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Archive for March, 2018

Mad Tom’s Traps by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by shirleycurran on 23 March 2018

“What a lovely short pre-ramble” said the other Numpty and added, “Looks as though this might be about butterflies if he’s rambling amongst the wild summer flowers”. I was too busy commenting with disbelief on Hedge-sparrow’s amazing count of alcoholic clues. I suppose that with the setters’ dinner in Paris only a couple of weeks away, he’s getting ready to prop up the bar – but what an appalling mixture of drinks!

‘Strength of Perth’s Aussie plonk mostly makes a terrible weapon (10, 2 words)’  gave us FUSION for the Scottish strength, then BOMB(o) for most of the Aussie plonk so we had our terrible weapon. (I instructed in an Aussie ski resort, Mt Buller, for four seasons and can remember lugging boxes of the bombo up the icy slopes to our flat after the lifts closed, quite a terrible weapon some of it was!)

‘Going – gone? Knock back this vintage Norwich ale to get some of that (4)’ There’s NOGG reversed in that lovely clue. But what is it the Germans say? ‘Bier auf Wein, dass lass’ sein: Wein auf Bier dass rat’ ich Dir. I believe that advises us not to start with the wine then go on to the beer.

‘Cut consumption of wine (cut by half) (5)’ Gave us TB then ONE – that sounded promising but then ‘Drinks, spending day in the lowlands (4)’ told us to remove D from DALES and Hedge-sparrow was back on the ALES. It got worse, ‘Overlooking loch, recall Scottish island with a bit of a dram (4)’ Gave A MULL losing that L and we found that a LUMA is a bit of a dram in Armenian currency. So he’s into the whisky now. Then ‘Wilhelm’s blood left in cask (4)’ put an L into BUT giving BLUT (and no doubt back on the ale in that cask!) Next comes absinthe! ‘Bleating elderly couple swallowing a spot of absinthe (6)’ We found that a MING is archaic for couple and A A(bsinthe) made that into MAAING. ‘Head north on the sea (6)’ produced N + OGGIN. That NOGGIN could be wine or ale, and the whole alcoholic orgy finished with ‘Reach European port? (4)’ WIN + E. What is there to say? Cheers, Hedge-sparrow. I am amazed he was sober enough to produce such a delightful compilation after that binge!

But it was a delightful compilation with clues that had fine, sometimes deceptive, surface readings that steadily led us to a full grid with thirteen clashes obligingly appearing and an unambiguous instruction in the preamble telling us how to deal with those. In any case, it was fairly evident which letters had to be extracted, as in every case, we were left with real words in both the down and the across answer. That was a lovely achievement, especially as the ‘wild’ or anagrammed SUMMER FLOWERS were being trampled and the remaining letters TLDOTRPPSIEIE gave us our rambling hunter. – Oh no, surprise, surprise, no wonder there were all those alcohol references, they are all in it together: it’s an EDITORS’ TIPPLE so I suppose I am going to find empty bottles scattered all over the grid.

It was not to be, so I tried again and found a more satisfactory LEPIDOPTERIST.

We had to find MAD TOM’S TRAPS scattered around the grid (12 letters of course) and replace them with ‘the hunter’s usual equipment (two words – obviously the 12 letters of BUTTERFLY NET, though I had, by this time sorted out my usual equipment, a rather dated set of reference books that were all rather insular. Can you believe it, there wasn’t a BUGONG or a SILVER-Y in any of them! Chambers and Mrs Bradford, of course, came to the rescue and I was aided by the fact that I was soon left with only a couple of Ts and an S that had to be changed to an E an L and a Y.

I had my twelve victims, ORANGE TIP, RINGLET, ELFIN, LUNA, OWLET, BURNET, EGGER, BUGONG, GATEKEEPER, SILVER-Y, BLUE and LAPPET and could only marvel that Hedge-sparrow had managed to fit so much into his grid, with twenty-five of the original letters changing in a symmetrical grid, all in two series of moves in such a thematic way. Superb, thanks.

