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Archive for June, 2017

Honest Grey Maker by Augeas

Posted by shirleycurran on 30 June 2017

It wasn’t until I typed in that title that I finally understood it. What a hint, had we only worked it out before we solved. Honest = Frank, Grey = Lloyd (or so Mrs Bradford tells me) and Maker is a Wright. We had suspected Walter Scott as being this week’s focus when TALISMAN seemed to be appearing as one of the unclued lights, but I don’t think he had much to do with FALLING WATER which soon emerged as the other. Once we had spotted a Frank Lloyd Wright creation our solve romped away.

I am leaping ahead. We first had to make sure that Augeas retains his membership of the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Outfit and he had me seriously worried when ‘Old vinegar found periodically among less livid lees (5)’ produced ESILE (in alternate letters with an extra I). Fortunately he moved on to vintage a little further down, ‘Vintage if connected to chemical action force of an electrode (6)’ gave the old word for ‘if’, AN + ODIC. So, mixing the vinegar and the vintage – Cheers Augeas, see you at the bar!

We solved steadily and happily – in fact very happily indeed as there, at last, was that sly little HARE in four letters in a straight line, though

Patriotic Patagonian Dolichotis

he was still concealing his identity by pretending to be a relative from Patagonia or Paraguay and tangling with a rather conventional and upright European cousin. ‘Hale [with an L misprint for HARE] USAF recruit in Massachusetts (4)’ giving MA around AR = MARA – a hare-like S American rodent, the so-called Patagonian hare or dolichotis.  – and he was IN THE GRID and in the clue, not sneaking into the preamble!

We were doing some back-solving too, as it was at once evident that the instruction that was emerging began with HIGHLIGHT THE …. Our only problem was deciding whether the clue was a B or a C type, so that we had a couple of letters in our coloured strip for quite a while, one of which had to be the correct letter of the misprint and the other the incorrect one, until it became clear that what were required were THE MAN AND HIS MAIN INNOVATIVE STYLE.

We have already solved a crossword this week that celebrated the 150th anniversary of the birth of Frank Lloyd Wright and used TALIESIN and FALLING WATER so we didn’t even need Auntie Google to tell us that we needed to highlight PRAIRIE as the style. At first I was concerned that we seemed to have found only two unclued lights but the other Numpty did a quick check and told me that Taliesin and Taliesin West were two separate creations, so we had the three. What a lovely compilation. Many thanks Augeas.


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Listener No 4454: Honest Grey Maker by Augeas

Posted by Dave Hennings on 30 June 2017

Army & Navy: Postscript

If you haven’t read Shackleton’s setter’s blog, then I highly recommend it. It shows a level of sophistication, cunning and expertise that I cannot recall in any recent puzzle.

I like to think that I can learn something from any Listener where I have completely failed, or have not fully appreciated when sending in my solution. With this one, it was only when writing last week’s blog that I pondered two elements of the preamble that might have helped.

Firstly, “letters in the first row must be replaced using code options” should have indicated to me that the individual letters had a significance and were to be encoded one by one.

Secondly, the position of that instruction in the preamble was strange. In hindsight, I wondered why it was so near the beginning, whereas my identification of Fram and all the subsequent internal wrestling came at the end. In effect, I think we were being told that “Dot and Dick dash to the pole” was all that was required to do the coding, well before identifying Arthur Ransome and Winter Holiday from rows 2 and 9.

Thanks again, Shackleton.

I can’t believe he won’t win the AGC… again!

Honest Grey Maker

Hopefully an easier puzzle from Augeas this week. His last was based on Mrs Campbell and her beds, and before that the Mallard (loco not bird).

Four clue types this week (although only three in terms of solving). At least they were in groups of four (one of each in each group) rather than being scattered willy-nilly throughout the clues. I couldn’t solve 1ac immediately, but 5ac GAPES enabled the top right corner to be completed fairly quickly, with PEROGI (Polish dash dish) being the last one in. Back to the top left corner, and 1dn STIGMA enabled that to be polished off quickly as well.

All this meant that two of the unclued entries read T•LIE•IN and •EST. I couldn’t fit anything that I knew into the first, whereas there were at least 13 that could fit the second. It is worth mentioning that I had already spotted the slightly unusual wording at the beginning of the preamble stating that the unclued entries accounted for (my italics) three of the subject’s works.

