Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin

Archive for July, 2017

Setter’s remarks – Chalicea’s difficulty

Posted by shirleycurran on 30 July 2017

Clearly a ringless review’s required – which is difficult since it was the chief Ed’s idea (Mr Phillips) that put clues in a single list thus bypassing the unwanted letter in clue lists, and he suggested disregarding a Chamber’s reference this time – the credit is his. Tester and vetter Artix came up with many brilliant tricks excising that banned letter as well. Thanks, Artix! Chalicea has really appreciated all the tributes that came via Mr Green, and appeared in the Answerbank and TSTMNBM – sad that a grumpy and pernickety pair esteemed it singularly easy – hard cheese! The Listener needs a range between stinkers and gentle rambles (at least, that’s what I think).

Publishing the Listener statistics in the reviews is against Mr Green’s rules but he has said that I may publicise the fact that a centenarian Cdr. D P Willan  (RN retired) submitted a flawless entry – the first, we believe, by a centenarian – a fine achievement!

The setters’ drinks club? Membership assured by clue 3: ‘Dead trendy drink, perhaps deficient in temperature (4)’ [LATTE less T = LATE = Dead]. “Santé!” See all the mates at the bar at next year’s setters’ dinner in Paris (merci à Sylvie Vartan!)

Terrified hare fleeing nightbird and pussycat

Hares? Dave drew a few fine hares and they appeared in capitals as well and I see that Tim highlighted them all [surely rather inventively? Ed.] but the terrified little running hare at the left-hand edge was fleeing the pussycat and night bird (it was certainly eaten anyway – that’s the way it is in nature).

Ah, what a remarkable thing – just seen that he is alive and well and finally appearing as was rightfully expected a fair while since (December last year!) in 4 letters in a straight line in the grid, starring centrally in Serpent’s baldy thingummy (a zebra as well – Serpent has made my day!)
















Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Listener No 4458: Difficulty by Chalicea

Posted by Dave Hennings on 28 July 2017

Here we had one of our more prolific setter’s, both under this pseudonym and others, as well as in cahoots with cohorts of other setters. The first thing that I noticed was that, like some early Listeners, the preamble needed to have a lot of clue numbers replaced with their entries in order to make sense. The second thing that I noticed was that “The Chambers Dictionary is the primary reference” was missing from the preamble. Shock! Horror! We’ll be having indirect anagrams next!

And so, having earmarked my Big Red Book for the charity shop as no longer required [You’ll be sorry. Ed.], I set to with the puzzle. But first, I had to check Chalicea’s membership of the Hardened Alcohol Requirement Entourage, and was shocked to find Steeped in beer, elderly beau died dancing (7).

Reading through the single list of clues in sequence, the earlier ones were a tad slow in coming and I wondered if Chalicea was testing us with one of her trickier oeuvres. Luckily, the bottom half of the grid was more forgiving and it filled out nicely. Working my way back up the grid, LEAR at 12 got slotted in within the hour. This was followed by the OWL (here entered as NIGHT BIRD) and the PUSSY CAT at 15dn and 36ac. They SET SAIL in a boat (green) and took some money, honey and a guitar to which the owl sang “O let us be married, too long we have tarried; But what shall we do for a ring?” But ring had they none, and the grid was equally bereft of Os.

Everything was resolved with the ring-nosed PIG selling his ring for the princely sum of a shilling, and A RING being entered below our grid. All was done and dusted, but…

Hasn’t there been an Edward Lear puzzle already this year? Indeed there has, with Dysart’s Jumblies going to sea in a sieve. Nobody can say that Lear didn’t repeat his themes. (Nor, it would seem, the Listener Editors!)

A careful checking of the grid was required to ensure that all the Os in the perimeter quotation had been omitted correctly. But wait! A finally scan of this puzzle revealed that not only was the grid bereft of the letter O, but so was the preamble and, even more amazingly, all the clues. And, of course, that explained why “The Chambers Dictionary” was missing from the preamble and why there were no Down clues.

Retrieving my Chambers from the bag destined for the charity shop [Told you. Ed.], I marvelled at this puzzle’s construction and hoped that I wasn’t required to write this blog without an O.

