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Archive for April, 2017

‘Not The Rockies’ by Kruger

Posted by Encota on 14 April 2017

Thanks first of all to Kruger for this enjoyable puzzle!

The pairing of the clues – i.e. knowing that one of each pair would be in the top (what eventually turned out to be the Northern) half and the other in the bottom half – was a clever and interesting technique, especially given its thematic relevance that was finally revealed to us near the end.

Fortunately (for me) I solved Clue 1 very early on, which hugely reduced the number of options available.

Ignore mass in principal characteristics putting Earth in deviations from orbital motion (12)

That looked like (m)AIN QUALITIES with E(arth) inside of it.  With the first A being the extra letter to be removed, that gave INEQUALITIES.  A quick check in the BRB confirmed deviations from orbital motion as a lesser-known meaning of INEQUALITIES and I was properly started.

It looked like the four 4-letter entries would really help next, given two of them started with the first I and U of INEQUALITIES.  I’d solved three of them but wanted the fourth to double-check I had them right and thus where they fitted in the grid.  I then twigged that Jock’s ankle was CUIT, leading to UNIT as one of the entries.

However, I didn’t spot what the hidden guidance was saying – namely ANSWERS CONTAINING N TO THE TOP AND S TO THE BOTTOM until I had perhaps only three left to enter into the grid.  Nonetheless it did still provide a useful cross-check of what I had entered.

And I spent a long while on my LOI, which was VILLOUS.  The definition was so accurate – with long, soft hairs – that I was almost certain of the answer very early on but I simply couldn’t make the wordplay fit.  Eventually I hope I got it right with VILL(a)[N]OUS, a spelling of VILLAINOUS of which I was not previously aware!

As we owned our first house in Watford, then the circled letters seemed to make sense pretty quickly – thankfully no relation to the ‘Watford Gap’ of Motorway (and childish but funny Roy Harper song) fame.

And the Title?  I am assuming that The Rockies are seen as the East-West divide in North America -and thus the ‘Not’ in describing this puzzle?  Though I may have missed a whole layer of thinking here – not entirely sure!

Thanks again – most enjoyable!

Tim / Encota

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Listener No 4443: Not the Rockies by Kruger

Posted by Dave Hennings on 14 April 2017

One of our more prolific setters greeted us this week, although most of his puzzles have appeared over at Inquisitor and Enigmatic Variations. Last year’s Kruger was the first of the year with “You win a few, you lose a few” and before that we had the Thatcher quote “There’s no such thing as society.”

A novel clueing device here, with each pair of clues contributing one entry to the top half of the grid and one to the bottom. Not for the first time of late, we had some cells inscribed with circles. The grid was symmetrical apart from 1dn, and that seemed to be a good place to start: Ignore mass in principal characteristics putting Earth in deviations from orbital motion (12). I tried ECCENTRICITIES, but that was 14 letters. Perhaps ELLIPTICITIES, but that was 13. Perhaps the wordplay was something like MAIN – M + TRAITS, but nothing came to mind. (Feel free to tell me this was the first clue you solved!)

Well, that was 15 minutes wasted!

Looking at clue lengths, there were an awful lot of 5-, 6- and 7-letter words. However, there were only four 4-letter entries, so I tried them. In hindsight, I’m not really sure why, but I did. Ten minutes later, and I was encouraged to have got all of them:

  2b: Dance movement frequently followed by expression of disgust in Cape Town (4) was FRIS (FR + IS[s])
  5a: One end of pin pierces Jock’s ankle (4) was UNIT (N in [c]UIT)
11b: Warm oven (4) for [t]OAST
17a: Once flying family, brother quits part of New York following case of indecency (4) IYNX (I Y + BR[o]NX – BR)

So, success on the 4-letter front, but I needed other entries to help fix their places. I started on the clues in order. I found a lot of them fairly forgiving, although they needed careful attention. And so, 1½ hours later I had finished my first pass through the clues… I think the longest I have ever taken. However, it was very rewarding, with just over two dozen solved.

