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Archive for Feb, 2017

The Harmony of Ratios by Ifor

Posted by shirleycurran on 17 Feb 2017

ifor-harmony-of-ratios-001Imagine my surprise when I scanned Ifor’s clues and found not a single alcohol reference. Do we have to withdraw his access ticket to the Listener Setters’ tippling club. Of course not! What did we find when we had completed our solve? CHAMPERS and probably vast quantities of it as in the NEBUCHADNEZZAR of Atlas’s crossword a couple of weeks ago. Cheers, Ifor.

The title and preamble should have given me far more help that they did. RAT = DESERT I = ISLAND and OS are discs. Typical of Ifor’s very clever setting. And what was the ‘Harmony’ that used to introduce DESERT ISLAND DISCS? It was ERIC COATES ‘BY THE SLEEPY LAGOON – but we were a long way from teasing those letters out of the extra pairs in 27 clues. Of course I gave myself a hearty kick when I realized that we are celebrating a 75th anniversary of the very first broadcast of the programme since Roy Plomley presented it before I was even born on 29th January, 1942.

Of course, just counting clue lengths told us which solutions were going to have a ‘thematic item’ removed from them. We are not very knowledgeable about varieties of modern music so some of those extracted words were quite a surprise. We found LAY, RAP, RAG, CATCH, ARIA, PORT, MENTO and OAT. I wonder which celebrity opted for that lot (David Beckham, maybe?) We were mildly puzzled by SCABBARD (B BAR in SCAD) but then remembered that the castaway is allowed to take his Shakespeare with him, so we entered SCAB.

2ac had us puzzled too. The clue seemed to give us TOTIENTS but four letters had to come out. Then we remembered that the castaway has his Bible so this was the clue where the thematic item was in two parts OT and NT leaving TIES.

The grid was nearing completion when we saw that fine clue ‘One who supports boxer, maybe (6)’ that gave us B/PACKER and produced not only the CHAMPERS but also what every solver needs: CHAMBERS. We hadn’t found it easy to solve this crossword, but that solution really produced a smile.

A moment of hesitation. ROY PLOMLEY was the originator of DESERT ISLAND DISCS and his name (forename and surname) add up to 10 letters but, after a moment of hesitation, we opted for the creator of The Harmony, ERIC COATES. Nice one, Ifor. Many thanks.

And the elusive HARE? He’s kind of stewed up this week in clues 14, 17 and 18: I imagine his days will be numbered if he turns up on a desert island. He’ll be castaway stew.

Castaway Stew

Castaway Stew


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Listener No 4435: Harmony of Ratios by Ifor

Posted by Dave Hennings on 17 Feb 2017

Ifor’s last Listener was nearly two years ago with Prometheus Bound and Unbound. Before that we had Pirandello, the Dam Busters and Flying Scotsman. This week, a bit of musical trigonometry?

listener-4435There was an interesting clueing device this week — not one, but two extra letters to be removed from the clues that didn’t lead to 4-letter entries. Choosing one letter from these pairs would give us a harmony and its creator.

The first thing I noticed when reading the preamble was the use of slightly odd wording: ‘abandons’, ‘cast out’ and, the reference to thematic items, ‘one a luxury’. Only that week, I had come across an article with a picture of Kirsty Young regarding the upcoming 75th anniversary of Desert Island Discs. Well that confirmed the musical element of the title; the trigonometry would have to wait.

2ac related to a 4-letter entry and needed something removing from its 8-letter answer. However, the clue had me foxed Dash in to test numbers of inferior figures that have little in common (8) (indeed, it would confuse me right up to the end). Luckily, 5 Furious debating about right to display artificial skin (7) wasn’t thematic so just needed two letters to be removed and it looked like ‘debating’ would become ‘dating’ or eating’. INTEGRA® meant that it became ‘eating’.

I tried the down clues and managed 1 Bands bustled across, leaving Dover and embracing France (6) SCARFS (dropping L and D in the clue) followed by 2 Tease troops caught among wrong squaddies (9) leading to TORMENTOR. I nearly thought this was wrong since I couldn’t see what 5-letter word could be dropped, but I checked Chambers and was rewarded with seeing that MENTO was a form of Jamaican song or ballad.

