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Archive for September, 2015

Spots by Colleague

Posted by shirleycurran on 25 September 2015

Spots by Colleague 001We immediately noticed that Colleague’s Spots had a 12 by 13 grid, so clearly his 26 cells to be highlighted were going to somehow twice do the vertical trip – maybe round it. I also scanned his clues to confirm that he remains a member of the Listener Setters’ topers’ club and he left me in no doubt with ‘Drinking bout without us about to make packets (6)’  (SESSION less (u)S< = NOISES so that ‘packets’ gave us ‘rackets’ with the P and R converting to H and producing the first of our letters of the hidden name). The following clue pronounced that ‘spirit’ was not needed,’Brilliant discovery – spirit not needed accommodating Chinese wish (6)’ (EUREKA less KA round CH giving EUCHRE and producing our second hidden letter since ‘wish’ had to convert to ‘dish’ – outwit, giving an A). However, later we found ‘Celebrate drinks as relics (9)’ (KEEP + SAKES) confirming that all was well and this was a fairly boozy crossword.

These were not easy clues but we solved steadily and, in a couple of hours had an almost full grid with JOHN AUB??Y appearing as the hidden name. We Spots 001needed an R and an E to complete AUBREY and obviously the clue about flexible sex was a candidate. ‘Sex being flexible – is it clean? (9) (Crikey what sort of clues are the editors allowing through these days!) Of course IS IT CLEAN* gave us INELASTIC and back solving produced the misprint SET and the required R – and no rumpy-puppy after all.

The necessary E to complete his name was even more difficult to find but we eliminated clue by clue of the six potential ones and finally opted for the clue to SNORER, ‘Maybe a nuisance who’s put rook with large bird in Stepney before sun rises (6)’ and decided that the nuisance had to be ‘out’, giving us P + O = E.

Clearly a visit to Wikipedia was needed now, and what we found there suggested that we were somehow going to find the Aubrey holes represented in our grid. However, Wiki told us that there were 56 of those within the circle of Stonehenge and we were to highlight a mere 26 cells. A bit of Numpty head-scratching until we spotted Stonehenge in a diamond shape in the centre of our grid. That occupied only 10 cells. We hunted further and smiled when that diamond shape was echoed by 26 cells further out in the grid giving us Gleneagles, Hoylake and St Andrews. Eighteen holes on a golf course X three golf courses. The next numerical crossword is due in November but we don’t even need a calculator to tell us that we have 54 holes there, falling two short of the Aubrey 56 holes.

Very entertaining, thank you Colleague.

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Listener No. 4362: Spots by Colleague

Posted by Dave Hennings on 25 September 2015

Eighteen or so months since Colleague’s last Listener with its Animal Farm theme. Before that, we had the Nato communications alphabet with How to Hotel being required under the grid, rather than How to Spell or How to Tango. This week, just ten clues with a misprint to deal with, spelling out the name of a discoverer of something. (I found myself wondering what decided whether the preamble would give the actual number of a certain clue type rather than just ‘some’.)

Listener 4362I failed on both 1ac and 5ac, so decided to tackle the down clues. 2 IRENE, 3 PIRATIC and 4 EGG were slotted in. They enabled PIPE to go in at 1ac, although I’d never thought of PPE as a university school. 11 TRIGLYPH and 13 TERGUM found me starting down the left-hand side of the grid and, with INELASTIC going in at 18dn Sex being flexible — is it clean? (9), I knew I had found one of my favourite clues of the puzzle!

Having completed an anti-clockwise tour of the grid, it didn’t take too long to plug the remaining gaps, and a finished diagram was staring at me in about two hours. I enjoyed being reminded by 39ac of a hideous fashion while I was at school: “One designated Kipper is broad and loud”, an Asian said (3) with reference to kipper ties which were almost as wide as they were long. Elsewhere in the grid, I was left wondering what the hell was molar latent heat as referenced in 33dn.

The sum of the misprints and their correct letters gave JOHN AUBREY. I was immediately reminded of the great Roy Dotrice, now aged 92, in the fantastic one-man show, Brief Lives. I’ve seen it twice, once way back in 1967 and then again at its revival in 2008.

Of course, this had nothing to do with the theme of this puzzle. Instead, WikiGoogle told us that the Aubrey Holes at Stonehenge were named after him. On a visit there in 1666, he noticed five circular holes, but now a total of 56 have been discovered. Unfortunately, I was now being asked to highlight 26 cells which were thematically arranged and whose combined total fell short of the discovery by two.

Listener 4362 My EntryIt didn’t take too long to find STONEHENGE in the grid, but I needed 16 more cells to highlight. Luckily, I spotted EAGLES running diagonally SW to NE in the top left quadrant and all became clear as I traced HOYLAKE, ST ANDREWS and back to GLENEAGLES in a diamond shape in the grid. So that gave three rounds of golf and a total of 54 holes, two short of the 56 (somewhat different sort) named after Aubrey. Stonehenge didn’t need highlighting at all.

