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Archive for November, 2016

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Posted by Encota on 25 November 2016

Phi’s wit showed immediately in the very first clue¬†(which I suspect Shirley will mention – can’t think why ūüôā ¬†). ¬†It initially appeared like a strong contender for “Pedents Corner”, as it included¬†the spelling ‘whisky’ preceded by ‘Irish’! ¬†But no, of course this was Phi’s gentle way of nudging us into noticing that one or other of ‘Irish’ and ‘whisky’ was out of place and thus a likely word to be removed before solving, as per the Preamble’s instruction. ¬†This was going to be fun!

Aside: I’m currently watching Series 3 of Black Mirror, that brilliant-but-scary Charlie Brooker view of a dystopian near-future tech-laden world. ¬†Some grisly, thought-provoking stuff. ¬†I’m picturing a final scene, with a final decision to be made:

Sit loads: hear last radio. ¬†She also has tried to share dials, as this ordeal is old as Earth. ¬†I herald a toss: “Heads or Tails?”

OK, the above is¬†pretentious garbage. ¬†But one thing that does surprise me about the phrase HEADS OR TAILS is¬†how many plausible ‘anagrammed phrases’ it reveals. ¬†We’ve already seen ‘I HERALD A TOSS’ as the appropriate anagram so cleverly used by Phi down the left-hand-side of¬†this puzzle: for those with a spare few minutes over the weekend (or should that read¬†seconds for this audience?) feel free to try these ones:

  1. Graham Norton maybe (8,4)
  2. The crew’s demise (7,5)
  3. Perhaps three-in-four drastically reduced to one-over-the-eight, say (5,7)
  4. Places to buy specific perennial garden plants (6,6)
  5. Lost the plot?  (4,4,4)
  6. 2001 computer’s minor planet? (4,8)
  7. A possible problem for Fallen Angel? (4,8)
  8. Cut off tall pointed London landmark (7,5)
  9. Didn’t find¬†that prize in Kit Williams’ Masquerade (4,4,4)
    [this one is LOST SAID HARE]
  10. A rare scratch? (8,4) and
  11. What this blog could be named, if only I was paid for it (8,4)


Back to the real subject – this super puzzle. ¬†I know I’m a novice when it comes to Listener crosswords – but is the clue type ‘Two Definitions of Words that differ by only one letter plus Wordplay for only the Common Part’ Phi’s own invention? ¬†Certainly these sorts of clues¬†were new to me and fabulous they were – thank you Phi for introducing me to them. ¬†I do look forward to seeing them in use again sometime soon! ¬†Here’s one example:

Persistent psychiatrist introducing singular punishment (7)

Definition 1 = persistent -> LASTING
Definition 2 = punishment -> LASHING
Wordplay = S(ingular) in LAING (psychiatrist) = LASING

and, as I enjoyed them so much, here’s one more:

Encourages busy store to stock unknown screws (7)

Definition 1 = encourages -> EXHORTS
Definition 2 = screws -> EXTORTS
Wordplay = X (unknown) in STORE* = EXORTS

And there were six more to enjoy, all delightful.

For me, the SW corner went in first, though solving 35ac (correctly) as SEA GODS then immediately entering SEA DOGS was a great way to slow me down! ¬†Luckily it soon became obvious what I had done. ¬†Last quadrant in was the SW: 36ac’s Scots downpour had me thinking it was PLASH not BLASH for ten minutes or so. ¬†Once I spotted BLAS(e) for ‘…unimpressed because of familiarity, mostly‘ then all became clear.

There was one plural not directly provided by my (admittedly slightly older 2014) versions of Chambers, namely 11d’s GIRRS. ¬†The third definition under gird says (Scot): ‘A hoop (also girr)’ but girrs doesn’t automatically appear in my¬†WordWeb Pro version (bought this year) as the plural. ¬†I suspect it’ll be updated soon enough.

I felt Phi had been particularly clever in picking words to fit the two phrases, i.e.
I__H   (IrisH) etc.
Picking either the Head or Tail of each word revealed the two 12-letter phrases: I HERALD A TOSS and HEADS OR TAILS.  The skill here as the setter of course was to pick words that would also fit suitably unobtrusively into the twelve chosen clues Рno mean feat and done here brilliantly, I felt.