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Listener No 4492: Mad Tom’s Traps by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by Dave Hennings on 23 March 2018

Last year’s H-s puzzle had HS2 running through the grid, much to his disappointment. It looked as though someone called Mad Tom would be causing him grief this week. I hoped that he wouldn’t do the same to me.

Clashes would need resolving in 13 cells. Eventually, a hunter, his equipment, some wild summer flowers and potential quarries would need to be sorted out — somehow!

Progress in the early stages was fairly quick. This was followed by a slightly slower stretch of solving and then another spurt. The last two clues took an age to resolve, mainly because they involved clashes that had me befuddled for far too long. I won’t reveal which ones they were — oh, OK, they were 20dn and 42dn.

The endgame now had to be tackled. It was fairly obvious that those letters forming SUMMER FLOWERS had to be dropped from the clashes to be replaced by a ‘rambling hunter’ The letters that I was left with were DOTIPERSIPLET. Because I sometimes like to cause myself maximum discomfort, I didn’t resort to an anagram helper, but tried my usual doodling to jog the little grey cells.

I SPOTTED PERIL was the first anagram I stumbled on, followed by I’D STOP REPTILE. A few more abortive attempts and I had PI DO PI SETTLER, and this somehow enabled me to spot LEPIDOPTERIST (don’t ask me how). It didn’t take much longer to guess that his ‘usual equipment’ was BUTTERFLY NET.

So, MAD TOM’S TRAPS had to be replaced by the net to catch 12 potential quarries. Well, there were lots of places that the first set of letters were scattered around the grid. It was seeing that GAMEKEEPER could become GATEKEEPER that got me on the right track. Chambers told me that it was ‘any of several large butterflies’.

So it looked as though we would end up with a dozen lepidopterous creatures in the final grid. All I had to do was find them! Again, I decided on a bit of masochism and shunned Mrs Bradford. It was very enjoyable weeding out the butterflies and moths such as the ORANGE TIP and SILVER-Y and that took me about 20 minutes. Who said ‘life’s too short’? Not I.

Thanks for an enjoyable puzzle, Hedge-sparrow. Lots going on from start to finish.

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Listener No 4491, A Dreadful Puzzle: A Setter’s Blog by Dysart

Posted by Listen With Others on 19 March 2018

I’m not one of those people lucky enough to be nihilophobes (a Dysart coinage for this blog). I have a few pet aversions (one being selfies) and one phobia – that of heights. I feel distinctly uncomfortable venturing onto the balcony of my friends’ thirteenth-floor apartment to admire the sea view (if I suffered from triskaidekaphobia I probably wouldn’t even venture into the apartment). A few years back I climbed around one hundred very steep steps to the top of a temple in Ayutthaya only to find that I froze when I turned round to start the near vertical descent. The only way I can cope in such situations is by the somewhat inelegant technique of going down backwards. And when I toured Zion National Park in the US two years ago nothing would have induced me to climb up to the dizzy heights of Angel’s Landing. Just watching bits of that video makes my stomach churn.

Over the years I’ve come across some odd phobias, in one case of the colour red (though there doesn’t appear to be a word for that). I’ve yet to meet someone suffering from dromophobia, a morbid fear of crossing streets, which must make life somewhat of a trial. In some cases it was the word rather than the condition that intrigued me, such as astrapophobia (thunder and lightning) or taphophobia (being buried alive).

On to the puzzle. The main idea was to exploit the fact that many of the prefixes are anagrams of other words. When I checked the text search in the 2005 Chambers CD ROM I found 91 phobias, the prefixes of twenty-two of them making real words when jumbled. I like thematic items to be placed symmetrically if at all possible, and the 23 options available made this possible. The breakdown was nine four-letter choices, ten of five letters, three of six and one of seven. Five couldn’t be accurately conveyed by a single word, so had to be discounted. The singleton (ORNITHO-) dictated the start of the grid, a seven-letter word in the centre of a row or column. The six-letter option I didn’t use was SCOPTO- (fear of being looked at – problematic for someone in an identity parade). Four five-letter prefixes and two four-letter ones would make a good balance of word lengths. Besides the aesthetic appeal of symmetry there was the bonus that it could help solvers identify the thematic clues if they noticed the symmetry early enough.