4dn looked like it should be SCOPAS, but C told me the plural of scopa was scopae. Luckily, my eye wandered and I saw that scop just above had a plural of scopas. 6dn NATURE, 9 RAGOUT and 10 ABULIA meant that the top of the grid was coming along nicely.

Sadly, this early flurry of activity slowed to a bit of a crawl and clues needed a lot more work to unravel. This wasn’t helped by some of the bizarre words that were left after the two letters were removed from clues. For example, 3dn False reaction with little credit devolved (9) became False rection with little credit evolved (9) and 21dn Do Spanish walk cliff, upset with ape? (6) had ‘cliff’ becoming ‘iff’ (a word in logic meaning ‘if and only if’).

Clue of the week for me was 29ac Word of agreement binding spotty curate’s clerk in Canterbury (7) which became Word of agreement binding potty curat’s clerk in Canterbury (7) leading to ACTUARY. And best new word of the week: ARCHONTATE, an ancient Athenian magistrate’s tenure of office.

In the end, the grid took the best part of three hours to fill. When it was about 75% complete, I checked the letters dropped from clues, and wasn’t surprised to see that they were just a few short of Desert Island Discs and By the Sleepy Lagoon, the theme music. These were followed by Roy Plomley, the creator of the show, and Eric Coates the composer of the music. Its 75th anniversary meant that the show came to life in the midst of World War II — 1942.

The 4-letter entries were all derived from clues to longer words that lost something thematic. In clue order, these were: FORE(LAY), AIRT(RAP), T(RAG)ULE, (CATCH)ABLE, FIL(ARIA)L, S(PORT, a bagpipe composition)ING, TOR(MENTO)R, D(OAT)ING. That gave the eight pieces of music that we, as guests, could take to our desert island, and a bizarre concoction it was.

Guests are also allowed to take the Complete Works of Shakespeare, a Bible plus a third book and a luxury item. The first was provided by 12ac SCAB(BARD). Now, where was the Bible hiding. That was there, ‘in two abbreviated parts’, provided by the Old and New Testaments in 1ac T(OT)IE(NT)S. I needed to refer to Wolfram to understand this and hoped that this month’s mathematical setter hadn’t been beefing up on them!

Time to find the luxury and something ‘more relevant to solvers’, which would be the third book. We were guided to these by the clue that had two definitions to words differing by one letter: 24ac One who supports boxer, maybe (6). This led to BACKER and PACKER which in turn gave us CHAMBERS and CHAMPERS in the NW–SE diagonal.

The creator who had to go under the grid was the creator of the harmony, namely ERIC COATES, rather than the creator of the programme itself (I hope).

listener-4435-my-entryAs for the title, I assumed that it was referring to the symmetry of both titles having the same number of letters as did both creators. I wasn’t too sure of this, and a bit more investigation revealed that ECCE RATIOS was an anagram of the composer. Very satisfying!

Thanks, Ifor. A superb implementation of the Desert Island theme and great fun.

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Listener No 4434: Addresses by KevGar

Posted by Dave Hennings on 10 Feb 2017

Last year’s KevGar puzzle took us for a walk with the Walrus and the Carpenter, Lewis Carroll’s bizarre oyster-chomping duo from Through the Looking Glass. This year, we had to find some addresses, but not before some cold-solving of clues in alphabetical order of their answers.

listener-4434What’s more, several cells needed to accommodate two letters. Oh dear! I immediately thought of our infamous golden hare puzzle from last year where we were faced with exactly that.

The difference this week was that the two letters weren’t generated by clashes but were used in both across and down entries. For entries without double letters, two consecutive letters needed to be dropped from their clues and these would spell out the first line of an address. This didn’t sound too taxing, so on with the solve.

There were four 12-letter entries in the grid and for the clues, just one, the others being 13 letters. Thanks KevGar for making life a little easier by giving the answer lengths. The first of these, clue vi Fluid love surrounds endless line around Oxford University (13, two words) didn’t make any sense at this stage, but ix Choo’s short heel confusing model (12) looked like an anagarm of Choos short heel minus a couple of letters. Well, that too would have to wait.

Clue xxxiii Square, for example — square dance endlessly takes in area without direction (13) had me thinking of PARALLELOGRAM, but apart from being in roughly the right place in the list of clues, the wordplay stumped me. Luckily, clue xliv (I needed to look that up) Rotten onion, an issue barring European cases of forming workers’ groups (13) was easier to disentangle as UNIONISATIONS.

