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Archive for November, 2018

Listener 4527: ‘Offender’ by Chalicea

Posted by Encota on 23 November 2018

Today’s Sesame Street is brought to you by the whoreson letter Zed …

2018-11-14 12.55.30 copy

Alternatively … for those Listener solvers who’ve recently seen ex Porcupine Tree lead man Steven Wilson in concert [Who? who?? Ed.], clearly delighted with his new Fender guitar, the Title here ‘Of Fender’ was a large clue.  Combine that with the shortform P.TREE hiding in contiguous squares bottom left and a large hint to the Porcupine Tree track “The CREATOR has a MASTER TAPE” gleaned from the entries CREATOR, MASTER* and TAPE in the Grid, Chalicea is clearly announcing herself a secret fan of aforementioned Porcupine Tree.  Good choice, I hear you say [Really?  Ed.].

Screenshot 2018-11-14 at 13.04.19

I’m getting good at these endgames …


Tim / Encota

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Listener No 4526, Quads III: A Setter’s Blog by Shark

Posted by Listen With Others on 18 November 2018

It is interesting how ideas come about. Quads was never called Quads until my test solver suggested it. Quads II was not called Quads II until after I submitted the puzzle to the Listener editors. I only changed that when I stumbled upon the Greek cross puzzle some time later and it was by sheer coincidence that Quads II had a “four” based theme at its core. I then requested that the editors change the title, so that a series could be formed. A quick check on Dave Hennings’ site and this Dudeney style transformation hadn’t been done.

Where does one start with this type of puzzle? One thing I did want was to include as much “four” based material to Quads III as possible to ensure the Quad theme was relevant. Clearly the grid already had this by cutting into four not once but twice, both forming new square grids. So I scoured Chambers for a final highlighting word. There aren’t many in fact, especially not starting with quad-, so TETRAMERAL seemed the obvious choice as it was 10 letters and I could split that up into separate 3/2/3/2 cells with each part in a separate aspect of the grid. It also seemed obvious that I had to do something with the reconstructed corners and highlighting GREEK CROSS in diagonals made sense. Once again these would be divided into the separate sections.

Reverse engineering is often a requirement when setting these types of puzzles. TETRAMERAL is fixed in the initial grid and so GREEK CROSS would be also. It would not be a Shark if I didn’t put the effort into making real words. I therefore concentrated on the corners ensuring I had made real words when reformed, whilst keeping a symmetrical grid. I stress to all those that might wonder: I never use any type of computer software in constructing these types of grids. This is how I first set about making the grid, with the corners highlighted to ensure that I can keep an eye on joining them up together to make real words.

A possible approach to start is separate the outer perimeter into blocks of 6 with 90-degree symmetry (i.e. splitting the E and M with a horizontal bar). I also kept in mind that I was probably going to need a 9-letter word in order to keep the average word length up, which could span two of the corners.

Once the corners were formed, the centre had to be filled. Thankfully with a little bit of fiddling, I could make it work by using the prefix entero-, which is not ideal, but saved me having to rewrite the four corners. I did not know at this point how I was going to ensure that the solver knew where to make the cuts. I think every setter needs a bit of cruciverbal luck. I noticed that the letters that straddled the edges of the cross where the cuts finished were completely different. My original grid had PERDUE instead of PERSUE and ABELIA/COURBET instead of AMELIA/GOURMET. BDEINRTU only anagrammed to TURBINED and UNDERBIT, not very relevant, but with minor tweaking revealed TERMINUS, which had every letter different and pertinent to the intersection of the cuts at the perimeter. I couldn’t be happier.

Now to the clues. I recall the late Roddy Forman (Radix), stating that if you can make a clue gimmick relate to the theme of the puzzle, it will make the puzzle so much more relevant and enjoyable. I try to do that, and have succeeded in constructing a few novel gimmicks over the years. Lines 3, which won me the POTY for the Magpie, had double letters in certain clues that spelt out an instruction that linked to double letters in the grid. I recall Mash pulling me to one side at the January Magpie do, congratulating me on how I often have thematically relevant gimmicks in my puzzles. However, in reality gimmicks can only rarely be linked to the theme of the puzzle. This one had to relevant.