With YULAN from clue 12, I tried IYNX and UNIT in the top left leaving OAST and FRIS for the bottom right, possibly linked by SERAI. If ELTON and NITRIC went in at the top, that gave I•E•U… for 1dn and I finally tried INEQUALITIES — M[a]IN – M + QUALITIES with E inside. This completed Answer for the first word of the guidance spelt out by extra wordplay letters.

Now ISAAC, THISTLE, IMSHI and EO IPSO could be slotted in at bottom left and the grid had a basic structure with which to slot in other entries and solve the remaining clues. The last two I solved were 19b Sulphur absorbed in small quantity primarily enhances substance used in printing (6) for TUSCHE where •USC•E looked like MUSCLE for ages, and 4b Father embracing older relative rejected Don Juan in the end (6) where ERNANI revealed himself to be Don Juan in Verdi’s opera.

The best surface readings for me were 7b Initially locked out, Israeli wrecked unfurnished inn (5) for SERAI and 15a Disgusting tail of llama’s left covered with long, soft hairs (7) for VILLA[n]OUS – A (also very late in being solved).

The extra wordplay letters now spelt out Answers containing N to the top and S to the bottom. This even applied to 1dn. Full marks if you noticed that while filling in the grid. [I’ll do the marking. Ed.] I wrote down the circled letters DWRTOFA, and my first doodle of an anagram gave me FORDTAW and WATFORD looked the likely word.

Watford is a small village in Northamptonshire with Watford Gap close by. Through the Gap runs the M1 Motorway, the West Coast Main Line and the Grand Union Canal. It is often considered to be the border between the North and South of England, the so-called NORTH-SOUTH DIVIDE with their associated INEQUALITIES. I guess the Rockies are considered the East-West divide in the USA.

Great fun, thanks Kruger. Not an easy solve (about 3½ hours, I think), but very entertaining and a marvellous grid construction.

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Listener No 4442, Got Me!: A Setter’s Blog by Towser

Posted by Listen With Others on 9 April 2017

I had the fortune to have had 2 Listener puzzles published and I was casting around for another idea. While idly dictionary-hopping – a habit of many of us I guess – I came across metagrobolise (or metagrabolise) which means ‘to puzzle out’ and was coined by Rabelais. The potential ambiguity over that 7th letter, a 13-letter word meaning ‘what solvers try to do’, and the fact that I had recently been delving back into his works (for sheer enjoyment) were all good omens indeed (and even better – as the vetters pointed out – that my well-omened word contained the letters of Rabelais).

I guessed that 100% of solvers would know of Rabelais and Gargantua, slightly less of Pantagruel, and fewer still of Panurge. In terms of characters I shouldn’t go any further but surely the motto of the Abbey (‘do what thou wilt’) would be known to most even if not immediately seen as Rabelaisian? I decided that metag-etc would be too easy to spot if entered across or down so checked out the 4 diagonal options (settling on bottom left to top right for the cross-checks it gave). Easy enough to fit in the author and the 3 characters, a little harder as to how best to disguise them. I also knew that the final grid would need to meet the average length of answers, the number of unches, and for all entries to be proper words.

It was fairly obvious with Francois – a simple split into Franco and a word starting ‘is’. Similarly, I could split pant / a / gruel but it rather leapt out so I thought about using a clash – possibly santa / gruel or pinta / cruel, etc. Gargantua should split nicely into vinegar / mantua and I’d look at Panurge later.

When clueing goes well it’s pure joy and such was the case for well over half. The others were a bit of a struggle and I had to seek help and return again and again till I was just about satisfied. So I now had a completed grid with 180 degree symmetry and six key words in. How best to let the solver know what they were looking for (without too much grid-staring)?

