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Archive for January, 2018

‘Quiet Guests’ by Schadenfreude

Posted by Encota on 26 January 2018

Welcome to the first solution & comments to a 2018 Listener Crossword …

A super puzzle to start 2018 with – many thanks Schadenfreude!  As ever with puzzles from one of the very best, there was some clue accuracy that I can only sit back and admire.  A couple of examples:

A group of [micro-organisms] put in to stop antibody (6)

Here I particularly liked the use of ‘group of‘ to define G, as in G8 = Group of 8 etc.  So this parsed as A G in REIN (stop) to give REAGIN.  [Note: the word in square brackets was removed before solving as per the puzzle’s Preamble]

Pompous [Quaker] possesses at least two-thirds of an acre (6)

It was the definition here – for BIGHAS – that I liked.  BIGHA is defined in Chambers as having quite a wide range of different areas.  The smallest of them is one third of an acre, so BIGHAS – i.e. presumably at least two of them – must be at least two-thirds of an acre.  Delightful.

2018-01-07 14.34.54

In the one cell that featured the George’s Bush, both 41 and 43 had to be ‘entered in thematic order’.  In practice that only appears to require a comma after the 41 to indicate their order – I hope I am not missing something here!

And the Title?  Quiet Guests = P + RESIDENTS.  Now if only I had spotted that before finishing the whole puzzle.  D’oh!

Cheers all,

Tim / Encota

PS If one was to create a Scoring System for Thematic Puzzles, what might you use to build up the Total score?  I’m currently experimenting with six, each marked out of 10:
Grid; Theme; PDM; Gimmick; Clues; Fun.  Do any of you already do similar?  If yes, I’d be grateful if you’d share with me via the Comments on this site.

Two or three of us compared notes at The Magpie party (many thanks Mark and friends!) very recently and were using very similar.  Thanks to Artix for suggesting the last one – I had been using ‘Overall’ – but that’s far more direct and Fun was exactly what I meant!

I’m not yet brave enough to share my marks per puzzle here – perhaps I’ll start later in the year once it’s clearer that these dimensions are working!


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Listener No 4484: Quiet Guests by Schadenfreude

Posted by Dave Hennings on 26 January 2018

The last puzzle of 2017 was very gentle fare from Jago. Would the first of 2018 likely to be the same? Unlikely I thought, being from the mighty pen of Schadenfreude. It was exactly a year (well, 364 days) since his last puzzle based on the logo and motto of The Times newspaper, “Honi soit…” etc. This week saw his 25th Listener, the first being way back in 1998, with its theme of Arnold Bennett’s Five Towns based on Stoke-on-Trent.

Here we had some cells being “crowded” with more than one letter. (Was this going to be based on another busy metropolis?) Entries without any such crowding would lead us to what would need to replace these scrunched words.

Progress on this puzzle was fairly slow, despite getting off the mark with 12ac ENCALMS which was two letters too long for its entry. If I had managed to get 13dn ADAMITE for Naturist worried about Dutch friend (5) the theme might have come together much more quickly, although I might well have wondered if we were dealing with Joy Adams, with Attenborough, Bellamy, etc to follow.

It was, in fact, well over an hour into this puzzle before I got 10dn Rope in leader of gang no longer gambling (4) giving JEFFING. I then saw the possibility of JEFFERSON and, with half of HARRISON and JOHNSON elsewhere in the grid, the theme of US Presidents became apparent.

Meanwhile, the message spelt out by the initial letters of the non-scrunched entries added to the initial letters of their clues seemed to be spelling out sequence together with incumbent or numerical order.

The preamble stated that there was one cell that did double duty. Now I knew that there were at least two Jeffersons, but there had also been two Bushes where 6dn and 17ac intersected. I was somewhat worried by this, and even more so when I scanned List of US Presidents and found that there had also been two Adamses, two Johnsons, two Harrisons and two Roosevelts. There was also that pesky blighter Grover Cleveland whose two terms as president screwed all the numbering up since each term gave him a separate number in the sequence. Thus Obama was the 44th President but only the 43rd person to hold that office. (I can’t bring myself to mention the current incumbent!)

Eventually, all was made clear by the exact message spelt out: Sequence of prime numbers. Thus it was only ADAMS at 2, JOHNSON at 17 and HARRISON at 23 that were the prime Presidents. The two Bushes were the two whose presidencies both had prime numbers, 41 for George HW Bush and 43 for George W Bush. (Why do Americans have this penchant for giving their sons the same name as themselves, normally with Jr or II, III, IV, etc after their name?!)

Thanks, Schadenfreude. Not particularly gentle fare, but good fun and a great start to the year.

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Quiet Guests by Schadenfreude

Posted by shirleycurran on 26 January 2018

“First of the year – they’ll have given us a gentle romp to encourage as many solvers as possible.” Blithely, I downloaded … Schadenfreude! Oh no! Sure to be impeccably set and rich in theme and fulfilling but also sure to keep us solving for some time (and it was almost midnight when we finished!) When we had solved barely three clues after almost an hour of solving, I was saying “There goes our hope of a 2018 ‘all correct’!” Fortunately things speeded up once we had had that lovely penny-drop moment and the theme emerged (as, of course, it should have done when we saw those P RESIDENTS of the title).

Yes, I had checked Schadenfreude’s continued right to membership of the Listener Setters’ Tipplers Outfit and his clues left me in no doubt. ‘Tipsy cake for Irish broadcaster (5)’ gave TO RTE . Soon after that came ‘Stop and rob drunken sailor (5)’ which gave us HIGH JACK (producing the JACK of JACKSON – but this was our very last solution, when we had worked our way through the SEQUENCE OF PRIME NUMBERS to find fourteen US Presidents and entered all the others).

There was an entire keg produced by ‘Keg Charlie found in Spanish Harlem café perhaps (7)’ C in BARRIO giving BARRICO, so ‘Cheers, Schadenfreude, hope to see you in Paris.

It was when we spotted that INRUSH (‘Influx ruins refurbished hotel’ – RUINS* + H) produced three extra letters USH, that coincided with the B or BURNING (‘Ardent poet out of sun on northern meadow’ BURNS less S on ING) giving BUSH, that we realized that our quiet guests were to be P RESIDENTS. At first we felt that there were rather a lot of presidents. Wiki tells me that there are 45 (though I imagine this crossword was submitted before the arrival of Mr Trump). Fortunately that message about prime numbers was emerging and, in a second p.d.m. we understood that Schadenfreude, with typical aplomb, had limited the selection to fourteen and that we needed to insert their numbers in the place of those names.

From then on, we were almost back-solving. Jefferson had to appear so we needed a word with JEFF in it and JEFFING (no longer gambling) obliged at 10d, neatly tying in with BAR-PERSON at 7ac. and so on. We could only admire the skill with which those fourteen were fitted symmetrically into the grid (and, of course, when we spotted the symmetry, we knew where to look for our last few presidents) and those difficult names combined into subtle and tough clues. This was the work of a master. Many thanks to Schadenfreude.

Entombed hare

No, I am not going to mention Poat’s HARE – he was dead and buried last year and was curled up in a little hare tomb in the bottom right-hand corner of Schadenfreude’s grid (Thought you had sent him off on his holidays. Ed.)

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Listener No 4483, A Little Ray of Sunshine: A Setter’s Blog by Jago

Posted by Listen With Others on 22 January 2018

As with most Crossword ideas — especially those involved in the Listener Pipeline, which has once more become extended well beyond a twelvemonth — the exact source of the original inspiration has been long forgotten. But if (possibly faulty) memory serves, then I believe I was dozing in bed one night, trying to drift off to sleep, when I tried my occasional ploy of “thinking of puzzle themes”: when for some reason, into my head popped a dim memory of a BBC Science programme about Sir Isaac Newton and his experiments with prisms and light. I could vividly recall that part of the programme where he was focusing a narrow beam of bright sunlight (from a chink in the window-blind, I think) onto a glass prism; and then producing the visible spectrum, as we know it today. Quite why that vision came into my head, is a mystery: but then, I suppose we all owe our “inspiration” (of whatever weight or magnitude) to some mysterious workings of the subconscious…

Anyway — I then resolved, once I was more alert the next day, to try to develop a puzzle on the theme of the colours of the spectrum (but not just about the rainbow, I might add!). And so I hit upon the idea of using diagonally-spilt squares to use as “focal lines” for my light source onto my “prism”. It so happens that I am a particular devotee of the 15 x 10 grid: I came across it in the late 60’s or early 70’s, when it was used quite a bit by (I think) Jeffec or ffancy — but in any event, I have used that format for about a third of my Listener puzzles over the years. And of course, the letter-count is pretty much the same as with a standard 12 x 12 grid: 150 letters as opposed to 144: thus not so different a challenge — but its merit is that it allows (literally) greater “width” in the grid; and also, 15-letter words, if you are that way inclined, too!

I soon discovered that the consecutive words “white” and “light” added up to 10 letters; which seemed the perfect start to the left-hand side of the grid. And then my split diagonal “focal lines” led naturally to a point about a third of the way in, where I then could place the “prism” which would “split” my “light beam” into its component colours. At first, I simply sought to enter the colours as words in their own right; but I soon realised that that was far too simple and straightforward: and so I hit upon the idea of hiding them amongst “normal” words. And with seven spectrum colours, plus my “white light”, my “focal lines” and my “prism”, I soon needed the additional grid-width that the 15-square grid gave me.

The grid filled fairly readily; but I was forced to use a number of quite short words, in order to retain the grid’s symmetry, whilst also being constrained by the necessity of the entire theme. (I haven’t always used symmetrical grids: but I try to avoid giving them up, if at all possible.) I found “indigo” and “violet” quite hard to divide logically and artfully between pairs of other words; and that probably led to the use of a couple of 3-letter words in the grid.

Once I had finished the grid (and the clues!), I needed a title: and I toyed with “Spectrum” (too obvious) and “Newton’s Discovery” (too clumsy) and a couple of other more leaden efforts. Then I remembered a phrase from my childhood years, which referred (possibly sarcastically) to someone who was always bright and chirpy and never let things get them down: “A little Ray of Sunshine”. That seemed to me the perfect way to mislead solvers into thinking of enthusiasm or bright spirits; whilst being literally true to the origin of Newton’s discovery of the visible spectrum and its colours. You decide!

Then came the submission and the (long, long) wait: almost 2 years from creation to publication. But I was delighted to have it as the final puzzle of 2017: and without any serious editorial changes — apart from a few tweaks to a few clues. (Aren’t there always? Or am I just deluding myself?) One proposed change that I successfully reversed was with the up-word “lad” — where I argued to keep the word “erect” in the clue (they wanted “upright”); but that conflicted with my wordplay about the sexual undertone of a young lad “fancying” anything with a pulse: and of course, “lad” when erect is “dal” — which is a variety of pulse, in its other use. I always like to inject a bit of humour into some of my clues (I hope you’ve noticed!) and indeed, I try not to take the whole world of crosswords too seriously, at any time.

I hope that “A Little Ray of Sunshine” did indeed bring a bit of light and colour to a somewhat cold and drab time of year…


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Listener No 4483: A Little Ray of Sunshine by Jago

Posted by Dave Hennings on 19 January 2018

Some solvers will always associate some setters with a particular puzzle. Poat will, in many eyes, always be remembered for that bloody hare (RIP!). Jago, more fondly (?), for his Origami wren. There didn’t seem to be any folding required here — that was Zero’s prerogative last week — and it seemed very unlikely that a wren would be lurking in the grid. [Hold that thought. Ed.]

Here we had a grid where some cells needed to accommodate two letters with a diagonal line separating them. It turned out that there weren’t as many of these as I had expected… only eight. 1dn 26dn and 20 were unclued thematic entries referred to in the preamble. Once these were revealed as WHITE LIGHT and PRISM, it didn’t take long to spot the colours of the rainbow in seven columns to the right of the prism.

I seem to remember some time back being in a quandary over exactly what colours to use. Blue and Indigo have always confused me, and don’t mention Purple, Violet and Mauve! Anyway, I think that JEG is fairly tolerant when it comes to that sort of thing.

This turned out to be a very gentle solve for the last Listener of the year. Forty minutes saw everything fall into place. Thanks, Jago.

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