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Archive for September, 2016

Listener No. 4415: Right and Left by Ploy

Posted by Dave Hennings on 30 September 2016

Ploy’s last puzzle was less than a year ago and had Big Ben as its theme. Drawing the bell through all the necessary squares and no others caused me problems, not only in the solution I sent to JEG, but also in the animation that accompanied my blog. I hoped this week’s puzzle wouldn’t cause me similar problems.

listener-4415Here we had a Right and Left puzzle with a grid that was interesting, not least because it had a great big gap gouged out of its centre. Ten of the nineteen double clues had a word that needing moving before the clue could be solved, their initial letters spelling out what the central space was and a comedy duo.

There was no point in starting with the top row, since that was given by synonyms of extra words in three clues, (4,3,4). 1, 2 and 3 down would hopefully make two of those words obvious. 1dn-2 was a simple anagram of ‘use love’, EVOLUES, and I slotted it into the left side of the grid. Next came 2dn-2 IDEATE, and a quick scan of the intersecting across clues gave me 7ac-1 SMETANA.

Unfortunately, I now had only one letter on each side of the top row, so I decided to try the four 10-letter entries. I only got SANITISERS and put that down the right side of the grid. The anagram of GIANT DRAIN would have to wait. UNRENT, SPY, SEMINAL and IOTA all went neatly into the left.

Most of the left was completed in about forty minutes, but it looked as though I had the sides the wrong way round since the top row began EG•E and it was more likely to be EDGE.

It was interesting that having just one or two letters in an entry enabled me to focus on the appropriate half of the clue leading to it. Even so, the remainder of the grid took me much longer than I had anticipated. Even if I could see the answer, some of the clues needed careful analysing to be sure there weren’t any hidden surprises. For example, 10ac Ignore dying interest in people without a will – properties for some of those flogged for a single purpose (7) led to ESTATES and ONESHOT, the latter wordplay being ON + THOSE* where ON was a dialect word for ‘of’. Also, 8ac Estimates veteran cars bringing in money from Asia: not just one, by the sound of it, a hundred (6) had ‘not just’ as the definition for WANTON.

In the top row, I had WIND (defined by ‘burp’) and EDGE (‘border’). At first I thought that the third extra word was the ‘Figure’ from 1ac which might give WIND ONE EDGE, but I finally managed to put that with ‘square dance’ to define DOS-A-DOS. That left ‘wiseacre’, but no 3-letter word came to mind.

However, the initial letters of the moved words in the clues gave A door and Fands. Obviously that last bit had to be taken as F and S, but initial thoughts failed to bring a comedy duo to mind. Two minutes later, and don’t ask me how, but Flanders and Swann popped into my head. I had already spotted HONEYSUCKLE AND BINDWEED climbing up the grid, and a bit of research revealed an F & S song with the relevant words:

The fragrant honeysuckle spirals clockwise to the sun,
And many other creepers do the same.
But some climb anti-clockwise, the bindweed does, for one,
Or Convolvulus, to give her proper name.

Rooted on either side a door, one of each species grew,
And raced towards the window-ledge above.
Each corkscrewed to the lintel in the only way it knew,
Where they stopped, touched tendrils, smiled, and fell in love.

This is the beginning of a song entitled Misalliance which Ploy obligingly wove into the clue to 7ac, although I suspect that didn’t help anybody. When I came across the window-ledge, OWL was the final piece of the jigsaw, defined by ‘wiseacre’ and was slotted into the middle of the top row.

listener-4415-my-entryThanks for a very enjoyable puzzle, Ploy. Drawing the two plants climbing up the grid turned out to be a bit tricky, but significantly easier than Big Ben from last time, so extra thanks for that.

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Right and Left by Ploy

Posted by shirleycurran on 30 September 2016

right-and-left-ploy-001Of course our first reaction is “What an unusual grid! Whatever can it be?” We try to guess but are soon distracted by the clues whose solutions fall out so quickly that we have to start grid-filling and leave that odd vertical central shape for later.

There is no need at all to confirm Ploy’s continued membership of the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Outfit as he so kindly organises the gatherings of Listener lovers every three months (on the last Sunday of January, April, July and October at the Metropolitan just outside the Baker Street Tube Station). However, with growing concern, I scan his clues for a gill of proof and find ‘spirit’ and ‘drug’ but the wrong kind. ‘Racing vehicle is a game of skill and spirit — right/’ giving GO KA RT and ‘to imagine drug agency in position heading off’ DEA is [s]ITE giving IDEATE.