I chose to use both across and down clues and spell out 2 hints by using the first 2 letters of redundant words. One phrase of 16 letters – ‘do what thou wilt’ in the original French (which appears in the ODQ) appeared to have problems as it would require words beginning yc and ue but yclept and UEFA came to the rescue and I had great fun in adding 8 redundant words to 8 across clues (involving a fair bit of redrafting). All I now needed were 16 letters for the down clues and, luckily, I looked again at Rabelais on the Internet only to discover that he used an anagrammatic pseudonym for publication – of Alcofribas Nasier. What a marvel I thought (as I amended the down clues) – 2 hints but one in French and the other a nonsense name so both would need accurate solving.

I used the title ‘To Puzzle Out’ when submitting but it was changed to Got me! At the suggestion of the vetters (to form the anagram of metagrAbolise with Rabelais). Many thanks to all who gave assistance and especially to the vetters who spent much time and effort in producing the final grid.

Paul Taylor

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Got Me! by Towser

Posted by shirleycurran on 7 April 2017

‘Got Me!’ That title didn’t give us any hints and wasn’t an obvious anagram of anything but we were pleased to see a relatively short preamble warning us that we were to find five clashes and a total of sixteen extra words (Oh dear, that device again – it is a bit of a minefield isn’t it as it is oh so easy to find redundant words that the setter didn’t intend us to find – and chaos ensues!) There were to be eight in across clues and eight in down clues – a kind of symmetry.

Of course I had to check Towser’s right to re-admission to the Listener Setters’ Tipsy Club and he was almost thrown out until his ‘Harmonised advanced desire for excess (6)’ (A + GREED) readmitted him. Then there was ‘Paid for abysmally small measure of Scotch (7)’ giving PAID PER* = DRAPPIE. Jumping ahead, those extra down letters intriguingly spelt out ALCOFRIBAS NASIER and my memories of teaching French and helping sons with French homework (well, Rabelais was fairly tough stuff for them when they were thirteen or fourteen!) reminded me that that was an anagram of FRANCOIS RABELAIS. The ‘ALCO’ bit was surely a fleeting reference to drink?

Not just drink; there was a fine array of food too, which was rather appropriate for a crossword that celebrated Pantagruel and Gargantua. In a whole series of very fair and approachable clues, we found CARPACCIO, ‘Strips of raw meat, fish accompanied by twice-peeled onions (9)’ (CARP + ACC + [on]IO[ns]), VINEGAR, ‘Bad temper shown by climber before Pike (7)’ (VINE + GAR), ESCAROLE, ‘Casserole cooked without special [dried] endive (8)’ (CASSEROLE* less S), ‘Italian city cooked crabs, that is (7)’ (CRABS + IE* = BRESCIA), PASTA, ‘Head of asparagus added to out-of-date macaroni, say (5)’ (PAST + A(sparagus)), VEAL, ‘Some have a [nasty] lividity in young flesh (4)’ (hidden in ‘haVE A Lividity) and finally GRUEL, ‘Archaic punishment that would be merciless if government were Conservative (5) (CRUEL with G for C). Quite a feast!

We were lucky to spot that GARGANTUA and PANTAGRUEL were appearing in the grid (with a couple of clashes with MANTUA and INK IN) and instantly suspected that PANURGE was in those letters ending in URGE at 27d. So François Rabelais was sure to be hiding in there and, of course, he was. It was enjoyable to fill the rest of the grid with just one clue resisting us, ‘Doctor’s vehicle ditching discontinued Jack. Of course we finally sussed out that we were in Doctor Who territory and the TARDIS was dropping the DIS to give TAR = JACK – nice.

The other extra letters gave FAY CE QUE VOULDRAS, (Do whatever you would like to do), Rabelais’ words, and the motto of the Abbey of Thélème. I am not sure that they would be a great help to solvers but it is always an aspect of Listener crosswords that we learn something – like that word METAGRABOLISE that climbed in the non-dominant diagonal in the grid and anagrammed RABELAIS and a few other letters. It gave us that central A. Yes, there was a massive red herring there for us as the word we knew for ‘to puzzle out’ was METAGROBOLISE but, of course, that doesn’t have the two As of RABELAIS in it. P.d.m. – now I understand ‘Got Me’ and it nearly did! It’s a compound anagram. Add that to RABELAIS and what do we get – to puzzle it out. Nice one!