This is where I have to thank (and berate in equal measure) my good friend, test solver and co-setter on occasions, Artix, for the fourth letter idea. We were in a hotel in London (those of you who read these blogs might notice a theme in that!) and I mentioned that I had created a puzzle which required a 4 gimmick. You can imagine my response at his suggestion of every fourth letter in every word. Fab… but insane! Hey, I like a challenge. Some may recollect the Mr Magoo puzzle where every clue’s words’ first letters spelt out the entry – and the clues made sense. Well, that is insane, so surely by using certain clues, I could do it. I don’t know how Mr Magoo did that puzzle, but I can tell you, it is a tricky task (and mine only had 11). By the way, I deliberately ensured it was only 11, as this was a quarter of the total number of clues (44), making another Quads reference.

But how did I lead the solver to the 4th letters? Although it is not thematic, misprints in the definition followed by splitting and incorporating letters into the wordplay, I have never seen before. I therefore thought it was worth a shot. The feedback from solvers contains several comments on this novel idea, so I would be interested to know if it has ever been done, or if I am the first to come up with this idea. BTW, I apologise to John Green for the tricky task of marking the puzzle.

Unfortunately for me it was not easy and took me a long time to perfect. Even though my ultimate goal was to achieve a puzzle that will be liked and remembered, Shark-infested waters are not for the faint-hearted, and I realise that this puzzle might not be a calm ride. However, with all the extra effort culminating in a bit of classic Dudeney, I hoped solvers would appreciate this as a Listener to remember.

Talking of Dudeney, when I spotted the grid dissection idea, I had no idea of the connection with Henry Dudeney, I just liked the idea and how it could be portrayed as a crossword. His classic Haberdasher puzzle was recreated as a POTM by Ploy in the Magpie in 2014, which I solved and is elegantly animated on Dudeney’s Wikipedia webpage. The more I read about Dudeney and his tête-à-tête with Sam Loyd, the less sure I am who invented the concept as they both have published it in respective books early in the 20th century. Here are the illustrations with Dudeney on the left and Loyd on the right.

It just so happened that in 2017 it was 100 years since Dudeney illustrated this puzzle in his book entitled “Amusements in mathematics”. I was hoping this puzzle would be published in 2017. However, one logistical difficulty after another meant that it had to be postponed. Immaterial really, as I was just glad the editors felt it worthy of publication in the Listener series.

For all those wondering about Quads IV, I am not sure I can top this puzzle and so I might have to stop at Quads III. Who knows?

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Listener No 4526: Quads III by Shark

Posted by Dave Hennings on 16 November 2018

This was the fifth Shark Listener puzzle, and the third in the Quads series. I suppose it would be natural to expect a fourth, but this one would be hard to top.

There’s only time for some brief thoughts from me this week. For a start 33 out of 44 clues used a gimmick that took me a few minutes to get my head round: “… one letter and spacing have been changed in the definition…”. This was thoroughly entertaining, and made some of the clues a real pig (apologies to pigs). The first clue I solved was Five rallying game with Croatia (4) which became River allying game with Croatia (4) leading to RUHR (RU + HR). Shark clues are generally pretty tough but this added an extra dimension of toughness. Here are some highlights:

14ac EASES Almost stand opening of sitcom for us (5) became
Almost stand opening of sit comforts (5)
EASE(l) + S(it)
30ac QUI-HYE No longer arrogant after unionist’s introduced to chief fluent Anglo-Indian (6) became
No longer arrogant after unionist’s introduced to chi affluent Anglo-Indian (6)
HYE after (U in QI)
40ac ATTEST Man of estate travels round Thailand with mum (6) became
Manifest ate travels round Thailand with mum (6)
ATE around T + ST
8dn OLE In Spain, who online gets sucked into withdrawn game? (3) became
In Spain, whoop line gets sucked into withdrawn game? (3)
L in EO<
25dn MOGHUL Tom, possibly, with bulk to evict one liberally nasty member from India (6) became
Tom, possibly, with bulk to evict one liberal dynasty member from India (6)

Eventually, the message spelt out by the wrong letters in these clues gave Fourth letter in words — standard clues. It took a few minutes to sort this out. At first I thought it must be the fourth letter of the first word in each clue. Nope! It turned out to be the fourth letter in all words that had 4 or more letters — a nice thematic touch that fitted into the overall theme. These gave: Each grid corner’s four-by-four region taken en masse. Snipping the four corners out and rearranging them revealed the two-word term for what was left: GREEK CROSS.

Finally, the preamble told us that this remainder had to be cut into four identical pieces and rearranged to form another square with a 10-letter thematic word to be highlighted: TETRAMERAL was the word, meaning four-parted.

Fantastic puzzle, as expected, Shark. How can you top it?!