After about an hour and a quarter, I had a finished grid, apart from the unclued entries. The third of these was •A•LINGWA•E•, and FALLING WATER seemed distinctly possible. And so I had three unclued entries that meant nothing to me, but at least the message spelt out by the clues should help: Highlight the man and his main innovative style.

Still nothing! I examined all the diagonals. That’s normally where things lie, but I couldn’t see anything obvious. How about the rows… nope… and columns… not really. Yes, I saw FRANK in column 1, and wondered if there was a FRANK ANGLIA (from column 2). Why, oh why, did column 4 elude me for another half hour?!

Before I saw that, I wondered if the title was trying to tell me something. And of course it was: the man we were looking for was THE MASONRY GREEK! Not quite, but Honest confirmed FRANK, and a bit more grid staring finally revealed LLOYD WRIGHT. A check with Chambers appendix showed “Lloyd m (Welsh) grey” and Wright was obviously the Maker.

All that was needed now was a bit of background reading on the architect partly from Wiki but mostly from The latter was the real help with TALIESIN and TALIESIN WEST (hence the preamble wording) and confirmed FALLINGWATER, his “crowning achievement in organic architecture”. His PRAIRIE style was the last word to be highlighted.

Thanks for an entertaining puzzle, Augeas. What a treat to see some of Wright’s stunning architecture.

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‘Honest Grey Maker’ by Augeas

Posted by Encota on 30 June 2017

A great tribute to the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, whose birthday was the 8th June, born 150 years ago.

Well, first the Title.  Synonyms word-by-word perhaps? For the famous architecturally-sound barrel-maker, Candid ‘Cheerless’ Cooper?  No, as HONEST GREY MAKER is an anagram of ‘HE RANKS GEOMETRY‘, it clearly points towards a male architect who rates angular design.  Doesn’t it?  And perhaps (another anagram) THE GREEK MASONRY is relevant??  Oh, and HONEST could be FRANK…

After a few entries were in place, it looked like the first unclued entry was going to be Taliesin.  I thought this was a Welsh poet of the 6th century and his work, so spent a few moments checking him out with Auntie Google, though it soon didn’t seem very likely.  If only he had had a Welsh word for ‘grey’.  What’s that?  Did I hear someone say LLOYD…?

The overlaying of TALIESIN and TALIESIN WEST as two of his works in Row 2 might have slowed some solvers up for a moment or two; and FALLING WATER was the third of his creations featured.  This last one is well worth a look online if you haven’t already!


The clues were generous and the clue types very clear, especially given they were grouped into quartets (more poetry, perhaps?) containing one of each type.

After the grid was filled, the message needed to be decoded.  It soon became clear that it read:


So the only things to double check were (a) how much of his name was required to be highlighted and (b) which of the styles that he was famous for was being included:

For (a), one could plausibly argue that simply highlighting WRIGHT in Column 8 was enough.  And perhaps at least one solver will try to do so!  I found that one first but soon happened upon FRANK and LLOYD in earlier columns so thought it best to highlight all three.

For (b), I only had the source of all knowledge and wisdom. – i.e. Wikipedia – to go by; it appeared to credit FLW with the Prairie style, Textile style, Organic style and Usonian style.    Of these I could only find PRAIRIE in the grid, already entered at 12a, so that one got the highlighter pen treatment.

And finally, the usual check for any hare-like creatures hiding in the grid.  As usual none – but there was another creature – A RAM – hiding in reverse at 15a.  One day, there’ll be a hare, one day there’ll be a hare,… 😉

OK, joking apart, a great final touch – thanks Augeas!


Tim / Encota


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Listener No 4453, Army & Navy: A Setter’s Blog by Shackleton

Posted by Listen With Others on 25 June 2017

When I embarked on setting this puzzle, I made it a goal that solvers should be able to solve the puzzle without having to consult the book at all (other than, optionally, for confirmation). So, it was a bit disappointing, then, that some solvers found an unsatisfying back way in by doing a lot of research on the book, guessing that FRAM must be the name to encode, and then wondering why they had to substitute this into a random line in the grid and why there were only 6 dots and 5 dashes. The parenthetical ‘6 each’, of course, referred to the code options, 6 for DOT (coming from ANDDICK) and 6 for DASH (coming from TOTHEPOLE). With these options, it is straightforward to encode the ICEDWALKSNORTH line to give FRAM in Morse code. No research needed here! In my original submission, the preamble explicitly stated that ‘D gives options (six each) for a code’. To shorten my overlong preamble, the editors suggested changes (to which I agreed), and this seems to have caused some to miss the code, though enough solvers understood and appreciated the PDM to convince me that the wording was accurate and fair.