And finally, the Title. ¬†Fairly straightforward this week, at least with hindsight: ‘bit’ as a coin helps create a clever¬†pun. ¬†Overall – great fun. ¬†Thanks Phi!

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Listener No 4423: A Bit Up in the Air by Phi

Posted by Dave Hennings on 25 November 2016

Buried Treasure: Postscript

SCENE: The Editor’s office, less than a week ago.

There is a desk in the centre of the room. There is an in-tray on the desk. It has a habit of disappearing, but is currently just empty. There is a clock on the wall. It reads 11:00.

There are two chairs: a big one is behind the desk and a small one in front of it. Editor is sitting on the big chair and Sub-editor on the small one. Both are looking out of the window. The postman walks past and there is the sound of some letters being pushed through the letter-box. More letters follow, then more and finally more. They both go out of the office and return, each carrying a large bundle of letters.

There is now also an out-tray on the desk.

Sub-editor: I see the in-tray has got some company.

Editor: Looks like it might come in handy.

They put all the letters in the in-tray and sit down. Editor takes the first one, opens it and reads it. Sub-editor does the same with the second.

Editor: It’s somebody moaning about Poat’s Buried Treasure puzzle. He says that the solution is unfair, especially as he saw the hare in the preamble but decided that would be too bizarre, even for a Listener. (He puts the letter in the out-tray.)

Sub-editor: This one’s crying foul as well. She says that there is a hare running across the top of the grid in a series of knight’s moves. (He puts the letter in the out-tray.)

Editor (reading the third letter): And this one. He says he saw the hare in the preamble, thought that was very unlikely, and spent another 14 hours trying to find another one in a straight line. Having failed, he highlighted the preamble hare, but didn’t hold much hope. He says that “If you’re not 100% sure, you’re almost certainly wrong” didn’t seem to apply this week. (This letter also goes in the out-tray.)

Sub-editor (reading next letter): Somebody here lifted the LIFT in LIFT-GIRL and highlighted the HARE that then ran along row 5. (Letter goes in out-tray.)

Editor (reading next letter): This solver wonders whether highlighting the preamble would have been marked wrong if we had decided on one of the other ways of highlighting HARE in the grid.

DISSOLVE to clock which now reads 12:45.

Sub-editor (taking last letter from in-tray): This one is from a long-time solver who tilted the letters of HARE in SEARCH AREA in the grid and made sure they were in a straight line, thus fulfilling all the requirements of the preamble. That’s what Dave Hennings did. I thought it was far more stylish than the solution that we went for. I think I said so at the time.

Editor (sneering at Sub-editor): Yes, you did! But at least Dave wasn’t an all-correct having made that laughable mistake with his Yellow Submarine highlighting. Plus, he was a prize-winner with Hedge-sparrow’s John Masefield puzzle. Still, I’ll buy Dave a couple of pints at the next Listener get-together. That’ll make him happy.

Sub-editor puts the last letter in the out-tray, which slowly disappears. At the same time, another letter appears in the in-tray. Editor takes it.

Editor: It’s post-marked next January. (He opens it and reads it.) “Roger, Thanks for the drinks yesterday. I’m still not happy. Best wishes, Dave.”

Any similarity to actual events is just wishful thinking.

A Bit Up in the Air

listener-4423-animationA much easier week from Phi, although he has set some toughies in the past. His last was two years ago with Haydn’s Farewell Symphony and before that, Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast (tough).

The clueing was intriguing. Twelve clues contained an extra word which would somehow yield a phrase and an anagram, and eight clues led to two words differing by one letter, only one of which (obviously) would become the grid entry. (I say “obviously”, but in his puzzle, Poat had decided that both letters should go into the relevant square.)

I enjoyed this second clue type, since the wordplay was to the words without their differing letter. For example, 2dn Australian temple recipe used in function (6) defined STRINE and SHRINE with R in SINE for the wordplay. I got that and the crossing SHARING/STARING fairly early in my solve. I wondered if all the differences were H/T when I got 17ac Encourages busy store to stock unknown screws (7): EXHORTS/EXTORTS and STORE* containing X.

