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Archive for November, 2015

Golf… by Xanthippe

Posted by shirleycurran on 13 November 2015

Golf Xanthippe 001I play golf rather reluctantly and very poorly and to my mind it is a good walk spoiled – that was my comment on seeing Xanthippe’s title . Who said that? Oscar Wilde? Mark Twain? There seems to be some ambiguity – but, of course, quite some time later, we realized that Xanthippe was saying it too, and giving us a helping hand with the resolution of our scorecard by prompting us about which of the words in the clues to holes were the extra ones. We read down the first letters of Iron Seal Abbot Guns Of Over Debt Well Asks Low Kids Sees Punk On Iron Loci Eases Debut, and saw the quotation.

That helped us solve the clues to the last of our holes and we were thus in a position to work out who had won this match. After an initial bungle where I would have been disqualified for handing in an incorrect scorecard, we managed to work out that we, the solver, had scored 9 and a half to Xanthippe’s 7 and a half after the 17th hole, so that we were two holes up with one to play. SOLVER won 2 & 1.

Of course, there was still a hole to play (which Xanthippe won) before we could go to celebrate in the 19th hole and, reading through the clues as usual, to confirm that Xanthippe is still a member of the Tipply Listener Setters’ Club, I wasn’t really worried about the healthy lack of alcohol on the course. Indeed, Hole 18 made that clear – we had a ‘dry début’.

My Scorecard 001The other Numpty was astounded at scores like that. This is the third Listener Golf crossword we have had with that stunning one by Artix (One Shot at a Time) a couple of years ago which turned into a political assassination attempt, then the one by Colleague just a couple of months ago (Spots) where we were putting around Stonehenge into Aubrey Holes. There seems to be a Listener golf obsession. Numpty commented that with scores of 63 and 65, the solver and setter shouldn’t be wasting their time sorting out jumbles. They should be competing in the Open or playing at the Royal and Ancient (where, as a St Andrews student, he played for £1 a year!)

However, we still had to construct our course. We were given the helpful length of the holes by the word length but we had to fill all the gaps and the acres of rough around the course by solving 26 more clues. We smiled when we saw all the golf references in those clues. Most of them yielded fairly easily. ‘Ted once before entering Stableford, taking out tense skilful pro (5)’ was a fine example. [STABLEFORD less T + ABLE + FOR gives us S………D into which we have to put PRE, giving an old word for TED = SPRED]. Four clues had us really puzzled, those to SONES (SCONES less C which Chambers tells us is 12 in hexadecimal notation), TOTE, SHRANK (which Chambers tells us is a word for ‘caught’) and TOTANUS (TEA produced that for me and I was relieved to find that it is a ‘red shank’ or a wader). Those clues, we thought, were considerably more difficult than the other relatively gentle ones.

Since we could extrapolate the placing of the Holes, it wasn’t too difficult to situate the Course clues but when our course was almost complete, we had some rather disturbing jumbles to sort out with only the instruction ‘Every Hole answer must be treated in the same way to make the entry more representative of the course’. Hmmm! Head-scratching. It was a surprising course producing those amazing scores for a second-rate amateur like me but there seemed to be a lot of rather jungly jumbled rough until the other Numpty said, “Of course, you have noticed that every hole begins with a Tee!”  What a delightful Xanthippe touch. Obviously that was why we had so many Os left in our jumbles, and, moving those to the end, we had a mere 13 holes left with pairs of letters to place.

Those letter pairs didn’t spell ‘fairway’ or ‘bunker’ so we opted for the logical solution and placed them in the order in which they appeared in the words naming the holes and breathed a sigh of relief as we finally made it for that welcome G & T in the 19th. We had rather enjoyed our match and were full of praise for the astonishing amount of thematic material Xanthippe had managed to fit into this puzzle. What a fine compilation!

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Listener No. 4369: Golf… by Xanthippe

Posted by Dave Hennings on 13 November 2015

Xanthippe’s last Listener was his tricky Solitaire II puzzle (No. 4321 in November last year). Bizarrely, this one provided my weekend golf fix as I was opting out of the golf course due to a strained ankle. It would be interesting to see if it takes me longer than the real thing, and whether I win or not.

Listener 4369Here we had two groups of clues. The 18 ‘Hole’ clues were DLM (Definition and Letter Mixture), each with an extra word which would “contribute to a thematic phrase”. The 26 ‘Course’ clues were normal and in conventional order. Since the positions of the Hole clues were unknown (apart from 1 and 10), it seemed logical to tackle the Course clues initially.

Symmetry dictated that there were twelve across and sixteen down clues in the Course group. These turned out to be fairly gentle, with 1 SPRED, 6 TOTE, 7 STOT and 12 SPREE and over a dozen others. And not forgetting 3 Line up over putt initially, nonsense (4)CRAP (ARC< + P) in row 3 (yes, that would come back and bite me later). I soon had over half the clues roughly sketched into slots in the grid.

