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Archive for Oct, 2016

Listener No 4418: Out of Line by Sabre

Posted by Dave Hennings on 21 Oct 2016

When I sent my solution to Wan’s recent puzzle, I included a note to JEG that I was going on holiday the following Tuesday and, if the next puzzle was by say Sabre or Schadenfreude, I might overrun the deadline. As it turns out, Hedge-sparrow came to my rescue. However, it was a close call… Sabre was waiting for me on my return from Portugal. This was almost exactly a year after his last puzzle with its Tristram Shandy theme.

listener-4418Here, every answer needed a thematic modification before entry. The endgame would need the replacement of some letters that followed them in a theme word which needed to be discovered. My first guess for the modifications was that a letter needed adding, removing or replacing.

As I made my first pass through the clues, I was beginning to think that Sabre was being fairly lenient with us. 1ac CORKED and 6ac HOSIER came fairly quickly, and the obvious anagram at 11ac INTERNISTS encouraged me to continue with the acrosses rather than switch to the downs. Sadly, only another half dozen were forthcoming, but they included ULTRONEOUS and OBJETS D’ARTS, so I felt I was on a roll.

The downs were woeful, and just four were capable of helping me, with only UTTERMOST being of any significant length.

I slowly teased out a few more answers, including the fine &lit at 14ac Styles of calypso, American soul being introduced (5) for SOCAS. Even so, after about two hours the grid was looking a bit sporadic and my only guess for the thematic modification was jumbling. But a whole gridful of them?! With a lot of across answers in the top left, I had a hunch that 4dn For one of rats you need 100 cats, say (8) would help me suss the theme. I could see what the wordplay was trying to tell me, but I couldn’t get it. I decided to put the puzzle to one side for 24 hours.

The following day, and I got TRACTORS almost at once… another great clue (TRAITORS with C for the I). I also finally got 1dn Services black Lada with no momentum when turning in it (6) where I could see that B + LADA – L needed to be reversed, but I thought just ‘momentum’ for L was a bit inaccurate. And indeed it was; how could I think that Sabre would be so sloppy. L was supplied by ‘momentum when turning’ and the BADA didn’t need a reversal but was just in IT to give IBADAT.

All this just made things more confusing, and it was time to take stock. It seemed that every letter in IDABAT clashed with its crossing entries, but that just seemed too extreme, even for a Listener. Even for a Listener by Sabre! A bit of doodling, and finally it became clear. I managed to see that one letter could move to the front with the remainder just being entered in order. In a way they were jumbled, but in a very simple way.

I was on the home straight, except that those of you who come here regularly will know that I’ve said that before, only to be faced with a home straight on a steep hill.

And so it was. A few more hours down the line, and the grid was finally complete. However there were a lot of clues that still needed justifying. I had noticed early on that Sabre had a tendency to put things back to front! For example, 3dn Number without jacket, more than in Perth (3) had me stumped for far longer than I think it should have. I initially guessed it was PIU, being OPIUM missing its first and last letters. Except that would have been ‘in Rome’ not Perth, and ‘more’ rather than ‘more than’. It turned out to be the ‘more’ that was without jacket — N + [M]OR[E] with the definition being ‘than in Perth’.

Some others that had me scratching my head:

26ac RESOLE Veronica’s possible win after reserve is put to last once more? (6)
OLE (veronica being a movement in bullfighting) after RES (reserve)
I’m still not sure how ‘possible win’ leads to OLE
28ac TRAMPER Take time off work, following lead of Tongariro trekker (7)
R (take) + TAMPER (work) – T (time) after T (lead of Tongariro)
31ac FEME Money due keeps woman in court (4)
FEE (due, noun) keeping M (money); another clue with the wordplay back to front!

And finally, the two really devious clues:

18dn BOOM-IRON With intimate embraces beginning to offend Muslim prince (8)
BOON (intimate) around O (start of Offend) MIR (Muslim prince)
WITH is the definition — see Chambers!
20dn DUMPLING Silly billy taking penny from deposit! (8)
DUMP (deposit) – P (penny) + PLING (exclamation mark, yes the one at the end)
now I’ve worked in IT all my life, and I’ve never used the word pling before, yet C says its (comput sl).
And the one that made me laugh out loud: 2dn Notedly at certain intervals, priest for example drops goon on his head (6) for ECCLESIASTIC – ECCLES!

