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Archive for August, 2015

Listener No. 4358: The Other Letter by Wan

Posted by Dave Hennings on 28 August 2015

Wan’s first Listener was Elementary back in March 2013, followed by the highly seasoned sausage and edible tree nuts (Spiral of Salami and Walnuts) last August. Both had novel and thematic clueing and were very enjoyable. Here we had across clues, each with an extra letter generated by the wordplay, and downs, with a letter needing to be replaced in each clue.

Listener 4358I remembered that Wan’s last outings had tough clues, and I expected nothing less here. I was soon to find myself unsurprised. I started on the acrosses and gave up after eight clues, turning my attention to the downs. (Coincidentally, in the following week’s Inquisitor by Augeas, crystal meth popped up in a clue there, as in 17ac here. I hadn’t heard of TINA before, not indulging in that sort of recreation.)

As I said above, each down needed a letter replacing, although I wasn’t too sure why they weren’t called misprints. 7dn Carol is silly wasting gold on a series of repetitions of one passage (7) was the first answer to be slotted in, gold needing to be changed to cold to give ROSALIA. Then came 14 In some areas pedlar might shelter under car (6) JAGGER, and Mrs B was making herself very useful. I felt relieved that she wasn’t needed for 16 One pretending to scrub front part of block? (6), and [S]HAMMER found its way into the grid.

Just another three down clues were solved, and I felt quite deflated. A tough solve lay ahead. With the first letter of 42ac provided by the E of STATED, I entered EIRENIC and it looked as though I would be working my way up the grid… most unsatisfactory.

Luckily, things accelerated, especially with DITTY BAGS at 40ac. A short while later, AITCH at 37ac enabled 18dn Lender asks nerd to keep 37 annuals (9, two words) to be resolved as RED SHANKS, Lender needing to be replaced by Render.

Skip forward a few hours (!), and I had a complete grid. One thing that I have noted with Wan, both here and elsewhere (Inquisitors and EVs), is that every word in a clue has its job. I’ll mention just four more:

26ac Meeting place Mrs Simpson perhaps gets hint of abdication (5) had nothing to do with Wallis, but Homer’s wife, Marge: MAR[G]E containing A[bdication].
32ac, probably my favourite clue, Queen succeeds prince in more than one country (5) with R (queen) for P (prince) in P[L]URAL, country being used as an adjective.
4dn None Tone in society lacking in sixth sense (5) giving IN S (society) omitted from INSTINCT (sixth sense).
8dn Excellent thing sister hiding did dig to escape out of Luxembourg (7) for SR (sister) holding TUNNEL – L; it didn’t help the endgame that I initially had the corrected word as bid!

And so to the endgame. The extra letters generated by the across clues gave gnatcatcher, goslet, sea cob, and the replaced letters in the downs mining, drumbledor, worker. These turned out to be birds and bees. The correct letters in the down clues spelt out hatecc bnolcr tteasa oesg, and crossing out the ones used by the across clues left a g/G. Hmmm… that didn’t seem likely, after all that wouldn’t generate anything symmetrical about the horizontal axis. A short while later, and I had identified my mistake with 8dn, and the letter b/B was the one remaining — much more satisfactory.

So, we had to find some sort of large B (the wrong letter described by the title) made up of three blocks of birds and comprising 43 cells. An hour of grid staring later and I gave up for the day. It was the Friday before the deadline. Actually, I allowed myself a couple more minutes contemplating the puzzle as I lay in bed that night. I remembered what I had thought when reading the preamble: “one of the hidden members is in earlier editions”. At the time I had thought “some first names”, but as I drifted off, my mind recalled those pesky greyed out words in Chambers (12th edition) that had been dropped from the latest (which I do not possess).

Unfortunately, it was about an hour into the following day’s grid staring before my previous night’s thought returned. I reached for my 12th edition and started leafing through it reading the definitions of the grey words. After fifty pages, I remembered that there was an online list that might speed up the process. Indeed there was, and it gave the definitions as well!

Listener 4358 My EntryI found four birds: chewink, glimmer-gowk, teru-tero, zoozoo. I was elated to find — eventually — TERU-TERO in a little C shape on the right-hand side of the grid. A few minutes later, and I realised what was going on, and three pairs of birds, overlapping, were highlighted. How could anyone argue with the preamble — that’s exactly what it told us to look for in the letter BEE.

A long, tough solve for me this week, but I had not been disappointed. Thanks Wan, great stuff. And thank goodness for those missing words!

