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Archive for September, 2017

Is there a National Day for Everything*?

Posted by Encota on 29 September 2017

First of all, what a visually elegant puzzle – thank you Kea!  The mix of accurate clueing and vocabulary were a delight.

Next, the Title.  With Saturday 9th September being National Chrysanthemum Day* the publication of this flower-shaped grid with six unclued Chrysanthemums in the puzzle certainly matched the Theme of the Day.  The Unclued flowers were:

  • Button
  • Pompom
  • Korean
  • Corn marigold
  • Shasta daisy, and
  • Yellow ox-eye

It took me a while to tune in to the fact that the clues were presented in Clockwise and Anticlockwise groups.

One of my favourite clues was the ‘hidden’:

Inside submarine pen, the Annapolis is oblivious (10)

… for NEPENTHEAN, very well disguised.

There were some superb other clues too, including the beautifully-surfaced:

  • Germany no longer has strength in beer (7) for ALMAINE and
  • Colours Picasso used regularly for evergreen plants (7) for CLUSIAS

Probably in the easiest third of Listener puzzles based on the year to date, no doubt intentionally.

In summary: great puzzle – loved it!

Tim / Encota

* I did test my there’s a National <insert subject here> Day for everything theory.   I needed something random to try.  I looked around my study desk for inspiration.  I know, how about National Paper Clip Day?  Auntie Google’s reply?  May 29th.  Good grief!!!

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Theme of the Day by Kea

Posted by shirleycurran on 29 September 2017

What a beautiful grid – it’s a flower. Hang on a minute, isn’t tomorrow the ninth day of the ninth month? Chrysanthemum Day in Japan? A quick check with Wiki and we have the theme before entering our first solution. Kiku no Sekku, Wiki tells me, one of the five ancient sacred festivals of Japan. My pleasure is doubled when I see that the setter is Kea. He set my all-time favourite Listener crossword, ‘Admission’, the one that had the cherry tree that the juvenile George Washington is said to have chopped with his hatchet. I won’t be able to grumble about the quality of any of the clues this week!

There’s no way one of the editors can be excluded from the Listener setters’ boozy outfit either, but Kea gives me no cause for concern; ‘Dry run barring prisons (4)’ doesn’t sound too auspicious until I realize that that gives BUT around R(un) so we are celebrating the chrysanthemums with champagne. I have seen Kea, more often with a glass of beer in his hand, and, sure enough, ‘Germany no longer has strength in beer (6)’ proves to be not a comment on the weak quality of Germany’s favourite drink but MAIN in ALE, ALMAINE, an old word for Germany. So cheers, Kea, see you at the bar in Paris.

I haven’t enjoyed solving a Listener crossword so much for ages. Why? Because there is no gimmick – no misprint, jumble, missing letter from the wordplay, extra letter in the clue or any other of those tiresome thingumajiggies. Once we have seen that the clues are separated into ‘Clockwise’ and ‘Anticlockwise’, (which tokk us a moment – the alternative was rather fearsome to imagine!) this is a steady solve with smiles along the way.

‘Hunky beast associated with vinegar (9)’ has us resorting to Chambers; COPACETIC fits the cells that are already half completed and the BRB tells us that it means ‘excellent’ so we work out that ‘beast’ must be the COP bit and the ‘associated with vinegar’ not more leftovers from the boozy club but the ACETIC bit.

We have known from the start that the unclued  entries are associated with the theme and CORN MARIGOLD quickly appears, shortly followed by SHASTA DAISY, YELLOW OX-EYE and BUTTON, with ?OREAN prompting us to select KOREAN since we know that the chrysanthemum is celebrated in Korea. We are left with just one cell to fill and Kea is not going to give us everything on a plate (remember that TABU/TAPU event! Beware!) The ODE confirms 15, we were told and the ODE gives us a choice of POMPON or POMPOM.

Sly,  eh? Rather than obliging us to clumsily write CHRYSANTHEMUM below the grid, Kea is telling us to form the word from the letters in the asterisked cells thus fixing that final letter as M. A lovely final touch.

Did I say final? Well, I scoured the grid for Poat’s HARE and found a couple of HEARs as well as ‘Hear again’ in the clues but surely Kea wouldn’t descend to such subterfuges. Then I spotted that DOE cavorting with one of the HEARs so all is well.

No hare drawings from me this week – instead here’s a hare who came to me via Kea. He’s the one who was spotted at Dublin Airport apparently smoking a cigarette.

Hare was spotted having a cigarette

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Listener No 4467: Theme of the Day by Kea

Posted by Dave Hennings on 29 September 2017

Kea’s last Listener was just over a year ago with his Dunmow Flitch based puzzle The Bard’s Coupling. (For those of you who tackle the EV, he had a fun puzzle at the beginning of this month with Something Wrong.) Here he seemed to be taking a leaf (pardon the pun) out of Dipper’s book with a gardening-based theme, the grid being in the shape of a flower.

But what flower? Carnation and chrysanthemum came to mind, but a bit of googling revealed that it could be a dahlia. I was not in my comfort zone here, but I hoped that the unclued thematic entries wouldn’t take too long to deduce. We had a bit of spoon-feeding as well in that all entries went inwards, with clues grouped under Clockwise and Anticlockwise.

