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Archive for July, 2018

‘Disappearances’ by ‘Eck

Posted by Encota on 20 July 2018

A clever puzzle from ‘Eck – many thanks!  I particularly liked the Symmetry of the final eight thematic appearances in the top half of the grid – very smart!

The letters from the Clues provided ALTERNATING HITCH STITCH and IN HIS THIRD SPEECH.

And “Alternating hitch stitch”: I don’t know categorically what that is but I think I can guess, based on the puzzle.

I had some vague recollection of Shakespeare with the phrase, “Hell is empty and all the devils are here” but when I Googled ‘Third speech’, was I the only person for whom the first item to appear was General S. Patton’s rousing – though uncensored speech – to the Third Army?  And there, on rows ten and eleven in the completed grid, in a kind of upturned army hat shape, was PATTON.  Surely The Listener wouldn’t be containing his somewhat unsavoury language?  So I checked on Rows 5, 8 & 9, then gulped.  OK, these must be from the ‘cleaned up’ version – surely TOOL, BOOBY and ANUS weren’t in Patton’s original speech?  I knew he used some language that could be described as ‘anatomical’ but ….???

Enough puerile nonsense.  Great puzzle – many thanks!

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Tim / Encota



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Setter’s Blog: ‘Moon’ by Encota

Posted by Encota on 15 July 2018

  • It was Midsummer 2016 and Sir Trevor Nunn had returned to his home town of Ipswich to (complete the set and) direct his 37th out of the 37 Shakespeare’s plays.  Whilst watching his production of the A Midsummer Night’s Dream at The New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich, I noticed that the character ‘Bully’ Bottom’s first name was actually Nick.  ‘Nick Bottom’ sounded (to me, anyway) like an instruction to steal (remove) the last letter – and so the germ of an idea was born.
  • The theme – perhaps like the one used in the delightful puzzle ‘horn’ by Mr E in this month’s excellent Magpie magazine – once thought of, was nigh-on impossible to resist!  I managed finally to submit it to the Listener a year or so later, for publication on or close to a following Midsummer.
  • I double-checked that I had the Title of the Play exactly right – especially where that apostrophe sat …
  • Seeing the puzzle a year later during the proof-reading phase I did feel that, even though I had kept the average word length above 5.5, I had settled for rather too many 3-letter words.  I’ll try and do better next time!
  • The clue I was perhaps most pleased with was: Around 31.4 North this (and nine others) could be triangulated? (6), with the ’around 31.4 N’ wordplay being for TENPIN (TEN PI + N).  I am sure it’s been done before (hasn’t everything?) but I’ve never seen it.  [And examples include Israel, Texas or Tibet, just in case you were wondering.]
  • My thanks as ever to all at The Listener, especially Roger who helped tighten up several of my clues
  • And the title? To Moon = to show one’s Bottom.  That’s enough lowering of the tone for one blog 🙂
  • Finally, several people have asked me about my pseudonym, ‘Why Encota?’  Apart from it sounding vaguely like ‘encoder’ when pronounced in a mid-Atlantic drawl, which seemed faintly logical for a puzzle creator, perhaps this CD cover from probably my favourite band ‘Porcupine Tree’ hints at its true source.  If you like sometimes loud yet often melodic rock music and haven’t heard them, then perhaps give them a try.  If not, then look away now …


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Moon by Encota

Posted by shirleycurran on 13 July 2018

A five-line preamble that doesn’t sound too daunting; we learn that we have to find a name of somebody whose profession will tell us how to produce four words that will go below the grid. Oh what a give-away – ‘Numbers in brackets are the lengths of grid entries.’ We solve several clues and see what is going on: ‘Temporary train termini (6)’ gives us INTERIM but that has to intersect with POETASTERING, another anagram, ‘Strange opera setting for contemptible verse writing (12)’ so we enter it as INTERI. The same happens with OVERSCORED, CARIBOU and ULTRAMONTANISM so we confidently decide that we are lopping the last letter of words – or the bottom. First smile! Does that justify the rather risqué title, Moon?

Second smile, I remember to check Encota’s continued right of entry to the Listener setters’ tippling outfit. ‘Soaking a non-commissioned sailor (6)’ sounds hopeful but produces just a double definition RATING. Encota then attempts a bit of alcoholic cookery (that sounds disastrous; many trifle aficionados will tell you that the sponge soaked in port or whatever has to go in before the cream if you hope to avoid a rather curdled soggy mess – still, he did produce the port) ‘Cream, say in trifle to begin with, port afterwards (4)’ gives us a lovely deceptive T+RIO (Cream, say).

It isn’t until we get to ‘Whisky dealers with bad taste overlooking a case of ryes (8)’ and laboriously work out that this gives MAL + TASTE* less A + R(ye)S = MALTSTERS that we confirm Encota’s continued place at the Listener setters’ bar. A whole case of rye! Cheers Encota! (Maybe we’ll be overlooking a case of AA!)

Solving is not too difficult as these are generous clues though ‘Japanese chest straps for all to see (5)’ has us puzzled. The ODE comes to our rescue with TANS + U =  TANSU. We head scratch about ‘Darling boy Henry leaves meat for Muslims’. Subtracting HAL from HALLAL gives us LAL. But LAL? The names section of our old Chambers confirms that LAL can be a boy’s name and Chambers solves our final puzzle too, telling us that AES ALIENUM is someone else’s money for the Romans, so we turn SEA (Turn of tide for classical brass) and enter AES.