Hopefully I read on and find a clubhouse: ‘Row unskilfully? Man and boat capsized going around clubhouse’ – but this isn’t the nineteenth hole – no, it’s CAT + CH + BARCA< = CATCH A CRAB, so we are in the rowing-club house. There is still hope that we might find the strong stuff: ‘Ideal situations in work time – before noon I served up/ tea with all of deli crackers to get nearly euphoric. We move the ‘nearly’ forwards in this one and produce OP + T + AMI< = OPTIMA, then, from the second clue, TEA + DEL* = ELATED. So Ploy is getting euphoric on tea and deli crackers. I am almost in despair as I approach the final clue – and there is his evidence! ‘Small (moved forward) Individual starts to suffer nerves in personal/ difficulties taking up drink’ (Initial letters SNIP and ‘ados’ reversed SODA) Taking up drink indeed – I suppose that was whisky and soda. See you in the bar, Ploy!

A lucky guess about where to enter the first few clues we solve soon helps us fill our grid and we spot WIND OWL EDGE which seems to give us WINDOW LEDGE and is confirmed by extra words we are highlighting as we solve BURP, WISEACRE (Mrs Bradford tells us that can be an OWL) and BORDER. If that is a window ledge, could that rather narrow, high shape be A DOOR. Those words seem to be emerging from the initial letters of words that are moving within clues.

Right and Left

Right and Left

The other letters produced by moving words seem so say FINDS, so that, with a full grid, we begin the head-scratching. We need a comedy duo and that doesn’t seem to suggest one to us (though it should have done – as soon as we spot those climbing plants we realise that it is F AND S). Fortunately that last instruction is more helpful; In each side of the grid, solvers must draw a thematic line notionally passing through 11 cells, but interrupted by the three starred ones.’ I read upwards and downwards and with a hoot of glee find HONEYSUCKLE AND BINDWEED. That rings a faraway bell and the Internet soon confirms the memory.

We laugh out loud as we listen to the lyrics and realize how appropriately they fit this compilation (and how Misalliance, the title, was so subtly hidden in a clue). Then I take my green highlighter and draw my two climbing plants. What exactly does that strange instruction mean? Chambers tells me that ‘notionally’ means ‘in idea, not in reality’ and ‘interrupted’ means ‘broken in continuity’ so I do just that with my plants presumably passing behind some trellis or pillar. Great fun, thank you, Ploy.

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Right and Left by Ploy

Posted by Encota on 30 September 2016

I’ve recently been encouraged by shirleycurran to post some of my (what she calls ‘quirkier’) Listener solving experiences here – so here goes!  As an aside I’ve been solving cryptics since a teenager and am beginning now to get some puzzles published under my pseudonym Encota.  I’ve loved attempting to solve The Listener for some time but only started sending them in after a fortuitous meeting with Roger, one of the Editors, last December.

What an intriguing and innovative puzzle – thanks Ploy!  Putting the first pairs of answers in I was lucky to guess right (or was it left?).  Spotting which words needed moving within clues was hard in places; the three to be removed appeared fairly quickly which, combined with generous checking, meant that the WINDOW LEDGE was relatively quickly fitted into place and it felt like everything was heading towards a speedy completion.

However, in finding the comedy duo I did end up going through this scary train of thought:

1) Early on, Column 6 seemed to have ‘Wee Boy’ hiding between the Stars.  Surely The Listener hasn’t stooped to defining ‘The Krankies’ as a comedy duo?  What about the Trade Descriptions Act? (Do I need an ‘allegedly’ here?  I’m new to this blogging lark! I think I’m allowed to share personal opinion!)

2) Once the WINDOW LEDGE appeared, I thought about the funny Pete & Dud sketch sometimes known as ‘Film Stars’.  You may recall it?  The one where the semi-naked Greta Garbo is (supposedly) hanging by her fingertips from the WINDOW LEDGE outside Peter Cook’s bedroom window.  Could it be this perhaps?  Is this why Stars have been chosen?

[Aside: available at time of writing on Youtube at

I always love watching Dudley Moore trying (and often failing) to keep a straight face!]

Looking more closely at Columns 6 & 12, the spacing in them below the WINDOW LEDGE is in the form  — — – downwards, i.e. G in Morse Code.  Two of them make GG, one of Greta Garbo’s nicknames!  This looks very promising!

However, only ten cells are being used in each column, so it can’t really be right as the Preamble says 11, even though I’d dearly like it to be, and I’m not quite sure it’s Listener material (though hopefully closer than 1!).  Has Ploy included this as planned misdirection?  With The Listener I am never sure!!  I look forward to a Setting Blog, should one appear!

