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Archive for July, 2016

Earthquakes As Well by Tut

Posted by shirleycurran on 15 July 2016

TutRather a long way from home (attending a Greek Orthodox church wedding and baptism) with no ODQ to hand, we were full of trepidation when we managed to get a printed copy of Tut’s ‘Earthquakes As Well’ and to read that extra letters were going to spell out some items that according to a poem were not vital. ‘Earthquakes’ seemed like an anagram of HEART so we decided it was going to be some sort of poem about unwanted love (or could it be about The Last Days of Pompeii? But that thought came later when Lytton seemed to fit into our cells at 1d).

Nothing for it but to solve and that was not too difficult – at first. Of course I had checked that Tut was renewing his membership of the Listener Setters’ Tipsy Outfit and that was speedily confirmed when we slotted RAKI into our grid (Mediterranean spirit, brown from container mostly (4) – Now that was the type of clue the other Numpty moans about, almost a separate clue for each letter of the solution [B]R(own) + A(b) + KI(t) producing an extra B which later concluded the ‘AUTHOR’S JOB’ but not much reassurance  about Tut’s drinking habits).

We were not reassured either by ‘Tortured prose among lots of words about ersatz drink (8)’ giving us GEROPIGA (GIGA around PRO[S]E) which we learned was a port substitute; but “Cheers” anyway, Tut. The other Numpty suggested that Tut should be encouraged to up his act and indulge in a few first class malt whiskies in his next crossword

Solving went full tilt with generous clues that speedily populated our grid. CROWN ROT held us up for a while, especially as it had one of the clashes with BOOKS. BROWN ROT or BROWN RAT seemed likely candidates for the light but neither of them quite fitted the clue ‘Rheum disease peculiar in a vegetable (8, two words)’. Of course, the vegetable was the C[A]RROT around OWN = ‘peculiar’.  The other Numpty had to explain ROYALS to me too: the flags flown at the top of ships’ masts. I liked that clue ‘Beleaguered City further reduced what’s rigged at top level (6)’ leading to [T]ROY + ALS(o).

Then we came to an abrupt halt with just a few vacant cells at the top of our grid and a probable LYTTON at 1d but no justification for that in the wordplay and – consternation, 5 clashes to identify.

Our extra letters had obligingly spelled POETRY MUSIC ART CONSCIENCE FRIENDS: SHADE AUTHOR’S JOB. A hunt in the grid revealed VICEROY so we had our suspect, Bulwer Lytton, but I am ashamed that I have very little knowledge of his writings.

Feeding those key words into Google finally gave us an amusing verse about the dinner hour

We may live without poetry, music, and art;
We may live without conscience, and live without heart;
We may live without friends; we may live without books;
But civilized man cannot live without cooks.
He may live without books,—what is knowledge but grieving?         20
He may live without hope,—what is hope but deceiving?
He may live without love,—what is passion but pining?
But where is the man that can live without dining?


– something to do with LUCILE (so she gave us 2 of our 5 clashes, and clearly COOKS/BOOKS gave us a third). LYTTON had to give us two more and we ‘back-solved’ to get PYTHON. We found this end game tough but, otherwise enjoyed the solve. Many thanks to Tut; we’ll look forward to the next one (with, I hope, an improved taste in alcohol).

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Listener No. 4404: Earthquakes As Well by Tut

Posted by Dave Hennings on 15 July 2016

This week we had Tut’s second Listener, following on from no. 4313 Weak Force with its quark and Muster Mark theme. That was pretty straightforward, and I wondered whether Tut would let me off so lightly this week with extra letters in the wordplay and just five squares with clashes.

Listener 4404My first pass through all the clues was embarrassingly pathetic… so I’ll fast forward 45 minutes. There was a brief flurry of activity with a few more clues solved, but the grid was still looking somewhat dreary.

The bottom right corner in particular was causing me a headache with only BRAE, TIARA and RAKI after a couple of hours. Even a simple (in hindsight) clue like 37ac Wild animal cavorting in bed (4) was taunting me, since I hadn’t come across a DIEB before — it’s a North African jackal. 30dn Underlings no longer plough down in the deep (6) then became clear as SUBS + EA[r].

Before leaving the corner, I noticed that I hadn’t crossed off 43ac Maybe Delphic music came from this pointlessly vulgar, athletic god (7), even though I had blithely entered CITHARA. This was because it was KITHARA, being KITSCH – S (ie pointless) + A (athletic) + RA (god), C being the extra wordplay letter. A close call, and not for the first time recently.

As I was nearing the end of the grid (after about four hours, I think), the extra letters in the wordplay had given me poetry, music and science. However, each of those words had a vast number of entries in my ODQ index — and together in a Google search.

