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Archive for November, 2018

Escapee by Dysart

Posted by shirleycurran on 30 November 2018

I’ve been producing crosswords on the First World War poets for the last few years and worked feverishly to create some to commemorate the Armistice since this weekend is the centenary of that longed-for moment. Wilfred Owen is my particular favourite of those poets, with Sassoon a short step behind and it is difficult not to be moved by those words from Binyon’s The Fallen that we will br hearing in tomorrow’s services, ‘They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old … at the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember’. MacCrae’s ‘In Flanders Fields’ and Brooke’s ‘If I should die …’ are classics, even if later attitudes have denigrated that early patriotism and optimism Brooke displayed. Jeremy Paxman, in Great Britain’s Great War, writes a most instructive analysis of how a century has adapted our attitude to those dreadful events of 1914 to 1918.

So I was expecting a crossword in some way related to the centenary of the Armistice and we had solved for only a few minutes when those letters we were adding to across clues began to spell out I AM THE ENEMY YOU KILLED (my friend), possibly the most moving of all Owen’s poems, though the saddest must be Futility, and the most shocking Dulce Et Decorum Est, with its graphic reaction to a gas attack. For me, almost the saddest moment of the whole war was the doorbell ringing at Owen’s home to announce his death, as the Armistice bells celebrated the end of it all.

Of course, finding the quotation from Strange Meeting made this a speedy solve for us, though we were puzzled by 1ac CO?F?CT, until we realised that this was the clue where the Escapee was coming into his own, ‘It seemed that out of battle I escaped …’ the first line of the poem. We removed I from CONFLICT and all was well. This was perhaps a precursor for the cryptic manipulations of 26 letters that were needed for the completion of our crossword.

‘A later work that features the first work (Strange Meeting) and others by the same author’…  Friends are performing in Britten’s WAR REQUIEM this weekend and those misprints in down clues obligingly spelled out that title, so that we were able to interchange the letters of SLOB and WRITTEN producing OWEN and BRITTEN in the grid. All that was left to do was the highlighting of 26 letters.

One of them EMITEGN* for a strange or anagrammed MEETING was immediately obvious but I had to read about the nine poems included in Britten’s Requiem to work out what the other two to highlight could be. EDISON was obviously the next (Are you sure? Ed.) as that unexpected proper noun in the crossword clearly had to be there for a reason. How clever! We read it the other way up and got NO SIDE and the BRB tells me that is ‘The End’ (of a rugby match). Obviously this clue has no side if it is cryptically sending us to THE END. The next that we saw was obligingly EXTENTH* (THE NEXT with ‘War’ functioning as the anagram indicator). So we have our three and I get out my highlighter. “Hang on!” says the other Numpty. “They add up to only 20 cells. We have a problem!”

So we head scratch. ANTHEM FOR DOOMED YOUTH took longer. We could see that the ‘Doomed’ could be an anagram indicator but I had a bit of an issue with ANOTHERFMLAD* on the third row of the grid, as that anagrammed to ANTHEM FOR LAD, whilst the archives show very clearly that Owen and Sassoon, in their discussion of the title, were discussing ‘youth’ as a state of being or a collective term for all those lads, not just one lad. Of course, Dysart had foreseen this and ’26 letters’ made it clear what was required and those words in the preamble removed my worry ‘the titles of … two others used in the later work’. Yes, Britten’s script refers to A doomed youth, justifiably focusing, possibly on Owen. So we abandon poor EDISON and highlight the other three.

What a fine tribute. Many thanks to Dysart.

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Listener No 4528: Escapee by Dysart

Posted by Dave Hennings on 30 November 2018

As someone pointed out last week, I was a tad premature, so let’s try again. Like three others before him (Schadenfreude, Hedge-sparrow and Chalicea), this was Dysart’s second Listener of the year. The first was a dreadful puzzle A Dreadful Puzzle, all about phobias.

Here we had all but three across clues needing a letter to be replaced before solving, but not in the definition. The first thought that came to mind was, for some reason, Moby Dick. Lots of messages to be revealed here, both in the clue messages and in the grid endgame — none would be about the whale and his protagonist.