The final bit of work was to identify the theme word. If a letter now on the NW–SE diagonal also appeared in the theme word, it was replaced by the letter after it. So far that diagonal read DIRCO J/E ETPO J/Q R. The clue here was the Q which obviously had to be replaced by U, which meant that the J did as well. Unless there were two Js in the word, the J/E became U as well. So a word with JU, QU and UE in it. As I doodled those three pairings, QUEUE seemed a likely outcome and I didn’t need to cheat to see that JUMPING would follow it. Except that would mess up the I on the diagonal, so it had to be JUMPERS.

listener-4418-my-entryDISCOURTEOUS was the word that described QUEUE-JUMPERS. In my view that’s far too polite a word for them. A quick check of the whole grid followed, and I made sure that I had the correct letter placed in the unchecked square of 24dn SACQUE.

And so another Sabre marathon came to an end. Thanks to him for a tough challenge. It was a simple idea, but perfectly implemented.

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Listener No 4417, HMS Arcady: A Setter’s Blog by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by Listen With Others on 16 Oct 2016

Like many people, I learned and enjoyed John Masefield’s poem Cargoes at school (it doesn’t seem to be taught much these days, so perhaps you need to be of a certain age to be familiar with it). I generally set puzzles on subjects which are of personal interest, and when I was considering ideas for a new puzzle a few years ago, this poem came to mind.

My original attempts to set a puzzle with Cargoes as the theme were nothing like the final result: I remember playing with a grid which had the phrase “smoke stack” entered vertically and the word “salt” going around it in some fashion – I think at first I’d decided to set a puzzle based just on the third verse of the poem – but none of these early attempts were at all satisfactory. At some point, I had the idea of using the various bits of cargo as thematic entries in the grid, and it was as I began considering these more carefully that I noticed that the letter lengths of the various bits of cargo mentioned in verse 2 exactly matched those of the cargo mentioned in verse 3 (ignoring the adjectives “gold” and “cheap” attached to the final bits of cargo in each case). I thought this was quite a coincidence, and it immediately led to the idea of somehow pairing the respective cargoes from verses 2 and 3 symmetrically in the grid, with those from verse 1 being derived in some manner from the clues to make the full set.

I began to play about with this idea, placing the cargoes in different positions in the grid to see how the thing looked. What I certainly never expected was that it would be possible to form symmetrical, interlocking groups of the respective cargoes, but I remember one day experimenting with such a pattern, and being absolutely amazed when it worked. Even more remarkably, there was also an ideal symmetrical position for the respective vessels – “galleon” and “coaster” – to fit in amongst their cargoes. I still think that it is an amazing coincidence that the thematic terms in the second and third verses of the poem can form a symmetrical, interlocking pattern in the way that they do (and still enable the rest of the crossword to be completed with real words, albeit with a somewhat inelegant bar pattern).

With the thematic items in place, I managed to complete the rest of the grid in a way which enabled the poet and poem to be identified from additional letters included in each of the non-thematic across clues. I decided to include the items of cargo from verse 1 as letter mixtures in six of the down clues (I quite enjoy this type of clue myself, though I’m aware that they’re not everyone’s favourite). Finally, the remaining ship could be identified by solvers and written below the grid (with potential confusion over the spelling – “quinquereme” in Chambers, but “quinquireme” as used by Masefield – resolved by specifying the Chambers spelling).

I think HMS Arcady was generally enjoyed by solvers, but there were a few points which (justifiably, I think) attracted some criticism. One was the fact that the wordplay of 23 dn was not justified by Chambers. This is quite true, and was an error on my part: when the error was pointed out, I thought it might have been because I’d used an older edition of Chambers when compiling HMS Arcady, but I’ve checked back and that doesn’t seem to be the case, so I think I simply made a mistake. Another issue raised was the fact that, once the theme and therefore the thematic entries had been identified, filling the rest of the grid was very straightforward. Again, this is true, and I was aware beforehand that this would be the case, but I was so pleased with the symmetrical nature of the grid, with all the thematic items in place, that I didn’t want to change it (sorry!).