3) So the F and S appearing in the Down clues most likely does refer to those two Westminster School chaps (rather than Dawn and Jennifer, another possible planned piece of deception?).

A bit of investigoogling leads to ‘Misalliance’ (which, incidentally, is neatly included in 7a – respect!), so HONEYSUCKLE AND BINDWEED must be the two 11-letter clockwise and anticlockwise upwardly spiralling thematic lines each side of A DOOR.  Not too sure about the ‘interrupted by’ bit of the Preamble but it must be right…(doh, just got this ‘interrupted’ bit – they are regularly passing behind something – a pillar or similar!)

I was desperately hoping that, given the ‘dual’ nature of the puzzle, that BOTH (2) and (3) were going to be right simultaneously.  However, on re-reading (and re-re-reading) the Preamble, I simply couldn’t make (2) fit as well.  The ‘interrupted’ bit seems to fit the Morse Code idea as well as the spiralling, but I couldn’t successfully modify the ten moved words for this idea to work, for example.  The more I look at it though, the closer it looks.  Why else Stars, for example – unless simply part of 2’s deception?  I’d love to hear if this was at least partly in mind when setting!

Great fun – very enjoyable!

Tim / Encota

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Quads II by Shark

Posted by shirleycurran on 23 September 2016

Shark Quads IIB001Shark! Well, he usually lives up to his pseudonym and this is sure to be a challenge, but a most enjoyable one too. I am expecting rather tough clues so am surprised when many of these are most approachable. Naturally I have checked Shark’s continued membership of the Listener Setters’ Toping Outfit and, of course he doesn’t disappoint as he even opens his clues with evidence. “Starved following drunk losing weight (6)’ gives us F [w]ASTED – and, becomes WASTED (thoroughly drunk) in the endgame.

Then we find ‘Serve stupefying drink in front of the Italian …(5) …restaurant from hostess counter (4)’ giving us AVA + IL and TART inverted = TRAT. It’s not surprising after that AVA and the TART turning up in the TRAT, he says ‘After knocking back fizz I’m behaving like a schoolgirl (7)’ (We found an extra S there) HISS IM gave MISSI[S]H. Next we find ‘Handle draughts? (7)’ Mrs Bradford suggests DISCUSS to us, and indeed, there it is in Chambers under Handle. Shark still hasn’t finished! ‘Gentlemen organised orgies (7)’ we are told, and it’s those Italians from the TRAT again – SIGNORE*. LSTO membership confirmed – See you at the bar, Shark (or sipping from another Ascot Gold Cup).

I rather like carte blanche challenges, especially when there is no rogue sneakiness and the clues simply slot in as soon as a grid is established, and this was the case here, so that we soon (about 90 minutes) had our first full grid with no doubt at all about any of the solutions. That is a rare state for us. What was even better was that as we solved, the other Numpty had been saying ‘Those letters are going to spell FOURTH DIMENSION’. We had a total of 21 extra letters and were not sure of all of those but fifteen conveniently spelled out those two words so with great trepidation (as we know this Shark has teeth) we began to search for forty cells that we could blacken out – 20 in the top and twenty in the bottom half of the grid, since we were told that we were going to construct a grid with 90-degree symmetry.

Shark 40 cells removedIt was far easier than we expected (famous last Listener words! Why, oh why, after all these years, have I not learnt to read every letter and comma of the preamble?) After about ten minutes we thought we had the desired second grid. Doesn’t that look lovely! – and those desired words are exactly where we thought they should be.

It was fairly obvious that we couldn’t divide that into four pieces of the same size and shape that were anything other than quadrants, so I drew my lines and sat back smugly and began to look for length, breadth, height, and time – the fourth dimension.Wrong grid 001

I’m including these pretty pictures as a kind of lesson to myself. The grid staring went on for just as long as we had taken to solve the original crossword and got me exactly nowhere. It wasn’t until almost the stroke of midnight that I realized where those four words had to be (in the diagonals) and spotted the problem.

Actually there are two problems. Look at the four sides of the grid! The instructions are very clear. ‘The grid now has 90-degree symmetry and all entries are real words.’ (The italics are mine.) In my rush to finish, I had jumped a stage and had odd words like ‘SERVERSORE’. I had also highlighted the wrong I at the start of dImension. Numpty, READ THE PREAMBLE!