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The Other Letter by Wan

Posted by shirleycurran on 28 August 2015

BEES 001Wan again! That was our cry, as we are still struggling with the August Wan Crossword, Star Turns, on Derek Harrison’s Crossword Centre (even tougher than this one! Take a look!) However, we worked our way through the preamble noting the different terms used: there were the extra letters, the displaced letters and the replaced letters. Two of these sets were to be paired off leaving a single letter that had to be represented in the grid. Our ‘extra’ letters, and ‘displaced’ letters were going to identify two different groups and six overlapping members of the first group were going to form a representation of that left-over letter.

It didn’t tell us much at this stage (well, preambles rarely do, do they?) so I consoled myself by a speedy scan through the clues to check that Wan still qualifies for that elite set of Listener topers, and, despite straying into crystal meth and opiate, ‘None managed to acquire brandy wanting money for opiate (7)’ (which became N[E]NE* round (M)ARC giving NARCEEN) he finally settled for a ‘stiff drink’., ‘From old galleon remove mead, a stiff drink (6)’ (we had to remove the [H]ead of the old carrack giving ARRACK).

I believe those two are fine examples of this set of clues which we found extremely difficult to solve. Until a very late stage in our pairing off of the ‘replacement letters’ and ‘extra letters from wordplay’ we were convinced that we were removing for the [L]ead of the word ‘carrack (not [H]ead), so that our two sets of letters simply didn’t correspond.

We had found that our down clues gave us a group of bees: MINING, DRUMBLEDOR (yes, he appeared in Collins Dictionary) and WORKER. A set of birds were produced by the letters we had extracted from the word-play of across clues: GNAT CATCHER, GOSLET and SEA COB. It was that set of birds that we had to pair off against the ‘replacement letters’: HATECCGNOLCRTTEASAOESG. Well, that was quite fun and produced the predictable letter B that appeared only in the set of birds, at the end of SEA COB.

The birds and the bees eh? What was Wan up to? His clues had told us about a ‘Boyfriend on hospital bed, upland in Alberta (6)’ (COT + [B]EAU = COTEAU) and ‘Rod’s image of one with an attractive young woman mostly (4)’ (I + DOL(l) – giving [G]od’s image) now we were in rumpy-pumpy country!

All we now had to do was ‘create a representation of the other letter (B) in the grid by highlighting six hidden members of the first group (BIRDS) arranged as overlapping pairs (43 cells in total) with mirror symmetry about the middle row. What could be easier! Hah!

Well, we got to that instruction after about three hours of tough solving, then gazed at our grid that had DOTTERELS, REDSHANKS, a CAPON and something CRESTED (no doubt a tit) as well as a range of jumbled potential fliers, and we came to a dead halt. It was Listener tipple time and bed – sleep on it! That often works and indeed it did. My first look at the grid in the early hours revealed that rather nicely spelled out BEE made up of ARCTIC TERN, NUTCRACKER, CARA-CARA, ARAPONGA, TERU-TERO, (yes he was the source of trouble in a recent Listener wasn’t he?), and LANNERET.

As I said, we found this cluing really challenging but one of the Listener star setters and solvers told me it was exactly what he likes: a very demanding set of clues, a fine, well-constructed endgame and an attractive final grid with plenty in it – so thank-you Wan.

Nearly three weeks later, someone has just emailed me the news that we were actually picked out of the hat, stocking, whatever … as winners of this one. That is something I never expected to happen. I was planning to run up the longest run of entries without a win of any solver and can’t have been far off – about five years of entering every week. That’s another record spoiled, but I’ve also learned that there is an alternative to Brewers Dictionary of Phrase and Fable if you already have a copy (or two or three, as we do!) so this Wan crossword is even more memorable for us.

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Aft by Nutmeg

Posted by shirleycurran on 21 August 2015

Nutmeg Holmes 001Nutmeg! That produced an instant smile. Anything compiled by Nutmeg is sure to give pleasure, be it in the Listener, EV or IQ series, in the Magpie or in the Guardian. Her Magpie Porkies was one of my all-time favourites with its delightful use of the AA Milne line ‘The more he looked, the more Piglet wasn’t there’. Her name is frequently in the top five in the clue writing competition in Derek Harrison’s Crossword Centre: she was placed second in the last set of results. (And she gets a special smile from me as she is one of the very few lady setters of advanced thematic crosswords.) So what does she have in store for us this time?