The main point of contention, however, was the inclusion of the wordplay-only clues for the thematic entries, which several solvers indicated were not necessary for solving the puzzle. HMS Arcady was compiled a few years ago, and I felt at that time that there was a desire amongst solvers – perhaps more than there is now – to be able to solve puzzles completely using only Chambers, their own general knowledge, and the information contained within the puzzle, without having to resort to the internet or even a trip to the local library. Since there were likely to be solvers who didn’t know Cargoes, or at least not well enough to be able to list all the items of cargo, I felt that the inclusion of thematic clues (which would at least enable confirmation of thematic entries, even if the clues were difficult to solve “cold”) might be necessary.

Later, however, when HMS Arcady came up for publishing, I’d changed my mind, and actually suggested to the Editors that the thematic clues could be removed. Quite understandably, they were reluctant to do this at such a late stage (they had already vetted the puzzle), so the thematic clues remained. Although a number of solvers found this a bit of an irritant, I still hope there may be some who did find them useful for confirming the thematic entries.

One final point of interest about HMS Arcady, which I don’t think anyone noticed (not surprisingly, as it’s a bit obscure), is the title. The title “HMS Arcady” is intended to suggest the “ship” theme of the puzzle, particularly the quinquereme and the Hellenistic era evoked in the first verse of Cargoes. But “HMS Arcady” is also an anagram of “March days”, as used in the phrase “mad March days” in the third verse of the poem.

As ever, I would like to express my thanks to the Editors for their help and encouragement in getting HMS Arcady ready for publication, and also to John Green for the amazing job he does in checking Listener entries, compiling statistics, and not least passing on to setters comments he has received from solvers. These are always welcome, either as sources of encouragement, or as the means by which errors and flaws can be identified and (hopefully!) avoided in future Listener submissions.


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Hardy’s Cam?

Posted by Encota on 14 Oct 2016

So Shirley and Dave will have explained the real business – but what else might we have hiding in this content-packed puzzle entitled ‘HMS Arcady by Hedge-sparrow’?  With the eighteen thematic entries spread in groups of six across the three ships this grid and its clues pack in a serious amount of thematic info.

Perhaps the anagram of ‘HMS Arcady by Hedge-sparrow’ is placed there secretly to start the discussion: ‘Why Chambers pay Roger’s dad’?  Or perhaps not (only kidding!) – it won’t be true and it makes no sense…

Or perhaps the Trinity mathematician G.H. Hardy has famously re-enacted ‘Cargoes’ on the river behind the College, including a scale-model quinquereme with its five banks of oars glistening in the morning sunlight and Nineveh nestled by the Wren library?  No, “Hardy’s Cam” doesn’t seem the most likely of anagrams of ‘HMS Arcady’.

[(c) David Gruar: Wren Library.  Walter Battiss: Quinquereme]

Ah, how about the poem’s third stanza:

“Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,…”

…so it’s ‘March days’ gone mad.  And with a ship and an Arcadia feel to it too – pretty neat.


[(c) Rachel Markwick.  What a clever stamp collage – worth Googling for more]

Seeing those lines above gets me wondering if Hedge-sparrow also considered ‘dirty’ as a potential alternative anagram indicator?  If ‘British coaster’ was now the anagram fodder then perhaps ‘His Basic Retort’ might have described Masefield’s third verse after the opulence of the first two?  There must be better.

Returning to quinqueremes, many of you will know that Chambers features bi-remes, tri-remes and quadri-remes as well but quinque- is as far as it goes.  It also seems to be confident in its definitions about the numbers of banks of oars in most of them but seems to lose its nerve slightly with quadriremes – have a look for yourself and see if you agree.  [‘Perhaps with it being the only non-prime amongst them then there are likely to be more design options’, no doubt you are thinking…]

There were at least a couple of words where I paused this week to double-check I had the appropriate definition that matched the wordplay – 5d’s SPIAL vs SPYAL and 23d’s AMEER vs EMEER.  Easy to check but especially 5d with its unchecked middle letter looks like a possible cell where one might slip up.