Now, if I’d checked the lengths of the Course clues against the grid, I’d have found that all the 5- and 6-letter entries were supplied by the Course and could be written in without delay. Unfortunately, that discovery would have to wait until later.

Turning my attention to the Hole clues, these were slightly trickier, especially since, the extra words could be in the middle of the LM part of the DLM clues. What’s more, they would need treating in some way before entry. I got 1 Golf [iron] fit for launch for LIFT-OFF, and with two Fs in the unchecked squares, it looked like these clues would just be jumbled.

A few minutes later, I had 8 [Well] paratrooper, in proportion (two words) for PRO RATA. Unfortunately, that had three unchecked squares, so there would need to be jumbling+, and it wasn’t clear what the + would be.

Luckily, it didn’t take too long for the penny to drop. To be honest, it dropped in two halfpennies. The first was that the O in each entry would move to the end to represent the hole, but it took a few more minutes for the second halfpenny to be revealed as the T moving to the front, representing — well, the tee. All the remaining letters were entered in the same sequence as in the full word.

I was impressed with the high percentage of golfy surface readings and entries. I particularly liked 1c Ted once before entering Stableford, taking out tense skilful pro (5) for SPRED (PRE in STABLEFORD – T – ABLE – FOR) and 8c Tricky special shot from golfer, close, inches away (6) for ELFISH ( ELS – S + FINISH – IN). Ernie Els had to appear somewhere being the only 3-letter golfer I know

With the grid complete (and CRAP replaced by PULP), it was time to work out who won the game. The extra words provided the score for the golfer whose honour it was on that hole, with the entry length for the clue giving the combined score for both golfers. This needed to be done carefully — indeed, I did it at least three times… four times if you include the time I got it wrong!

It turned out that I won holes 2, 4, 8, 9, 10, 13 and 17; Xanthippe won holes 1, 3, 7, 11 and 16; the rest were halved. Thus I won 2&1 (two up with one to play). If I’d ended up with Xanthippe winning, he would indeed have won, since I was wrong!

Listener 4369 My EntryFinally, there was the case of the thematic phrase contributed by the extra words: iron seal abbot guns of over debt well asks low kids sees punk on iron loci eases debut. I stared at these words, circled on my copy of the puzzle. If I’d just written them out in a list, it might have been more obvious what finally dawned on me after about 30 minutes: “is a good walk spoiled” was spelt out by the words’ first letters — and completed the title of the puzzle. The comment is generally attributed to Mark Twain, but no-one’s sure.

All in all, a fine game of golf from Xanthippe, thanks, with an excellent grid and excellent clues. Is a rematch on the cards?

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Listener No. 4368, The Name of the Game: A Setter’s Blog by Harribobs

Posted by Listen With Others on 9 November 2015

I first came across the Game of Life (devised by mathematician John Horton Conway) way back in the 1970s and was intrigued by how a simple set of rules could result in such complex evolving patterns. Since the game plays out on a grid, I thought it might make a good subject for my first crossword.

I was originally hoping to construct a scenario which would exhibit the evolutionary nature of the game, but soon decided that the working-out of successive generations would be too laborious for the solver without access to simulation software (although the vetters later informed me that another setter had achieved it on a crossword website a few years ago). So, I settled on simply using the game’s rules to create the word LIFE after one generation. The block letters fitted nicely in the grid and looked well, having no diagonals or curves.

Finding a set of cells which would create LIFE after one generation proved a little troublesome. It’s straightforward to compute the next generation of cells, but trickier to go back a generation. I tried several formations, using a simulator to move them forward, but for a long time the results were just a fraction out — a tweak to fill a gap in one place and an extraneous cell would pop up somewhere else. It took a few days to get the desired layout.

To fill the grid, I concentrated first on the words that were to contain the letters L,I,F,E, splitting some of the bigger blocks with a bar. The initial grid had lots of smaller words, and I moved and deleted bars until word lengths were more acceptable. A word list stripped of L,I,F,E was used to automatically fill some of the lower part of the grid, although it was handy to allow the odd solitary E and I which would be killed off according to the game’s rules. Despite all efforts, the final grid still had three 5-letter words with two unchecked letters, but the vetters generously let them through.

Clues were a bit of a disaster! Since the wordplay results included an extra letter, nearly two thirds of clues were initially rejected because of a Listener house rule — “If the results of wordplay and definition don’t match exactly then link words implying equivalence are not allowed”. So, no “from”, “in”, “becomes”, “makes”, “is”, “gets”, etc. In most cases, the link word couldn’t simply be deleted and the clue had to be rewritten, which took a while. (It would be helpful to us beginners to have any house rules included on the Notes for Setters page!)

