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Archive for Jul, 2018

Listener No 4510: Vexatious Lipography by Pock

Posted by Dave Hennings on 27 Jul 2018

The first thought that crossed my mind when I saw this puzzle was “Haven’t we had lipography before?” A bit of research enabled me to realise that I was thinking of haplography, and the haplographical puzzle by Nudd last year. Haplography is “the inadvertent writing once of what should have been written twice.” Lipography, on the other hand, is “accidental omission of a letter or letters in writing.”

The second thought that crossed my mind was “What a short preamble, and they’ve left out the Chambers blurb.” A further perusal showed that the clues weren’t signified as Across or Down, so I guessed that a missing letter might be… but wait, that would spoil the fun.

Addressing 1ac, I noted that Pock (an old setter in disguise?) was being kind to us by enumerating the answer before lipographical adjustment. Further across clue addressing revealed only 11 AUTUMN, 20 MANTILLA and 34 GUSSET (good old Gus, the theatrical cat to the rescue).

Well, that was somewhat woeful! Despite the full enumeration, I had solved none of them. Luckily (or was it Pock’s generosity?), 1dn came to the rescue with Were we crazy to smuggle turtle’s shell? (5). From the wordplay, it was likely to be MATED, but what was the definition? Aaaah, yes, we had to be delipographed to become wed! A quick scan of all the clues revealed, of course, that there wasn’t a D anywhere to be found, and any entry that lost a D had a D dropped from its clue before it made sense.

After that, it was good fun to work out where the missing D was in each clue, or in two cases the missing DD. 8ac Mystery trip, taking in Germany, mile from Koblenz (6) led to RIDDLE with mile becoming middle, and 38ac Real ales, extra rum, bar opening — on means to get high (6) was LADDER, with ales becoming addles. (Bet Ms Curran had a fit when she read that clue! [Apparently she did. Ed.]) All lipographed words in the clues and grid became real words. My favourite clue was probably 26dn, Page from Merry Wives is turning yellowish-brown (6) for SIENNA (ANNE IS reversed, a reference to Mistress Anne Page in TMWoW).

And so to the quotation: “T•ATE•ERNA• •ANTO•PEN•E” in rows 3 and 11. It looked as though it could be “That eternal want of pence”, reflecting the predecimal D that was missing from the puzzle. A quick check of my ODQ, which I bought with a book token given to me last Christmas, revealed… nothing! The only pence-oriented quotation was “Take care of the pence, and the pounds will take care of themselves”, a quotation from William Lowndes (1652–1724) and the resulting proverb (which lost the comma).

So nothing in the ODQ and a bit of googling required. That revealed, along with references to Trump VP Pence, Tennyson’s Will Waterproof’s Lyrical Monologue:

I grow in worth and wit and sense,
   Unboding critic-pen,
Or that eternal want of pence
   Which vexes public men,

Now, don’t ask me why, but my mind went back to the recent Listener, Xanthippe’s I-spy Choices, in which “clear these ambiguities” wasn’t in my new edition but was in an older one. Well, bugger me!! It was the same this week. There it is in my old 5th Edition, along with great swathes of Tennyson that have been expunged from my new 8th Edition.

I wondered if the editors had asked setters to come up with themes based on quotations no longer in the latest ODQ. I wouldn’t put it past them. No, I wouldn’t!

Thanks for an entertaining puzzle Pock, or should I say Paddock? I hope your next puzzle won’t be a lipogram: “a piece of writing, esp in verse, from which all words are omitted which contain a particular letter” (my italics).

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Vexatious Lipography by Pock

Posted by shirleycurran on 27 Jul 2018



What a short preamble! I thought it must be the shortest ever but was told that there was a shorter one in Listener 3849 Bengo Drums by Arcturus, published 29/10/2005. (No, I am not going to write a blog with no Ds – ‘Drums’ just preempted that!) That preamble simply consisted of the words: “Sir John provides an explanation.” “Pock?” we asked each other. He doesn’t appear on Dave Hennings’ Crossword Database but it was soon pretty clear that this was not really a débutant setter unless there had been a fair amount of editorial nudging and improving. Hah – afterthought – a real penny-drop moment, maybe this is by NoD.