A quick pass through all the remaining clues, and 45 minutes later, I had a dozen answers but, obviously, an empty grid. Another 45 minutes, and I had eighteen answers, of which half would be entered into the grid, one letter per cell. But not yet.

All these gave a nice alphabetical structure to the clues, and more were solved but not slotted in. However, I wondered whether ABACI could go in the top left quadrant with BUNKO (it would later turn out to be BUNCO) and CIDED crossing it, the CI going into a single cell. QUADRILATERAL and AQEOUS HUMOUR were also soon in the grid and a short while later, I had AULD••••SYNE staring out at me from the NW–SE diagonal. Thanks for that — I tentatively (it could be a red herring) put LANG in the middle four spots.

listener-4434-my-entryAfter a total of three hours, I had a full grid (with CLOTHES HORSE being woefully slow in coming), and it was time to put the dropped letters from the clues into conventional clue order. It looked somewhat gobbledygook-ish, but in fact spelt out Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face from Address to a Haggis by Robert Burns, the English equivalent being Good luck to you and your honest, plump face.

Now I remember from another puzzle [You’re thinking of No 4121 To… by Navajo back in 2011. Ed], that Burns had a fair few poems which were addressed to various things, including a mouse, a louse, a house and toothache. HAGGIS was an easy spot, and TOOTHACHE reasonably so, but a bit more googling was required to uncover UNCO GUID and the DEIL.

Well that was four and I needed one more. I guess we were supposed to blithely highlight AULD LANG SYNE and be done with it, but in fact EDINBURGH was the fifth addressee running up the last column.

Thanks, KevGar, this was good fun, and congratulations on all the thematic words in the grid. I’m just sorry that there was no MOUSE… so I’ve added one!

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Addresses by KevGar

Posted by shirleycurran on 10 Feb 2017

kevgar-burns-001It took the Numpties forever to work out how to start filling our grid. I had, of course, scanned the clues and found what should have been a hint about the thematic character in the clue ‘Issue in Scotland – drunken ceilidh’s losing restraint (3)’ (We removed CE from the wordplay of that clue as those letters were absent from the ‘part giving the wordplay’ then removed LID and were left with ISH = Issue in Scotland) Of course the drunken ceilidh confirmed KevGar’s admission ticket to the Listener drinkies and I needed to read no further.

With every clue that we solved, I needed to go back to the preamble to check whether we were going to enter two letters into one cell or extract two letters from the wordplay and store them to be later put into conventional clue order to spell out the first line of an address, we found it very difficult to decide which act we were performing each time. I have to confess that we short cut the stage where we had to work out the address as, when AULD LANG SYNE had appeared down the leading diagonal, we were suddenly awakened to the fact that this is the week of the Burns Night supper. The other Numpty has been called upon on a number of occasions to recite the Address to a Haggis and to sharpen his knife and split the poor beastie in two, and thus he recited the line ‘FAIR FA’ YOUR HONEST SONSIE FACE …’ and we were able to work backwards, eliminating those pairs of letters that we had put in our pink column until we had only one left – the YO.

We needed that YO in order to work out what was the solution to ‘Some in coveY Or shoal abandoned local stubble field (4)’. It had to be the hidden ERSH which I believe is a variant of ARRISH but I couldn’t find that in any dictionary or even on-line. However, that did confirm TOSTI and Wikipedia confirmed that he was probably our culprit for ‘Singular knighted Italian -born composer (5)’ with only the S(ingular) in the wordplay and two double letters so that it was entered in a light with just three cells.

I have rather jumped the gun, as we had at least three hours of cold-solving before those four long words (AQUEOUS HUMOUR, QUADRILATERAL, UNIONISATIONS and CLOTHESHORSE) intersected for us and allowed us to fill our grid. After the AULD LANG SYNE hint and our realisation that the addresses were going to be by Robert Burns, we knew we were looking for a HAGGIS but suspected that we would also find a LOUSE or a MOUSE or even MARIE or MRS C. UNCO GUID appeared next, and of course the DEIL and TOOTHACHE but there had to be a fourth and somehow we were not happy to highlight AULD LANG SYNE since that is hardly an address. I wonder how many solvers will catch that red herring. Fortunately those rather odd four-letter words down the right hand side of our grid finally gave us EDINBURGH.