I had my eye on the diagonals early on, especially with ITER‚Ķ running down the NW‚ÄďSE (ITERATIVELY?). However, it was deeply satisfying to finally discard that, and discover that taking the first/last letters of the extra words in order gave HEADS OR TAILS (running upwards in the right half of the grid) and its anagram I HERALD A TOSS (running down the left).

Actually, I’m not sure that this was 100% fair. You needed to identify the theme ‘Heads or Tails’ in order to determine how to use the extra words, but you needed the anagrams from the extra words in order to identify the theme. (Only joking!!)

listener-4423-my-entryI had heard of these anagrams many years ago, but had also, like many things, forgotten them. Thanks to Phi for a fairly gentle and enjoyable puzzle. If you want to read his setter’s blog, it’s already available on his web site Phi Crosswords.

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A Bit Up in the Air by Phi

Posted by shirleycurran on 25 November 2016

phi-a-bit-in-the-air-001Phi? We thoroughly enjoyed his last one, ‘Off We Go’ where the players left the stage one by one to leave just Haydn in the finale of his Farewell Symphony. I wonder whether we will have a musical theme again (we know that Phi compiles the crossword for BBC Music and, indeed, that a 20th anniversary crossword will be appearing in 2017). ¬†We smile as we see a relatively short preamble then struggle to work out what it is telling us (but isn’t that so often the case? The preamble makes sense as you solve or, occasionally, only after solving). At least we understand that we are to find twelve redundant words in clues and some kind of double definitions in eight other clues. There is going to be an anagram which is clearly going to identify the theme for us but, mercy be, no misprints, jumbles, extra/deleted letters or any of those over-worked gimmicks.

Of course Phi retains his seat in the Listener Setter Oenophile Upper House, but I check all the same and he leaves me in no doubt. I’m surprised he’s opted for Irish whisky in his very first clue, ‘Source of Irish whisky is arable land (5)’ but then with a smile, we see that ‘Irish’ has to be an extra word since the clue leads to IS + LAY – Islay, so Phi is behaving like a true Scot.

Only three clues further down we find ‘Greedy types securing most of Indian drink for small amounts once (8)’ PFENNIGS = PIGS around FENN(Y) which Chambers tells me is the same as feni, an alcoholic¬†spirit produced in Goa from coconuts or cashew nuts. A bit of a comedown after the Islay malts but sobeit. Fortunately consumption picks up again towards the end of the clues with ‘Miss supporting German wine (in limited quantity) (5)’ and there’s restraint too, as that gives a single glass G + LASS. Cheers, Phi!

Heads or tails!

Heads or tails!

Whilst scanning through those clues, I admired Phi’s cluing economy, even where we suspected that we had found the clues with ‘two definitions to words differing by one letter, and wordplay for the remainder of the entry, as in ‘Participating in Wagner in Johannesburg,say, with a fixed look (7)’ which suggested SHARING and STARING with word play for SA and RING. The next suspect is ‘Encourages busy store to stock unknown screws (7)’ which gives us EXHORTS and EXTORTS with wordplay STORE* round X giving us the remainder of the words.

Our third find gives us our first pdm. since we have taken note of the title ‘A bit Up in the air’ and suspect that we are tossing a coin. Again we find words differing by an H and a T, LATTER and LATHER in ‘Modern soap trade I should abandon after a reversal (6)’ with RETA[I]L< producing the shared wordplay. So H and T are ¬†the letters that differ and we realize that when we toss a coin, we cry ‘Heads or Tails’.

We find BLASH/BLAST, STRINE/SHRINE, HOSS/TOSS, LASTING/LASHING and CORNIST/CORNISH (yes, there’s as much music as alcohol in this one, not surprisingly!) and those words have produced four clashes in the grid. So what do we do now? We have been highlighting putative extra words as we solved and have produced rather a mixed bag: IRISH, HOPE, ABUSE, ROAD, ACCEPTS, OBOL, RELENTED, AFFIDAVIT, (and a second) AFFIDAVIT, IMPRESARIO, SANDAL, and SET-UPS.

There’s the usual bit of grid-staring, then light dawns. We apply ‘Heads or tails’ to that set of words and, hey presto, we get HEADS OR TAILS and left over, an anagram of those words, I HERALD A TOSS. I do like the way this thematic unity is progressing.

