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Archive for June, 2018

Multiple Deletions by Ifor

Posted by shirleycurran on 29 June 2018

My oh my, what a preamble! We read our way through it twice then resorted to colour-coding to sort out what we were expecting to do. It was clear that we had to find that letter in every clue that was going to spell out part of a verse describing the filled grid. Those letters were going to be anywhere in the clue but, having solved a number of Ifor’s crosswords in the past, we could be sure that they would be cunningly hidden in the instructions for anagramming, enclosing, or in some other way altering clue elements – as indeed they were, ‘cringing’ for example, leading us to ‘ringing’, ‘blagged’ leading to ‘bagged’, and ‘shout’ leading to ‘shot’.

More worrying was the instruction that 20 clues must have one or more letters deleted to form the non-word grid entry. ‘One or more’ – but which? We were still asking ourselves that some time later. The next instruction added complexity, telling us that nine symmetrical pairs of entries would behave in different ways, one where we would delete from the wordplay and the other we where would delete from the definition. Even that central, unclued column was going to undergo deletion and the deleted letters would appear below the grid. It sounded ferocious!

Of course I needed to confirm Ifor’s right of entry to the Listener setters’ oenophile elite and clue 11 gave a little hope – drunken already! ‘Drunken filth repeatedly talking about big cheese in Chicago (13)’ HIGH-MUCK-A-MUCK was a new one on me and not much proof of oenophile expertise and it wasn’t until almost the end of our solve that we found ‘Spare cash following [S]ale (9, two words)’ which gave us BEER MONEY. So all was well, “Cheers, Ifor! See you at the bar.

Clue solving was fun and some very long words speedily appeared: ENUNCIATOR, SCINTI-SCANNER, COUNTERCHANGE, FILIBUSTEROUS, NON-COMMERCIAL, SUB-MACHINE-GUN, CONSENTANEOUS – but what was going on. We had done some careful counting and knew that anywhere between one and six letters were coming out of these to produce the grid entry – but which?

Those pairs of words were a help as PHONEMICS could clearly lead to PHONICS and KINGSHIP to KINSHIP, so a grid fill began, peopled with HIPPO and SUSHI, COUP and BONY but we needed that part of a verse to progress any further and fortunately the words WORLD, CUNNINGLY and ELEMENTS appeared and led to a penny-drop moment. Google confirmed that John Donne in his Holy Sonnet Number Five said ‘I am little world made cunningly of elements’. So that explained the ‘world shape’ of the grid and told us how to fill it – Elements! – Obviously only the single letter ones.

There was still some hard work to do filling the final gaps in our grid and we marvelled that For could have constructed this astonishing compilation. The last move was a delight when we realised that the non-elements that had to be removed from that central column told us to DELETE!



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‘Multiple Deletions’ by Ifor

Posted by Encota on 29 June 2018

2018-06-10 13.16.52

Ever since this clever puzzle by Ifor, where all entries into the grid are only allowed to contain one-letter chemical elements, I have been writing my daily diary using only the reduced alphabet made available by those one-letter chemical elements, namely:

  • B: boron
  • C: carbon
  • F: fluorine
  • H: hydrogen
  • I: iodine
  • K: potassium
  • N: nitrogen
  • O: oxygen
  • P: phosphorus
  • S: sulfur.  Yes, I have finally succumbed!!
  • U: uranium
  • V: that other one*
  • W: tungsten
  • Y: one of those discovered in Ytterby, I forget which*

As an example, here is a typical daily Diary entry – this one was for SUN. of course, though actually every day contains exactly the same …

  1. Up, up, up!
  2. Cook couscous soup on hob
  3. Nip of whisky
  4. Pick up bus
  5. Inconspicuous on bus
  6. Nip of whisky on bus
  7. Hop off bus
  8. Whisky in pub
  9. Buy book in bookshop
  10. Whisky in inn
  11. Picnic of chop, onions ‘n’ chips
  12. Sink nip of whisky in pub
  13. Sip of couscous soup
  14. Whisky in pub
  15. Spoon of soup
  16. Whisky in pub
  17. Cup of soup
  18. Whisky in pub
  19. Buy pink chiffon bikini. Why???
  20. Pick up bus
  21. Choc ‘n’ buns on bus
  22. Whisky on bus
  23. Sick on bus (HONKS CHUNKS)
    2018-06-27 18.17.15.jpg
  24. Unconscious on bus
  25. Skip off bus
  26. Kip in bunk

There were some tough, long words in this puzzle: ZONOTRICHIA, CONSENTANEOUS and, my favourite, HIGHMUCKAMUCK.  10d’s choice of PHONICS or possibly PHONEMICS as the defined word added to the complication, since it was then not initially clear which type of clue it was.