Excellent entertainment again from Chalicea, thanks.

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

‘The Owl, the Pussycat & Hares Galore’ by Chalicea

Posted by Encota on 28 July 2017

There are animals everywhere in this puzzle, ‘Difficulty’ from Chalicea: a TURKEY, LUPUS (wolf), the PUSSYCAT, a NIGHTBIRD, even ARGALI, TEAR A CAT and the GERENUK!   If only there’d been an opportunity to hide a HARE or two, or even other hare-like creatures.

But wait a moment, the Item to be added below the grid is enumerated (1,4) – it simply must be A HARE.  I’d thought initially the puzzle was themed on that delightful Edward Lear work, ‘The Owl and The Pussycat’ – what a fool I was!  See how easily the setter can divert you down false trails.  Or maybe the poem does mention a hare, let me think…

Many of you may recall that these hare-brained escapades all started with Listener 4422 by Poat, named ‘Buried Treasure’, in which the Hare of the Kit Williams book ‘Masquerade’ was found lurking not in the grid but in the Preamble, more specifically hiding in the searcH AREa.

Ever since, bloggers at LWO – especially Shirley Curran (Chalicea) – and other Listener solvers have been desperately on the lookout for that HARE in each Listener grid.

So, if I am right, we are looking for a HARE, presumably hiding in contiguous cells in the grid.  I thought, given the setter is Chalicea, then there’s bound to be one.

How wrong I was.

Because, at least by my counting, there are 26!  By which, of course, I mean 4! And 2!

Screen Shot 2017-07-08 at 23.10.30

See highlighted grid (forgive my scribbling), with some overlapping. I make it:

  • DOE x8 (all entered as DE, of course, given the ‘Difficulty’ with the missing O),
  • MARA x6,
  • PUSS x4,
  • WAT x3,
  • HARE x3,
  • BAWD x1 and
  • PIKA x1.

I make that one heavy-duty grid – very, very impressive!!

And of course, we all know that poem word-for-word, don’t we?  It sits so firmly in one’s brain that it is impossible to misremember:

Pussy said to the Owl, ‘You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet and fair!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:

But what shall we do for a hare?’

All I need to do now is write ‘A HARE’ below the grid and I am sorted.


Tim / Encota



Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Listener No 4457, Polo: A Setter’s Blog by Apt

Posted by Listen With Others on 23 July 2017

The precise origins of this puzzle are a bit hazy to me, but I remember playing with the concept of an apposite message appearing in the grid in an infinite cycle, in various convoluted and in retrospect obviously impossible ways. I found Hofstadter’s law just by trawling the quotations on the Oxford Reference website looking for nice ones with a vaguely sciencey flavour, and it seemed to fit the bill. I remember solving Raich’s 2009 puzzle on the similar ‘Parkinson’s Law’ (with WORK expanding in the grid to fill the “time available for its completion”).

After several grid designs and attempted fills, I settled on the circular shape which seemed to work well with the infinite loop theme, with the quotation running round the perimeter. Some of the unchecked cells in the irregularly-shaped perimeter look a little odd but the grid hung together overall, with decent entry lengths and unching as far as I could see. The quotation needed a bit of rephrasing to fit in the right number of cells, but since it was going to have its tail lopped off and attached to its head it didn’t seem unreasonable to change a few other words. With assistance from Crossword Compiler and QXW I managed to get a fill that didn’t seem to have too many obscure answers.

I chose misprints in the definitions to hide the HOFSTADTER’S LAW message, providing a pointer to the theme. I can’t say that using the incorrect letters rather than the corrections was much of a deliberate decision — I was most of the way through the clues before I realised I was doing them the unconventional way and wasn’t minded to go back and change them! In general I think using the corrected letters is preferable since it’s easier as a solver to tell you have the right one, but I don’t think a bit of variety every so often does any harm.

Clue writing was a slow but not too painful process. Most clues didn’t need any special gubbins which helped, but some of the misprints were a bit of a challenge. I must thank Ken Clarke for getting himself re-elected and therefore not inadvertently ruining one clue.

