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Archive for January, 2017

Listener No 4432: A Sign of The Times by Schadenfreude

Posted by Dave Hennings on 27 January 2017

One of the crossword world’s more prolific setter’s faced me this week. (For those of you who don’t know, he sets his EV puzzles under the pseudonym Oxymoron.) His last Listener was based on Buridan’s Ass with its carrot-chomping donkey (no 4363 Demolition).

listener-4432-animI don’t know whether maintaining the Crossword Database helped, but the first thing I noticed was that the The of The Times in the title had a capital T, so obviously referred to the newspaper. I’m sure there was a crossword way, way back that had The Times clock as its theme. That appears on the editorial page and reads half past four. Anyway, that hardly helped at this stage of the puzzle.

28 clues (out of 48) had an extra wordplay letter. In the remainder, the answer would not occupy all the cells and would need completing once the theme was discovered.

As expected, on my first pass through the clues I got precious few. (OK, OK… it was a multiple of 2!) I think I probably sped through them too quickly, as about half an hour later, EMPTIER and TRYP (for a 7-letter entry) plus TOPI and INURED meant that the top left corner was looking good. Musing on TRYP again, I found TRYPSIN shortly after it in Chambers, and the S would make INURED become INSURED. Moreover, in the top right, DIETERS could become DIMETERS. Meanwhile, the wordplay for 1ac, which was ENTREES was a mystery.

The top right was also developing well with MULSHES, STELA, MEDACCA and SCHOLAR, but the solve was far from speedy. The extra wordplay letters were also to no avail, being very sporadic… not to mention wrong for some clues! For example, 45ac Guarantees succeeded by being unconditional (7) I had as ENS + (s)URE + S rather than (p)URE.

Two clues that I only parsed when the grid was finished were that pesky 1ac Determined learner going over courses (7), being [b]ENT + SEER< and 2dn Nut in contact with navy fabric (5) for N + IN(t)O + N — I’d forgotten that n was another form of en, plus I thought the in contact with was given by ON. All in all, a bit of a pig’s ear!

It struck me that there was an awful lot of geography in the across clues, including Germany, Austria, Greece, Swaziland and Australia, plus, closer to home, Norfolk, Sussex and Barking.

listener-4432-my-entryEventually I had Both literal parts of coat of arms spelt out by the extra letters. With help from TRYPSIN and the likely SQUIDS at 6dn, I managed to find the required mottos fairly quickly and, on picking up the Saturday copy of The Times, there they were staring out at me from the top of the front page: HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE and DIEU ET MON DROIT. My only disappointment was that there was no Lion, Unicorn or Buckle in the grid.

Thanks for an enjoyable puzzle, Schadenfreude. As expected, this wasn’t an easy solve and took me the best part of three hours for the grid and another ten minutes to track down the highlighting.

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A sign of The Times by Schadenfreude

Posted by shirleycurran on 27 January 2017

schadenfreude-honi-soit-001The title gave everything away didn’t it! The capitalisation of The told us that we were dealing with some newspaper of other that a number of us subscribe to just to get the Listener crossword and others buy only on a Saturday. Did we spot that? No! But we did see the name Schadenfreude. He challenges us once a month in Cam and gave us a C grade crossword in the current Magpie (say no more – it is still current but you can subscribe to the Magpie if you don’t already do so and receive six more Listener-style crosswords each month ranging from some that are easier A standard and some like the December set that even went to E level).

We didn’t spot that capitalised The as I was too busy scanning the clues for a rather paltry confirmation that Schadenfreude earns his access ticket ror re-entry to the setters’ tippling club. ‘Wine of poor quality given by peasant farmers (5)’ We needed to check that MIR[T]IN was Japanese wine (and maybe not of such ‘tin’ or poor quality) before reading on to find STEANES, ‘Antique earthenware containers as seen at Barking (7)’ ‘Barking’ was an interesting anagram indicator that gave us AS SEEN [A]T* with an A to spare. Sadly those STEANES turned out to be EMPTIER, ‘He removes politician participating in English test (7)’ The English test was an E TRIER and that involved the MP.