As expected with Dysart, the clues were tricky but enjoyable. The messages from the across clues and downs were slow to reveal themselves, especially the downs since they needed unjumbling. Eventually we had “I am the enemy you killed[, my friend]” in the acrosses leading to the Wilfred Owen poem, Strange Meeting, a meeting in Hell, and further clued by the three extra words in the across clues: interestingly unusual encounter. The first line of this poem is “It seemed that out of battle I escaped” and required CONFLICT to be entered as CONFLCT at 1ac.

As for the downs which had a misprint, 29 Team turning to inventor with guest to develop sound recording? (6) initially befuddled me. Did Edison really guess at developing sound recording. Well, of course not — it was a quest to develop it! Thus the misprints read MUAEWIQRER. Given we were in Armistice weekend, the WAR stood out, and REQUIEM soon followed, a masterpiece by Benjamin Britten.

I then indulged in a lot of googling, primarily being sidetracked to various sites for further background reading, and sobering it was. I had seen WRITTEN in one of the diagonals, and it didn’t take long to swap its W for the B in row 8 to give both BRITTEN and OWEN in the final grid. The final step was to identify three of Owen’s poems from Britten’s work. Strange MEETING was obvious in row 5, but ANTHEM FOR Doomed Youth in row 3 and THE NEXT War in the bottom row took a bit more ferreting out.

Thanks for the excellent puzzle, Dysart, and for the tour of Wilfred Owen and Benjamin Britten.
 

Postscript: In the course of my travels, I discovered that the latest copy of the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations (8th Edition, 2014) bought a year ago, has reduced the number of Special Categories highlighted in the index from twenty to just eleven. These include Opening Lines, as well as Closing Lines and Last Words. They may well have initially disappeared in earlier editions. The extracts are probably all available in the main index, but I think it’s a shame that the categories have been lost.
 

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Listener 4528: ‘Escapee’ by Dysart

Posted by Encota on 30 November 2018

What a timely puzzle this was – thanks Dysart!  With numerous cryptic puzzle outlets commemorating the 11th November, what more could one ask for other than the combination of Wilfred Owen’s poetry and its placement at the heart of Benjamin Britten’s ‘War Requiem’?  The latter was performed this (Remembrance Day) weekend at the stupendous music venue that is Snape Maltings (along with numerous other places, I am sure), here in Suffolk away from the bustle of London and close to the home of Benjamin Britten (who, along with Peter Pears, is buried in nearby Aldeburgh’s churchyard).

It was a good chance to read the poem too – I see there’s Owen’s original writings available on the Internet, for those interested.

http://ww1lit.nsms.ox.ac.uk/ww1lit/exhibits/show/ww1lit-dc0tnz/25
Cheers,
Tim / Encota

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Offender by Chalicea, Setter’s Blog

Posted by shirleycurran on 25 November 2018

Setter’s blog Last One by Chalicea ‘Offender’

When I ask setters for a Listen With Others setter’s blog, they regularly respond that they set the puzzle so long ago that the process has been obscured by the mists of time so, exceptionally, I decided to keep a written record of the entire setting, vetting, editing process. Who knows, it might be useful for a new, hopeful Listener setter to read about the years of work before the adrenalin moment when the final product appears in the Times.

May 29th 2016, I unexpectedly received a proof from Roger for Ad Nauseam. It was my birthday – what a fine present! (I hadn’t expected it to appear for a while). I had just sent off to the Magpie one that, with a bit of tweaking, might have replaced it in the queue (Massive) and feel that it is important to get them into the queue so needed to create one. This is the first time I have deliberately set with the Listener in mind and not simply sent one because my vetters suggested it was appropriate.

Busy for a week compiling a month of cryptic Farmers Guardian crosswords – got those out of the way, then on June 7th started hunting for a theme. I had just created ‘Absent Letter’, ‘Massive’ and had in the Listener queue ‘Predicament’, all using the idea of a letter or letters significantly placed within the grid. I worked right through ODQ looking for one more appropriate letter and, of course, found the ‘Thou whoreson zed, unnecessary letter’ the Kent quotation from King Lear. I test-solved a friend’s version of this some time ago but could see a different way of handling the theme.

My idea was a Z in the centre of the grid, composed of words containing Z all of which must be adapted to remove the ‘unnecessary letter’ from the grid. I hoped to use misprints to identify the 36-letter quotation and possibly to hide the replacing words in the clues.

Checking on Dave Henning’s Crossword data base revealed four previous crosswords on what is an obvious setter’s theme. Only one of these was in the Listener (Radix) and all handled the theme differently. One was by Ifor – one that I test solved – so I needed to clear that with him. (His went to Magpie and he had no objection to my re-using the theme). Of course, when this crossword was accepted, the editors pointed out that the theme had already appeared a number of times.

I spent the rest of the day working on a grid. 13X13 seemed the obvious size. I got up to 4.8 mean word length with seriously flawed unching and almost abandoned the idea.

June 8th – before attempting in a new format (I was considering 11X11) I fiddled for a few hours and was delighted when a possible grid with 5.51 mean word length and ‘acceptable’ unching appeared. It had Z-DNA in it, that I thought would have to be converted to C-DNA or B-DNA, neither of which is in Chambers, and C-in-C would have to replace ZINC in the submission grid. The DNA clue seemed to be a serious flaw but when I discussed the grid with husband Charles, he said “Why not EDNA? That’s in Chambers.”

Having spent a total of about 10 hours creating the grid I began work on the clues. After a couple of hours attempting to work out misprints, I realized I simply couldn’t do it and reluctantly decided to opt for extra letters produced by the wordplay. A count revealed that 19 replacement words had to be hidden in the grid, some of them very difficult to conceal (DITE, C-in-C, JEEP, LUTE, AISLE, DRIBBLED, SICEL, SATI, AGATE, EYRA) I had considered simply giving definitions of those in the clues but decided that would be messy and impossible for the solver. Then I spotted the fact that there were 51 clues and if those 19 words took 19 clues, I was left with 32 which could contain the quotation less the initial THOU (rendering it slightly less easy to spot for the solver).

I spent the rest of the day cluing in clue order (working down from the top and up from the bottom of the downs – I had to do it that way as the device required it). After about 8 hours of cluing I had 16 clues. Unusually fast for me.

June 9th. I worked all day on clues and almost finished all the acrosses, then remembered a message from Editor Shane, years ago, that required Rasputin (the Artix, Ilver, Chalicea compiling team) to rewrite about a third of our clues as we had link words in them – not permitted in the Listener when there is no equivalence between definition and wordplay (as in this case, where the extra letter device is being used). I had to back-track and rewrite, and also adjust clues that Charles, on a quick read through, rejected as ‘poor surface reading’, ‘way too easy’ etc. 

Half of the extra words were still to place so I now focused on down clues where they could be concealed and I managed to hide all but two (AGATE and LUTE) The clues were now more than 2/3 completed in two days of non-stop setting (another 8 hours or so).

June 10th. With some switching of extra words from across to down etc. I placed the last two extra words and was left with just twelve words to clue – several fairly difficult because of the z or zz in them as obviously I had already used all the Z abbreviations. I spent about six hours on these and tweaking to see that no device word was used twice. A total of four full days’ work and the first draft was ready for vetting.

June 12th I asked Artix for a test-solve. His initial reaction was ‘Like it’ but then he found serious flaws and suggested

1 That I anagram or jumble as many of the extra words as possible as they are glaringly obvious.  I responded that this wouldn’t work as only twelve will anagram, leaving a mixed bag.

2 That all the zs in the clues give the game away at once and that I remove them from the wordplay.

I spent about five hours rewriting the clues where Z appeared in the wordplay and moving the extra words around since the Z of the quotation still has to appear and clearly cannot appear where there are Zs removed. 

17 June I rewrote the preamble, changed the name from ‘The Last One’ to ‘Offender’ (since the ‘end’ letter of the alphabet has to go ‘off’ somewhere) and asked Ifor to look at it.

20th June Shark, having a free weekend since he had been the test-solver for Artix’s  ‘No Offence’ which appeared on that Saturday, test solved and gave fabulous detailed input. I spent three hours adapting clues accordingly.

21st June Ifor sent valuable input correcting flawed clues with some superb suggestions (SACRED BEETLE and JULEP – which has earned great solver approval) I spent about two hours adjusting.

22nd June. I sent ‘final document’ to Artix who found a few flaws and unfair clues. It took me one hour to incorporate all but one of his suggestions. I think it is ready to go. About 50 hours so far.

Tim King (our newest LWO blogger Encota, said he would do a test-solve. I sent him the ‘final’ version. He solved it carefully, gave it the thumbs up and suggested that I could use the letters in the two bottom corners of the grid for an extra hint to Kent. This added a final touch but caused worry for some solvers as the actual character in the play is the EARLOF KENT. Mr Green suggested, when entries were arriving with both KENT and EARL OF KENT that there should be a slight adjustment to the solution notes, admitting both as (EARL OF) KENT.

As my ‘Overseas Outing’ (St Patrick expelling the snakes from Ireland) appeared on the weekend of this year’s Listener dinner, I didn’t expect to see ‘Offender’ in print until mid 2019 (yes – about three years from compilation) so I was delighted to receive a proof from Editor Roger Phillips in late September (could it be that he was deliberately placing a relatively easy one after a rather tough one?) No rewriting was required, though Shane and Roger had vetted a number of clues and adjusted 12 of them as well as polishing the preamble. They had found the puzzle of ‘about average difficulty’ and ‘slightly easier than average’ – their comments ran to five A4 pages.

Clearly I owe thanks to those editors and vetters and to JEG for his meticulous marking and forwarding of the lovely bag of solvers’ comments and to those generous people who commented on-line or sent their encouraging words directly to me. I really was astonished that the puzzle proved to be so popular.

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Listener No 4527: Offender by Chalicea

Posted by Dave Hennings on 23 November 2018

Like three others before her (Schadenfreude, Dysart and Hedge-sparrow), this was Chalicea’s second Listener of the year. The first was the Saint Patrick’s Day puzzle Overseas Outing

Here, we had 32 clues with an extra wordplay letter, and 19 with an extra word. Well — they should be easy to disentangle! It was nice to be told how many of each; so often we’re just told it’s “some” or “most”. I don’t mind telling you that it actually didn’t make it any easier for me to do the disentangling.

But I get ahead of myself. Has Chalicea confirmed her membership of the Zealous Enthusiasts Drinking the Sauce? Well, of course she has — by its omission! Yet again she has gone out of her way to appear abstemious, here by omitting obvious Z-words like BOOZER, SOZZLED and SWIZZLED, as well as SHIRAZ, SLIVOVITZ and ZINFANDEL (which could become Shiraq, Slivovita and Finfandel, places in Eastern Europe, familiar to Listener solvers). See you at the bar in York, Chalicea.

In fact, this turned out to be one of Chalicea’s more tricky oeuvres. I was somewhat disappointed very early on that TARDIGRADES didn’t have any reference to Dr Who‘s Tardis! However, she compensated for that omission with 1dn List Director etc, etc in order? These might do that (12, two words), an excellent &lit clue to CREDIT TITLES — (LIST + DIR + ETC + ET[c])*. Bizarrely, I never knew that that was the full expression for credits.

It wasn’t too far into the solve that a few Zs in the top and bottom left gave the game away. Moreover, this enabled me to guess that they would all appear in the grid in the shape of a giant letter Z. A bit more work was required to jog my memory about the letter zed in Shakespeare’s King Lear: “Thou whoreson zed, thou unnecessary letter!” I’m not sure that feeling is supported by American English where they seem to use it wherever possible.

And those extra words? Well they all had to slot into the grid so that the zed words became something else. DITZ became DITE, ZINC became C-IN-C and SNAZZIER became SNAPPIER. Very entertaining.

Well over two hours for this one, so thanks for a good challenge, Chalicea. I think putting KENT under the grid as the Speaker was a bit superfluous, and I pity anyone who thought the words were spoken by Cornwall or Gloucester. (Perhaps that was the reason for the hint SE in the two bottom corner cells.)
 

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