With everything finished I sent the puzzle to a couple of test-solvers – eXternal and my dad, thanks both. Feedback seemed good and after a few tweaks it was ready to go. I’ve been solving the Listener for many years, originally learning the ropes with my dad and now solving with my wife (and still my dad at Christmas), so I was never going to send my first puzzle anywhere else. I’d already settled on the pseudonym Apt, which I use for my website (free puzzles!). It comes from my Twitter handle @aPaulTaylor, which in turn comes unsurprisingly from my real name Paul (A.) Taylor, and the fact that with such a common pair of names I can hardly lay claim to being the Paul Taylor. The puzzle sent off, I forgot about it as it made its way through the Listener’s eye-wateringly long submissions queue (it took longer than I expected, even taking into account etc…)

As may have been fairly obvious, solvers were originally supposed to provide the title I AM A STRANGE LOOP, written in the hole in the middle. This requirement was quite rightly removed by the editors, since non-internet-enabled solvers shouldn’t be expected to hunt through the library for what was essentially an ‘extra’ for the puzzle. I hope most solvers did find the book though and so understood the ‘strange loop’ of the title (also, the grid looks like a polo mint — I don’t know if anyone noticed this).

At the time of setting I hadn’t actually read any Hofstadter, and still haven’t Godel, Escher, Bach, but I’m currently reading I am a Strange Loop, and am pleased to discover it’s full of the same sort of ridiculous recursion as embodied by Hofstadter’s Law.

Setting my debut Listener has been a great experience, and I heartily recommend it to anyone who’s thinking of having a go. I hope Polo is the first of many!

Paul (Apt)

Posted in Setting Blogs | Leave a Comment »

Polo by Apt

Posted by shirleycurran on 21 July 2017

Solving the weekly Listener puzzle becomes something of an OCD doesn’t it? We were on an AutoReiseZug (one of those wonderful trains where you load your car then sleep happily as the train covers about five hundred miles and deposits you and the car at your destination). A friend kindly sent me the puzzle but I was unable to print it so we drew our grid and wrote out all the clues (on the back of this month’s Magpie – it was useful for that even if it contains a rather daunting D numerical puzzle by Ned and a Shark E) then solved on the mini table of the couchette until late into the night.

A friend commented that he has often gone to similar lengths. His wife watched him with amusement as he wrote the crossword out longhand in the Atacama desert then went to great lengths to find a post office only to earn the mildly sardonic comment from Mr Green, some months later, that he had gone to great lengths to post a wrong solution.

But wouldn’t it be just our luck to have such a complex and different grid to hand-draw! A polo ‘the mint with the hole’ indeed. Of course, as I read out and the other Numpty wrote out the clues, we had spotted that Apt justified his membership of the Listener setters’ oenophile outfit with ‘Drank just over half of alcohol getting wasted (4)’ (ALCO* giving COLA and producing an A misprint for ‘drink’) Cheers, Apt, see you at the bar!

The grid filled steadily with Mrs Bradford’s help and a few doubts. YORICK had to be the answer to the last across clue, ‘In play he’d tested City, in command during second half (6)’ with YORK circling IC, but we needed to correct a misprint that must be in ‘tested’. ‘Rested’? I know Hamlet better than any other play  and that seemed to be a very weak solution to the conundrum as that skull had been in the ground for some 25 years “And smelled so? Pah!” but it took me ages to realize that the corrected word was ‘jested’. Of course, we didn’t need to know since we were, rather unusually, spelling that name out with the incorrect letters.

Our misprints spelled out HOFSTADTER’S LAW and the other Numpty had heard of that but, in any case, it was appearing around the perimeter of the grid as “IT WILL TAKE LONGER THAN YOU THINK EVEN IF YOU TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THAT … it will take longer than you think – we didn’t even need to check that the unchecked letters had spelled out TATTY THRIFT HOVEL but now that we have arrived at our destination I have been able to check that Hofstadter’s sequel was ‘I am a strange loop’, and a strange loop it was indeed. Thanks to Apt for an entertaining evening’s solve.

The hares? We are in northern Germany and I rather expected to find a Hase in four letters in a straight line but the Hase was frolicking with a rather jumbled hare,  with another couple looking on from above.

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »