition clue e Soil-tilling machine to give ROTAVATOR, a nice palindrome. Could that be the theme? Yup, 1ac was DE···I·D and led to DEIFIED for clue c Worshipped as a god. Of course, this meant that I could start filling in squares in other unclued entries, such as column 9 TE··· which gave TE·ET and matched up with f Something held.

Not for the first time, I found myself going clockwise around the grid with 19ac Cut off retrospective music from Caribbean country for its citizens (6) for POLSKA being the last to be solved. The other unclued palindromic entries turned out to be REVIVER (clue a, Stimulant), STATS (b Numerical data) and MALAYALAM (d Language).

Listener 4351 My EntryMeanwhile the extra wordplay letters had been confusing me with its lack of a palindrome. But, eventually this was the eponymous failed attempt, and led to As I pee, sir, I see Eiffel the incorrect name for Pisa. The leaning tower could be found running NE–SW in the left half of the grid, although hopefully it will never reach the 45° angle it has here!

A fairly speedy solve this week, but no less enjoyable for that. Thanks, Wiglaf.

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Listener No 4350: Revelation of John by Elfman

Posted by Dave Hennings on 3 July 2015

Two years ago, Elfman gave us Vera which was based on some clues containing lies: it tripped me up. This week we had a helping of John and his Revelation. A quick read of some of the verses in my Authorised Version, and I hoped that Elfman would be slightly more comprehensible.

Listener 4350Clues this week were normal, but the initial letter of answers not beginning with A, E, I or O (vowels in the title) would determine the character in the clue which would spell out how to find the thematic title to go under the grid. That seemed straightforward enough, but the start of the preamble — “To illustrate the theme, solvers must highlight one entry and 39 cells containing an associated series of words, all sharing the same axis of symmetry” — seemed fraught with danger”!

Starting on the clues, I was encouraged by 3ac Nasty ugly ogres which was a neat &lit for GARGOYLES, except there was a U instead of an A. A quick check in Chambers revealed the alternative spelling GURGOYLES. It seemed appropriate to try the downs next, and 2 FLOE, 3 GANDALF, 4 REJIG and 5 GRINGOS were soon slotted in. For 5 Game’s outside sound clearly for foreign speakers? (7) I assumed that the apostrophe would count as a character, but what about the space? If that counted as well, then this clue did, in fact, contribute a space. Interesting.

Solving went very fast here, and within thirty minutes, I had the top five rows complete. I also had gttpot and toleoimeo as the characters from the first few across and down clues, assuming spaces didn’t count as characters. If they did, then I had Use hig and ells on o, and it looked as though “highlighting” and “cells” would come into the equation.

I should have expected that the bottom half of the grid would be nowhere near as easy as the top five rows, but I managed to continue solving fairly steadily. Just over an hour later, and I could decipher the message spelt out by all the characters extracted form the clues. It read Use highlighted cells on other clues. Hmmm… I was being thrown back to that tricky first sentence in the preamble, and I needed to determine which entry needed to be highlighted and then find a whole host of other cells.

Given the amount of time that we solvers can spend on the activity, I’m surprised that grid-staring isn’t in Chambers. In verifying that last sentence, I was staggered to find that the entry for grid has no specific reference to the crossword grid. (Have we been using the wrong word all these years?)

Anyway, this solver proceeded to indulge in his fair share of the activity on and off over a couple of days. Obviously identification of the entry that contained a relevant word was a good start, and while it was probable that it would be centrally placed, either horizontally or vertically, I felt this wasn’t 100% certain.

MISSIVE in the centre of the grid seemed a plausible word, perhaps relating to the Epistles in the Bible with their saintly connotations. Also, the thematic title we were looking for had ten letters, and APOCALYPSE seemed made to measure. Of course, it hadn’t passed me by that the John in the title could be any one of a number of Johns, not just the bloke who supposedly wrote The Book of Revelations. Indeed, John Lennon and Elton John seemed possible contenders. I was especially drawn to the former since Ringo was in 5dn GRINGOS, and LENNon could be seen diagonally in the right of the grid.

At one point, I decided to put the highlighting on the back burner and try another tack. Given the means of extracting letters from the clues not beginning with A, E, I or O, I wondered if there was a similar technique that needed to be imposed on these other ones. I wrote out the first 20 characters of each:

F o r   s u b   r o s a ,   a d j e
S c o t s   t o   a   p o s i t i o n
O d d   p i e c e   o n   t h e m e   i
A   y u c k i e r   e q u i v a l e
B r o t h e r   f o u n d   i n   B i b
T h e   t i m e   t h a t s   e x c e
O n e   c a r n a t i o n   r a i s e d
S y m b o l i s t   p i e c e s   p o s
M a r r y   w e a r i n g   v e r y   h
N e a r l y   a c c e p t e d   b y   e

I scanned up and down the columns, but nothing seemed obvious. (Don’t ask me why I didn’t try the diagonals!)