A challenging solve and we appreciated the Scottish theme. Many thanks, KevGar.


Golden hare squatting on the haggis.

Golden hare squatting on the haggis.

(Ah, that elusive golden HARE – still cavorting and not willing to appear in a straight line yet but of course he was there – squatting on the HAGGIS!)

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Facing heather to eat rice pudding*

Posted by Encota on 10 Feb 2017

I recalled the second line of Mr. Burns’ Address to a Haggis, namely GREAT CHIEFTAIN O’ THE PUDDING RACE!*, but somehow managed to forget the first line entirely.  The title of this blog above of course comes from the (thankfully) long-forgotten ninth verse that used to accompany dessert 😉

Some kind definitions in this strong puzzle from KevGar, without which this could have been really tough!  Loved the puzzle – thanks KevGar!

I’d solved around 20 out of 44 clues before I dared trying to get some into the Grid.  At that stage I only had two sets with a shared letter-pair: BU-NC-O and U-NC-LEAR and strongly suspected they’d intersect at NC; I also had LO-AM-IER and OG-AM as entries needing fitting.  Like most of you I had, near the start, done the Enumeration analysis.  For example, there are 3 x [13] and 1 x [12] clue(s), and four [12] entry locations, so presumably three of them must have a double-letter cell in them.  I had the majority of the answers requiring a 6-letter entry space, which really helped since two pairs of these intersected: UNCLEAR/LOAMIER and PLAYER/FISHIFY.

I do always enjoy puzzles where the clue answers are alphabetically-ordered – once you get a few then you can often narrow down what you are looking for quite quickly.  As an example I had the 7th answer CLOTHES-HORSE and the 10th ERSH.  so the 8th and 9th needed to fit between them.  With a first letter of C,D or E then it was much easier to guess an artist, and once I’d guessed [DE]GAS for Rabbit artist (5) then [DE]RAY as an old word for disorder in the clue Torpedo disorder forgotten (5) followed quickly.

So, after completing this week’s Grid, I appeared to have the seemingly incorrectly ordered letter-pairs of FA-IR-FA-YO-UR-HO-NE-ST-SO-NS-IE-FA-CE.  There appeared to be several words in there but one or two looked out of place to this Numpty.  I double-checked that I had (a) collected them up in order and (b) hadn’t inadvertently included a pair of letters from the other Clue type where they’d needed to be added and not subtracted. No, all seemed fine.  I then ringed every word in the Grid that didn’t contain a letter-pair in a cell and, no, I really hadn’t missed any.

So that left a bit of investiGoogling and it had got as far as ‘Fair fa your’ before the prompt knew what I was after and prompted FAIR FA’ YOUR HONEST SONSIE FACE.  To quote an employee of Mr. Burns (Ed: what?) – doh!

So we had an Address to a Haggis.  What other Addresses is Mr. Burns famous for?  [And no, not Burns Manor on the corner of Mammon and Croesus Streets]  I could find:

  • Address of Beelzebub
  • Address to a Haggis
  • Address to Edinburgh
  • Address to General Dumourier
  • Address to the Deil
  • Address, to the shade of Thomson,…
  • Address to The Toothache
  • Address to The Unco Guid, and
  • Address to the Woodlark

It was fairly clear where HAGGIS was in the Grid, though it needed a bit of playing with the ‘IS’ in the last cell to vaguely satisfy its use (or at least to try and satisfy me!) in three different directions.

GRUB NIDE down the right-hand column looked very EDINBURGH-like.

The TO-OT pair jumped out as the start of TOOTHACHE.

UNCO GUID is there in Row 2.

That left DEIL as another diagonal highlight.

That made all five – and they were all Addresses by the same source, Robert Burns.  A final check that there weren’t any additional ‘a’ or ‘the’ to be included – nope.

An elegant extra was of course the leading diagonal’s content of AULD LANG SYNE.  I hope no-one rushed to highlight that [as it’s not formally an ‘Address…’] and missed one of the others?  Gut instinct says that at least one person will have been rushed and will have done that – but what do I know?

Great fun.

cheers all,

Tim / Encota

PS Was it only me that thought they might also have spotted at least parts of (Address to) GENERAL DUMOURIER in the Grid:
GENERA on Row 7, UMOUR on Row 1 and IER on Row 3?  Spooky!

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