Schadenfreude ended his very restrained alcoholic clues with ‘Wee amount consumed after tea in auditorium (5)’ and we opted for T + ATE for that, giving us TATE with a space which we later filled with an I creating a TATIE and adding to Schadenfreude’s vegetables (Membranous outgrowth invading pop’s vegetables (7)’ ALA in SHOTS = SHALOTS and hint of cocaine ‘More than one faster discreet profligate short of cocaine (7)’ – another intriguing anagram indicator in ‘profligate’ that produced DIETERS from ‘discreet, with an extra C). Not much alcohol but a modest place at the bar reserved for Schadenfreude. Cheers!

Fitting those solutions and SUIDS, MULSHES, ISMS and CURT into our grid, intersecting with ARCH, SMEATH and STELA, produced very helpful spaces that no-hare-002crossword compiler obligingly completed suggesting QUI MAL Y P…  (and gave me MARCH so that I was convinced that at last the HARE was about to leap into the grid but, again, it was not to be! Some rather quaintly named SUIDS or pigs and those ANOURA – amphibians, but no HARE) That was all we needed. Suspecting that a star setter like Schadenfreude was going to produce symmetry, we were able to fit in HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE respecting more or less the formatting of the original. (No, surely I am not advertising The Times!)

The Times Logo

Of course, DIEU ET MON DROIT approximately where it ought to be, so all that remained for us to do was solve the wordplay of a couple of solutions that had gone into the grid without our really understanding them. NINON was clearly the answer to ‘Nut in contact with navy fabric (5)’ but what had that ‘Nut’ to do with anything? A friend has explained that NUT = EN which = the letter N, + IN[T]O + N = NINON. That using NUT for EN then going to the letter seems to be a double leap for me but sobeit. We were puzzled by ENTREES too but the extra message (which we completed by back-solving) needed an extra B so that had to be [B]ENT + REES<. There was some challenging cluing here!

As I said, we completed the message BOTH LITERAL PARTS OF COAT OF ARMS by working backwards after our full grid had required the two Latin mottoes. It was a challenging and enjoyable first solve of the year. Thanks to Schadenfreude.

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‘A Sign of the Times’ by Schadenfreude

Posted by Encota on 27 January 2017


[Image courtesy of The Times.]

Welcome to another year of Listener solving!

Like several of you, I suspect, I’ve now solved three by Schadenfreude in relatively quick succession.  Firstly the one in the CAM magazine in December, which seemed to go OK.  Then I was making progress with his creation in the January edition of The Magpie but had got a bit stuck, so was anticipating a ‘change’ with the weekend’s Listener arriving.  I open the paper.  Ah.  ‘A Sign of the Times’ by Schadenfreude, it reads.   Hmm. Perhaps I’ll learn something from this one that helps me solve the Magpie one (and yes, it did!).

One of the things I love about S’s puzzles are his ruthless (I think that’s the appropriate word!) use of 3-letter words, 2-letter words &  abbreviations from the BRB.  For example, what with ODA (room in a harem), MIR (peasant farmers), TUI (NZ birds), PI (Greek), SD (Swaziland), PES (foot), MOR (Norfolk girl) and ENS (being) featuring in the Across clues alone, for a novice like me these can be tough!

On to the Theme.  There were 28 single letters to find in 28 out of the 48 clues.  And I spent ages finding the 28th.  Eventually it spelt out BOTH LITERAL PARTS OF COAT OF ARMS.  Combined with the Title (I particularly liked its use of Capitalisation 🙂  ), it was clear that the Theme was entirely based on The Times banner-head above.

I thought it a particularly nice touch that the words lined up very closely with their positions above.  I did also wonder if it was also being treated as a number ‘2’ clued by the first word ‘BOTH’?   Perhaps I am stretching it slightly…

I really enjoyed this puzzle – thanks Schadenfreude!  Tough clueing in places but all very accurate.

Finally, am I the only person who finds solving clues without knowing how long the answers are going to be really hard?  Perhaps it’s just me.

Tim / Encota




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Round by Lavatch

Posted by shirleycurran on 20 January 2017

lavatch-round-001We had a large grid here and a title that set us thinking. ‘Round’? Was Lavatch footing the bill for the first round at the bar at the Listener annual drinkie? I checked his right to his ticket and found evidence at once. ‘Glaswegian’s to gulp drink and cut jaw clumsily (6)’ We’re heading up to join the rest of the family for a Glaswegian Hogmanay tomorrow so WAUCHT is a familiar word and that gave us our first corrected misprint with CUT JAW having to become CUT HAW*.

