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Archive for Nov, 2017

‘Rock Group’ by Llig

Posted by Encota on 17 Nov 2017

2017-10-29 23.32.12 copy

Some wonderful feints in this puzzle – excellent stuff, thank you Llig!  I’d like to highlight three in particular:

  • Debris heaps on sailor’s transatlantic comms device (7) This appears, in HEAPSON*, to have something containing PHONE, with debris ‘perhaps’ a slightly loose anagram indicator?  No, it’s simply the charade TELS TAR!
  • There’s nothing to a go tourney in Japan, perhaps (5).  In this one you’d be forgiven in guessing that tourney would become journey after correcting a misprint but no, it’s again a bluff.  It really parses as O after BASH.
  • An angry response to a point cropped up (6).  Again, if you guessed the actual definition to be, after misprint correction, ‘chopped up’, then I suspect you wouldn’t be alone!  This was another charade, A RISE N.

But now to the nub of it.  The phrase ‘Sisyphean toil’ hidden message may have led you to thinking about moving various stones uphill or something similar.  But surely the Title is musically based …

… so it’s really a music-based ‘odd one out’ puzzle, disguised as an advanced thematic  [Are you sure?  Ed.].  In a puzzle entitled ‘Rock Group’ can you spot which of the following might just be the odd one out?

  • At 2 down we have “Money” by Pink Floyd
  • At 35 down, “Skin (and Bones)” by the Foo Fighters
  • At 33 down, the rock group “Camel”
  • At 37 across, “(Brown) Sugar” by the Rolling Stones
  • At 27 down, “Telstar” by The Tornados
  • At 9 down, “(Burning of the midnight) Lamp” by the Jimi Hendrix Experience
  • At 31 across, Dr. Dre’s record label “Death Row”
  • At 34 down, “(Teddy) Bear” by ZZ Top
  • And at 6 down, “(The) Dragon” by Rick Wakeman

I’ll leave you to see if you come to the same conclusion as me.

Cheers all,

Tim / Encota

PS Only nine more Listeners left in 2017 after this one.  Goodness, they’ve flown past!

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Listener No 4474: Rock Group by Llig

Posted by Dave Hennings on 17 Nov 2017

It had been two years since Llig’s last puzzle, with its Psalm 139 theme (Whither shall I go then from thy presence?). That one was fairly straightforward, so I hoped for a similar one after the previous week’s tough Ifor puzzle which I didn’t blog (slap wrist); however, there were two excellent blogs from Shirley and Tim.

Here we had a misprint in the definition of one word in each row and some jiggery-pokery with six down entries. I was pleased that the first scan through the clues enabled over a dozen entries to be slotted in. I didn’t know whether any of the downs would soon be changed thematically, but so far everything fitted together.

However, GROUNDHOG, BEAR PIT and SKINFLINT soon came to the rescue, with HOG, PIT and FLINT appearing to be superfluous to requirements. If only I’d known that EPITASES were “the main actions of a Greek drama leading to the catastrophe”, the whole thing might have slotted into place sooner, since the clue Actions before dramatic Greek catastrophe sees a revolt (8) only had wordplay for EASES ([SEES A]*) with the PIT omitted.

Of course, it wasn’t obvious to me at this point what HOG, PIT and FLINT had in common. That would have to wait for the message spelt out by the corrected definition letters: Sisyphean toil. I was slightly held up with this, having the wrong definition at 17ac Furs and wines returned (5) where I had Fuss rather than Fury for STROP.

I knew that the Sisyphus was a fairly arrogant, sadistic and generally-not-very-nice Greek who was rewarded for that by being forced to roll a huge boulder up the side of a hill, only to have it roll back down and have to repeat the task. In Llig’s puzzle, however, he got off lightly, having much smaller stones to push uphill!

Nevertheless, this was an entertaining puzzle with some enjoyable clues. I particularly liked 38ac Gauche character thus exposed by French department (5) if only for reminding me of the fabulous Jaques Tati, aka Monsieur Hulot.

Thanks, Llig.

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Rock Group by Llig

Posted by shirleycurran on 17 Nov 2017

The first Numpty comment was that this was more likely to be a group of rocks than musicians, and so it proved to be. Then, naturally, I scanned the clues to check that Llig retains his entry ticket to the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Outfit, and of course, he does. ‘Furs and wines returned (5)’ gave us our first misprint – ‘fury’ for ‘furs’ and we returned ports, getting STROP. Then we found ‘After depression comes French summer, a tonic (7, two words)’ giving us SAG + ETE A = SAGE TEA. Well, I assume there was something with that tonic so “Cheers, Llig! Billet d’admission accordé – see you in Paris?”

We solved these straightforward clues steadily with the series of misprints giving us an intriguing SISYPHEAN TOIL which seemed to confirm our initial guess that a real rock (or rocks) was going to appear in the final grid. Wasn’t Sisyphus the poor tortured character who had to push a massive rock uphill only to have to watch it fall down again?