Enough of my nonsense.  Superbly constructed grid and a really enjoyable puzzle overall – thanks Hedge-sparrow!

Tim / Encota

P.S. I also came up with the alternative nautical Title: “Salty jib and binnacle?” which might have applied to the galleon at least, based on an anagram of all 58 unchecked letters less “CARGOES”, JOHN MASEFIELD OM, POET LAUREATE.  Good grief!

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HMS Arcady by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by shirleycurran on 14 Oct 2016

cargoes-masefield-001We began by highlighting the unclued lights in Hedge-sparrow’s HMS Arcady. We soon realised that they were symmetrical and we also realised that there were rather a lot of them – long words, too, which meant that the average length of the solutions to clues that we had to solve was fairly low. I like that, as, unlike our new blogger, Encota Tim, my favourites (as a pretty second-rate Numpty solver) are the relatively easy Listener puzzles and, when there are lots of unclued lights, the clues to the others obviously have to be approachable. Indeed, the short solutions are often the ones that cause the most head-scratching but they didn’t give us too much pain in Hedge-sparrow’s compilation.

We had been solving for about twenty minutes when TIN TRAYS and PIG-LEAD appeared and led us at once to John Masefield’s Cargoes.

Quinquereme of Ninevah

Quinquereme of Nineveh

Quinquireme of Nineveh from distant Ophir,
Rowing home to haven in sunny Palestine,
With a cargo of ivory,
And apes and peacocks,
Sandalwood, cedarwood, and sweet white wine.

Stately Spanish galleon coming from the Isthmus,

Stately Spanish galleon

Stately Spanish galleon

Dipping through the Tropics by the palm-green shores,
With a cargo of diamonds,
Emeralds, amythysts,
Topazes, and cinnamon, and gold moidores.

Dirty British coaster

Dirty British coaster

Dirty British coaster with a salt-caked smoke stack,
Butting through the Channel in the mad March days,
With a cargo of Tyne coal,
Road-rails, pig-lead,
Firewood, iron-ware, and cheap tin trays.

Slotting those evocative words into the unclued lights was great fun and in a few minutes, the grid was full. A lucky guess put the GALLEON and COASTER in the right places and we realised what the jumbles we had been highlighting had to lead to. There was a moment’s panic when we saw that Masefield misspelled his ship QUINQUIREME, but, of course the compiler and editors had foreseen that issue and told us that we had to adopt the Chambers spelling of the word we put below the grid. The solution to ERNE made it clear, too, that we should ignore Masefield’s spelling of AMYTHYSTS.

After completing our solve, an hour or so later, I used different colours to highlight the contents of the GALLEON and of the dirty British COASTER as we were delighted to find that those cargoes were grouped.  When we had worked out the six ‘consecutive jumbles’ from the down clues, we had a third neatly grouped rather exotic cargo for the QUINQUEREME. Yes, by then we were back-solving as we knew what we were looking for: peacocks, ivory, cedarwood, sandalwood, apes and sweet white wine.

Did I say ‘Sweet white wine’? That was a lucky find (anagrammed to ‘when we tweet is it’) as Hedge-sparrow had me seriously worried with regard to renewal of his membership of the Listener Setters’ Toping Outfit. All my initial scan through the clues had produced was ‘Departs, overcome by suspect brewskis (4)’ At first we suspected that the SKIS of BREWSKIS was going to be one of the consecutive jumbles but an urban dictionary told me that BREWSKIS is slang for BEERS, so the clue was probably most appropriate, leading to SUS. around D = SUDS, another slang word for beer, and, of course, I know what coasters are used for! So here’s Hedge-sparrow mixing the wine and beer – and ‘sweet white wine’ from some Ninevehan Quinquereme – worse and worse! There’s a German saying for that isn’t there? ‘Wein auf Bier, das rat’ ich dir. Bier auf Wein, das Lass’ sein’ (First beer, then wine, you’re fine: first wine then beer, oh dear!) Cheers anyway, Hedge-sparrow. See you in the bar.