Meanwhile, I still only had two clashes, LATENCY/PYTHON at 1 and BOOKS/CROWN ROT at 22. Although I had been convinced that 15ac Oriental gang, some might say “the crowd” (4) was TONG (rather than HON•) it took me a while to decipher it as T’ [m]ONG. 6ac was also being a nuisance, staring at me as L•C•LE.

Of course, when I realised that the extra letters had nothing to do with science, but poetry, music, art, conscience, friends, part of Robert Bulwer-Lytton’s The Dinner Hour was finally revealed by Google:

We may live without poetry, music, and art;
We may live without conscience, and live without heart;
We may live without friends; we may live without books;
But civilized man cannot live without cooks.

Thus 22dn was CROWN ROT, not BROWN ROT, changing 22ac BOOKS to COOKS. LUCILE went in at 6ac, being the book in which the poem appears. It was not, however, the answer to the clue Voracious yob chopped tree (6) — that was LUPINE, and accounted for the outstanding two clashes in becoming LUCILE (LOU[T] + PINE).

Listener 4404 My EntryFinally, the remainder of the extra letters were Shade author’s job, and VICEROY didn’t take long to spot in the grid. He was Viceroy of India from 1876 to 1880 and it was indeed fascinating to read about the whole Bulwer-Lytton family.

Thanks for a fairly tough challenge this week, Tut.

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Listener No. 4403: No Offence by Artix

Posted by Dave Hennings on 8 July 2016

Artix is one of those setters who, we know, is going to give us a tough challenge. This is true whether setting under his own name, or as part of a consortium. His last Listener was based on British Dames, and I must admit that it seems longer ago than a year.

Listener 4403Here we had nine clues in each of the acrosses and downs which were too long for their entry space and would need a letter to be removed and the remainder treated thematically. Nine other clues contained definitions of the resulting words, to be removed before solving. This left two clues across and two down which had an extra word, and these words and the associated entries would help us identify the source.

There was also space under the grid for more than we’ve ever had to write there before: a quotation (nine words) and its speaker.

Two thoughts crossed my mind: could the hidden definitions be more than one word, and was the thematic treatment as simple (!) as jumbles/anagrams? Only time would tell. I also decided that I would use Mrs B from the start rather than after some of the initial solving had ground to a halt. Artix was too tricky a cluesmith!

12ac Might they offer mentorship in transcription, excluding New Testament? (7) was the first clue I solved, being an anagram of ME[nt]ORSHIP, and looking up teacher in Mrs B gave me SOPHIST and, checking for a similar word in Chambers, my eye landed on sopherim, Jewish scribes. This needed to lose a letter before thematic modification, but there was no way I could see which one at this stage.

Next came 16ac Qualifiers take Murray’s fearsome baseline smashes, knocking one out (8) ENABLERS, with Murray’s fearsome being superfluous to the clue and thus defining a word elsewhere. [This would prove to be UNCO at 9ac.] Next came 26 where L + SEPARATE* was revealed as LAPSE RATE by a friendly anagrammer.

That was the limit of my across success, and the downs weren’t much more help with I WILL, AMNESIA, OROPESA and STEAMER with the second and fourth needing thematic treatment.

Seven or eight clues later (five words that spanned about 50 minutes real time), I solved 32ac SEBESTENS and 34ac WANDER in quickish succession. The later had African antelope that would define another entry. Mrs B has nine lines for types of antelope, and near the end, TSESSEBE was a giveaway for SEBESTENS + N. So anagramming was the thematic treatment. It was a relief that we weren’t dealing with meaningless jumbles.

Some time later, 10ac had rivals as a superfluous word, and I thought that Sheridan’s The Rivals might be the theme, but the superfluous act in 20ac and one soon accounted for the two words that would help pinpoint the source of “the relevant source”.

At this point my money was on Shakespeare, and a scan of the down clues gave a possible Scene five but there was no way I was going to read all the Act I Scene 5s of all his plays, educational though that may be.

This puzzle needed three sessions to unravel all of Artix’s clues. It was near the end of session two, with HORNBLOWER and ADMIRAL NELSON in the grid, that I identified HORATIO and thus HAMLET (or more accurately The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark) as the play we were being treated to. I was happy to read that, and found, without too much difficulty:

Hor. These are but wild and whirling words, my lord.

This explained the thematic treatment, and was followed by:

Ham. I’m sorry they offend you, heartily;
Yes, faith heartily.
Hor. There’s no offence, my lord.

And that explained the title.

The grid was finally finished, and the extra words discarded before anagramming the remainder spelt out REAARERNG across, and TEEPERMIR. I didn’t need any friendly help to spot Rearrange perimeter. I crossed out the letters of the perimeter as identified by the quotation and was left with Horatio himself.

