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Archive for March, 2018

Devilry by Nutmeg

Posted by shirleycurran on 30 March 2018

We smiled when we saw that the crossword was by Nutmeg (hers always have attractive themes and entertaining clues). Then our smiles changed to gloomy grimaces of consternation. Surely not Printer’s Devilry! … and misprints too. We know that PD clues are either loved or loathed with the second camp of solvers being significantly larger. The problem is that those are a kind of advanced hypothetical word search with no helpful definition appearing in the clue. The solver has to attempt to spot the most likely place in the deviled sentence for the solution word to have been removed, and with Nutmeg’s skill, those are likely to have been well disguised.

Fortunately there were 23 normal clues (well, clues with misprints) and one of those immediately yielded all the proof I needed that Nutmeg retains her entry right to the Listener Setters’ Toping Outfit, ‘Drunken old lecher ignoring fourth letter from one of France’s cuties (8)’ We removed the D from OLDLECHER* and found ROCHELLE and opted for cIties as the corrected misprint. ‘Drunken old lecher’ is rather extreme for Nutmeg, the sober and graceful lady setter (the only other one currently setting Listener puzzles, I believe – that’s under 4% – where are you ladies?)

Later we found that the tipple is ALCOPOPs – ‘Inspector found venAL COP OPerating protection racket (7)’ so cheers, Nutmeg. I think that clue shows how well some of these PDs were hidden and we frequently found ourselves working backwards from potential solutions, to fit the letters into the clues. WINCEY, for example, had to go into ‘In the 19th Century, a felon left for India (6)’ It makes perfect sense, as does ‘a feW IN CEYlon left for India.

There was Nutmeg humour too. ‘Not getting enough? Chat up another dish! (4)’ … but it was not rumpy-pumpy that was lacking this time. ‘Not getting enough? ChAPS Eat up another dish. We solved steadily and our initial dismay turned to pleasure as those misprint clues coupled with the PD led to a fairly speedy grid fill. RALPH, as the printer’s devil soon appeared but we had completely missed the thematic hint in the final clue, ‘Model satanist continued his work (4)’ Model sat anD ARTist continued his work. We had a full grid with just one clue unsolved. Was TANGI or HANGI going to fill 18 across? However, the corrected misprints were obligingly giving us SHADE SIX SYMMETRICAL DEVILS and at once SATAN appeared, resolving that final doubt.

We back-solved to another delightful example of PD that was totally thematic. ‘Being an easily tempted Christian saTAN GIves me a lot of trouble (5)’. We had the hint that the devils were symmetric so there was no frustrating grid stare as FIEND, DAIMON, BELIAL, CLOOTS and HORNIE came into view. Graphically thematic too, not only is there a Christian cross but also an upside down satanic one! Lovely setting; many thanks to Nutmeg.


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Listener No 4493: Devilry by Nutmeg

Posted by Dave Hennings on 30 March 2018

Last year’s Nutmeg concerned William Sherwood and his comment about mendacious piscators (“are fishermen all liars?”). This week, we had a mixture of misprints and printer’s devilry clues.

“Well,” said I (to myself), “a long time since we’ve had PDs in a Listener.” I proceeded with my solve, and only when writing this blog did I look to see exactly how long. It seemed that it had been only two years — Dragon’s PD about decimalisation. I’d have put it at ten or more! OK, before that, we had to go back to 2010 and Pointer’s Double Devilry.

Anyway, this week’s Nutmeg puzzle turned out to be a real toughie for me. Obviously the mixture of two clue types didn’t help, but the lack of a helpful definition in the PD clues didn’t help even more.

I started on the acrosses… and then gave up on them after a dozen or so since not one entry had been slotted in the grid. I tried the downs and they were much more forgiving. I use the qualifier “much more” somewhat loosely. After an hour, I had just 14 entries in the grid, over half of them being from PD clues.

A short while later and I had •A•P• for the unclued 25ac, and it was obvious that RALPH, the printer’s devil himself, would appear there. I really should have got that after reading the preamble, although I suppose it could just as easily have been AFRIT.

After a couple of quite long sessions, the grid was complete. I suppose I wasn’t surprised to make heavy going of two clues: 18ac Being an easily tempted Christian[,] sa[TAN GI]ves me a lot of trouble (5), and 30ac Religious vigilantes nabbed Sikh in T[URBAN ER]ring (7) — the first for a word I’d not heard of, and the second for a comparative that I don’t use very often (and with a clue that reads a bit odd). Also, I wasn’t helped by having it in my head for a long time that 29dn In the 19th century, a fe[W IN CEY]lon left for India (6) was a misprint clue!

At last though, the corrected misprint letters spelt out Shade six symmetric devils. SATAN and FIEND appeared in rows 5 and 9, and CLOOTS, HORNIE, DAIMON and BELIAL in four columns.

Over at the Inquisitor, John H has asked for comments on whether solvers would like to see Printer’s Devilry, Playfair or even numerical puzzles there. I wrote that I would not be averse to any of them, but that Nutmeg had somewhat put me off PDs. Still, we all have our pet hates and peeves, and I probably just got out of bed the wrong side!

Thanks for a tough workout, Nutmeg.

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‘Dry*’ by Nutmeg

Posted by Encota on 30 March 2018

*OK, so it was actually called Devilry: the aim in exactly half of the clues was to add the characters of a(n unrelated) word to form a new word or phrase.  And to stop this appearing too random, the expanded phrase made more sense than the original shorter clue.  So perhaps D(EVIL)RY sort of works!

Many of those new phrases were delightful in their own right and, if I understand it correctly (I am new to Printer’s Devilry (PD) puzzles having only ever solved one or two before), making a plausible phrase turn into a more apposite one seems to very much be the skill required of the setter.  I tried to write just one good PD clue and failed miserably – if you haven’t ever done so then give it a try.  You are almost bound to do better than I did!

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Of course, Nutmeg feels that ‘simply’ having all clues in this format would be far too easy, so she chooses to randomly intersperse them with standard cryptic clues!  Not only that, Nutmeg clearly feels that would be too easy too, and so makes a misprint in each definition of these second type of clues!!  And, naturally, the solver has no idea initially which are which.  Easy, eh?

So, where does one start?  I found the misprint clues the easier ones to spot, as their wordplay was unadulterated – and my first in was 40ac’s:

  There’s no escaping at end of work, times being changed (6)

It looked like it would be (wor)K plus an anagram of TIMES*.  The word was clearly KISMET but where was the misprint?  Ah yes, There’s no escaping it – fate, that is – so the corrected letter is I.  Only 22 left to find!

My first Printer’s Devilry clue solved was 19a:

  At high tea, brought up small fish (4)

The clue’s structure pointed towards ‘small fish’ being the definition and the start might newly read ‘High tide …’ and so it was straightforward to spot IDES, some small fish.  The new sentence of course then became:

  At high tIDE Sea brought up small fish (4)

Only 22 PD clues left to find as well!

There were some very clever sentences written here by Nutmeg – perhaps not surprising as I rate her as one of the very best clue writers around.  One example, the PD clue at 33ac:

Hold in the deep may affect skipper’s knock (5)

It’s initially sounding quite nautical, isn’t it, what with ‘the deep’ and ‘skipper’, for example.  However, add WIFIE and it becomes very cricket-based:

HoW I FIEld in the deep may affect skipper’s knock (5)

Very, very clever!!

The final instruction from the 23 misprints was to SHADE SIX SYMMETRIC DEVILS.  I found four quickly, with the last two taking just a few moments longer.  Another clever feature of Nutmeg’s grid was the symmetry of these ‘devilish’ words.

In summary, a great grid with some hard but very fair intermixed clues.  Thanks Nutmeg!

Tim / Encota

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Listener 4492, Mad Tom’s Traps: A Setter’s Blog by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by Listen With Others on 26 March 2018

When I was a lad (a long time ago!) I was given an I Spy Butterflies and Moths book (still available, I’m pleased to say, though now with super colour photos and words like “funky” used to describe the creatures). Armed with this tome, I spent many enjoyable hours, both in the garden and also exploring the chalk landscape of the Chiltern Hills near to my home, looking for all sorts of caterpillars and butterflies and moths described within its pages, and scoring points based on the rarity of the particular examples found.

I didn’t realise then, of course, that, nearly fifty years later, this early fascination would eventually lead to the compiling of a crossword puzzle based on these beautiful creatures: for my love of searching for and observing butterflies has never left me. Indeed, it was only a few years ago that I awarded myself 50 I-spy points for observing for the first time a swallowtail butterfly in the Norfolk Broads!