A thoroughly enjoyable puzzle from Colleague, thanks, and a shame that the editors couldn’t get sponsorship from the three courses for a free round of golf for all correct solvers.

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Listener No. 4361: Two for the Price of One by Monk

Posted by Dave Hennings on 18 September 2015

Nearly four years have passed since the last Monk Listener with its Morecambe and Wise / André Previn theme. However, if you enjoy this puzzle, he can frequently be found elsewhere, including The Independent and Financial Times. This week, we were treated to a crossword based on the Train Tracks puzzle which appears in the Saturday edition of The Times. I enjoy that little diversion, even though it never takes more than a few minutes. I have often wished they would do a larger grid than the 8×8, and this week Monk provides it.

Listener 4361As the preamble says, the first puzzle is a crossword, although some needed specail treatment to fit in the grid. 1ac Keep sight of tug of old on ground, then harbouring it (15, four words) looked as though it should be easy with its (15, four words), but it was not to be. 13 Chairs damaged spine (6) came to the rescue with RACHIS and some of 14’s first letters provided IAGO.

1dn Cheat, getting nettle, not about to reveal “three of a kind”? (8) with its second letter as R looked like it would be TRI…, and a little peak at Mrs B provided TRIM for cheat and the BRB gave me TRIMURTI (the Hindu trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Siva). I was off, and determined not to use Mrs B again this week.

Because of that (probably) the rest of the grid was comparatively slow to fill. A lot of my problem lay with Monk’s sneaky clues, like 1ac above where “keep” isn’t a verb, and “diamonds on top of this” refers to MOH’S SCALE. My favourite clue was probably 12dn Old Scandinavians run into neutral territory, avoiding capture (6) with R in NO MAN’S [LAND]. The one that I found toughest to parse was 29ac Family famous for hangings turn soft, confused about losing last vestige of hope (7) — GO (turn) + B (soft, as in pencil) + SENILE< (confused) – E (last letter of hopE).

It became evident fairly early on that some cells needed to contain two letters, and they were compass points indicating which sides needed to be connected by a track come the endgame, which didn't present me with too many problems since, as I mentioned above, I complete the puzzle most weeks in The Times. It’s a fairly simple exercise in identifying those cells which must contain a track, and those that cannot. The former are either marked with the required track, or, if the exact type is unknown, with a dot; the latter I mark with a cross. Take the bottom two rows in the grid:

Listener 4361 Example

We are told the bottom row has only two tracks, so these must be vertical north-south. (In fact, these do not need to contain N/S since the track starts and ends at these two points, but by convention these two tracks are given at the start of the puzzle.) All the other cells in row 1 can be marked with a cross. Those immediately above the tracks can be given a dot, but it is not clear yet whether they are straight or curved.

Listener 4361 My EntryThe puzzle is solved by repeated use of this and other tricks. For example, a track cannot be surrounded by three crossed cells (a dead end), and if there are the same number of empty cells as the number given for that row or column, then all of them can be marked with a dot.

Thanks to Monk for an enjoyable couple of puzzles, and I hope the size of the graphic (nearly 2mb) doesn’t cause anyone a problem!

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Two for the Price of One by Monk

Posted by shirleycurran on 18 September 2015

001We’ve solved only one Listener crossword by Monk before; that one about playing all the right notes but not in the right order, so he is a bit of an unknown for us, though I see from Dave’s Crossword Database that he has been setting them for a long time. All the same, I have to do a quick scan of the clues to confirm that he is still a member of the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Outfit.

It’s a fairly promising hunt. ‘Pipsqueaks into office parties (7)’ gives IN + SECTS but then ‘I must get treated, taking nil by mouth (6)’ (I MUST* round O = OSTIUM) raises doubts. However, the parties continue, ‘Hollywood location hosts party with the ultimate in VIP treatment (5)’ (LA round DO + (vi)P = L-DOPA – I wonder what that definite article ‘the’ was doing in there!). Further on we have ‘Old half-constructed German vessels (4)’ O + BOS(che) – not much alcohol really but plenty of partying.
Monks train tracks 001We haven’t solved long before we realize that those words that are too long for their lights have to compress directions into one cell – well, it was given away really by the preamble, wasn’t it? ‘The special cells provide initial information for finding the unique solution of the second (“train tracks”) puzzle in which solvers must draw a single continuous path that links A and B without entering any cell more than once.’

We are amused when the ‘Family famous for hangings turn soft, confused about losing last vestige of hope (7)’ gives us GOBELINS (the tapestry people, and not some vicious executioners, and, of course, when that intersects with NORMANS (‘Old Scandinavians run into neutral territory, avoiding capture (6)’ NO-MANS (land) round R) we have NS sharing a cell.