I’m rather suspicious of those crosswords where I have to add a set number of bars as it is so easy to overlook one or two. It took me three attempts to confirm that I had added 34, even though there wasn’t really another way of obtaining 50 entries (one an abbreviation – USN for the US Navy – that was a bit of a downer but I can’t see how the setter could have avoided it and maybe it gives us setters a precedent and the right to sneak in an unavoidable abbreviation).

Many thanks, Towser for an enjoyable crossword.

Ah, the elusive golden HARE?  Of course it’s hiding in there (with a mate); one of them is in a bit of a jumble and the other curling up, but they are there!

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Listener No 4442: Got Me! by Towser

Posted by Dave Hennings on 7 April 2017

Here was Towser’s third Listener. His second was Awful which was an (unsuccessful) attempt to take the Listener down-market with its pun on the old joke “My dog’s got no nose…”! This week there were extra words in eight across and eight down clues, with their first two letters spelling out something helpful. There would also be clashes in five cells that would need resolving and finally extra bars to add to the grid.

1ac Possibly fancying Kate Moss, being rejected after small ball, is stupid meddling (9) looked as though it could be MODEL< after a small ball, but the BEAD for BEADLEDOM would have to wait. However, it didn't have to wait long as BRESCIA went in at 1dn (Italian city cooked crabs, that is (7)), courtesy of Chambers Crossword Dictionary, followed by AUFS at 2 from Forgotten changelings regularly eat up fish (4) (regular letters of eAt Up FiSh).

Next came 3dn DRAPPIE and 4dn LAC, and I was feeling happy. It was fairly evident that symmetrical entries would not in themselves give a symmetrical grid and would form part of longer words or need to be truncated somehow. However, that could be dealt with later.

5dn DISA, 7dn CARLS and what looked like USNIC at 9dn but that wasn’t in C. (I really must learn to mark clues for words that the preamble tells me are not in Chambers.) With the top coming together fairly quickly, I worked down the rest of the grid methodically, although not quite as fast as the top. What’s more, after an hour’s solving, and an almost full grid, I didn’t have a single clash!

Meanwhile, despite having identified many of the extra words in the clues, they didn’t seem to be spelling out anything meaningful.

Nonetheless, the grid was completed another forty minutes later and all the clues were understood. I particularly liked the extra word in 11ac Drug for blood Y-chromosome disease above absolute minimum (7) — I bet Towser was glad that he didn’t have to construct a clue containing yclad, ycleepe, yclept or ycond. (Mind you, I’d have preferred to see ‘uey’ used insetad of UEFA at 21ac!)

With the bottom right corner nearing completion, I had already seen GARGANTUA trying to peak through, and there in column 5, PANTAGRUEL confirmed my guess at the theme. FRANÇOIS RABELAIS provided two more of the unclued entries in the final grid, and as I inked in the required 34 bars, it was satisfying to see the new words being revealed.

The ODQ provided the quotation from the extra words in across clues: Fay ce que vouldras (Do what you like). However, it needed some googling to reveal PANURGE as another character in the work and Alcofribas Nasier as an anagram of François Rabelais and also his pen name. (Who’d have thought they had anagrams in 16th century France?!)

The central cell still needed completing, and the SW–NE diagonal gave the basis for METAGROBOLISE (not -ize) with an O in the central position. Chambers gives this as “vt to mystify; to puzzle out. [Obs Fr metagraboulizer (Rabelais)” and oddly, not -iser!

I must admit that I hate having to draw bars in the endgame as it is so easy to miss one. At least we were told how many, and how many words were in the final grid. It still meant that I had to check and double-check my final entry. And, of course, I had to check the diagonal, only to find that it had to be spelt METAGRABOLISE, to be given by RABELAIS and some extra letters.

Many thanks for a very enjoyable puzzle, Towser. It was a fascinating construction, and great fun uncovering the theme and seeing the final grid being revealed — especially the central O A.

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