My grid requirements were a perfectly Ximenean symmetrical grid, preferably no three-letter words and a respectable average word length. Constructing the grid was easier than expected. My first attempt to place the thematic entries resulted in a useable grid using Sympathy’s autofill. It was at that point I thought of ANDY CAPP. I’m not an avid cartoon fan but I see him every day on one page of the English-language newspaper in my foreign domicile, and he seemed an apt figure for ergophobia. That entailed a bit of shifting around of thematic entries. The other two endgame elements emerged in the course of experimenting with different grids. I could see I could get FEAR in the final grid, and the P of PANTO seemed a good starting point for PAIN. On reflection it would have been neater if WORK, not PAIN, had been the thematic word excluded from clues, to match the comic character. I rather regret not doing that.

I often spend longer on the clues than on the grid construction, and that was certainly the case here. I made a conscious decision to provide Shirley with some boozy material for her blog, so the puzzle would definitely not be an alcohol-free zone, but there were plenty of opportunities. The main difficulty was neatly camouflaging the extra words in clues, dividing them equally between across clues and down (to extend the puzzle’s symmetry).‘Heights’ and ‘crowds’ were particularly difficult, and ‘work’ and ‘everything’ moved homes several times before eventually becoming permanently settled. It was also important that there were no intruders, and I’m grateful to test solvers for identifying the odd word or two that could have been seen as an extra.

The title I used was more or less the first that occurred to me. I realized that it was an invitation to anyone who didn’t like the puzzle respond with “Yes, it was,” but I was prepared to risk it, and so far I’ve seen only one such comment.

One solver commented that I could have had a tenth item, CYNOPHOBIA (dogs) if 34 had been CYNO (which I could have clued as CONY) I deliberately avoided that because it would spoil the symmetry and would have meant one short thematic entry crossing two others , leaving only one cell from a normal entry. If I’d managed to maintain symmetry by squeezing in a symmetrical partner there would have been two such entries, breaching a principle I observed throughout the grid construction that none of the nine jumbled entries should intersect.

I’ll leave you now with one more phobia I discovered today that may affect some people next month and again later this year– paraskavedekatriaphobia. It’s not in the mainstream dictionaries but can be found in online non-standard ones. Greek scholars will be able to work it out.


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A Dreadful Puzzle by Dysart

Posted by shirleycurran on 16 March 2018

Colour-coded jumbles and clues where extra words appeared.

Well the title says it all doesn’t it? No, seriously, we were smiling about the fact that Dysart was possibly attempting to foretell solvers’ reactions and we failed to pay enough attention to that title which could have said it all! Instead, we noted that there were going to be nine jumbles ‘mostly resulting in non-words’ (ah, joy, jumbles!) and eight other clues containing an extra word to which we had to add a ninth word, appearing in the grid, that we would highlight. Nine and nine! We had to change one letter in the final grid producing something thematic and find a cartoon character, eight letters in a straight line (POAT HARE? No – more about that little fellow later!)

We got down to our solve – well, after I had confirmed Dysart’s continued membership of the Listener Setters’ Toping Club: he didn’t leave much doubt did he? ‘Tipple from drink before travelling west (5)’ gave PINTA with the A (before) moving west in the clue to give PAINT. What has that to do with ‘tipple’? I was amazed to find that it is slang for tipple! A few clues further down we find ‘Spirits occasionally abandoned by judge in lodgings (4)’ There are not many J words in Chambers (Jack, Japan, Judge, Joint, Journal, Justice, Joule …) and a spirit that begins with J in JINN so we slotted INNS in without a second thought – well, we did have a second thought and allocated ‘occasionally’ to our list of extra words, giving ourselves trouble later when we were trying to work out what it was doing there. One has to be so careful: Chambers,of course, explains that JINNS in the plural is non-standard use. However, with that tipple, pinta, paint and spirits, I think Dysart keeps his place at the bar. Cheers!