With a full grid, we now have to decide about those clashing letters and to our delight, see that those diagonals, each turning back on itself, spell out the two phrases when we select the correct option. Nice one Phi!

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Buried Treasure by Poat

Posted by shirleycurran on 18 November 2016

poat-buried-treasure-001Poat has been compiling Listener crosswords for over a quarter of a century so I clearly don’t need to worry about his membership of the Setters’ Toping Club but, having read the short preamble of Buried Treasure, I skim the clues quickly to check that he retains his membership card. There is a brief foray into soft drinks at 39 across. I wonder whether that clue is totally fair on overseas solvers who don’t have the pleasure of those fizzy bottled and canned British soft drinks. ‘Relieve dreamer of soft drink to check case in Scotland (4)’ gave us FANTASIST with the FANTA removed.

‘A few pints on us? Volumes (7)’ produces the alcohol with QUART OS so ‘Cheers, Poat!’ obviously sticking with the beer. However, we have queried the rather strange A at the start of the clue and the OS for ‘on us’ and have a faint suspicion that something is going on in the clues as well as in the grid.

Grid-filling goes full tilt, because of some lucky solves of long words, and suggestions from TEA when we have a few letters in place (like COUNTER-FLEURY – the wordplay led us to that ‘Set clue for university entry with charges going the other way (13)’ = CLUE FOR U ENTER* but I still don’t really understand the word). Soon our grid is three-quarters full, though we continue to wonder about rather strangely worded clues. It must have been difficult for Poat, for example, to find a clue beginning with H and finishing with E for BIRD (Hammerhead maybe circling daughter and wife (4)’ = D + RIB<).

The north-east corner takes us longer as we have never heard of JOE BLOW, and even when we find him, we are not totally convinced that he¬†matches with ‘For the average Aussie, a book picked up on the cheap (7, two words)’ Is this &Lit with JOE = average fellow + B = book + LOW = picked up on the cheap?

We have been spotting clashes, often fairly generously clued, as we went along and now the other Numpty solves our doubt about RE AD EV ER ?? ?? RD (I was sure the last word had to be WORD!) ‘THIRD, he announces and that leads us to solve our last two clues YEASTS and HERDEN, to give the letters we need. He sneaks off to prepare the G and Ts and supper while I am left with the fiddly task of spotting all the unchecked letters then reading every third one of them. What do I find, ‘ONE OF THREE CLUE ACROSTICS’.

Of course, I read down the first letters (and last letters) of the clues hoping to find the key and find a red herring. I find CHAL/ LOSS and RILE as four-letter words and, to my surprise find CHAL in the grid too. CHAL is a gypsy, so why would that be the ‘ultimate goal in the search area (four consecutive letters in a straight line)’? What was it we used to repeat ‘If you are not certain that your solution is correct, then it almost certainly isn’t!’

masquerade-001I look again. There have to be three clue acrostics so I take every third initial letter and find THIS GOES NOWHERE/ FALSE TRAIL AGAIN and Eureka! CLOSE BYgolden-hare-001 AMPTHILL. That, of course, is familiar and Wikipedia fills in all the details of that series of episodes that fascinated us thirty years ago. I fetch the book, Kit Williams’ Masquerade, from the basement and re-read it, confirming that our ultimate goal is the golden hare (maybe JACK?) and the grid-staring begins.

And continues … and continues. I can find SEARCH AREA in the grid beginning at the S in the fifth cell but I can find no HARE in a straight line there. I can find ARCH – is that another word for a GOAL? Well, not in Chambers.

There is only one HARE that is four letters in a straight line in the searcH AREa but that is in the preamble. Mr Green is adamant that he wishes those of us who live overseas and enter on home-printed documents to trim our grid with just the address details and one millimetre on each side (and to include a few used postage stamps if we can – that he donates to a charity). He surely can’t be happy if we send a highlighted preamble.

I’m flummoxed and have to admit that this one has defeated me. Many thanks, anyway, Poat for a really meaty compilation.