Another controversial part of the preamble was the parenthetical ‘by adding a line above the grid…’ Here, the editors were concerned that solvers might not understand that the title should be submitted. I think that this point of view is reasonable – and, after all, if you add a line to the title to make the pun ‘Army and Wavy’, you are following the instruction accurately even if ‘above the grid’ seems superfluous, so it cannot be marked wrong. Perhaps ‘by adding a stroke above the grid’ would have been preferable.

This puzzle was a homage to Arthur Ransome, commemorating the 50th anniversary of his death. I know that he is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I think that the dozen or so books in the Swallows and Amazons series are great adventure yarns that must have inspired generations of sailors, mountaineers, fell-walkers, and ornithologists. Winter Holiday ranks as one of the best, and introduces the reader to Dorothea (Dot) and Dick (the D’s), who are initially outsiders to the established Swallows and Amazons. The book is full of codes and so is an obvious candidate for a Listener theme. The book and puzzle also pay homage to Fridtjof Nansen’s remarkable Fram expedition. Nansen and his co-expeditionary Johansen made their own dash to the pole, but had to turn back when it became clear that their supplies would not last. Their retreat was the stuff of legends, involving a precarious journey via ice-floes to reach Franz Josef land where they wintered, and then eventually and fortuitously stumbled across a British expedition, three years after they’d originally set off in the Fram. Incidentally, the Fram was also used in Amundsen’s successful South pole expedition, a fact beautifully exploited in Encota’s entertaining spoof blog.

The code described by ‘Dot and Dick dash to the pole’ was the inspiration for this puzzle, but it took me a while to work out the rest. Originally, I thought about giving an instruction about the semaphore in Morse code, but Morse code is too verbose to give a meaningful sentence within the confines of a grid. So, instead, I concentrated on encoding FRAM and was, of course, ecstatic to find ICED WALKS NORTH. This combined nicely with my IN PART HURRIED which was another line of thought that I was following. The different lengths of the two pieces of text suggested an irregular shaped grid, and I had been keen anyway to make the grid an approximation of the lake depicted in the book’s map.

Another line of thought was the semaphore. Originally, I was thinking that I might be able to do some meaningful semaphore arm shapes with the bars of the grid, or with upper case Greek letters, but those ideas didn’t seem very compelling. I wanted to bring the North Pole and Nansen into it, and their initials were suitable for semaphore treatment, so I positioned the North Pole according to the map, and Nansen at the other end of the grid (not having reached the pole!).

I had three final problems. (1) the title, (2) how to indicate to the solver that north was west so that they would not have to read through Winter Holiday to solve the puzzle (in fact the puzzle was designed to be solved without referring to it at all), and (3) how to confirm that the flags related to semaphore. As is often the case, these problems helped to solve each other. The phrase ‘North is West’ allowed me to give the instruction about the North Pole, and also to give a disguised title which, when transformed, gave an accurate description of semaphore. As a bonus, I was also able to disguise the confirmatory SWALLOWS.

25 June 2017.

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Army and Navy by Shackleton

Posted by shirleycurran on 23 June 2017

It is always a great pleasure to see that name Shackleton at the head of a crossword (or indeed anywhere – the original Shackleton of that astonishing journey in the James Caird is one of the greatest heroes of all time for me – and indeed for the compiler Shackleton who created that Ascot Gold Cup winning crossword ‘Six Across’ on the theme last year.)

It was soon clear from that very lengthy preamble that another expedition or even two expeditions were to be the subject of this puzzle. We were staying with crossword enthusiast friends in a village on the Atlantic coast of Ireland so I printed off copies of the puzzle for all of us on the one available machine in the Internet cafe and we all began to solve.