However, even though we had guessed that an experienced setter like Llig would have placed his six affected columns symmetrically (and he had almost done that, since there were two columns where he couldn’t play his rocky trick and the six affected columns appeared symmetrically in the remaining ones) it took us a while to see which thematic material was being ignored in the wordplay of clues.

An aardvark is a groundhog and the clue ‘Good plump aardvark (6)’ led to just GROUND so there was a HOG cavorting somewhere and we know that a HOG is some kind of curling stone, so light dawned. HOG completed the clue ‘Push aside last of queues (4)’ S + HOG giving SHOG and was pushed upward in the grid – how elegantly thematic!

We needed five more missing rocks and found them in CAMEL(LIAS), TURNS(TILE), BEAR(PIT), NOSE (RAG) and SKIN(FLINT) where the rocks were laboriously pushed upwards into EPITASES, F/L/INTRA, DRAGON, SEXTILE and GOLIAS.

I always enjoy a crossword where there is a theme that can be visually imagined and this was no exception. Many thanks to Llig.

I am still wondering about one clue. We decided that RAETIA must be the solution to ‘Possible gunfire in air all over old Mediterranean Provence (6)’. This gave us AIR around TEA all reversed but what was that ‘Mediterranean’ doing in the clue? Our Swiss neighbours are very proud of their Raetian origins but I believe those ancient frontiers didn’t reach the Mediterranean.

Ah, the Poat HARES! They seem to be survivors as there were a couple disguised as HERA in the grid but Llig has possibly finally put an end to the little beast as this week’s small fellow was on DEATH ROW.


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‘Hit and Run’ by Ifor

Posted by Encota on 10 Nov 2017

I recently mused, after several of the last few weeks of Listener puzzles being on the easier side, that perhaps it was soon time for a more challenging puzzle – and then L4473 ‘Hit and Run’ appeared.  With two extra letters in each wordplay to be removed to find the definition and (personally my biggest challenge) no clue lengths, this definitely wasn’t going to be for the faint-hearted!

I’ve had just enough experience of Ifor’s puzzles now – in the Listener, the Magpie and elsewhere, to know that the clueing may be complex but is always scrupulously fair and with never a word out of place.  And so it proved here.

However, when it comes to clue difficulty level then it does appear that the gloves are off.  Let me give you the first clue as an example:

     Speculative selling intended to lower price discount slowly

The clues are ordered alphabetically by their answers, so with 40 clues available this may well begin with an A or B?  If it means Speculative then I guess ABSTRACT (and one or two other longer words) might be possible; if it means Slowly then the only word I could think of was ADAGIO.  But where’s the wordplay?

This was one of the last clues I parsed: AGIO, meaning discount, preceded by [R]A[I]D, with RAID’s meaning of speculative selling to lower price being used, and R and I being the extra letters.  AD+AGIO – simple, eh?  I confess to needing the BRB to check both halves of this wordplay!

I needed to solve just over half of the clues before I could fit some into the grid with any certainty.  One of my earliest solves was the answer ODDS AND ENDS for:

Rum old hospital: “Doesn’t hurt keeping dead bits left over” (three words)

It looked like it began ODD (rum) SAN (old hospital), so it only needed a bit of detective work to see if the answer was going to be ODDS AND SODS or ODDS AND ENDS.  This one used one from Ifor’s large collection of inventive anagram indicators, namely hurt, so it parsed as ODD SAN + D(ead) in D[O]ESN[T]*, with O and T being the extra letters involved.  Very clear once you’ve solved it!

There were only two places for an 11-letter entry – the top and bottom rows – so I added it to both in a blank grid then waited to see which one appeared to allow the most checked letters to match with other solved clues (and then rubbed one out).  Eventually (after 22 of 40 clues cold-solved), with TABOO found as the answer to:

Banned boost by advertising following letter from Haifa

… Hebrew letter – here TA[V] – followed by BOO[M], to boost by advertising, then I opted for this being in the bottom left corner and at long last I could start entering something into the grid.

As an aside, the most impressive feature for me in this puzzle was the two instructions hidden back-to-back in the extra letter pairs, in order A-B and B-A.  For example, these might have read SOLVE ME: CHECK THIS FIRST and CHECK THIS FIRST: SOLVE ME.  If they had both been the same length Instruction then it might have been quite pedestrian.  However, we are given 21 letters that form one of the instructions so, given 40 clues in total, the other must have 19 letters.  This offset overlap allowed for some very enjoyable deductive steps, copying letters found in one version of the message into the other.  In one case, for example, the letter in one message needed to be T or D; from the other it needed to be N or T. So it was T – that sort of thing.  Letters could be found in one message, copied to the second, so clarifying which letter was in which message, then copying the new letter deduced back into the first version of the second message and so on – sometimes with up to five such steps (that luckily was easier to do than to describe!).  Delightful!  I ended up with  the attached analysis:


The messages eventually read:


Once the grid was filled it didn’t take long to spot that obscure Pope,

RIEKA OTTO the 10th, backwards in Row 11.