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‘Buried Treasure’* by Poat

Posted by Encota on 18 November 2016

*which could have been called¬†‘X doesn’t Mark the Spot’.
So there I was, armed with an earlier completed grid for Listener 4422, sitting on the Replacement Bus Service that forms part of the UK’s 21st Century transport network returning me from that day‚Äôs Listener quarterly update, staring at the darn thing, reading and re-reading …”Having followed the trail, solvers must highlight its ultimate goal in the search area (four consecutive letters in a straight line).” ¬†What search area? ¬†I think I laughed out loud when I saw it – esp. the ‘four consecutive letters‚Äô sleight-of-hand wording. ¬†Not¬†too¬†loud a laugh of course; only a¬†few¬†people quietly moved away ūüôā
So¬†my reading of the Preamble is that it is¬†really saying: “Having followed the trail, solvers must highlight its ultimate goal in the searcH AREa (four consecutive letters in a straight line).
And highlight it in the Preamble, not in the Grid! ¬†Let’s hope I am right, or this blog is going to look pretty dopey! ¬†It definitely meets the ‘spec’ of the Preamble.
My next thought was for our esteemed marker. ¬†As many of you will know he appreciates receiving puzzle entries as closely trimmed as possible to the puzzle grid edges to avoid him having to do the same many hundreds of times over – today that’s going to be tricky, I thought!
Back to the beginning. ¬†This was a great puzzle – thanks Poat! ¬†Whenever one reads ‘buried treasure’ or similar in a puzzle then it’s odds on that, in some way or other, ‘X’ will mark the spot. ¬†Nothing wrong with that, of course, but what a delight when that isn’t the case.
And what a trail it was!  Firstly, organise clashing entries to make a phrase of interest: this gives READ EVERY THIRD.
Secondly, the Preamble says to apply this statement to the unchecked letters.  Highlight all such letters on my rough copy and the 3rd, 6th etc of them spell out: ONE OF THREE CLUE ACROSTICS.
Thirdly, acrostics. ¬†I knew that sometimes these were messages sometimes spelt out with first letters and sometimes last letters. ¬†Try both in each clue – nothing. ¬†Try it across¬†every clue, looking at the start of the 1st, 4th,… clues and it reads THIS GOES NOWHERE!
Now the 2nd, 5th,…: FALSE TRAIL AGAIN! ¬†And the 3rd, 6th,…: CLOSE BY AMPTHILL.
So what does that mean? ¬†Many of you will already have been aware of the late 1970s book ‘Masquerade’ by Kit Williams with a built-in treasure trail and real buried treasure. ¬†If not then Grandma Google will help – what an interesting story! ¬†But what was finally buried, close by Ampthill (the book’s final clue), was a (golden) hare. ¬†So, back to ‘Buried Treasure’, and fourthly, now catch your Hare.
I started off assuming it must be in the Grid. ¬†There’s lots of words for hare…
…and was¬†3/4 of every other known word for HARE, including HAR. somewhere in the grid? ¬†I started checking through them and could find:

– BUC(k) in Col. 7,
– HAR(e) in Col. 6,
– MAR[E]A backwards in Row 4
– SCU(t) in Col. 7
– (h)A RE in Row 2
– HA(r)E again in Col. 6…
Is Poat teasing us?  I was almost disappointed that BAUD, BAWD, PIKA & PUSS weren’t there in 3/4 form as well!
But no HARE or synonym.  Now what?  And eventually I twigged Рsee Bus Service above!
P.S. Earlier alternative trains of thought included:
1) I guess someone out there¬†might¬†try and argue that ‚Äėits ultimate goaL..‚Äô‚Äô in the preamble referred to the letter L shape starting with Col6‚Äôs H then going down one and across right one. ¬†Can‚Äôt see how to justify ‚Äú(four consecutive letters in a straight line)‚ÄĚ part of the Preamble there, though. ¬†Discount.
2)¬†Also, starting with the S at 4d one can spell out SEARCH AREA via a couple of routes thru touching cells, finishing on Row 6 heading left thru the double-entry at 24. ¬†Might that be part of the solution, perhaps? ¬†No straight lines again though so highlighting HARE around a reversed ‘L’ can’t count. ¬†Discount this one too.
3) The hare in the original book was called Jack. ¬†Could the J in Row 1 have some relevance? Could the Catherine of Aragon’s monument’s shadow from the original book somehow be recreated in the grid? ¬†Surely too difficult to emulate ‘noon on the autumnal equinox’ in a grid. ¬†Discount.

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