Of course, there were many thematic hints to add to the preamble. A number of clues led to words that were one or two letters longer than the spaces allocated and that was where the lipography was going to be – well, one place, anyway. Maybe a letter was omitted from that mini preamble and the setter’s name. One penny had gone down.

I read through the clues to see whether this ‘new’ setter could qualify for an entry to a Listener Setters’ boozy knees-up and oh my! Did he qualify! He started innocuously with ‘More than one beer can start off nausea in infants (7)’. No problem there (except perhaps the underage alcohol). We added N(ausea) to TINIES and got TINNIES (mugs or cans of beer, chiefly NZ or Australia). Immediately afterwards he was into the whisky: ‘Leaves novelist most of whisky (8)’ giving GREENE + RY(e) = GREENERY. Reading on, I found ‘Real ales, extra rum bar opening – one means to get high (6)’ – He certainly does intend to get high with the ales and rum added, but we decided a LADDER was his means to get there and had our next penny drop moment.

Well, there was a monster hint wasn’t there? The lipography was clearly going to involve one of the letters of the missing word Down. Having solved RITUAL, LAYETTE, TUTU and AUTUMN among our first successes, I suspected it was the letter O but it was not to be. A double D had to come out of LA(dd)ER. However, we had the grid half full before the next penny-drop moment occurred and we realized why some of the clues were simply not making sense. Of course, Ds were coming out of the clues too, so that ‘In front of Queen ate pub meal (6)’ gave us Date + INN + ER = INNER. It all made sense and the grid filled – except for that ‘phrase from a quotation’. Who talked about missing Ds?

A fellow solver has told me that, within minutes of beginning his solve, he looked for quotations about PENCE lacking and found the Tennyson quotation. I had no such brilliant penny drop moment and had an almost full grid before getting: “I grow in worth, and wit, and sense,/ Unboding critic pen,/ Or that eternal want of Pence,/ Which vexes public men.

Rather amusingly, another solver, one from over the pond, mused that this had to be a comment on the American president and his aide.

Nice, anyway, Pock, or NoD. I think this was probably a crossword that snooty solvers will claim was easy for them but it was certainly not easy to create with such constraints and was nicely thematically unified – all those dropping pennies, the want of pence! Thank you, Pock.


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‘Vexatious Lipography’ by Pock

Posted by Encota on 27 Jul 2018

The ultimate PDM (Penny Dropping Moment)!!!  Tennyson’s “That eternal want of pence” pointed the Solver to a clever mix of missing D’s.  Very clever to have real words throughout – thanks Pock 🙂

And, to align with the terseness of the Preamble (the shortest I ever recall seeing), that’s quite enough from me.


Tim / Encota

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Disappearances by Eck

Posted by shirleycurran on 20 Jul 2018

I usually devote some hours of Saturday morning to the creation of these blogs but it is now Sunday afternoon. OK, I do have visiting two and five-year old grandchildren which renders solving and blogging rather intermittent experiences but that is not the only reason for the late start. (Do I hear a murmur of agreement? This was tough and I haven’t fully deciphered that message from the misprints even now and have a sneaking suspicion that my final interpretation of its import might be flawed).Eck

The preamble told us to use ‘some of the letters from region B’ to ‘locate the reporting’. Yes, we had, after an immense struggle, completed our original grid and found that it resolved the question of which of three pairs of letters to omit when we worked out that we were using the third speech of Ariel, reporting Ferdinand in The Tempest. “Hell is empty, the devils are all here.”

However, I had something like ALTERNATING HITCH (or NITCH) SWITCH for which letters to move. Clearly we had to ’empty’ the underworld or Hell and move alternating letters, but did I need only to move some of them to put all the devils in the upper world or did I need to move all the alternating ones? I opted for the second alternative but wonder whether a better understanding of the message might have led to the first.

I found my eight devils, with Mrs Bradford’s help: INCUBUS, EBLIS, DAVY JONES,  MEPHISTO, APOLLYON, BEELZEBUB, SATAN and LUCIFER. (SATAN was a lovely give-away and confirmed what was needed. This part of the solving was pure entertainment after a very long drawn out battle to produce our original grid. What difficult clues some of them were with misprints that didn’t always leap into view.