Listener 4403 My EntryI find when solving a puzzle that I get engrossed in individual words and rarely see any connection, unless told by the preamble to look for one. This week, however, as I sat back and admired Artix’s anagramming skills, I was staggered by the words that were revealed:


Read those words out to anyone who knows anything about Shakespeare and they would be able to identify Hamlet as the play. Phenominal!

Thanks for a great treat, Artix.

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No Offence by Artix

Posted by shirleycurran on 8 July 2016

No Offence by Artix 001We know this is going to be no piece of cake when we see ‘Artix’ as the setter. How I struggled with his very first Listener (well, that stunning ‘One Shot at a Time’ was his first individual one though we jointly, with Ilver, as Rasputin had had our Listener début some months before, and, setting with the two of them has not only taught me a lot, in the course of hundreds of email exchanges , but also shown me what deceptive tricks can go into the creation of a clue. – none of my ‘Stripey horse (5)’ for those two!).  Expecting a long haul, we downloaded this and carefully read the preamble.

How did we interpret this? With a degree of generosity, Artix was restricting the use of his device separately to the across and down clues, and the words that were going to emerge (clearly anagrammed) from the letters discarded during manipulations, were also, generously, going to be distinct in the across and down clues – two nine-letter words. Eighteen of the clues in each set (across and down) were going to be composed of nine with hidden definition words and nine where an extra letter had to be removed, probably before anagramming the remainder, to get a different word from the one that was being clued. Original and certainly challenging.

Time to pour the Numpty gin and tonic and scan the grid to check that Artix (whom I know to be somewhat of a wine connoisseur) was retaining his place in the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Outfit. I didn’t find much evidence but assumed ‘Old rustic cask where nothing’s replaced before (5)’ was probably an oak one, aging some quality red. By a stroke of luck, we opted for BARREL with O for A and found that BORREL is an archaic word for ‘rustic’, and with even more luck (and the help of Mrs Bradford) managed to find that a ROBLE is a species of oak, thus justifying the extra words ‘oak tree’ in 21ac.

With that entire barrel consumed, it wasn’t surprising to find ‘Hold one new S African driver, potentially drunk (6)’ producing N + ELS + ON. The only extra word we could find there was ‘one’ and, of course, we later pieced that together with ‘act’ in 20ac, and ‘Scene’ ‘five’ in 3d and 17d giving what had to be the pinpointing of a ‘relevant source’. Even better, those four clues led us to ADMIRAL NELSON and HORNBLOWER. These are both Horatios aren’t they and other words appearing in our grid (MOTHER, DANISH, GHOST, WRAITH, MURDER) were shouting out that this was my favourite play again. Hamlet.

‘No Offence’ was the hint I needed to lead me to that significant exchange between Hamlet and Horatio that helps us understand why Horatio is such a loyal friend right up to the moment when ‘The rest is silence’ in Act V.

  • Horatio. These are but wild and whirling words, my lord.
  • Hamlet. I am sorry they offend you, heartily;
    Yes, faith, heartily.
  • Horatio. There’s no offence, my lord.
  • Hamlet. Yes, by Saint Patrick, but there is, Horatio,
    And much offence too. Touching this vision here,
    It is an honest ghost.

These are but wild and whirling words, My Lord 001‘These are but wild and whirling words, my lord’, says Horatio. Of course, that is what nine of the solutions in each of the across and down sets does. It whirls wildly. So we have the device but have to do that complex task of identifying the rogue definitions and matching them to the words we can anagram or whirl out of those solutions. Slowly we identify ‘the one chosen’, ‘kiwi plant’, ‘rivals’, ‘Murray’s fearsome’, ‘oak tree’, ‘Halifax’s good for nothing’, ‘brilliant art movement’, ‘African antelope’ and wrestling, in the across clues, and ‘bits of Bulgaria’, ‘large dog’, ‘Danes overseas’, ‘Indian protests’, ‘bulb’, ‘local joints’, ‘illnesses’, ‘Scotch pine resin’ and ‘festival’ in the downs.

But what an astonishing vocabulary of solutions and subsequent docked anagrams these lead us to: SOPHERIM, UAKARI, BORREL, SEBESTENS, TSESSEBE, PAYS’D, DONNAT, HARDPANS, KISSEL. Can all of this be English or are we transliterating a peculiar mountain Asian dialect? The eleven almost normal clues in each set happily populate our grid and give us the framework that allows a steady grid fill but, in the four hours it takes, we have hiccups. Of course, there’s the usual Numpty red herring. Feeding SOPHERIM into an anagram solver produces only one word that fits our grid, PROMISE (with an extra H) but that soon proves to be impossible as there is no EA?IAS word to go into 13d. Of course, we needed ORPHISM (a ‘brilliant art movement’) and 13d had to be MANIAS (‘illnesses’).

