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Archive for December, 2016

Classic FM Tracks by Aelfre

Posted by shirleycurran on 30 December 2016

queen-bohemian-rhapsody-aelfre-001Aelfre – a new name to us but Dave’s database tells us that he has had four previous Listener crosswords over a five-year period starting 27 years ago, then none since then. Of course I have to check that he still qualifies for his entry to the next cheery Listener ‘raise your glass event so I scan the clues, astonishing myself as I solve several instantly in that speedy skim through, and finding that there is no TT problem here. ‘Chinese etc, for instance, are found in what were once pubs (6)’ gives us A in AS INS = ASIANS and a few clues later Aelfre is enjoying his red in those pubs, ‘Rarely pour back wine with enjoyment in it (6)’ giving us FUN in RED = REFUND. Cheers, Aelfre!

Indeed, this was a speedy grid fill, starting with those ‘arcs’ with which we quickly ran rings round the grid. We had to check that an END is a region, and that ENID is in Oklahoma (Region around Independence, a place in Oklahoma), that JASS (J + ASS) was an old term for jazz (Ancient gutbucket, say, wanting joint for dope), that VAGI was the plural of VAGUS (Very active soldier’s nerves V + A + GI) and that AZAN (the returning half of NAZARETH) really was a name for one of those Muezzins’ calls (five times a day, Chambers told us!) but soon our grid was looking good and several of the radials were already almost self-evident.

What caused us problems there? We needed to check of RAPHIA, LEGLIN, IGNARO, APTOTE  and ON SONG, then our grid fill was nearing completion with just that penultimate line of a song and some key characters to find. Of course we realized that it had to be a song as one of those scratches had told us that EMI completed the label. (I shamefacedly admit that when I downloaded the grid from the Times Crossword site, I thought they were a bit of editorial carelessness and that a couple of stray hairs had been allowed to dirty the image.)

Well, we had NOTH?NG REA?LY MAT?ERS TO ?E and despite my appalling ignorance of just about everything since the Beatles, that said something that was soon confirmed by Wikipedia which gave me the lyrics of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and filled the gaps in that third ring from the outside with SCARAMOUCHE, GALILEO and FIGARO. It is still early on Friday evening and I am sending Aelfre a silent vote of thanks for providing us with a bit of gentle fun that has left us time to cook dinner and enjoy the pre-pre-Christmas weekend.

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Listener No 4428: Classic FM Track by Aelfre

Posted by Dave Hennings on 30 December 2016

Aelfre (as Aelfre) had his last Listener back in 1994, but (as someone else) appeared in November last year with a TS Eliot theme. This week, we had a gramophone record to complete… how quaint. Only twenty radials, and of the variety where no entry shared letters with a neighbour.

listener-4428-fmMy initial reaction was “Not another LP that will trip me up… like my woeful Yellow Submarine entry”! In a way, I hoped that the title would lead us to a piece of true classical music although the requirement for a BAND in the centre made that unlikely.

The radials went fairly well, with REUSED, ENCODE, ASIANS, HAMLET, IGNARO, ORCHEL and HEROIC. These were followed by about half of the Arc clues which were all four letters. After that, the solve went fairly quickly, although several clues needed careful deconstruction (I think I like that word). For example:

4rad LEGLIN Nigella nearly stewed in Ayrshire bucket on ravine
NIGELL(a)*, def ‘Ayrshire bucket’, LEG (on, as in cricket) + LIN (ravine)
9rad MALONE Cheers boss, Sam Beckett’s moribund character?
2 meanings: US sitcom Cheers character Sam Malone; Beckett’s eponymous character from Malone Dies
22arc ERAS Times mostly scratch a monster’s head off
def ‘Times’, ERAS(e) (scratch, mostly), (t)ERAS (monster missing first letter)
43arc SCAT That is in dropping of savage (not male)
SC (that is) AT (in), def ‘dropping’, SCATHE (savage, vt) – HE (male)
Aelfre seemed to like definition + double wordplay.

listener-4428-my-entryWhen I saw what looked like FIGARO in arc 3, I wondered if my suspicion about the theme being a true classical piece looked plausible. However, working back in that arc revealed GALILEO trying to make himself known (as well as SCARAMOUCHE), and we had Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen as our classic Freddie Mercury track. The penultimate line of the song in ring 1 reads NOTHING REALLY MATTERS TO ME. This is, in my view, one of the greatest songs and, over forty years after its release, still gets significant air time.

