Archive for October, 2015

Listener No. 4367: Identity Crisis by Sabre

Posted by Dave Hennings on 30 October 2015

Part of me wasn’t expecting a Sabre puzzle this year… I think because he told me there wouldn’t be one! His last was that tricky Coincidence last December based on the times that hour and minute hands of a clock overlap. Before that, we had a couple of knight’s move puzzles, and a quick scan of the preamble indicated that we were spared another one this week. However, the preamble did have ten lines to wade through.

Firstly, the 12-letter x and y coordinates of the grid were provided by part of a quotation, a quotation that seemed to have an awful lot of small words! The two unclued entries in the grid provided another six words from the quotation. Numbers in brackets were answer lengths, implying not the same as entry lengths, which was a bit of a bugger since the grid itself was carte blanche with a solitary cell under the bottom row. There were six clashes that “may be resolved into, and must be replaced by, characters of the author…”. Finally eight cells would need replacing.

Time for a lie down.

Examining the across lengths, there were two 10-letter, one 11-letter and three 12-letter answers. Down we had one 12-letter, one 9-letter, one 8-letter, and then a whole slew of 3-, 4-, 5, 6- and 7-letter answers. And yet the grid displayed 180° symmetry. How was this going to be possible? Well, stage one was to solve some clues.

I attacked the long entries. AAac Rossini diva, often left in perplexed state, hiding close to garden shrub (10) seemed to have too many wordplay indicators for easy solving (perplexed, hiding, close to). However, the following clue 500lb you replaced two times (6), while leading to DOUBLY was also AAac. This confirmed what was fairly obvious earlier, namely that the coordinates above and to the left of the grid had duplicate letters. I started my list for the across answers and added another for the downs.

Back to the long answers, and a quick check with Mrs B helped get NOTODONTIDAE for the moths at AY. I failed with the anagram of NUMPTIES [rus]H and [informall]Y at SO, primarily because it wasn’t the Y of informallY but N for ‘and, informally’. I had success with other anagrams at AD STORM WINDOW, AI UNFATHOMABLE and ND WITHSTANDING. At this point, the ND of the last seemed to conflict with the AD and AI of the other two. Obviously, there were destined not to start in the same column. Yikes!

It was at this point that, in addition to my two lists for the acrosses and downs, I added one for the names that I was going to call Sabre when this was all done and dusted!

My list of answers gradually grew. The 12-letter at DSdn Owner of digs converted army’s dwelling in lodge (12) for QUARRYMASTER took some time to solve, but when AAac yielded BUFFALO NUT, I felt I had enough to start trying to construct the grid. It seemed that ABUSED would be the top left down entry, and would enable BUFFALO NUT to go across with QUARRYMASTER down near its end. It was obviously necessary for this to be much shorter than 12 letters, and eventually (not before time, I hear you mutter), I realised exactly how many letters may need to be scrunched into some cells. “Clashes” indeed!!

And so the grid took shape, and the horizontal and vertical coordinates were revealed. I’m afraid Google was needed to give the exact sequence of words:

“My good friend”, quoth I — “AS SURE AS I AM I — AND YOU ARE YOU”
“AND WHO ARE YOU?” SAID HE.
“Don’t puzzle me,” said I

This is from The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Sterne. All that was left (yes, I’ve used that expression before to my cost) was to fathom the characters required in those clashing cells. Having RRYMAS and ITHSTAND in the top right quadrant shouted out TRISTRAM SHANDY, and the others were soon revealed to be WIDOW WADMAN (storMWINDOW/ADWAres), YORICK (rorO/haYRICK), UNCLE TOBY (doUBLY/CENTOist), CORPORAL TRIM (ROOTLike/CRAMPIRon) and DR SLOP (SParre/naiLROD).

These characters needed to be replaced by characters from the author, ie STERNE, to give real words in the final grid. The R replacing TRISTRAM SHANDY was the titular character who needed highlighting.