The third smile comes when, with most of the grid filled, we spot NICK BOTTOM climbing up the non-dominant diagonal. Of course, we have been nicking the bottom of the clues. What a lovely use of the name. We don’t really need to work out what the four-word relevant result will give A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM but we check all the same. I love the crosswords that have a theme based on Shakespeare’s works. Most enjoyable, thanks, Encota.

(I wonder what the spoof blogger will find to say about this one – the title gives interesting possibilities!)


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Listener No 4508: Moon by Encota

Posted by Dave Hennings on 13 July 2018

This week we had Encota’s second Listener, following on from last year’s puzzle with Ian (M) Banks as its theme. Now we had to do something with all the down answers before entering them into the diagram. A final bit of highlighting would finish off the puzzle, together with a work to go below the grid.

It seemed logical to start with the acrosses, not only because that was the logical place to start, but also because they were to be entered unadulteratedly (not a real word, but you get my gist). 1ac Unfeasibly quick, spell “uranium” incorrectly (12) was obviously an anagram of spell uranium, but no amount of doodling enabled SUPERLUMINAL to be revealed. I hope to see a correction at if (/when?) Einstein is proved wrong in the next 20 or 30 years. [Don’t bank on it. Ed.]

My first run through the clues enabled well over a dozen across entries to be slotted in, so it was time to see what was required of the downs. STUMM was just one letter too long, and the anagram in 5dn immortal suntan was also one letter too long for its entry, but trying SUPER-something didn’t help me much. That was hardly surprising since it was ULTRAMONTANISM.

So what had to be dropped from each answer? Well, it didn’t take long for me to discover that it was the last letter of each, and with a surge of solving and confident grid-entry, everything was in place bar the highlighting and below-the-grid Work. I particularly liked the clue at 40ac Cream, say, in trifle to begin with, port afterwards (4) which was TRIO (the number of members of the pop group) with T(rifle) + RIO. I almost liked 41ac Around 31.4 North this (and nine others) could be triangulated? (6), although I really would have preferred Around 31.415926535 North…!

Not much time was required for the endgame, as was the case with Samuel’s Magna Carta last week. NICK BOTTOM, the weaver, was in the main SW–NE diagonal, and brought a smile to my face when I realised his significance. I was somewhat surprised that he hadn’t been used as a crossword theme before. A quick check of all the unused letters confirmed that A Midsummer Night’s Dream went under the grid. I must admit that I thought “(21 letters, four words)” in the preamble was unnecessary, unless to stop “AMND” being entered.

Thanks for an enjoyable and amusing jaunt, Encota. I assume that the title refers to something that no good Listener aficionado would indulge in! (Or is it a reference to “Moon take thy flight” Act V, Scene 1?)

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Agreement by Samuel

Posted by shirleycurran on 6 July 2018

We are child-minding in California with a rather demanding two-year old, and I was dreading a really fearsome crossword with a GWIT leap from solving to a totally obscure and unrelated endgame, something along the lines of ‘All clues consist of two halves which must be differently attached in order to provide the definitions and wordplay to entries which are all jumbled, all but three of these must be entered using knights’ moves. The remaining three give a cryptic definition of the theme which solvers must highlight with a single curved line linking six symbolic thematic items ….’ You know the style!

What a relief, therefore, to see the name Samuel at the head of the puzzle and to read a preamble that we could absorb in a single reading. We could be sure of totally fair clues. (Are you claiming that ‘See how far one can get from moon containing Yttrium (7 three words)’ is fair? There are hundreds of moons Ed.) Well we put a Y into the letters we had and guessed the rest, producing TRY IT ON.

We had to find misprints in the definitions of all but eight of the clues. That’s always a challenge for the setter but tends to render the solving slightly easier when a few are instantly evident: ‘not Raving joints – surely that was ‘not Having joints, which gave us ENODAL.  ‘… town adjacent to where parties made peNce’ – surely they made peAce. First penny drop moment, “EGHAM is near Runnymede! It’s about the Magna Carta” said the other Numpty and, of course, we saw where the ten-letter phrase would go. Down the leading diagonal. That rendered solving much easier with so many letters in place.

No, I haven’t forgotten the inevitable setter’s tipple and it was there in ‘Striking head consuming drop of Ouzo and what some mean by “raki”‘. Samuel is into the relatively exotic alcohol. Cheers! We had trouble finding the misprint there but at the very end of our solve, when we had BAILI? we found that RAKE can mean ROAM (the O of ouzo going into RAM, striking head).

DISESTEEMED ‘Wasn’t fond of …’ had been our very first entry in the grid but we had wondered how the wordplay gave us the last four letters. ‘….dodgy sites in Delaware (11)’ led to DISESTE. Now we could complete the word with ‘Runny’ or anagrammed MEDE, and as the eight words that were going to use this device were symmetrical we soon found MISDEMEANOUR, ADEEM, REDEEM, ACADEME, DEMENT, MADE MEN and EDEMA. KANG and FOHN, converted to KING JOHN, neatly placed at 12 and 15, giving 1215, the year of the signing of the Magna Carta. That left us a few gaps to fill and the thematic group to complete. OFFICER, COURT, BAILIE, ??NCHAUSEN and OF BEEF. Well it had to be MUNCHAUSEN and I found that an IMPOT can be a ‘huM’ giving us the M, and  SEA DOGS can be ‘hUsses’ giving us the U. What did all those have in common I asked myself. Of course, they can all be barons – how beautifully thematic the whole compilation was – not over-difficult, three relevant devices. Just the way I like my Listener crosswords. Thank you, Samuel.

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