Enough reminiscing. I had in mind that the subject of butterflies and moths could make a nice puzzle for the Listener series but, as is often the way, I wasn’t sure how to implement it. Then, in 2015, there appeared in The Magpie crossword magazine a puzzle – Fair Game by Mr Magoo – whose “mechanics” seemed to lend themselves perfectly to the butterfly theme. The idea that immediately came to mind was to introduce a LEPIDOPTERIST through the resolution of clashes in the initial grid, and then to produce a collection of butterflies and moths through further changes brought about by introducing the letters of BUTTERFLY NET. Rather unusually, this initial concept worked exactly as originally conceived.

I was rather concerned that my basing the “mechanics” of Mad Tom’s Traps on Mr Magoo’s earlier puzzle might be considered unacceptable, even though the content is, of course, entirely original. I certainly didn’t want to be accused of plagiarism, so in my submission, I did indicate that I had done this. However, nothing was said about it, so I hope it is alright.

To give solvers some help in identifying the “hunter”, I wanted the letters of the word LEPIDOPTERIST to replace those of another word or phrase that could be indicated in the preamble. Butterfly hunting being predominately a summertime activity, I chose SUMMER FLOWERS as the second phrase, with enough letters different from LEPIDOPTERIST hopefully to make the identification of the hunter fairly straightforward. I assumed that, once the hunter was identified, the identification of her or his equipment as BUTTERFLY NET would be obvious.

The main work of the puzzle’s compilation was to choose a selection of butterflies and moths each of whose names could be changed to another word by replacement of one of the letters of BUTTERFLY NET. This term having twelve letters, I therefore needed twelve butterflies and moths. Some, such as gatekeeper (→ game-keeper) and orange tip (→ orange pip) suggested themselves immediately, but to generate a list of possibilities took quite a while, even armed with the internet and various other reference works (including dear old I Spy Butterflies and Moths!) A further constraint was that I wanted all the names to be verifiable by Chambers, so in the end, my list was not very long, and I didn’t have much flexibility in the choice of names to include in the puzzle. I must admit that there are one or two – bugong, for example – that I’d not heard of before.

The next problem was to fit an appropriate selection of the words derived from the names into a symmetrical grid, ensuring that, when the appropriate letters were changed to give the names of butterflies and moths, real words still remained. I am a setter who does not use any tools (other than a dictionary and other reference works) to assist in the compiling of puzzles – I enjoy the process of creating a filled thematic grid, and like to do it using my own little grey cells alone. For this step, I deliberately developed the grid so that most of the changes to create the names occurred at unchecked cells. The idea was that, again to give solvers a bit of help in the final step, the letters to be replaced could be indicated by a word or phrase mentioned in the preamble. At this stage, I had no idea what that word or phrase might be, but when I had eventually managed to create a filled grid, I discovered that the letters that needed to be replaced to form the names could be arranged into the phrase MAD TOM’S TRAPS, and I felt that was good enough for the purpose. This also, of course, became the name of the puzzle.

Cluing, as always, took ages, but the puzzle was rather unusual in having entirely normal clues, which helped. There was a bit of additional pre-publication editing of the clues, with the puzzle finally being published on 3rd March 2018. This was a puzzle that I really enjoyed compiling: I hope that it was also an enjoyable one to solve.

As ever, thanks are due to Shane and Roger, the Listener Crossword editors, for their unstinting efforts and support in getting Mad Tom’s Traps ready for publication.

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‘Mad Tom’s Traps’ by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by Encota on 23 March 2018

A setter with possible initials of HS and who had previously created a puzzle based on the HS2 train from London to Birmingham.  I had a strong hunch this puzzle would be some form of extension to HS2 – and so it soon proved.


With a Title containing ‘mad’ it would most likely involve a jumble of the fodder ‘TOM’S TRAPS.  Once it was clear this was TRAM STOPS, once simply had to align the map of the UK Midlands Metro Extension Programme (above) with the grid.  Noting that it includes HS2 (from his 2017 Listener puzzle) at its centre (& stage right) and those multiple TRAM STOPS marked with blue Os.  Simply line up the Os with those Os in the completed grid and Game Over.

OK, so I haven’t actually checked this final stage out – but it has got to be right? Hasn’t it??

Cheers all,

Tim / Encota

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PS More seriously, what a great puzzle, with such a huge level of thematic content!  Many thanks Hedge-sparrow.  With all those fluttering things around I was almost tempted to claim it was all based on the last line of Robert Graves’ poem, ‘Leaving The Rest Unsaid’ – but that would just have been silly, wouldn’t it …

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