Finally, the second part of the quotation needed to be revealed in the grid by changing eight letters. Changing PUNISHMENT, RASPY and SCANTS to PUZZLEMENT, RASPS and IDANTS, gave DON’T PUZZLE ME, SAID I in rows 10, 11 and 12, with the I going into the solitary square below the grid.

What a phenomenal find by Sabre, those seven six-letter sequences. And what an incredible feat to cram all those thematic elements into a 12×12 grid. As a tour de force of the setter’s art this must be up there in the top three puzzles vying for the Gold Cup this year.

I’ve torn up the list of names that I was going to call Sabre.

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Identity Crisis by Sabre

Posted by shirleycurran on 30 October 2015

There have been mutterings on the ‘boards not to be mentioned’ that Listener crosswords were becoming too easy. I added a Numpty comment to one of them; “Be careful what you wish for; there is probably a Sabre in store or another Klein Bottle!” Prophetic words. We downloaded Sabre’s Identity Crisis and looked for our chessmen so that we could make a few realistic knights’ moves. But no, he did promise that the next one would be something different – and here it was.

Of course, eight solving hours later (yes, it beat my four-day record on the Mash Klein bottle!) I know that even with his theme, Tristram Shandy, Sabre qualifies for Listener Oenophile Elite membership, but I did, nevertheless, scan his clues for the usual sprinkling of alcohol.

What did I find? A gentle anagram including tea. ‘Odd notion, tea shifting moths (12) ODD NOTION TEA* giving NOTODONTIDAE. Then a smile as we find ourselves starring in a clue about PUNISHMENT (well, with Sabre, we knew we were in for that!) ‘Numpties finish in rush, and informally revised correction (10)’ (NUMPTIES [rus]H + ‘N*) (Finish in rush? You must be joking – it was 2 a.m. when I finished!).

Next we find ‘Old bar: left over bottles disappear in the end (6)’ (SPARE ‘bottling’ [disappea]R giving SPARRE) So now Sabre is drinking up the dregs. ‘Struggle makes Brit a barman (6)’ gave us EFFORT and we finished with ‘Intoxicant leads to teen having crisis (3)’. This was clearly the abbreviation that was mentioned in the preamble  giving us THC.

We knew that we were aiming at a 12X12 grid with 180-degree symmetry and we soon had most of the long solutions, as these clues were on the generous side for Sabre, but immense problems loomed. It became clear that WITHSTANDING, for example, could not begin in the same column as UNFATHOMABLE and NOTODONTIDAE, as its initial coordinate was N and they were obviously going to begin in the column we had already identified as A because of all the solutions that had to begin there.

It was thus clear that WITHSTANDING was to be shortened in some way, like, for example, QUARRYMASTER, which had, somehow, to fit in the same column, we assumed, as KAIM. Numpty head-scratching ensued.

We had started with a 13×13 grid but, as the six-letter coordinates revealed themselves (we eventually had a putative AS SURE/ AND WHO/, SAID HE/, AND YOU and were able to guess at ARE YOU and AS I AM I) we had to revert to a 12×12 grid so that the bars we entered prompted us about the places where our clashes would appear.

At this stage, the quotation sounded very much like a creation of Lewis Carroll, or of Edward Lear but it was not to be. It was only after a careful checking of the coordinates that I had enough clashing information to look up an anagram of (qua)RRYMAS(ter) and (w)ITHSTAND(ing) and with a hoot of joy was given TRISTRAM SHANDY by TEA.

Of course the others followed: (stor)MWINDOW and ADWA(re) giving WIDOW WADMAN; (nai)LROD and SP(arre) giving DR SLOP; (ha)YRICK and (ror)O producing YORICK; (dou)BLY and CENTO(ist) creating UNCLE TOBY and ROOTL(ike) and CRAMPIR(on) finally producing CORPORAL TRIM.

Of course, Google gave me the full quotation. This novel was the favourite work of my International School Head of Department and part of our curriculum but it is a dense, if hilarious, work and these words come in Chapter 14. “As sure as I am I and you are you. And who are you, said he. Don’t puzzle me, said I!”