I had found the John Donne poem / quote – “I am a little world made cunningly of elements” and its location of “Holy Sonnet Five” – about one-third the way through the solve, along with confirming which other letter required deletion from the clues I hadn’t at that stage solved.

The symmetry of the puzzle helped a lot in identifying which clue type was which – I felt this was one of the smartest parts of the puzzle.

My only slight concern during the endgame was being sure I had been told to use only one letter symbols for elements: could I, perhaps, have kept Ne (for neon) in the central column near the bottom, for example?  However, when it was clear what had to be deleted from that column, I eventually twigged what it was I was being asked to delete.  And perhaps the Title was telling me to delete any multiple-letter element symbols – not sure?  I am bound to have missed a hint somewhere – I usually do!

The clues and the vocabulary used were of the highest quality – I loved them both!

Many thanks again to Ifor; this was another class act.


Tim / Encota

* Just in case you needed to be certain.  Vanadium, check.  Yttrium, check.

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Listener No 4506: Multiple Deletions by Ifor

Posted by Dave Hennings on 29 June 2018

Last year’s Ifor puzzle noted the achievement of Edward Eagan and the coincidence of his two Olympic wins for boXing and boBBing. Without jumping ahead too much, this puzzle delighted us with an even more fascinating coincidence.

I’ve always thought of Ifor as the deletions king. For example (from another puzzle): Revamped department after sacking rogue and seductress (7) leading to DEPARTMENT* – AND* for TEMPTER. So this week, he was in seventh heaven with clues and entries having deletions galore. I was somewhat worried that 20 clues would lead to non-word grid entries, but hopefully things would be definitive.

It took me some time to get my head around the different clue types: all of them had an extra letter; 20 clues were normal, nine had definitions for the entry but wordplay for a longer word, and nine had definitions for a longer word but wordplay for the entry. I decided to highlight entries in the grid according to their clue type: yellow for normal, green for entry given by definition, and orange for longer word given by definition. I won’t show you my worksheet since I got the colouring wrong a couple of times and it looks a mess!

I failed with 1ac Contents of noisy show shot during filming (8) and 6 Tricks on University senate going wrong, taking in Academician by agreement (13) looked like CONSENSUAL or some variation; it turned out to be CONSENTANEOUS — CONS + (ON U SEN[a]TE)* containing A. 13ac Poe paid him to shift large river creature (9) looked like an anagram of Poe paid him but with an extra letter. It didn’t take too long to see HIPPO, but I needed C to reveal HIPPODAME, which was new to me. Mind you that had to go into a 6-letter space.

After a pass through all the clues, I had solved precious few. Even the straightforward normal clue at 24dn Sounded like a horse we hid[e] craftily outside pub (8) WHINNIED couldn’t be entered as the letters needing to be dropped for a 6-letter entry could be any of them. It did, however, enable me to mark its symmetrically opposite entry 3dn as a normal clue.

Progress was very slow, almost as slow as Sabre’s from the previous week. All the clues were up to Ifor’s high standard but, even so, some were tricky to unravel. For example, 15ac New zoo that unveiled trick flying after acquiring one group of sparrows (11) led to ZONOTRACHIA — (N ZOO [t]HAT (t)RIC(k))* holding A. There were also some far-from-everyday words, such as SCINTISCANNER and HIGH-MUCK-A-MUCK.

The message finally spelt out by the extra words in clues was nothing to do with Winnie the Pooh (“I am a bear of very little brain”) but I am a little world made cunningly of elements. Even then, it took a couple of seconds for it to sink in: the letters that were in the grid were all the single-letter chemical symbols. Thus there was no A, D, E, G, J, L, M, Q, R, T, X or Z. The quotation was from John Donne: “I am a little world made cunningly / Of elements and an angelic sprite”.