Of course I began by re-checking Shackleton’s entry right to the Listener Setters’ Tipplers’ Gang and I didn’t need to read far, “Got real porter maybe to carry son on foot (5)” gave the corrected ‘not real’ with ALE around S after F, so FALSE. So we started with ALE. Then he was in a Chinese pub with “Oldie’s stiff one, it’s served in Chinese pub (5)”, which gave LICHI. A bit of a dipsomaniac mixing the rice wine or whatever with the ale: not surprising that soon after we find, “Old mate turning up very hung over (6)”, which gave us EXSERT from EX with TRES turning up and we found that the word was some kind of projection. No, Shackleton hadn’t finished. The very last down clue had “Turned red ignoring mum’s whiny yarn (4)”. We found SHIRAZ ‘turned’ there and ignored the SH to give us ZARI which is some kind of shiny gold thread in embroidery, I am told by Auntie Google. So cheers, Shackleton – see you at the pre-Listener-dinner pub gathering next year.

By the time I had spotted those and managed to make myself a grid on Crossword Compiler (yes, it was amazingly symmetrical in view of all the thematic material it contained) the others were already deciphering the message: DOT AND DICK DASH TO THE POLE: NORTH IS WEST: ADD EIGHT FLAGS.

Dot and Dick! Years of juvenile reading, plus the fact that I originate from not too far from Windermere immediately led us to the theme (the Lake District – Windermere where, Ransome was unhappy in school and where, like those Swallows and Amazons on their ‘lake’ a sort of cross between Coniston Water and Lake Windermere, we spent holidays on a houseboat in Brathay Bay and learned to row heavy, old-fashioned dinghies). Of course, knowing of Shackleton’s interest in themes about polar exploration (see last year’s Six Across) told us that we were looking at Arthur Ransome’s fourth in the Swallows and Amazons series,  Winter Holiday, which uses the Nansen Polar expedition in the Fram as a model for the Walkers’ uncle’s houseboat, that they christen the Fram and from where Dorothy and Dick set off for their disastrous journey to the north end of the lake. (North is West, of course!)

It is exactly fifty years since Arthur Ransome died isn’t it? We thoroughly enjoyed the Swallows and Amazons film that came out last year (my great-niece was auditioned at her school for the role of Tatty – she didn’t get the role but did amuse us all by telling us that it was ‘Tatty’ and not the ‘Titty’ we remember.)

Completing the grid and deciphering the preamble, step by step, was magic (as Shackleton’s crosswords always are). A row had to cryptically indicate the author’s first and last names. ARTHUR appeared in row 10 surrounded by HURRIED (= RAN) and IN PART (= SOME). The row symmetrically opposite gave us WHITELY INROAD, an anagram of WINTER HOLIDAY, so we completed the gaps below the grid.

We were told that NORTH IS WEST, and with a smile changed S W ALLONS to SWALLOWS and highlighted that and the AMAZONS who had sailed into view three rows below. We had to add a line to the title and performed a similar manoeuvre to the title changing Army and Navy to ‘Army and Wavy’ which clearly led us to the semaphore which is a theme central to Ransome’s account. That, of course told us what to do with the VL and LV that were projecting at the two ends of the lake, and we laterally and vertically converted those into little semaphore flags spelling out NP (for North Pole) and FN (for Fridtjof Nansen) ADD EIGHT FLAGS, we were told – so we did. What an astonishing amount of thematic material Shackleton was cramming into this grid! And it hadn’t finished.

We still had to replace letters in the row that spelled ICED WALKS NORTH with ‘a name common to both expeditions’ using code options (six each) from the description (DOT AND DICK DASH TO THE POLE). It was at once clear to us that we were going to fit the FRAM in Morse code – the other code the Swallows and Amazons used – into those fourteen cells (..-. .-. .- –) but we had to back solve to work out how ANDDICK  and THEPOLE could lead us to the dots and dashes that spelled out FRAM. We have followed with interest all the agony that this has caused solvers on the Answerbank and TSTMNBM (the site that must not be mentioned – oops – sorry) but surely they know Shackleton and our editors well enough to know that they are not going to make a counting error; the answer was simple and dazzling. The six letters ANDICK told us what to convert to dots and TOHEPLE converted to dashes and spelled out FRAM in Morse code with three spaces. Stunning, as usual, thanks, Shackleton.

Hare paddling

Oh the poor little hares! I think they are not spectacular swimmers and one was swamped, anyway, by the Morse code and the other was desperately hare-paddling or frozen stiff up in the north-west corner of the lake.


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