I loved this solve and was mixing a sweet G and T to celebrate when I realized that we hadn’t even glanced at the ‘Thematic‘ clues. We attacked them and found ourselves seriously challenged, even though we knew that they had to give us emeralds, iron ware, diamonds, tin trays, cinnamon (that was the tough one CAMO around INN + N), firewood, amethysts, road rails, topazes, pig lead, Tyne coal and moidores (as they did, in that order). So yes, it was an easy solve, but with a sting in the tail for those who took on that final challenge. Most enjoyable, thank you Hedge-sparrow.

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Listener No 4417: HMS Arcady by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by Dave Hennings on 14 Oct 2016

Last time, Hedge-sparrow had us trying to remember the collective nouns of various creatures, and before that we had to draw a fairly accurate map of the Thames from Oxford to Kingston, courtesy Three Men in a Boat. This week we seemed have a nautical theme.

listener-4417Lots of things were missing from the clues: from all the acrosses, just one letter, but from six down clues, a whole jumble of thematic items. The across letters would spell out an author and a poem. Twelve items in the grid were provided by the Thematic clues, but they were in random order and clued in pairs. Finally, a Thematic word had to be written below the grid. A lot was going on here… no wonder it was a 14×14 grid.

Hedge-sparrow seemed to be very generous with his across clues. 6 JUDAS, 13 IRID, 14 ELBA, 20 ARNA and 21 RAFT were quickly slotted in. Frequently, I would blithely carry on with the across clues, but I couldn’t help but glance at the dropped letters from the five I’d already solved — J•HNM•S. Well, JOHN was obviously there, and I had a sneaky suspicion that MASEFIELD was the likely author.

Two poems from my school days immediately came to mind: The Listeners and Cargoes. The former was unlikely for two reasons: firstly, it was too long to fit with the number of across clues, and secondly, it was by Walter de la Mare! So Cargoes it was, and I wrote the remaining letters of Masefield and Cargoes alongside the corresponding across clues.

If I still smoked, I would’ve sat back in my chair, lit up and felt smug. As it was, I just felt smug.

As I took another puff on my imaginary cigarette, I tried to remember all the items in the poem. I stubbed it out impatiently after a couple of minutes as only five came to mind. (Well, it was over 50 years ago, and no, I won’t tell you which ones.)

After that, it was a fairly straightforward solve. Even the GALLEON and COASTER were easy to spot. However, I thoroughly enjoyed disentangling the six thematic items from the down clues:

1 Bird of prey pecks acorn for younger one in its nest (4) PEACOCKS
4 When we tweet, is it about fashion? (3) SWEET WHITE WINE
15 For Ivy, blocking free trade is not so sensible (6) IVORY
19 A codeword ready, trimmed in advance? (8) CEDARWOOD
25 French copper downloads a short film (4) SANDALWOOD
39 Sprawling seaport on island prominences (4) APES

QUINQUIREME was soon written under the grid, and I just needed to understand which thematic clues went with which of the other boats’ cargoes:

A Space age boys firing a pistol fight on Earth EMERALDS and IRON-WARE
B Retiring girl on date is little Rachel, wearing shades DIAMONDS and TIN TRAYS
C Cursory disguise concealing ancient lodge to North East in conifer plantation CINNAMON and FIREWOOD
D Advanced drunkenness — time for one sad old Rector to get thrown out of bar! AMETHYSTS and ROAD-RAILS
E Old man’s into cards: devil to play first TOPAZES and PIGLEAD
F Be lost in Rannoch pass over a wild moor-side TYNE-COAL and MOIDORES

All done and dusted in under 90 minutes. All that was left was to reread the preamble. Shock horror! I nearly missed it: “The thematic word (11 letters) associated with these items must be written below the grid, in the Chambers spelling” (my bold). I looked the word up in Chambers and found that it was spelt QUINQUEREME. Luckily I could change my second I to an E without too much trouble.

listener-4417-my-entryThanks to Hedge-sparrow for an entertaining, if easy, puzzle. Not for the first time, I had the suspicion that the subject of a Listener puzzle knew that his or her poem was going to be used as a theme — just look at the symmetry that H-s managed to organise in the grid! However, I look forward to a setter’s blog to explain the title.

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