There it was; ‘DONT PUZZLE ME SAID I’ and it was inserted symmetrically at the foot of the grid creating new words, RASPS, IDANTS, TED and SPINOZA. Oh but this was impressive setting. Real words at the end of a puzzle always produce a murmur of approval.

Two thing were left to do. We highlighted the cell that had contained the TRISTRAM SHANDY clash and checked with Chambers that we were inserting the letters of STERNE in cells where they made real words (STORE/ERES, QUARTER/WRING, NAIN/NARRE, TIKE/TON and HAE/RORE.

What a compilation. Many thanks to Sabre.

Listener No. 4366: Ego-trips by Llig

Posted by Dave Hennings on 23 October 2015

Llig’s previous Listener in December last year was the entertaining Shrive, where two unchecked letters in each of thirteen clues were equidistant from each end of the alphabet — as S & H, R & I, V & E. This week, all but four clues had an extra letter in the wordplay, which would spell out a possible reason for the modifications required to the four remaining clues.

I failed on 1ac A lot of money brought in by “faulty” soap, Manuel’s Bar (6), mainly because, although I have been in many Spanish bars, I didn’t know they were POSADAs. 5ac The stage jitters develop slowly in the mind (7) was easier and GESTATE was slotted in.

I decided to try the downs dropping from the top row, and OSCAR at 2 went in. Unfortunately, I then got waylaid by 13ac OCTAGONAL, 14ac GARRET, 1dn PROGRAMME and 4dn DOGEATE.

Finally, I reached 5dn Pagan German, freely lenient — that’s not new (7) with G + LENIE[N]T less, possibly, an extra letter. Luckily, looking at the diagram, I could see that there were only 6 spaces for the clue, even though we were told it was (7). A quick scan of the other clues, and I could see that the four normal clues radiated horizontally and vertically from the isolated centre square. With GENTILE being the answer to 5dn and starting with the G from GESTATE, it wasn’t a great leap to wonder if GENTLE was the answer with the I just perhaps going in the centre square.

Looking at those other three clues, they turned out to be very easy, and MARRIED, REALITY and SERRIAN were entered without their I. From there, it was a very quick solve and the grid was complete in little over an hour, helped by lots of partial anagrams in the wordplay.

Eventually, the extra letters spelt out Whither shall I go then from thy presence? Prayer Book. This is from Psalm 139, verse 6 (or 7 in some versions). I suppose a possible a response could be to the centre, although it seems to me that very few questions in the Psalms actually get answers!

So endeth an entertaining, if easy, puzzle — thanks be to Llig. Little did I know at the time that a slightly tougher one was about to follow.

Ego-trips by Llig

Posted by shirleycurran on 23 October 2015

We immediately notice that blocked off cell in the centre of the grid and the preamble tells us that it is to be used ‘possibly’ to provide the answer to a question that will appear in those extra letters – that gimmick again! We draw our highlighted line along the side of all those clues (for those letters) and I scan the clues to check that Llig hasn’t retired from the Listener setters’ oenophile society.

No need to read very far. In the very first clue, he is in ‘Manuel’s Bar‘ ‘A lot of money brought in by “faulty” soap. Manuels Bar (6)’ (SOAP* surrounding [W]AD gives POSADA). Alcohol must be flowing in the posada, as we find ‘Higher alcohol playing role that dogs drunkard (6)’ (S[O]T ROLE*) and ‘Gym with informal drink to follow day’s march in Bordeaux (5)’ ([P]E + TAPE]). Shortly afterwards, the ‘Party gathers to consume stale bread (6)’ (S[E]CT around EAT = SCEATT) and ‘Noisy reveller wrecked storey – engineers going up twice (9)’ (STOREY* + RE R[E]< + ROYSTERER).

This is proving to be a very boozy crossword as mixed drinks follow. ‘Secretive type upset a bit of lager in brandy (4)’ (MAR[C]< round L(ager) giving CLAM) – and with those solutions in place we are speedily filling the grid.