A very short preamble – that can be the harbinger of a fearsome crossword. She speaks of a ‘few’ thematic answers that are clued by wordplay only, of a ‘few’ cells where letters from across and down answers clash and ‘must be replaced by a single dot’. That is intriguing. We solve 16 across first, ‘Stellar student’s briefly off course at the outset (7)’ (ASTRA(y) + L) and immediately notice that clue lengths are not always the same as the number of available cells, so happily, we can at once identify the suspect entries.

Of course, I have scanned the clues to confirm Nutmeg’s membership of the Distinguished Listener Oenophile Society and she confirms it with good taste, ‘Lose market’s top source of malt whisky (6)’ (M(arket) + ISLAY). We spot a few clues connected with jewels and food and the rather randy clue, ‘Indian open to any sex, a lot of wives wanting male (6)’ (BI + HARI(m)). Hmmm!

Solving is steady and enjoyable and the first penny-drop moment comes very quickly when HOLMES fits into the first of the unclued lights. “Ah”, says the other Numpty, “then WATSON must be 27 down and ADVENTURE will fill 17 down.” (We already had most of the letters.) Now we realize what we are going to colour, as we have BEECHES, BAND, LEAGUE and CARBUNCLE in the grid. We are going to have to invent some way of colouring those ‘copper’, ‘speckled’, ‘red-headed’ and ‘blue’. By my reckoning, assuming that only the ‘head’ of LEAGUE is coloured red, we need five more cells for a further treatment, in order to reach the 26 cells of the preamble.

We complete our grid fill, with a bit of a struggle in the top right hand corner, where we have that rather strange clue, ‘A single record recalled hosts knowing man’s name (6)’ That has to be the ‘One six-letter answer’ that ‘is entered in an unorthodox form (indicated by the wordplay) to as to suggest one adventure of Homes and Watson’. I LP reversed hosting HIP gives us PHIPLI, which is, of course, a jumble of Philip and suggests ‘The Man with the Twisted Lip’, so all is hunky dory – except for those dots.

We have understood that we are replacing the beginnings or ends of words with a dot, where clashes occur, and a moment’s thought reveals that these give SEE(thed)/(Lin)D (producing SEED), (a)ST(ral)/(Bih)AR(i) (producing STAR), BLEE(ders)/(se)P(tic) (producing BLEEP), SPL(enetic)/(overw)EEN (giving SPLEEN) and BLACK(en)/(tea)BALL (giving BLACKBALL). I look up PIP in Chambers and am delighted to find that those are the first five definitions for the word. So, with a smile, we put dots in those cells and colour them orange.

Many thanks, Nutmeg, great fun.



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Listener No. 4357: Aft by Nutmeg

Posted by Dave Hennings on 21 August 2015

Nutmeg has set some tricky little Listeners in the past, but they have always been a joy to solve. Recently, we’ve had the Knights of the Round Table, mobile phones, and the Grand Old Duke of York. This week we had a sneaky little 3-letter title that gave absolutely nothing away, and some thematic answers clued by wordplay only. Oh… and just for good measure there are some clashes. Actually, there are “a few”, but I’m really not sure what that means: 5, 10, 12?

Listener 4357On with the solve. 1ac was HOB, but, like the title, a puny three letters. Perhaps 4 Salary increase sharply cut by northern timber producer in SA (9) would give me more of a helping hand. Answer: No. HOB will have to give me the start I need. Unfortunately, 1dn is unclued, and, although 2dn Unlikely to change word for “wing” in dictionary? (9) is probably O······ED, it escaped me until a bit later (OPINIONED).

3dn Article, concealed in bed, nurse finally removed (4) was straightforward wordplay only, but in what way might BAND thematic? Musical, perhaps. 5dn Supporter keeling over, one sent up in hearing of Scots judge (8) looked like it was ARBITRAL, but it took me some time to work out the wordplay (BRA< + TRIAL with I moved up).

8, 9 and 10 gave me BIHARI, OPERON and MISLAY, although somehow BIHARI had to fit into a 5-letter space. All these enabled me to get WAGENBOOM for the South African tree, and it seemed that I was destined to get the top of the grid finished first. 16ac ASTRAL also had too few spaces in the grid. I reread the preamble to see if it gave a hint as to what was going on with these clashes. Although it didn't say, it looked likely that more than two letters were involved. That may give ARTS or RATS or STAR represented in the one space and replaced by a dot.

Onward, and a few more in the top left and bottom right, and HOLMES and WATSON were soon spotted, together with ADVENTURE at 17dn. So we were in familiar territory this week, with The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Only an hour in, and the theme was cracked. When the grid was complete, The Copper BEECHES, Blue CARBUNCLE and Red-Headed LEAGUE were there for the taking, but I needed to go elsewhere to remind myself of the unorthodox entry of PHIPLI, The Man with the Twisted LIP, as well as The Adventure of the Speckled BAND.