Solving proceeded steadily with these enjoyable clues and when DISTANTLY, OTTO and GIARDIA joined the PAINT in that right hand corner, we were able to establish that ON TAP (so Dysart is mixing the beer in!) was going to be one of the jumbles, and, what is more it resolved itself to a real word, PANTO, when AORTIC almost completed the corner. We were rather surprised when BEAR ‘Have to suffer ill-mannered chap (4)’ seemed to have a triple definition – luckily, we postponed our reflections about that word to the end – when it became so useful!

We had an almost full grid with just HORNITO to slot in down the centre and the intriguing situation of two unches that had to somehow have different letters in them, the N and the T. One of them (or both) were clearly going to be thematic and, sure enough, ANDY CAPP appeared and gave us the cartoon character in eight letters. Google time – What is it all about? More than eight extra words were on our list: that ‘occasionally’ and work, everything, crowds, night, cats, birds, light, heights and laird (sorry – how stupid of me not to realize that was a Scottish indicator – it led me on a wild goose chase about an Elizabeth Laird who wrote about Ethiopian folk tales. How do solvers manage without Google?)

The head scratching continued for far too long before the p.d.m. If we had just read those jumbles out loud, all would have been clear far earlier. There was a muttering about the title – how is it full of dread? AH, FEAR! The other Numpty was soon looking up OCHLOPHBIA, fear of crowds, AILUROPHOBIA, fear of cats, ALGOPHOBIA, fear of pain, ORNITHOPHOBIA, fear of birds, HYPSOPHOBIA, fear of heights, PANTOPHOBIA, fear of everything, PHENGOPHOBIA, fear of daylight and NICTOPHOBIA, fear of night. With a little research, we found that Andy Capp suffered from ERGOPHOBIA, fear of work. So that triple-clued BEAR had to become FEAR and all that was left to do was highlight the one phobia that didn’t have a corresponding word in the clues, algophobia, fear of PAIN. What a fine finish. Thank you Dysart.

That elusive hare? I received grief-stricken comments about the possibility that he was dead and gone but, in fact, no need to worry, he really does seem to be on his hols (postcard arrived from the COMOROS, see 26d, where he is sunning himself on the beach, not suffering from MARAPHOBIA, see 17ac or LEPORIDAPHOBIA) and he’ll be back, one of these days in a straight line of four letters.


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‘A Dreadful Puzzle’ by Dysart

Posted by Encota on 16 March 2018

With nine jumbles required, filling those entries looked like they’d take quite some work.

CYTON at 29ac being entered as NYCTO was the first to fall – and suddenly all those phobias started to creep in, namely:

  • NYCTOPHOBIA: … night
  • AILUROPHOBIA: … cats
  • ALGOPHOBIA: … pain
  • PHENGOPHOBIA … (day)light
  • ERGOPHOBIA … work
  • OCHLOPHOBIA … crowds
  • HYPSOPHOBIA … heights
  • PANTOPHOBIA … everything

Eight of these nine meanings were the hidden words in the eight clues that the Preamble mentioned, leaving just PAIN to be found, which could have been a real pain to find, but fortunately wasn’t (as it was in plain sight on the top row).

SCAN0437 copy

I wondered therefore which cartoon character was to be highlighted.  I soon spotted Andy Capp on one of the diagonals and therefore it was him.  Fear of work, eh!

I loved the clues’ surfaces – superb as ever.  And it’s always good to see ANDY at the heart of such an excellent construction.  Thanks Dysart!

Tim / Encota

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