In general, the clues were fairly forgiving. For example, 5ac Inside submarine pen, the Annapolis is oblivious (10) was a generous hidden, and 7ac Natty ball requires dressing without shame (9) a generous anagram.

Eventually, the unclued flowers came through, 17 being my first with Y•L••WOXE•• leading to YELLOW OX-EYE. This is defined under ox-eye in Chambers and given as “the corn marigold”. That in turn gave “Chrysanthemum segetum” (obviously) and finally revealed the flower that we were celebrating, 9th September being Chrysanthemum Day. This is observed in countries such as China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam.

All in all, less than two hours to solve this one, so thanks to Kea for a gentle week.
 

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Listener No 4466, X XX XXX: A Setter’s Blog by Somniloquist

Posted by Listen With Others on 24 September 2017

I initially submitted this puzzle (my first) more than three years ago, so it’s satisfying to finally see it in print. I’d been intending to set a Listener for years and a lull at work gave me the opportunity. Naturally, as a programmer, I spent the first month writing software that could fill a grid with arbitrarily complex treatments and rules (although if I’d known about QXW, I could have saved myself some time). I’d already settled on Sir Gawain as a suitable theme: plenty of thematic material and obscure enough that most solvers wouldn’t be able to take shortcuts. The “beheading game” lent itself to an answer treatment (and to different treatments for the two protagonists) and the exchange of kisses for animals gave me a suitably obscure title and more thematic content in the grid. I also could not give up the chance to include some Middle English and managed to find a relevant quote that was fairly easy to understand and only had a single obsolete letter, thorn (þ). As it represents ‘th’ in a single letter, a clash seemed like a logical way to indicate it. At that time, the name BERTILAK, the recipient of the kisses, was also revealed in the grid.

This first version was rejected – I’d tried to cram too much into too small a grid – but Roger liked the theme and encouraged me to rework it, suggesting some changes and a new grid layout. This also reminded me that the aim is to produce something fun to solve, not just to show off how many tricks you can fit in one grid.

A year later, I found time to work on it again. I decided to start from scratch, expanding the grid from 12×12 to 13×13, removing BERTILAK, but adding THORN (as the letter ‘th’ could equally be ETH). This gave me a lot more flexibility and choice on the final words: so I could reject the grids where ten of the answers were types of rock or half of them were plurals. Once I’d got the software to fill the grid (with the movable “heads” spelling out names and a single clash), I could move onto the clues. The across clues were straightforward, but the downs, with up to three letters removed, were a challenge; it took a few weeks to get the allocation of letters to clues right so that each one was viable. The final piece of the puzzle was to link the deletion of letters to the title, rather than explicitly mention deleting letters in the preamble (as suggested by ‘Eck, who test solved the puzzle and gave other valuable advice). This required rewriting a few clues, as there were none with a single letter removed, but I think made it all hang together better. The second version made it past the vetters relatively unscathed.

In spite of all the thematic content, my intention was that solvers could complete the puzzle without searching for the story or the quotation: all the content can be deduced and the symbol/meaning for thorn is given in Chambers.

I await inspiration for my next Listener, which hopefully won’t take quite so long.

Somniloquist
 

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Row’s full of thorns (aka ‘X XX XXX’ by Somniloquist)

Posted by Encota on 22 September 2017

This week’s puzzle was a cracker!  Tricky, yet precise, clues.  Clever adjustments needed to both some clues and some answers before entry.  Hidden information hiding in numerous places.  And a great title, with ‘X XX XXX’:
– one kiss, two kisses, three kisses
– one deletion, two deletions, three deletions
… at least that’s how I am reading it.

The Fox, the Deer and the Boar (that was the order I found them in) and the line of verse ending ‘hit to the erthe’ let me identify Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  I’ve never read the original but know of it (some Tolkien connection too, I think?).

Well, some of the details of this one has baffled me.  I could find all the deletions required from the Down clues.  I could even, with some investiGoogling, put them together to create … what exactly?  Well, my row’s full of thorns (or something like that).  Is that the head (hede) being removed from the ‘halce’ (presumably, halse, the neck)?  So the heads of some answers will be moved / removed??

And assuming all the Downs are entered unchanged, then I can deduce that the removed head of each Across clue may move some spaces to the right.  But from there on I am missing something!  What determines if the first letter of an across clue moves and, if so, by how many spaces?  Does the ‘earth’ bit mean they have to move to be next to an E (for Earth), perhaps?

Sitting here on Saturday evening, I checked the moved letters again.  And found they spelt out T-H-E … G-REEN KNIGHT!!  I then went back and checked the ones that hadn’t moved, and they spelt out SIR GAWAIN!!!  Amazing!
[As an aside, I won’t embarrass myself by sharing how long I spent looking for the Green Knight to be spelt out using knight’s moves in the grid 🙂 ]
Did the number of spaces moved have any relevance?  I am still not sure.  The question now – do I open up my letter to the Editors and add this extra finding above, or leave it with my earlier level of ignorance but still a correct solution (I think).  Hmm, laziness wins…

Even for the parts of the puzzle I do understand, this is a superb creation – thank you Somniloquist!

cheers all,

Tim / Encota

 

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