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Quads III by Shark

Posted by shirleycurran on 16 November 2018

We test solved Quads (i) a few years a go when it was in its early stages and simply couldn’t, over about a week of trying, complete the end game which required, if I remember it right, reusing the letters that went into one quadrant of the grid in another quadrant, in different words. I remember fruitlessly fiddling with mini scrabble travel-set letters for days. I remember too, that the final Quads, when it appeared (rendered slightly easier than our test version) was a masterpiece of construction. Quads II followed and we knew Quads III was to come and bound to be very special – and it was. What an amazing compilation!.

The preamble sounded daunting, ‘In 33 of the 44 clues, one letter and spacing have been changed in the definition, joining it up with the rest of the clue’. I don’t think I have seen that device before and I’m still gasping at the cleverness of it. How did he manage it in 33 clues! One or two yielded at once; ‘Five rallying game with Croatia (4)’ gave us RU + HR so it had to be River allying … We were looking for an instruction in ‘the incorrect replacements’. That odd phrase had us wondering initially but we decided it had to be the F (yes, FOURTH soon emerged and this was in the Quads series).

Was there proof of Shark’s life membership of the Listener Oenophile Setters’ Outfit? Of course. We soon sorted out GOURMET when ‘Food defaced after pigeon drops it in places (6)’ changed to ‘Foodie faced etc .. which gave us GOURA less A + MET. Our GOURMET went on to warn us; ‘Cook a rat … so wrong! (Well, we know that) but it changed to Cooker ATSO wrong, and gave us OAST. We needed a drop of alcohol to marinate that oast-baked rat: ‘Pray for rum in Dumfries, by God! (7)’ BEG + ORRA, we decided with no ‘incorrect replacement’, ‘They’re extracted from bar … and ‘One who leaves porter… followed, then ‘Sup tasty bubbly excluded from player’s time out (5)’ That was one of the last three clues we solved. It asked us to remove STY* from PLAYERS* giving REPLA which is, it seems, Septa. Brilliant clue, let me raise a class of bubbly – Cheers, Shark!

The surface readings of most of these clues were so impressive that WE could barely believe it when the message the emerged from those ‘incorrect replacements’ told us to read the ‘FOURTH LETTERS IN WORDS – STANDARD CLUES. How on earth did he manage to conceal that message without creating horribly clunky clues? There was even better to come. We knew that we were to be given instructions about how to cut our grid and create two new ones. We CUT EACH GRID CORNER FOUR BY FOUR REGION and immediately saw that those four little squares would give us GREEK CROSS – the shape that was left. We highlighted those words then became rather troubled about those two straight cuts that were going to create our second grid.

Fortunately, there were those letters TERMINUS to tell us where to place the four ends of the cuts. We were away from home with no copier or printer to give a chance of an error and second cut (why are we always travelling when these stunning and truly challenging Listener puzzles appear?) We constructed a paper model Greek cross and were amazed and delighted when it could be reformed into a beautiful diamond shape. A tour de force with TETRAMERAL neatly placed in the centre of it. From start to finish, this puzzle was one of the most impressive I have ever solved – as near to perfection as a setter can get, I think.

Fabulous, Shark!

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Listener 4526: ‘Quads III’ by Shark

Posted by Encota on 16 November 2018

One of my favourite types of puzzle is the sort where you first solve a cryptic crossword and then have some clever dissection to carry out.  And Shark has certainly delivered here!  Being serious for a moment – I loved this puzzle!


In fact, I was so impressed by this one by Shark that I simply couldn’t resist building a set of coffee tables to match his clever dissection of a square.  It has only taken me two to three hundred hours but, with a puzzle such as this, it is entirely worth the investment.


The biggest clue was clearly in the Title: Quads III.  This definitely hints at something to do with 4 and something to do with 3 – but what?

Of course, with a clue as big as this I couldn’t go wrong – clearly it is based on that dissection of a square into an equilateral triangle.


So I started by selecting the wood.  After that, and having cut all pieces to size, judicious ‘screwing and glueing’ was required (is there any other way with decent woodwork, I hear you ask?).

It only took four coats of varnish – forgive me, I was skimping this time, I know – so only ten days later I had the completed article.

Here it is in Quads (III) form …


And here it is rearranged in the other – (Quads) III – formation …


Now some people might be thinking, “However good the puzzle, surely you can’t have time to spend on re-creating it in furniture?”  Well, I feel if a puzzle is this good then it is definitely worth celebrating and well worth the effort!


Thank goodness I solved the puzzle correctly, otherwise I’d look a right idiot, wouldn’t I?

Cheers all,

Tim / Encota



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