OK, though I’d like it to be, that’s just not true: I meant EDWARD EAGAN in Row 2.  Auntie Google then helped out with explaining that ‘Eddie’ is the only man to have ever won Olympic Gold at both the Summer and Winter Olympics – in boxing and in bob-sledding.

That left deciding which way round to insert BOBBING and BOXING in the remaining two spaces, with the BB going into one cell.  Adding numbers to the grid soon provided the answer – 20 was BOXING, since he won that in 1920 in ANTWERP.  Similarly, 32 was BOBBING, which he won at LAKE PLACID in 1932.  A very neat way to end a superbly constructed puzzle.

Was anyone else misled by the two tennis players and the numerous drug references, banned substances etc?  I did wonder at an early stage if the puzzle was going to be about drug cheating in tennis.  Was ‘Hit and Run’ going to be some form of ‘take drug + do sport’ reference?

And with clues like this around I like to think I could be forgiven for my mistake:

Tennis player in retirement, farewell being overshadowed by suspect gender

Very witty!  I had written in the margin, “Is this B[V] in GE[N]DER*?” but only truly believed it when it eventually fitted into the NE corner of the puzzle.

Returning to the Theme and the Title, Hit and Run, fortunately the theme was much friendlier: the Hit was from Boxing, and Run from the Bob-sledding (as in Cool Running) 🙂

Loved it!

Many thanks, Ifor


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Hit and Run by Ifor

Posted by shirleycurran on 10 Nov 2017

Oh dear, a carte blanche, and there are going to be two extra letters produced by the wordplay of every clue, that we are somehow going to sort into two instructions that will each occur twice but in a different order. This looks complicated and fairly difficult (which is what we have come to expect from Ifor).

Of course, I don’t need to check that Ifor retains his place at the Listener setters’ bar but I check anyway and find ‘Ordered tonic water after dropping in briefly to bar’; I remove I’ and TO from ‘tonic water’ and find RANCE which means ‘bar’ with extra letters TW. Tonic water? I hope Ifor ordered something with that tonic! Ah, there’s port too; ‘Port sent part way round, not yet emptied out’. (Must be one of those alcohol sales gimmicks where they say your port or cognac has been to the equator and back!) I am disappointed when I remove YT from SENT PART WAY and find my port is simply ANTWERP with AS extra.

No problem; Ifor is soon into the red, ‘Condition red: time to get out something like a lane marker’. This is promising until I realise that ‘red’ is an anagram indicator and that CONDITION minus T gives us CONOID with IN extra. Oh dear again – just a road cone. But all is not lost. I find ‘rum’ – Rum old hospital: “Doesn’t hurt keeping dead bits left over” Well, that sounds lugubrious but “Cheers!” anyway, Ifor.

We have already put UNSCRATCHED on row 1 and that last clue, after giving us ODD SAN D(ead) ENDS and an extra TO, fills the final row. We are still grand-child minding in California and the day is taken up with a visit to the magnificent Monterey aquarium, so solutions are slotted in between visits to otters, penguins and the astonishing hopping blennies but by late evening we have a full grid and two locations, ANTWERP and LAKE PLACID.

We have at last remembered something about a famous American, EDDIE EAGAN, who won gold medals in two different Olympic games venues, BOXING in the 1920 Antwerp games and the BOBSLEIGH event in Lake Placid in 1932, and, sure enough, there he is reversed on row 2 as EDWARD EAGAN. We have found that we can fit BOXING into one light and BOBBING into another by putting the two Bs into one cell – but which is which? That is clearly the ambiguity that has to be resolved

We have to sort all our extra letters into two instructions and we laboriously find READ ONE ROW IN REVERSE – well, we have already seen that so we  didn’t need that instruction, but we also find INSERT TWO ENTRY NUMBERS. Numpty head scratch; this was a carte blanche. How are we going to resolve that ambiguity by entering two numbers. I take the problem to bed with me together with that rum, port, red, tonic – whatever, and, of course, as I mentally insert clue numbers into the grid, all becomes clear. The 1920 and 1932 games. Auntie Google tells me that Eddie Eagan was almost refused entry to the 1932 games because he was thought to be too old.  He proved them wrong didn’t he!

There won’t be a setter’s blog from Ifor this week. He said to me “As you know, I am not keen on writing setter blogs, although I’ve no problem with others doing so and enjoy reading them. But by all means (if you wish) mention in your summary that the idea came to me suddenly and fully formed after I’d read the information (in The Times, as it happens) in a library, and was immediately prompted to demand a Chambers to check that BOBBING could indeed mean what I hoped it would.”

“I was going to apologise for the teetotal nature of the clues (that “tonic water”!) until I saw that I’d passed the port, hopefully in the right direction.”

So cheers, Ifor and many thanks for a real challenge.

Poat’s hare seemed to come to a sad end, transfixed by William the Conqueror’s arrow a week ago, much to the distress of a few fellow solvers who felt that like that TABU and KOHb, he had become somewhat of a Listener fixture. It seems that all is well, however, and that the arrow damage was skin-deep, as Ifor had a boxing and a bobbing hare tangled pugnaciously at the top of his grid.

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