There’s a generous splashing of anagrams and we are maybe lucky in that we almost immediately spot that the clue to REALITY ‘Truth literally lost without Low Latin (7)’ is leading to a six letter word (LITERALLY less LL* = REALTY) though the given word-count is (7). Of course, we put the I in the centre cell, and that is confirmed when 25ac leads to MARRIED/MARRED, 5dn leads to GENTILE/GENTLE,  and the fourth clue, completing the set of ‘four normally clued answers’ gives us SIERRAN/SERRAN.

In the meantime, we have found most of the question produced by the extra letters and a quick Google hunt completes the question and its source, WHITHER SHALL I GO THEN FROM THY PRESENCE? PRAYER BOOK.

Our grid is full and four ‘I’s have moved. Is that it? I wonder, but then realize that those were the only letter ‘I’s in Llig’s grid, and, indeed he needed to remove them from the relative words to create a kind of unity. One could probably solve the entire crossword without spotting the lack of the letter I, so, in a way, Llig has created a task that is tougher on the setter than the solver.

Thank you Llig for a relatively gentle and enjoyable solve. It left us time to enjoy a beautiful autumn evening.

General Intelligence by Calmac

Posted by shirleycurran on 16 October 2015

“What a lot of clues!” was our first reaction. Then we noticed a very strange unching pattern, not only a couple of double unches in the perimeter but also eighteen open lights. Something was going to happen in this grid to justify this very unorthodox grid. At least, the open lights would render solving somewhat easier, as those eighteen solutions would be spelled out by the letters already in the grid. What’s more, the double unches would never get past the editors unless they were inevitable because of the endgame or some gimmick – so we were prompted where to look when we had a full grid.

Indeed, solving was rendered easy and, after a quick scan through the clues that revealed a fair bit of fish, cheese, fruit and even served up wild goat but not much confirmation of Calmac’s membership of the Listener Oenophile.org, I had a hard time keeping up with the other Numpty, who solved the clues almost in order, so fast that I hadn’t time to sharpen my pencil.

We were certainly solving a crossword that was intended to encourage Listener newcomers, as we noted an unusual number of hidden clues: ‘PhilippiNE TEnor holds highest note (4)’, ‘Poetical cave featured in AsiAN TREatise (5)’, ‘Birds kept by ManchuriAN ISlamists (4)’ and ‘WaltZ ACKnowledged in paRt Victorian dated bit (4)’. Generous anagrams helped us too: ‘The stalk of a moss capsule out in East (4)’ (giving SETA) and ‘FRee from excess fat before ripped seamen (6)’ (giving ENSEAM).

Several words seemed redundant but the reason for a certain clunkiness in the clues wasn’t obvious until we had a full grid (a little over an hour) and a message spelled out: CENTRAL LETTERS IN CLUES. Indeed, that message had caused us the occasional hiccup along the way. We avoided the obvious pitfall of using the corrected letters (Oh yes, we have been there before!) and took the ‘incorrect’ letters, but the fact that these were scattered in any part of the clue, even in the materials of an anagrind, ‘Conspirers against ministers call Marie bent (9)’ (the anagram requiring CALL MARIA to give CAMARILLA) gave pause for thought.

It looked like a laborious task, but, in fact, finding just the beginnings of words EVE.. SCH… KNO.. WH. IMP….. MONT… gave us all we needed and Google confirmed that ‘Every schoolboy knows who imprisoned Montezuma and who strangled Atahualpa‘. So that was why there were so many clues! I had to work out the end of the message where double letters were central to the clues, giving the …DA TA HU AL PA. This was indeed an original way of conveying the message – the first time we have seen it – and, of course it justified a certain clue clunkiness.

We already knew where to look for the perpetrators because of that double unch, and, sure enough, there was ATAHUALPA, strangled by FRANCISCO PIZARRO. We hunted symmetrically at first but then spotted MONTEZUMA with HERNAN CORTES imprisoning him. An attractive finish to a fairly gentle crossword. Many thanks, Calmac. (Yes, the other Numpty says “Be careful what you wish for: we haven’t had any Sabrean knights’ moves or Mash Klein Bottles yet this year!”)