Thanks for a gentle puzzle Aelfre and an excellent theme, commemorating the 25th anniversary of FM’s death at the age of 45.

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‘Classic FM Track’ by Aelfre

Posted by Encota on 30 December 2016

‘A Night at the Opera’ – and other Queen albums (and, by chance, the re-runs of the brilliant Marx Brothers’ film) – were part of my formative years, so this puzzle proved very gentle.  For me at least, a solve without investiGoogling is a relative rarity!


Possible festive conclusion: “Ha ha ha ha ha! You can’t fool me! There ain’t no Sanity Clause!”

The band of course was Queen, the Freddie Mercury (FM) -penned track was Bohemian Rhapsody  (noting the Title said Track not Album) and the label EMI (though see discussion in PostScript below!).

There was though a surprising mix of clue and definition level of difficulty.  Everything from:

         Cheese produced around here (4)   MADE< , i.e. EDAM …

…through to one definition being:

         Undeclinable noun …(6)

…one of those ones you either know or (in my case) the Big Red Book helps you with – i.e. APTOTE…

…and the one that I suspect may catch at least one person out:

         Ancient gutbucket, say, wanting joint with dope (4)

…with JASS as an obsolete version of JAZZ (of which ‘gutbucket’ is a form)
and formed as J ASS..  If someone is desperate I’m guessing they might ‘stoop’ to a TASS in error, perhaps?  Or maybe it was only me who thought of that at first look.

I loved how (at least) two Clues were designed to have the Definition at neither the beginning nor the end – a real rarity!  They are in the form <Wordplay1><Definition><Wordplay2>:

         Nigella nearly stewed in Ayrshire bucket on ravine (6)

with the Scottish milk-pail arrived at by NIGELL* first and the charade LEG LIN second.

Another is:

 That is in dropping of savage (4)

with the dropping reached via the abbreviated charade SC. (that is) and AT (in), and also by the deletion SCAT(he) (v.t.)

Another nice touch was the ‘initial’ mention of Freddie Mercury himself in the title as FM – sweet!

Great puzzle Aelfre – many thanks!

And finally, given the Title, the idea of <Wordplay1><Definition><Wordplay2> clues, and returning to a theme of previous weeks, how about a very dodgy Bohemian Rhapsody-based clue:

      Found Title of this nobody and his map in Masquerade (also bizarrely means hydrophobia) (4)
Happy New Year to All.
Tim / Encota
Heard from Stage Left:
  “Silence in Court!!!”
Updated argument 1 (the case for EMI!):
– the two scratches highlight the characters EMI, twice;
– being scratched out twice does refer to the fact that Queen’s label has changed twice over the years from EMI, thru Elektra to Hollywood’s (i.e. Hollywood Records);
– the (semi-)redundant words or phrases in the clues that spell out NOW (8radial) PART OF (15radial) HOLLYWOOD’S (41arc) – reassure you that the setter knows the Label required in the answer, though EMI, has changed;
– (NOW) PART OF HOLLYWOOD’S MOORE also (doubly) refers to the fact that the answer, EMI, also appears in the answer to 41arc, i.e DEMI;
– the Title refers to Classic FM (Freddie Mercury) Track, hence we are talking about the original label and not a more recent incarnation, hence it is EMI
– and the size of the final box offered for adding the Label could easily have been made larger but wasn’t, hence it is EMI
So the answer is EMI.
Updated argument 2 (the case for Hollywood, or Hollywood’s!):
– the two scratches highlight the characters EMI, twice;
– being scratched out twice does refer to the fact that Queen’s label has changed twice over the years from EMI, thru Elektra to Hollywood’s (i.e. Hollywood Records) (since there was a third one in 41arc that could have been ’scratched’ too but was not, so two scratches is important);
– the (semi-)redundant words or phrases in the clues that spell out NOW (8radial) PART OF (15radial) HOLLYWOOD’S (41arc) – let you know you are on the right track when you are doubting EMI as the answer – and in fact it blatantly confirms that the answer you are looking for is HOLLYWOOD (records).
– the puzzle date …plus the Preamble reminds you that you are in the present day (the latter by referring to the 2016 version of Chambers)  – so you are being nudged towards giving a present-day answer.
– and the size of the final box offered for adding the Label would have given away that the answer wasn’t EMI if it had been made much larger, hence, in the tricky world of The Listener crossword, it must be HOLLYWOOD.
So the answer is Hollywood.
“I rest my case(s) for both the Prosecution AND the Defence, and await judgement” 🙂
BTW, I found Argument 1 the slightly more convincing – and went with that one!  What have I missed?