That source also enabled me to see what was going on with the dots I had in the grid… The Five Orange Pips. The letters in each of the clashes spelt words giving five of the six meanings of pip in Chambers: SEED, BLEEP, BLACKBALL, STAR, SPLEEN.

Listener 4357 My EntryI also needed Google to confirm 19ac Merkel’s former self, say, for whom scandal’s out of bounds (4), specifically that Angela Merkel was originally from East Germany and therefore an OSSI. Among many other fine clues, I liked the surface reading of 30ac Toerags from Delaware held by violent rebels (8), and the sneaky definition in 34ac Di’s singular daughter returned to court previously (4).

Colouring pencils by my side, the grid was soon ready for dispatch to St Albans. So thanks to Nutmeg for an enjoyable and very picturesque puzzle. And thanks to the editors for the latitude allowed in colouring and shading.

And the sneaky little 3-letter title? Nope, haven’t a clue!

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Listener No 4356: Mashonaland by Raffles

Posted by Dave Hennings on 14 August 2015

Last week, I mentioned that Raffles had an EV puzzle in November with the same Nancy Mitford U/non-U theme that Aragon’s Listener had last week. This week, Raffles pops up with the first Listener of his/her own.

Thirteen answers have something in common dropped from their definition and must be entered in accordance with a thematic quotation. The remainder have an extra letter generated by the wordplay which spells out a contradictory quotation.

Listener 43561ac English Christmas turned essentially more commercial profit, from the 19c stage (12, two words) looked like (E CHRISTMAS)* + OR, but, not surprisingly, I couldn’t get it. The next few clues gave me a good start though, with 10 MESSIEST, no… MUSSIEST, 12 GASP, 13 CONTADINA and 14 URSULINE. The last two were thematic (no extra letters) and looked like the definitions were “country ” and “sisterly ” respectively. However, we were looking for nouns, so it was simple to deduce that the definitions were missing their feminineness. They also needed to be entered thematically, in the style of one of the quotations we were looking for. Since they were the same length as their entry. it could be that they just needed to be jumbled.

Dropping down the right side of the grid, I got 17 ORLE, 9dn OPPRESSION, 26ac AO DAI and 20 SOPRANO, this last also being thematic. A trip along the bottom of the grid and up the left gave me a fair smattering of answers, although precious few definite letters. However, the extra letters given by the wordplays had given me Th·l·dysn·t·or… and it looked like we were in MARGARET THATCHER territory with “The lady’s not for turning“. She was trying to peep out from two NW–SE diagonals on the left of the grid, so I got help with some unsolved clues when she was complete. This quotation also confirmed that the other clues were jumbles, ie were for turning.

Well that was the second quotation sorted, and a trip to the back of Chambers was required to find the first. Taking a guess and looking up lady accidentally helped me quickly find la donna è mobile from Verdi’s Rigoletto. The English translation is given as “woman is changeable”. I needed to get the grid finished in order to see that this speaker in the leading NW–SE diagonal (“three words, not all using thematic spelling”) was DUCA DI MANTUA.

The two women that I had not heard of before were the long entries at 1ac and 33. 1ac didn’t come close to having an anagram of CHRISTMAS, but was ELEONORA DUSE (E + NOEL< + [m]OR[e] + AD + USE), a 19th century actress. 33 had a nice surface reading Designer X (anonymous) cuts thin backing poorly (12), which I’m sure that Elsa SCHIAPARELLI would never have done.

Two more clues that I particularly enjoyed: 26ac Jedi Master wearing first-class Oriental costume (5, two words) for AO DAI ([Y]ODA in AI), and 20dn Society hostess leaving husband for National Opera’s lead singer (7) for SOPRANO (S + OPRAH – H + N[ational] O[pera]). I also liked 5dn Painted nails refined in big old bird (8, two words) for MONA LISA with its nicely disguised “definition”.

Listener 2015-07-25 #4356 EntryThe last hint given by the preamble was that the remaining ambiguity was resolved by a dot in the third row. This obviously wasn’t a · but A DOT in the jumble of CONTADINA, ie INCNADOTA. The title was a simple anagram (Mash) of La Donna (onaland).

Schadenfreude used the Thatcher quotation back in December 2007 with Listener no. 3960, Misprinted Choice. That was when I learned that it was a twist on a Christopher Fry play, The Lady’s not for Burning.

So thanks to Raffles for an enjoyable puzzle and a relatively straightforward week.

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