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Archive for December, 2015

Five One-time Pads by Poat

Posted by shirleycurran on 25 December 2015

PoatNot too many clues here and we soon established that there were five unclued lights as well as a three-word unclued phrase at 1ac. There was a sigh of relief when we saw that the clues were normal with no extra letters, omitted letters, words skipping from one clue to another, misprints, jumbles or any other of those Listener staples that I love to grumble about.

Of course I checked Poat’s continued membership of the Listener Setters’ Tipsy Club and he barely crept through the door with only ‘Filthy sink, apply cold water to one in pub without end (6)’ (C + A in LOCA[l] = CLOACA) – is some inveterate boozer having cold water poured over him? Then ‘Short measure  backing little volume with old plain face (5)’ (what a clue! OZ< + CC + O = ZOCCO, a plain face on a plinth). However, there were some queer relationships in the surface readings of Poat’s clues: ‘Best mate’s strong feeling when hugging bishop (7, two words) (Might round RR = MR RIGHT) and ‘Prisoner and topless warder grew together way back (9)’ (CON + [s]CREW + ED = CONCREWED)

An enjoyable set of clues, all in all and we quickly had an almost full grid with some doubt about YELLS at 36ac. ‘Thematically, you’d get offer from patsy with these encouraging cries (5)’. This was where we really paid attention to the preamble and the other Numpty did a quick calculation and announced that indeed, if you alphanumerically added YELLS and PATSY, you got OFFER.

We had five words and five ‘pads’ of four letters each (well, no, actually we hadn’t yet sussed what that H?NT ?L? CA?RE? at 1ac was telling us, so one of our pads had only three letters. There was just enough to go on and we carefully did our alphanumerical maths coming up with:

ULEMA  SDYIF   OOAOJ  ESLYC   SSCNR                                                                                                                                                                                               BURGE  SSBLU  NTMAC  LEANP  HILBY

Yes, I’ve cheated there and jumped the gun as there was a bit of head scratching before those four infamous names appeared and, of course, led to ARNOLD DEUTSCH as the ‘associated talent scout’ (which anagrammed into that rather uncomfortable ‘HUNT OLD CADRES’ – a new use, for me, of the word ‘cadre’ – ‘a group of activists in a revolutionary, orig Communist, party; a member of such a group’, according to the BRB). TEA had obligingly produced THE CAVERN CLUB as a potential 1ac and I had been toying with the idea that Beatles were somehow going to emerge from those encrypted words!

The fifth name had to be CAIRNCROSS but, even though I had looked up CATTABU half an hour before in Chambers, I was still red-herringed into thinking that the STONES of ‘RIBSTONES’ had to be the cairn and that a five-letter cross would somehow appear in the grid. It was only after supper and a couple of glasses of red that light dawned and I was able to highlight BARP CATTABU.

Nice one Poat. Many thanks.


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Listener No. 4375: Five One-time Pads by Poat

Posted by Dave Hennings on 25 December 2015

Poat’s last Listener, Christmas Break, was almost a year ago and commemorated the Christmas truce of 1914. As Christmas 2015 approachced, the Hennings household was in turmoil with decorators ripping out my bathroom and making a hell of a noise doing it. Periods of quiet during the daytime were at a premium, so I ended up tackling Poat’s puzzle a full week after publication. And Poat can be tricky!

Listener 4375Since the preamble had “one-time pads” in quotation marks, I assumed that it had some significance, and a quick google revealed it to be an encryption technique. That was exactly what the rest of the preamble explained. I gave it no further thought… until later.

Only five unclued entries, but some encoding once the grid was complete. So, step 1… complete the grid. After about 40 minutes scanning the clues in order, I had a fair smattering of entries. These included 2dn Guy embraced by Nina Simone, which looked unsatisfactorily like SIMON, but a check in the back of my 2011 Chambers confirmed NASIM. I also liked the innovative 30ac Contra(di)ction that insanity delivers at intervals (4) for ISN’T, and 32dn Mark with a hard smack! (4), MWAH, simple and misleading.

I have to say that this wasn’t quite as tricky as I thought it might be, and solving continued apace. I was slightly perplexed by 1ac which was a “three-word phrase to be completed at 1ac, descriptive of the solver’s task”. This looked as though it was trying to be HUNT THE CARROT, but not even Google had heard of that.

I was pleased to get the delightful 37ac with only three letters to help me Lay with considerable success about Scots pollack and sole, extremely lemony (13, three words), and then couldn’t stop whistling ONLY THE LONELY for the next half-hour.