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Listener No 4427, Shut That Door!: A Setter’s Blog by Bandmaster

Posted by Listen With Others on 25 December 2016

My wife’s love of advent calendars supplied the inspiration for this puzzle – not advent calendars with sweets or gifts but the traditional paper calendars with drawings behind each window. It struck me as serendipitous that the large double windows opened on Christmas Eve (and thus marked “24”) coincided with the placing of X (for Xmas) in the alphabet. I was unaware that some modern advent calendars run all the way to Christmas Day itself – I still think that is the exception rather than the rule.

I then wondered if it was possible to construct a carte blanche where the only marked items in the presented grid were the window numbers, requiring solvers to draw something appropriate (e.g. Xmas tree) in the window marked 24. This could have been done with the grid eventually used, but there was no satisfactory way of doing this without making the theme too obvious from the start.

At this point I decided to present the puzzle the other way round by asking solvers to substitute numbers for the objects drawn in the advent calendar – and that led to the thought that each object could begin with a different letter of the alphabet to generate the 23 numbered windows of an unopened advent calendar.

Having got that far, I spent some time trying to generate a list of suitable objects (i.e. those with a Christmassy feel and yet part of longer words), with K, M, Q, U and V all presenting some issues. Myrrh was the obvious M, but did not fit into longer words, and I didn’t want to use Mary because I needed Virgin for V. That left Magi, which meant I shouldn’t use K for King, but in the end I had to concede on this point despite the inelegance. For the intractable Q and U I decided to use Quince and Urn – not ideal but not completely inappropriate either. Some letters offered lots of possibilities, so I armed myself with a list of candidates and started the grid fill.

If the two central squares were to be the double doors, to be marked 24 as the final step by solvers, then a symmetrical grid (absolutely required for a carte blanche style of puzzle) dictated that the number of rows was odd but the number of columns even. Given the need to incorporate 23 “special” squares, I thought the grid would have to be at least 13×14, giving just less than 2 specials per row and column.

I started by placing the most intractable entries (i.e. the ones for which there was little choice, such as the pair of JOSEPHs and the pair of QUINCEs) and slowly and methodically worked through the permutations. It took almost a year (!) to arrive at the final grid – at one point I wondered whether it was possible at all, but the discovery of VIRGIN GOLD made a huge difference, squeezing two specials into one corner and taking a surprising amount of pressure off the remainder of the grid.

With the grid finally completed, it was time to turn to the clues. In several other puzzles I have used the device of signalling normal entries with abnormal clues and leaving normal clues for abnormal entries. I decided to use that again, and quickly found a suitable phrase of the right length of letters to be indicated by the initial letters of redundant words.

The clueing was the usual process of finding a good idea and then polishing, polishing, polishing……while also checking that the same clue type wasn’t used too frequently or in too many successive clues. I then (as is my habit) put the puzzle away in a drawer for four months before coming back to it relatively cold for a fresh look. At that point I felt brave enough to submit it for publication.