Shark Quads IIc with dimensionssSecond time round, of course, it was straightforward and this time the words were evident, and produced lovely changes, like SORELY becoming SORELL, Shark becoming WASTED or thoroughly drunk, in the place of FASTED or STARVED, a MODEL-T replacing MODELS and NAVAJO turning to NAVAHO (of course, if we had needed a hint, that was it! Who would choose NAVAJO to clue with that fearsome J if an ETAOIN SHRDLU letter was available?).

This was typical Shark – so much included in the grid, delightful clues and real smile moments like that astonishing clue to DEMENTIA where all the extra letters have to be extracted leaving only ETA, producing ‘Upset about condition of upper storey (8)’ (ATE<). There was, of course, a rather naughty clue; we laughed at ‘Wall Street office would be protective if attached to New York (4)’ JOHN(NY). A fabulous piece of compilation that left me feeling very frustrated with my solving skills – and a little bit ‘upset about condition of upper storey’. I can understand how Dave felt about his little blue port-hole in Nudd’s Yellow Submarine a few weeks ago. Lovely – thank-you, Shark.

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Listener No. 4414: Quads II by Shark

Posted by Dave Hennings on 23 September 2016

Shark’s last Listener was Quads which had us turning one quadrant of the completed grid to overlay another and then filling the empty cells with all the original entries’ initial letters. Here we had no. II, and the preamble seemed to indicate a somewhat entertaining endgame. The clues, however, didn’t seem to hold too many surprises with the wordplay not indicating one of the letters of the entry. We were even told how many such letters there would be (15) but that might mean that thirty clues were affected.

The only real problem seemed to be that we were faced with a carte blanche, so I decided to start my attack in the north-west quadrant.

listener-4414I failed with the first four acrosses, so moved on to the downs and was rewarded with 1 Fractions shift ground (6) for FIFTHS, so one F wasn’t wordplayed, but which one. Both were checked, so time would tell. In fact, only a minute later told, with 1ac Starved following drunk losing weight (6) giving FASTED (intact) and 12ac Reads about DJ’s controls (6) for FADERS (without its F). Actually it needed SEDANS at 3dn to help with FASTED (F + WASTED – W).

The remainder of the NW corner was finished pretty quickly. The south-west wasn’t quite as straightforward. However, I enjoyed the clue to 24ac After knocking back fizz I’m behaving like a schoolgirl (7), even though it would be some time before it was revealed as MISSISH.

I also made faltering progress with the north-east corner… oh, and the south-east as well. In the NE, I liked 11ac Flipping toffs’ mode of transport (4) for SHAY and in the SE it was 27dn Hard area of Liverpool, ultimately not so hard (6) that caused a smirk. I would probably still be struggling to understand that clue were it not for Ken Dodd, with KNOTTY ASH – AS (so) H (hard).

However, no prize for guessing which was my favourite clue since you should know how my mind works by now: 18ac Wall Street office would be protective if attached to New York (4)! The trickiest clue was probably 32ac Upset about condition of upper storey (8) since only three letters were given by the wordplay: ATE< from DEMENTIA. There was also the reference to Harry Potter in the clue to SNITCH at 6ac — something to do with Quidditch, I think.

I finished Stage 1 of the puzzle in about 2½ hours. The 15 letters not given by wordplay were FOURTH DIMENSION and I scoured the grid for DOCTOR, TARDIS, MASTER and DALEKS to no avail.

Stage 2 required us to black out 40 cells, keeping the 15 letters intact and with the grid having 90-degree symmetry. 60 cells could instantly be marked as remaining, and it didn’t take too long to identify the rest, especially with words like DISCUSS and THEISTS which could be due for topping or tailing later.

Stage 3 just required us to divide the grid into four pieces of the same size and shape and keeping real words. It seemed that we were given a choice for the two letter entries that would be left in rows/columns 2 and 11. ITA, EMO, RET and OBI could become IT, EM, ET and BI, except that ET wasn’t given its own entry in Chambers, only as part of a phrase. That left TA, MO, RE and OB to be left as the two-letter words.

listener-4414-my-entryNearly home, and Stage 4 required us to change two letters in each quadrant to reveal four thematic words. On first reading of the preamble, I had thought this might be the tricky bit, but it didn’t take me long to see that WIDTH, HEIGHT, LENGTH and TIME needed to appear inwards along the diagonals. My biggest d’oh moment was trying to work out what the hell MODELT meant!

Great fun as expected from Shark, and a fascinating concept for a puzzle. I look forward to another Quads in the near future but hope that it hasn’t given Sabre an idea for Quins or Octs!

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