That’s the trouble with the misprint device, isn’t it? Even in a competent set of clues like this lot, there are some rather glaring anomalies. ‘Surveyor’s red, by lake, showing colder period in glacier (7)’. No, Lavatch wasn’t talking of the surveyor’s Zinfandel or Merlot, it had to be the obvious rod and gave us STADIA + L. And who’s heard of a ‘satin bear’? ‘Satin bear’s fur sadly somewhat worn away (4)’ That had to be Latin, rather spoiling Lavatch’s empathetic picture of the poor worn out bear, so we opted for URSA (hidden).

There was red wine though: ‘Vineyards turning quiet start to sell vintage malts (9)’ CRUS< EASE + S. Sadly these were not vintage malts at all but the old word for HALTS – surceases. Then later in the clues things became lively: ‘A pair of ravers behind clubs offering revel (7)’ Slight disappointment again when the ravers turned out to be two Rivers (R and OUSE) but there was a CAROUSE anyway so I think Lavatch earns his admission. See you at the bar, Lavatch – Cheers!

This was a speedy and steady grid fill for us, that was moved forward and completed in one big p.d.m. when CATHERINE was the only word that would fit one of the unclued lights. FERRIS, MILL, GEAR, ESCAPE, DAISY, CART, STAR and PRAYER quickly followed and, of course, there was a familiar quotation from King Lear just where it clearly had to be, circling the centre. THE WHEEL IS COME FULL CIRCLE. That is fairly appropriate for a crossword that will appear in The Times tomorrow morning, the last day of the year.

No hare

No hare

I wonder how many solvers wondered about that intriguing phrase in the pre-ramble: ‘those of their unchecked letters that are inside a thematic area are all different’. Oh my, how careful the editors are being (obviously determined to avoid another HARE event – well, I had to mention that elusive hare, didn’t I?) I spent ages attempting to see what some solver, determined to be cussed, might have highlighted and of course there it was; you can have a GEAR WHEEL but your car might also have a REAR WHEEL. That is pre-empted since the unchecked R of CATHERINE is within the thematic area. Clever!

Thank you, Lavatch.

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‘Round’ by Lavatch

Posted by Encota on 20 January 2017

A gentle puzzle to end 2016 – many thanks to Lavatch.  And many thanks to all at The Listener for a very enjoyable 2016 of puzzles!

At the end of Her Majesty’s 90th birthday year, it was excellent to see her featured as ER, along with MARA, that ever-appearing hare-like creature returning, in such a Smiley fashion.  It must be a sign – for a better 2017 perhaps…


But more seriously…the solving path for me went something like this:

The use of ‘inside’ in the Preamble plus a Title of ‘Round’ meant a closed shape would be required; so when ?ERRI? appeared on Row 1 after solving a few clues then FERRIS and therefore WHEEL looked like the way forward.  CATHERINE went in quickly as did a few more.

As the Instruction began to appear as HIGHLIGHT THE ?ATI? QUOTATION IN SYMMETRICAL FORM, I confess that I did start by fooling myself that the missing ‘word’ was probably LATIN with the L somehow coming from YEARN changing to LEARN – and thus spent a few moments scanning the Grid for some Latin words – then the C appeared and I realised that THE ?ATI? was actually all one word, THEMATIC, so reading overall:

After completing the Grid then, as usual, I entered the ‘gridstare phase’, which I am normally pretty slow at; luckily, however, I spotted WHEEL on a diagonal in the NE of the puzzle and, with a slight change to the L selected, soon spotted the full circle (in more ways than one).  A quick double-check to be sure the unchecked letters (G, R, E, S, H) within the circle were all different and that one of those was repeated just outside the circle (R), and all was solved.  THE WHEEL IS COME FULL CIRCLE.

So ends my first ever year of attempting The Listener.  I’ve submitted all 52, though have little idea how accurate I have been: if I manage 80-90% correct then I will be very happy!

Finally, a belated Happy New Year to All involved with The Listener!  I look forward to meeting some of you again at the annual dinner in a couple of months.

Tim / Encota

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