But have I forgotten something? Does Eck maintain his place at the Listener bar? He left little doubt: ‘Apparently a patient producer of drams (6)’ led to ONE ILL or ‘a producer of DRAMA – O’Neill – no drams there then, but the next clue continued the alcohol theme. ‘Phoenician betters level of acidity in drinks (6)’ Giving us a misprint for letters, ALEPHS and putting PH into ALES.

Mixing the drams and ales produced the expected effect, ‘I am primarily blotto, ensnared by eg Kolsch (7)’. Google tells me that Kolsch is German beer so that gave me I’M with BIER round B(lotto) or IMBIBER. No wonder we got ‘one in pickle’ in the next clue which put SOUSE round BI to give us a SOUBISE or an old tie. With all that imbibing, I am amazed that Eck could create such subtle clues – or such a masterpiece of construction. Thank you Eck!


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Listener No 4509: Disappearances by ’Eck

Posted by Dave Hennings on 20 Jul 2018

It has been 2½ years since ’Eck’s last Listener. That was based on Hamlet’s “…I could be bounded by a nut-shell…”. Before that, we had Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock, so I guessed that ’Eck liked literary themes.

Upon first reading of the title and the preamble, with its omission of letters in answers, erasure and replacement of letters, I wondered if ’Eck was Ifor in disguise after his Multiple Deletions two weeks previously! In fact, he is Ron in disguise, having set two puzzles under that pseudonym in 2012/13. [Not even Ron is his real name. Ed.]

So, no clue numbers or bars in the printed diagram, but clues in the right order, but not numbered. What could possibly go wrong?!

Well, what went wrong was in the top left corner. Failing to get the first across clue Maybe catch support vocalist (8, two words) — and I don’t just mean on the first pass through, I mean for about three hours — I incorrectly assumed that it started in the top left corner, as did INFANTAS running down. I had it as [IN][OD]C••(I failed with BAH as well!)•S. Its symmetrically opposite entry SOUBISE was also a long time coming which would have helped clear things up sooner. (The catch turned out to be ROCK BASS.)

All this meant that the grid fill, and consequently the various messages, were a long time coming. But what was more bizarre was that the grid was divided in two by the bar across the middle. Effectively we (for that, read “I”) had solved two separate puzzles without realising it. And one half, region B, had to be erased. Half the puzzle disappeared before my eyes!

As for the messages, I wondered if we were dealing with a Hitchcock theme or the three witches from Macbeth, before the various letters revealed what was going on. Having said that, the “original speaker” and “the reporter and the source” needed unjumbling first. There were some ambiguities, but, for region A, I had R F [A/D] E [I/N] D N A I, and a bit of doodling soon revealed FERDINAND. Google revealed lots of Ferdinands, mainly emperors and kings, but googling “ferdinand quotations” obligingly revealed him as a character in The Tempest. Ah, yes, that one. Of course.

That enabled the letters in region B, again with ambiguities, which were S A E R T [E/P] L [I/M] T I E P [E/P] T, to be disentangled to form the play and ARIEL. At least I’d heard of that character. The two sets of misprints were: Alternating hitch switch and In his third speech. It didn’t take long to track down “Hell is empty And all the devils are here.” This explained why region B, Hell, had to go bye-bye. Unfortunately, I had no idea what hitch switch was. A knitting term, I suspected, but googling didn’t help me. Unless PILEI wasn’t “fear wear of Romans’”.

Anyway, casually looking at the grid, I could see possible devils: MEPHISTO was partially there in row 3 of the top grid and BEELZEBUB in row 6 of the bottom. With a bit of guess work logic, I tried replacing alternate letters in the top half of the grid with their corresponding letters from the bottom, and there were INCUBUS & EBLIS in the top row, DAVY JONES in row 2, MEPHISTO, APOLLYON (row 5), BEELZEBUB, and finally SATAN & LUCIFER in row 7. What’s more, they were symmetrically positioned and we liked that.

And so a fantastic puzzle from ’Eck was finished — correctly, I hope. Great fun, thanks.

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