A full grid and two sets of nine letters to anagram – REAARERNG – obviously REARRANGE (and not ‘red herring’) and TEEPERMIR. This had to be the icing on the cake! PERIMETER, it said and what happened when all those Hamletty words in the perimeter were rearranged? Astonishing! We got ‘These are but wild and whirling words, my lord.’ Horatio. Brilliant, Artix!

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Listener No. 4402, Right and Wrong: A Setter’s Blog by tnap

Posted by Listen With Others on 3 July 2016

Although I’ve set a few crosswords, Right and Wrong was the first one that I’d submitted for publication. It was quite an interesting experience! And it all started about 2 years ago, – such is the gestation period for crosswords.

As is probably the case with setting most thematic crosswords, the hardest part is finding a suitable theme. I happened to stumble across the Edward Waterfield quotation whilst looking in ODQ for something quite different. It immediately struck me as a possible basis for a crossword, as I liked the idea of riddles, right parts and wrong parts. As a mathematician, I’d never heard of Liddell and Scott’s Greek Lexicon – and I have subsequently been surprised by how many people seem to have a copy!

Thinking about how the word Scott (the wrong part) might morph into Liddell (the right part) I realised that, by repeating the words, I could do 35 separate letter replacements. Thus the letters of SCOTTSCOTTSCOTTSCOTTSCOTTSCOTTSCOTT would be replaced by the letters of LIDDELLLIDDELLLIDDELLLIDDELLLIDDELL, and it seemed to me that the obvious way to do these replacements would be in 35 answers in clue order. I thought that the non-repeating nature of the letter clashes would create an interesting challenge, but that there was sufficient information for solvers to discern a pattern. Serendipitously, I had already counted the letters in the lines of the quotation; so the idea of 35 clues giving the letters of the third line of the quotation and also giving 35 answers requiring modification sprung into my head.

All I had to do now was construct a suitable grid. Easier said than done! My initial idea was that every letter replacement would be checked. I tried a few different grid patterns, adding in the necessary (clashing) across and down letters from SCOTT and LIDDELL at what seemed to be appropriate places, and then I tried to fill the grids produced with a combination of manual effort and Qxw. None of these attempts worked – it seemed that there were too many L’s. I also felt I had to use a grid pattern with a high degree of cross-checking to make the crossword fair, but that was of course making the grid fill harder. So then I started adding in letters, one pair at a time. After placing the first 20 or so pairs of letters, I could still easily get a Qxw grid fill, but then things started to get harder. After a process of adding letters, tweaking and re-filling the grid, and using what appeared to be the best grid patterns, I finally got down to 29 of the 35 pairs of letters correctly placed, and options for making the other letter replacements unambiguously at unchecked locations. Not what I’d hoped for, but close enough I thought. I reasoned that if a solver had correctly identified the theme and the method of entry, then replacing the unchecked letters wouldn’t be too hard. And, making a virtue out of a necessity, it would also mean that solvers would have to correctly identify all the clue misprints and the clue-order replacement method.

I then set about writing the clues, on and off over several weeks. I like writing a few clues and then coming back to them later, to see them afresh. I also like my clues to make sense as a mini sentence, but I find that’s not easy when trying to follow the very precise Listener style. Anyway, once done, I handed the whole lot over to a bridge-playing friend of mine, Steve, who used to do Listeners regularly but doesn’t do them so often now. He managed to solve correctly (which was reassuring); he also made a few suggestions for improvements to the clues and we were ready to go. I packaged everything up in accordance with the Listener Notes for Setters and fired off the e-mail in July 2015.

I had been warned that the vetting process would be thorough and that the vetters wouldn’t pull any punches. Yet, when I received the vetters’ comments in April, I was still surprised by the almost forensic level of detail with which every clue was examined and criticized. Despite both vetters saying they thought mine were a fairly good set of clues, many of my original clues had been amended and quite a few had been completely rewritten. I was pleased, though, that my theme and grid had passed muster. And once I was over my initial shock, I could see that the vetters’ amendments had indeed resulted in a fairer and better crossword. So many thanks to the Listener Crossword team!

I have just received the pack of comments from John Green. Another surprise for this tyro setter is just how many people povide a commentary with their Listener entry. Reading through these comments was, however, a heart-warming experience, as virtually everyone commenting seems to have enjoyed the challenge that I set them. It has certainly given me a spur to continue setting. I have a couple of ideas in the pipeline, but nothing concrete as yet – I must get on with it!

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