The admirable editors of the crossword made a number of really good suggestions for improving the preamble and clues – my thanks to them and also to the tireless John Green who vets all the answers and keeps the statistics. We owe all of them a debt of gratitude, as we do to those who maintain the LWO site on which you are reading this blog.

A merry Christmas to all and a happy and peaceful New Year, too

Dec 2016

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Shut That Door by Bandmaster

Posted by shirleycurran on 23 December 2016

shut-that-door-by-bandmaster-001The title coupled with the date should have suggested this theme to us immediately but we were too busy gasping at the number of clues and the carte blanche grid to give it a thought and the p.d.m. came much, much later (not, in fact, until we had spotted that De Quincey and Peter Quince were two of our solutions – and which twisted parent puts a quince behind one of the doors of the Advent calendar – I ask you!) I remember that Bandmaster was the winner of the Ascot Gold Cup for the best Listener crossword of the year not too long ago (but was absent for the presentation, perhaps modestly not expecting that honour, so that Enigmatist accepted the trophy on his behalf). So this crossword is likely to be a stunner.

Fortunately these were pretty generous clues. While I was scanning to confirm Bandmaster’s festive right to his ticket of entry to the Listener Setters’ drinking jollies (he’d better be there next year!) the other Numpty solved a dozen of them. Did Bandmaster earn his admission? Of course! ‘Mineral with vermouth imbibed by empress (11)’ gave ‘it’ in Josephine – JOSEPHINITE. Shortly afterwards Bandmaster was ‘Caught with alcohol? I’ll get beaten (9, two words)’ snared + rum = SNARE DRUM. (My favourite clue was the one that intersected with this one in the Advent calendar, ‘National champion crows preposterously (6, two words)’ producing murder< = RED RUM – what a beautiful reverse clue). Sadly, it was a drum that appeared behind that door, not a measure of rum!

Mixing the vermouth and rum,  the next alcoholic clue was not surprising,  ‘Torch (quarter missing) lit with alcohol (6)’  FLAMBE. Then we had ‘Drink found around eastern frontiers chiefly (5)’ where kir went round E F(rontiers) introducing a new drink to me KEFIR – bubbly eastern stuff. Indeed Bandmaster was mixing things with ‘Glutton consuming a measure, I swear (8)’ By God around ell, giving BELLYGOD. By the time we got to opening door 23, I was expecting at least WINE, if not a measure of WHISKY and was rather disappointed to find just a Christmas WREATH. Cheers, anyway, Bandmaster!

The elusive golden hare

The elusive golden hare

That door H was rather disappointing too. I was convinced that the editors must have sneaked a golden HARE under that No 8 door and I am sure that is what Dave and Tim will have expected but it was not to be – just a sprig of prickly HOLLY. But joking apart, when we had realized that those extra letters were spelling ADVENT CALENDAR NOT OPENED and begun to spot the items that appeared in across and down solutions and could be entered as the relevant numbers, my admiration for Bandmaster’s compilation was enormous.  It was no mean feat to construct a grid with 23 items converted to digits, each incorporated twice within the clues.

Of course, once we had understood how to enter the 40 or so clues we had cold-solved, the grid fill became a pleasure as the symmetry rendered the completion of the lower half less of a struggle than it might have been otherwise. We are rather addicted to symmetry, aren’t we, and, indeed, without it, this would have been a nightmare as some of those items in the lower half of the grid were unexpected – the ARECA NUT, BOX BED, KEFIR and SEA ROBIN, for example.

What else did we find in this rather mish-mash of Advent items? ANGEL, BELL, CANDLE, ELF, FIR, GOLD, IVY, JOSEPH, KING, LAMB, MAGI, NUT, OX, PRESENT, ROBIN, STAR, TREE, URN, VIRGIN and of course XMAS behind door 24. What a lovely compilation. Thank you, Bandmaster.

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