The inclusion of the rules of the game in the preamble is an immediate giveaway to anyone already familiar with the Game of Life, and it might have been better to leave solvers to look up the rules themselves, having spotted the creator’s name in the grid. In the end it was considered safer to include them because the Listener’s standard works reference neither the game nor the author, and there might still be one or two solvers in the sticks without access to the internet.

Although the puzzle doesn’t show off the surprising ‘living’ forms which can evolve in the Game of Life, I hope it prompts solvers to investigate the game for themselves.

Peter Harrison

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Listener 4368: The Name of the Game by Harribobs

Posted by Jaguar on 6 November 2015

Been away a while, very busy, yada yada. What’s Harribobs — a name new to the Listener setters’ world — got on offer for us?

Well, there is no sense in pretending that it took me a while to guess the theme. The preamble — with its reference to generations, mathematical rules and some six-letter name for the creator — put me instantly in mind of Conway’s Game of Life. And so it proved, although for all that the gridfill turned out to be quite fun. Extra letters from wordplay is a bit of a standard in these sorts of puzzles, but the clues were fair and unambiguous. A couple of elegant ones too: 4dn “French soldiers plunder America” ([s]poil+US), and 8dn “A notion that is almost profound” (i[e] + dee(p)) being my particular favourites for their crisp surfaces.

But the grid fill itself ended up taking not all that long, revealing the message that confirmed the Game of Life theme, and CONWAY in the grid as anticipated. Now a bit of fiddling, and applying the rules carefully to… well, to cells with the letters L,I,F,E in them. That as least is obvious. Shame it’s so tedious applying those rules, and we can’t expect much out of it afte- oh… the end result is the letters L I F E in the grid. Well done, Harribobs, and I should never have doubted you (a couple of mistakes on my part hid the final outcome for a while but it is correct, and must have taken a while to achieve properly I’d have thought.)

So, an unambiguous and well-crafted ending, and nothing to worry about. Except… well, unfortunately, the instructions tell us to shade the second generation, but the start position in Conway’s game of life is called the seed, or Generation 0. So one iteration would give us the first generation, not the second. An oversight by Harribobs? Or are we meant to highlight the true second generation, the one after the arrangement LIFE? It looks a lot less coherent, but as many point out it’s strictly the correct solution. Ah, well. I’m sticking with LIFE and be damned.


Those who haven’t played around with the Game of Life are well-advised to try to.

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The Name of the Game by Harribobs

Posted by shirleycurran on 6 November 2015

Life by Harribobs 001Harribobs? Not quite a new name as we have his ‘What is the Word?’ in the current (October) Magpie, and struggled to draw that spade in Jake’s Treasure Hunt on Derek Harrison’s Crossword Centre last month but this is a first Listener so I rather anxiously have to confirm that Harribobs qualifies for the Listener Setters Alcoholic Haze Club.

He leaves me in little doubt as after a brief visit to the shopping centre, ‘Dashed small dog attempted to leave shopping centre (8)’ (SMALL CUR [T]RIED less MALL = SCURRIED) we find ‘Many going after American wines (7)’ (Well, who wouldn’t in a mall? We are due to visit the Napa Valley in a couple of weeks’ time and I can’t wait to taste the Zinfandel – my favourite). However, this gentle little clue deceptively leads us to our local stuff [A]MER(ican) + LOTS = MERLOTS.

The boozy clues continue with ‘Will always heading for saloon bars (6)’ ([L]L + EVER + S(aloon) = LEVERS) then, not surprisingly, ‘Drunken centaur emits a belch (5)’ (CENTAUR less A* = ERUCT). The drinking continues with ‘Dry run waived by mounted army? (4)’ ([F]ORCES less R(un)< = SECO) – so Harribobs has started to mix the reds and whites and perhaps not surprisingly we find ‘Top defenders renouncing suggestion of strong alcoholic drinks (9)'(LI[D] + BASTIONS less S(trong) = LIBATIONS).

This crossword is flowing with alcohol –  (see you in the bar next March, Harribobs!) but also with a lovely set of solvable clues and our grid fills steadily with a message appearing: START CELLS HAVE ELEMENT OF LIFE, SHADE SECOND GENERATION. We had understood from the preamble that we were going to play a game with the completed grid and the rules were laid out clearly, though I managed to bungle by adding a generation at the start while the other Numpty, a new man, cooked supper.

Fortunately, he managed to apply the rules correctly and, in the meantime, I cheated and found a simulator on-line that did exactly what he was doing and produced the word LIFE as the second generation. Wikipedia also told me that CONWAY created this game, and, sure enough, almost symmetrically, there he was in our grid.

We had, of course, noticed that there was a minor unching aberration in the initial grid (where SASSY and ESTOP had two unchecked letters out of five) and know that the editors would not let that through without good cause. Now, seeing that astonishingly neat endgame, I was amazed that there were not more unching aberrations and do hope that Harribobs will br giving us a setter’s blog to explain how he managed to perform this feat.

What a stunning début. Many thanks to Harribobs.

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