One mistake that I made was with 36ac Thematically, you’d get offer from patsy with these encouraging cries (5) where I stupidly entered YELPS instead of YELLS. Thus, when the grid was finished, I had the following encryptions:


For a few minutes, nothing jumped out at me, but as I wrote the last bit of encoding in my notes (from 36ac) — PATSY + YELLS = OFFER, giving NTMAC (not NTMEC), MACLEAN jumped out at me and I was home and dry. (Don’t ask me why I didn’t get it from BURGE or HILBY!) We were dealing with the infamous Cambridge Spy Ring of BURGESS, PHILBY, MACLEAN and BLUNT.

A couple more tasks before the puzzle was complete. First, I tried to identify the “associated talent scout” who was an anagram of 1ac which was now H·NT·L·CA·R·S. The first sentence in the Wiki entry I read was “The Cambridge Spy Ring were a ring of spies recruited in part by Soviet scout Arnold Deutsch…”, so 1ac was HUNT OLD CADRES, a cadre being a member of “a group of activists in a revolutionary orig Communist, party”.

Listener 4375 My EntryThe suspected fifth member of the group was John Cairncross, so a bit of highlighting of entries for Cairncross was required. CATTABU at 34ac was obviously the CROSS, which left the cairn to be identified. 5dn was CARE, so that could give CARE ‘n’ CROSS. Not very satisfactory. Of course, the preamble’s wording was important to resolve my problem: two entries “in the final grid” needed highlighting. I created a new much neater grid which would be my submission. CARE became CARR, which was even more unsatisfactory, but a check with Chambers for BARP, previously CARP at 33ac, revealed that to be the cairn.

Not unexpectedly, this was an excellent puzzle from Poat, so many thanks. And thanks too for having Roy Orbison running through my head as I wrote this blog.
Happy Christmas, everyone.

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Listener No. 4374: A Tester Laid Out by Salamanca

Posted by Dave Hennings on 20 December 2015

Oh dear! A couple of days late this week, predominantly due to Christmassy stuff, but also one wedding and a funeral.

Listener 4374If memory serves me right, Salamanca is one of those quirky setters, up there with Waterloo. You’ve only got to look at the title of his last Listener to agree with me, I think. That was no. 4174 back in January 2012: The Dentures of Sherlock Holmes. (There was also an EV back in 2009 with the title Spinneroosms.)

This week, we had a title that was obviously an anagram, and Shirley was to be at home with an ‘asti-related’ theme. Four equal-sized groups needed to be identified, and I wondered how big those groups would be. Well, Group A consisted of unclued entries, and a quick check of the grid revealed that there were four, so sixteen thematic variations in total. Group B consisted of wordplay only, Group C needed adjustment before entry, and the Ds needed pairing. Remaining clues had an extra wordplay letter that would help in some way.

1ac Mom saw her son off (12, two words) was pretty obviously part of Group B, but, along with 3 and 17, it wasn’t in Chambers, so I guessed an anagram solver wouldn’t help. (Also, 36 was in earlier editions, so was either a first name or one of the notorious greyed out entries that were accidentally dropped in the 2014 edition.)

A dash through the clues, and six acrosses and six downs were slotted in, including INNER TUBE and UNRATTLED. Additionally, 24 SOT and 31 SOLE were Group D clues since definition and wordplay agreed, although what the two words could have in common (apart from S and O) was a mystery.

I didn’t zip through this puzzle quite as quickly as a couple of recent Listeners, but the solve progressed at a steady pace. EUPHEMISM and TAUTOLOGY were the first unclued entries to be identified, followed shortly after by HYPERBOLE. So they all seemed to be words for figures of speech, with only 1dn eluding me for the time being.

I finally resolved 3dn and 4dn. The former (not in C) Some vacuous design heading for album’s liner notes? (5, two words) was SIDE A; it took some time to realise that most of the clue was the definition, with S[E] + IDEA being the wordplay. 4dn was good old WC (Fields) + S (succeeded). These two enabled me to decipher the anagram at 1ac as MEN’S WASHROOM. Together with LOO at 22ac, that gave me three toilets. THUNDERBOXES at 40ac would eventually prove to be the fourth. It was at this point that the penny didn’t drop.

Two more appeared with the Group D clues: SOT, SOLE, TIT, TILE, paired to give two anagrams of TOILETS. Still no penny drop!

It is a shame that I haven’t got a smutty mind. Oh, wait… I have. But sadly TS Eliot didn’t pop into my head. That would have to wait until the message spelt out by the extra letters from wordplay: Take and read even letters of title: a TeSt ErLaId OuT. (Sadly no asti, Shirley.)

Listener 4374 My EntryNearly there. 1dn MEIOSIS was the final unclued entry, which Chambers gives as ‘understatement as a figure of speech, litotes (Rhetoric)’ which explained the relevance of that group, ‘litotes’ being another anagram of the author. Moreover, the Group C clues (RAITAS, STAITHS, ENMITY, OOBIT) were where I had to obey the asterisked clue at 31dn and STOLE ‘IT’, the final anagram.