Despite sitting in an appropriate place at the bottom of the grid, LAUNCH PAD did not attract my attention much at all. This oversight could have been my downfall and, not for the first time this year, panic was beginning to set in.

As I stumbled (yes, that seems an appropriate word) onto the solution, I wondered how everyone else found their way in. For me, it was seeing the T of Tutu and the W & O of WoOdowl fairly close together that sparked a couple of thousand synapses into action and enabled the penny to drop. The simple word TWO was all it took, and there in the other nine rows were the cardinal numbers from TEN down to ONE.

Using these numbers on the ten “other clues” revealed Elton John’s Rocket Man:

F o r   s u b   R o s a ,   a d j e
S c o t s   t o   a   p o s i t i o n
O d d   p i e c e   o n   t h e m e   i
A   y u c k i e r   e q u i v a l e
B r o t h e r   f o u n d   i n   B i b
T h e   t i m e   t h a t s   e x c e
O n e   c a r n a t i o n   r a i s e d
S y M b o l i s t   p i e c e s   p o s
M a r r y   w e a r i n g   v e r y   h
n e a r l y   a c c e p t e d   b y   e

Listener 4350 My EntryI suspect that the endgame took solvers anywhere from ten seconds to ten days to sort out. I was lucky that it probably only took a total of about two hours off and on. So thanks to Elfman for an excellent puzzle with its simple idea, implemented in a superbly thematic way.

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Revelations of John by Elfman

Posted by shirleycurran on 3 July 2015

I usually write my blog on the Saturday morning after the appearance of the crossword but I am a day late today. Why? Because Rocket Man by Elfman2Elfman’s Revelations of John was not revealing anything much until very late yesterday and a blog seemed rather premature, even if we had had a speedy grid fill (about sixty minutes) on Friday. Yes, that is a whinge as I hate spending about ten times as long grid-staring as we spent grid-filling and, on this occasion, feel that we needed more than a rather tenuous link of Elton John to take us from what we originally found in the grid to what we had to highlight. But perhaps we missed something?

The first thing I missed was Elfman’s application for renewed membership of the Listener Setters Tipsy Club; a run through his clues produced quite a bit of drug use, corruption and sex, starting with ‘Perhaps a valentine from girl, Elfman’s (7)’ MISS + I’VE, then ‘Conflicts reflected when withholding a kiss (4)’ (a)GONS<

Next came ‘A small amount of cocaine found in unruly patient (8)’ PATIENT + C(ocaine)*, then BETEL, ‘Stupid lecturer’s stimulating stuff (5) BETE + L,  and ‘Sexual intercourse involving strain no longer was appropriate (8)’ (was it ever Elfman?) BED round FITTE = BEFITTED, and finally Elfman had recourse to SLUTS – ‘Who’ll exhibit sexual desires, leading with the heart (5)’ A bit risque but what a fine clue! LUSTS with the S(heart) leading. Alcohol? Not a drop!

I had my moan earlier so must say, here, what a pleasure it was to be entering the solutions to clues in the grid with none of those tedious gimmicks of extra letters, misprints, missing letters and so on, that are such bread and butter to setters. That, of course, led to the speedy grid fill.

We were, however, given a fiddly task now. ‘For answers not starting with one of the vowels in the puzzle’s title, the nth character in the clue (using a broad definition of character) (my italics) must be found, where n is the answer’s initial letter converted to a number (A = 1, B = 2 etc).’ How broad a definition? I am sure I was not the only solver to include the punctuation but ignore the spaces as we did this calculation during our solve – producing gobbledygook.

A second run through, (prompted by the other Numpty’s explanation that a space is a character in printing and thus including the spaces) produced USE HIGHLIGHTED CELLS ON OTHER CLUES. Great, except that we had now begun our grid-stare and hadn’t a clue what to highlight. I even read right through Revelations, before putting this aside in frustration and taking a long, refreshing walk to see a North Yorkshire isolated colony of red squirrels that has survived the squirrel pox imported with the greys). Then back to grid staring.

Of course, that hint about the axis had to be understood and applied. I thought there were four potential axes of symmetry – horizontal, vertical and two diagonals. We might have seen TEN, NINE, EIGHT and so on far sooner had there been a symmetrical word spread out on the top line leading us to the vertical one. In our hunt, we spotted ELTON, but he is a living person and the crossword was not likely to be centered round him.

Rocket ManOf course, when we ultimately closed in on LAUNCHPAD and those numbers, we were able to apply them to the ten remaining clues and got ROCKET MAN. It took the Internet to educate me about that. I remembered only his rather moving singing of ‘Candle in the Wind‘ at the funeral of Princess Diana. He was revealed in the grid so that must be the ‘Revelation of John’ (or did he sing something about ‘Revelation’ too? Not my field of expertise).

I suppose a Rocket Man takes off from a LAUNCHPAD and, anyway, ELTON was not an entry but a lucky  find and a prompt in the grid, so we count our 39 cells, highlight them and LAUNCHPAD and sigh with relief and thanks to Elfman for a longer than usual challenge.


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