The final tidying up was spotting that Nadal becoming nada was the “change in capitalisation” in the preamble, and working out what some of the longer words were before being reduced. 14dn PIC was reduced from its longer word DEPICTED (described minutely), and 23dn Let down hammer of Colt — in rearming must prepare to shoot with bow (8) wasn’t UNCOCKED but TURNCOCK: rearming became rearing and we had C (Colt) in RUT< (must) + NOCK (prepare to shoot bow) — now that's the devilish clue of the day!

The last step was to work out the deletions that needed to go beneath the grid. This wasn’t all the letters in the list above, but just those from [D]ONN[E] HO[L]Y SONN[ET] FIV[E], and they spelt out the best BGM (Big Grin Moment) for many moons: DELETE!

Once again, I was amazed at the foresight of authors and other famous people of yesteryear who have been used in Listener themes. John Donne could have written Holy Pentameters or included these lines in Holy Sonnet Four, but no, neither would have enabled DELETE to be spelt out.

Thanks for a really tough challenge, Ifor. Phew!

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Wiggles by Sabre

Posted by shirleycurran on 22 June 2018


My computer had just given me the dreaded blue screen of death for the third time in 24 hours so wasn’t going to be much help with the Listener and ‘Yes’ I do need it to work out Caesar cyphers, even, and complex anagrams. However, we pressed a few Esc and F11 keys and it limped into life and downloaded …. Sabre! ‘Wiggles’? Is that going to be bees in a hive wiggling their tails to guide us to the honey? It is certainly a beautiful grid (like Kea’s delightful chrysanthemum last year). I printed four copies to be sure (and we needed them!) and while the other Numpty gleefully slotted in the first solutions, did a quick check of Sabre’s right to a place at the Listener bar if ever he manages to make it across the Atlantic for the big dinner.

Of course he earned it with ‘A white rum each, if Bill’s about (13)’ It wasn’t rum at all, it turned out to be an anagram of LIEBFRAUMILCH – but no complaints. Cheers, Sabre!

The early clues went in quickly, with Sabre’s usual impeccable cluing and TRASH, PECAN, PRANG, AERIE, SHADE were solved in clue order but it was at once evident that we were not going to be able to enter anything in the grid until we had done an almost 100% cold solve. RUMPS (with a lovely nudge at a president who is launching a trade war today) ‘President’s denied front seats (5)’, knocking the front off TRUMPS to give us bums – (sorry for the indelicacy), DEFER, NUGAE, RICER, AGATE, BARRE, METIF, XHOSA, RETCH, BOILS, STAGE, APISH and CLEAN followed, but there were yawning gaps that had us worried.

We focused on the wiggles and were delighted when almost all of them appeared at once – though, even when we solved SNAKE FENCE and TAIPAN no penny dropped or wiggled. I had never encountered SPREAGHS but the anagram was generous and we groaned when finally we understood that ‘Search vile tent’ was telling us to FERRET BAD GER – that earns my ‘thumbs down rubbish clue of the week’ accolade. Of course, all those wiggles did was guide us in our ultimate grid fill, when there was ambiguity, so that we had the more or less accurate set of letters in the unclued octagons and squares. I have coloured their snaky tracks in my grid above. What a relief it was when they finally slotted into place.

Natrix natrix

It was the NATR?X ????IX that after about 8 hours of solving finally swam into view. (Yes, mine swim: they inhabit the ponds in the garden every summer, devour the newts and tadpoles and swim most beautifully). So the theme was evident: GRASS SNAKE. However, even with the help NATRIX NATRIX gave, there were still gaps and ambiguities in the grid and we had to find those three words CAE?A???I?? PAIRS to resolve them.

Oh no! It couldn’t be – this was pure Sabre: CAESAR SHIFT PAIRS. So that was the meaning of ‘the nature of the match is spelt out, (spelt?) in order, in the central cells of the 16 Squares (three words)’ No problem performing a Caesar shift when it is a one-letter move and ADDER quickly became BEEFS but there were a few EFS and BEEFS about the rest. COBRA was clearly lurking down at the bottom of the pond but it took my sick computer to tell me that he paired up with FREUD.