FINAL mONK 001Helped by TEA, we find THE TOWER OF LONDON across the top of our grid (Keep sight of tug on old ground, then harbouring it = THEN round TOWER + OF + {OLD ON}*) – what a piece of clue construction! and that helps us to happily complete our initial puzzle.

I’ve heard of these games before but never actually attempted one. However, the logic is apparent since evidently the train line must only cross the centre column once. That immediately splits the puzzle into two halves, and a further single crossing and three examples of the line crossing a column twice soon indicate where all the small twists and turns must be in order to fill 9, 10 and 11 cells of three rows of the grid. This was quite fun, really, though it took me almost as long as the original puzzle to ultimately work out how to enter 11 cells on that penultimate row.

Many thanks to Monk for our double Friday evening entertainment.


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What a Turn-up! by IOA

Posted by shirleycurran on 11 September 2015

Clueless 001The three-monthly numerical. I admit that I am usually pretty CLUELESS with these, and, saying so, hand over to the other Numpty who never really enjoys them as he knows that if he makes a single error, there will be so much back-tracking to do. Spread-sheets seem to be the solving method adopted by friends but he struggles with a wad of paper, a pencil and an eraser.

I couldn’t even scan the clues to check whether IOA has any desires to join the Listener Setters’ No chance! Just that set of calculator display digits to give us a model for our final submission (more later!) and, even to this Numpty, to limit the digits that we are going to use in the course of calculations as, obviously, except in row 20ac, there can be only the digits 0,1,2,5,6, 8 and 9 with, perhaps in 20ac 3 mapping to E, 4 to a lower case h and 7 to L. The symmetry requirement also ties pairs of clues and their solutions very tightly.

No clue for 1ac, either – just that intriguing instruction that ‘after filling the grid, 11 of the small line segments in the top row must be erased to leave a word that is appropriate to that location’.

So the other Numpty takes over: there are lists of Fibonacci numbers, but not many are needed (but was 0 included? I guessed not) so it was only 1,2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, and 89. For once Zipf’s rule was no help as we are not in “In clues letters A to Z represent numbers….”, but 1d and 10d seemed a good entry, being symmetric squares. From a Web table I found only 24 candidates ranging from 11881 to 99856, but only 69169 for 1d was 180 degree symmetric and able to form a letter, C. for 1a. Next, 7a and 19a, where the tables offered only 98596, 99225 or 99856 for 7a with a symmetric 19a.

The very restricted range of letters formable from 0,1,5,6,8,9 now gives the devious solver an identification of the clueless entry at 1a, (Interestingly, if you feed those potential letters into TEA with C in the first place- not allowing the ambiguous forms of A/R and H/K- it suggests, with very little variety, that you are CLUELESS!) but more progress is quite possible without this. 6d and 16d are squares, tying 6d to 121, 196, 529, 625 or 921 but as 10a is double a square, 196 is out, tying 10a to 242 or 882. What about 5d? An ascending sequence of Fibonacci numbers? Only 1, 2, 5, 8, 21, 55, and 89 are valid options, so what about 5,8,21,55,89 with 10a as 882?  Then 11a and 17a come into use: 11a has to be something such as 2911 but 17a has digits adding to a Fibonacci number so probably close to 20. Is it 21? The next good aid is the form 2n^2+1 at 8d, where there is not a big choice either now, and 20a, where 4 2-digit numbers sum to a cube, presumably between 40 and 396, so 64, 125, 216 or 343.

We are faced at our CLUELESS finale with a slight ambiguity. We have solved and enjoyed the crossword, and are troubled about the instruction in the preamble. A set of digits of the form appearing in calculator displays appears to the right of the grid and then we are instructed ‘Digits must be entered in that style such that the filled grid retains 180-degree symmetry’.To enter the two vertical segments that form a digital display 1, the two vertical segments must appear to the right of the cell, as in the displayed set. However, if we apply rotational symmetry to our grid, those two segments appear at the left of the cell in the lower half of the grid, not corresponding to the calculator 1. So how do we enter those 1s?

Clearly a half-way measure – putting the 1 in the centre of the cell – creates 180° symmetry, but it is not a correct digital calculator display 1, as shown in the model. Thus we can see no way of fulfilling the requirements of the preamble. I would like to think that a vertical 1 anywhere in each of the six affected cells will be accepted but will it? Thank you, anyway, to IOA for a different numerical Listener that didn’t involve wads of paper and lots of back-tracking hunting for errors. We were really impressed by a numerical that used only basic mathematical functions, had an original idea as its base and an entertaining endgame that left me, at least, CLUELESS (as was, of course, 1 Across).

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