And of course the title to be entered under the grid was Four Quartets, one of Eliot’s best known works (together with his Cats).

All in all, a fun and enjoyable puzzle from Salamanca, thanks. Didn’t I say he was quirky?!

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A Tester Laid Out by Salamanca

Posted by shirleycurran on 18 December 2015

Salamanca TS Eliot 001An interesting title there (remind me not to volunteer to test-solve any of Salamanca’s). Of course we attempted to anagram it or parts of it and came up with nothing at all. It was a lot later that the extra letters in the message suggested a different way to decipher it, though, since the lower half of our grid filled up first (as did, I am sure, most solvers’) we soon saw LETTERS OF TITLE spelled out. The upper half took longer.

We had already murmured about the complex preamble that told us that four groups of solutions were thematic grid entries in equal-sized sets of variations. Counting the unclued lights told us that these were going to be groups of four so we knew that we were hunting for four quartets. The penny should have dropped with a thud at that point – but it didn’t – despite my having almost learnt the work off by heart when it was a set text at A Level. Instead, I was anxiously scanning the clues to confirm Salamanca’s renewed membership of the Listener Happy Quaffers’ Club, and, of course he gave evidence at once: ‘Heavy drinker – accordingly head to throb (3)’ (giving SO + T(hrob) = SOT) followed by ‘A quiet drink where burnt-out remnants fall (6)’ (A + SH + PI[N]T = ASHPIT) and later a sort of tippler’s moan, ‘Drinks dispenser – provider of glasses a quarter short (5)’ (OPTIC[I]AN less AN = OPTIC).

Our grid filled quickly and soon the lower half was complete, with the exception of the last letter of 38ac RAA?. This had to be RAITAS but the word play spelled out RA + AS, so was IT the ‘common omission’ that together with STOLE (‘Didn’t pay for posh ladieswear (5)’) explained the variation. The penny still didn’t drop, even when we realized that IT was also extracted from OOB[IT] ‘Expression of disapproval upset a shabby type (3) (BOO reversed), ENM[IT]Y (‘What comes before O good grief? Bitterness (EN + MY) and STA[IT]HS (‘Embankments on the Tyne raised square 37s (5)’ (HATS were the subject of 37 so that gave us S HATS<).

Four figures of speech, MEIOSIS, HYPERBOLE, EUPHEMISM and TAUTOLOGY had leapt out at us as our grid filled, and now we found MENS WASHROOM, THUNDERBOXES, LOO and WCS (I rather liked the reference to W C Fields in that one!) Thus we had three of our groups and when 2dn gave us an extra V (‘Stick up profitless number (6)’ CUE< + [V]AIN = EUCAIN) we finally worked out that it was ‘even’ letters of the title that would give us the name (TAKE AND READ EVEN LETTERS OF TITLE). There it was: T S ELIOT, which had anagrammed to those TOILETS, produced a figure of speech, LITOTES, added IT to STOLE in another anagram, and, as we now realized, paired off SOLE with TIT and TILE with SOT.

I like the way that this all came together in the end. Thank you, Salamanca.

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Semirp by Kea

Posted by shirleycurran on 11 December 2015


WallIn Silicon valley assisting during the arrival of a new granddaughter, the Numpties were pretty busy with toddler gym and toddler swimming, as well as decorating a bedroom wall with a seascape, and not looking forward to the last numerical of the year.

Finding nothing in those sparse clues to justify Kea’s continued membership of the Listener Setters Tipplers’ Club (but we can’t really expel an editor, can we?) I continued to paint clown fish and handed over to the other Numpty, as usual with the numericals.

A numerical with only six ‘real’ clues? With fifteen lettered lights, and another seven letters just lobbed in for good measure? Economy seems to be the order of the day, even the title giving nothing away as it reflected the terse preamble!



Marooned in America without the comforts of our Tables of Quite Interesting Numbers, The Book of Data or my fifty year-old Mathematical Tables we were discouraged at first but with a web table of primes and a bit of scribbling, clues O, H, A and D succumbed (but I kept confusing my reversed primes and primes!).

The restrictions on neighbouring digits and the quite tight constraints of clues H and I led to a grid fill after a couple of sessions interrupted by our two year-old grandson and his week-old sister. This was a puzzle whose economy of clues reminded me of the one where the setter had ‘lost’ all the across clues, but which was still solvable. Thanks for this interesting challenge, Kea, milder than the digital nightmare we had been dreading for the year’s final numerical! A great stellated icosidodecahedral cut-and-paste origami puzzle is probably in the works somewhere, I fear…

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