I expected two more snakes but it was not to be! TERRA and KERNE were the two words that those remaining squares suggested and we had to do a 13-place Caesar shift to produce GREEN, which, of course, is grass, and almost the entire alphabet, 22 moves, to produce our final grass GANJA, (giving us two grasses and two snakes) hmmm! Well, I suppose we can turn a blind eye to the ‘Pouches containing drug, heroin from Miami’, the ‘Bantu term for sex, also broad sex appeal’ – X + HO + SA (that word HO for ‘broad’ gets a thumbs down in some of the broadsheets!) and the ‘Narcotic in can … It really was a fabulous compilation. Many thanks to Sabre.


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Listener No 4505: Wiggles by Sabre

Posted by Dave Hennings on 22 June 2018

I don’t know what hit me first this week, the bizarre grid or the fact that it was by Sabre. After both had sunk in, I knew I was in for a tough challenge… which would probably last for the whole week! Sabre’s last puzzle was the one with all those bloody bees/Bs and tripped me up, primarily because I couldn’t read my own scrawl of a word I’d not heard of before (OPORICE).

Those of you who visit my Crossword Database may have seen that I try and describe the grid for each puzzle. The prospect of encapsulating this week’s in less than 100 words seemed daunting. Suffice it to say that there were lots of octagons and squares, the cells of which seemed to adjoin several cells in neighbouring pieces. Moreover, there were four unclued octagons and four unclued squares.

And don’t even think about an animation!

Needless to say — spoiler alert — I found this puzzle bloody difficult. However, I don’t know whether Sabre was toying with us, but five of the first six clues were a doddle: TRASH, PECAN, AERIE, SHADE and NIXER. Unfortunately, even with Wiggle 2 as CAPA, only the C of PECAN could be entered other than in pencil.

There was a brief flurry of extra clues solved, including Wiggles SPREAGHS, GURRAH and ATABEG, but like almost everything else it was unclear how. The top right corner had TRASH, SHADE, ELIDE and AERIE overlapping, but these still left lots of options for what went where.

I have to say that there was an awful lot of cold solving required here, and cross-checking didn’t seem to help me much. Consequently, progress was slow. In addition, I was getting nowhere with the (6,6) round the perimeter which was an alias for the theme (5,5). This started at 29 in the bottom right, which meant that the second word started in the top left, but that and the next were unclued so of no help yet.

Then there was the 3-word phrase spelt out by the central cells of the squares. At various times I had CARDINAL something, CAESAR crossing THE RUBICON, CAESAR’S CIVIL WARS, and others.

There were lots of clues that held me up for an age. Probably the most difficult was Wiggle 7: Narcotic in can seen bizarrely as obstacle to progress in Texas (10, two words). I wasn’t sure whether the obstacle was something like a river in Texas, or whether Texas was just an American indicator. It turned out to be the latter, SNAKE FENCE. Wiggle 21 was also tricky: Search vile tent for Asian tree-climber for FERRET-BADGER, which was new to me. I was also amazed at how long I took for 18 President’s denied front seats; despite his disgusting tweets being in my face every day, I kept on thinking of the usual suspects, Abe, Ike and Reagan.

So how did I crack this puzzle? Well, I had to cheat a bit. With NIXER at the end of word 1 of the perimeter, and XHOSA at the end of word 2, I wondered if the Xs were the central letters and, indeed, whether the two words were the same: ••T••X ••T••X. That’s as far as I got logically, and had to phone a friend (Tea) to get NATRIX NATRIX (in fact just the two Xs would have sufficed if you discount Perdix perdix).

It didn’t take much longer to ferret out grass snake in the ODE and confirm Natrix natrix. From there, jump forward another couple of hours to finish the grid and resolve the central 3-word phrase: CAESAR SHIFT PAIRS. I had forgotten that it was called his Shift Code. Thus, two pairs of thematic Octagons tied up with the four unclued Squares. The two grasses were GREEN and GANJA, and the two snakes, ADDER and COBRA. These code shifted to TERRA, KERNE, BEEFS and FREUD, respectively.

Wow! I really thought I would be stumped by this one, but perseverance (and a cup of Tea) paid off. It would be easy to say that this was unfair: too much cold solving, not enough cross-checking, etc. But surely this sort of puzzle sorts the men/women from the boys/girls. Congratulations if you managed this in under two hours, especially if you sussed NATRIX NATRIX from just the two Xs.

Thanks for a tough challenge, Sabre. I hope I got there unscathed.

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