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Archive for January, 2019

One Good Turn by Paddock

Posted by shirleycurran on 18 January 2019

Paddock, indeed. We have met him other once before and, of course, Shakespeare tells us that Paddock is a toad. What do  I see at 6ac? ‘Toads hump it about (6)’ A tough clue, that, and perhaps mildly scurrilous? PIP we select for that ‘hump’ and we invert SA to give PIPAS which the Big Red Book tells me are S American toads – so are we solving the last crossword of the year on the subject of bufo bufo?

The relatively brief preamble has suggested to us that there are going to be a couple of adjustments of our grid using those six words produced by the relatively gentle Group A and Group B clues (ASAR, DROLLED, PEAT, TONAL, PROVIDE, PERSE).

Of course Paddock has renewed his membership of the Listener setters’ oenophile elite. We have ‘Elizabethan piece sorry after spilling wine (4)’ I opt for PENITENT, spilling or losing the TENT. Then we find, ‘Eg Darby and Joan clubs shunning refrigerated Aussie lagers (6)’ Those must be (C)OLDIES, and (if we ignore the E(S)AU Vichy water, ‘Texan’s second person present rising to acclaim endless source of liquor (6) gives us YOU-ALL. Cheers, Paddock!

We were solving this crossword with pencil and paper with two demanding grandchildren in the child seats as we drove to the Golden Gate Bridge (their parents involved in a house move) so I struggled to complete the top left hand side of the grid (TWIBILL, GALLINULE, AMENE?) but then saw that we had NIOBE in the centre of the grid, and that by changing the three entries spelling her name (using PEAT, DROLLED and ASAR) we produced ATLAS (all, of course skilfully maintaining real words). Now what did Niobe and ATLAS have in common? I remember Shakespeare’s ‘Like Niobe, all tears’ referring to the stone that Leto turned her into as a punishment for her hubris. Wiki tells me ‘In another story of Roman mythology Atlas refused to offer Perseus, son of Zeus, hospitality because he was told a prophecy that a son of Zeus would some day steal his daughters golden apples. Insulted, Perseus showed him the severed head of Medusa, which had the power to turn all who looked into stone. So we put a transformation to STONE in the centre of the grid.

So there we have it. PERSE replaces HARSH and gives us PERSEUS, that we must highlight, and TONAL replaces those PIPAS producing LATONA (another name for LETO). It was OVID who told us about these evil events in Greek mythology so he must be the third name we have to highlight. Aah! BROMIDE becomes PROVIDE. How very neat and what a pleasure to solve a crossword with no clue gimmicks and where all the transformations produced real words. Thank you, Paddock.


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L4535: ‘One Good Turn’ by Paddock

Posted by Encota on 18 January 2019

Fill out the grid.  Carry out the Title as an instruction.  2018 sorted.  Simples 😉

2018-12-30 20.38.54 copy


Tim / Encota

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Listener No 4535: One Good Turn by Paddock

Posted by Dave Hennings on 18 January 2019

Here we had the last Listener of the year, so no silly mistakes from those few of you who are so far all correct. This was Paddock’s second Listener, the first being Battleships from two years ago.

A lot was going on here, with Group A and Group B clues providing answers that needed to replace entries already in the grid to reveal lots of characters, some causing an incident, and a chronicler.

I started rather bizarrely with the Group clues. Bizarre, since there was nothing to do with them until the grid was filled! The A clues were nice and straightforward, the B clues less so.

The normal Acrosses and Downs were on the tricky side with some good definitions and/or wordplay(s?). The strangest definition for me was 15ac BROMIDE meaning ‘commonplace’.

The trickiest clue (for me) was 30dn, Texan’s second person present rising to acclaim endless source of liquor (6) — YO (present) + LAU(d)< + L(iquor). The one that caused raised eyebrows (and a smile) was 11dn, Ask what audience might expect to follow Haydn? (4) — sounds like Hide ‘n’ Seek. My favourite was probably 17dn Starter with crusts of toast dumped over thick soups (6) — (SETTER-UP – T(oas)T)<.

Back to the Group clues, and it didn’t take long to see where the A ones needed to go… across the middle, with NIOBE becoming ATLAS. A bit of reading confirmed that, at the behest of LATONA (revealed in row 1), Niobe’s children were killed and Niobe returned home and turned to stone. ATLAS, on the other hand, was turned into a vast mountain range by PERSEUS (finally cropping up in row 13). All these stories are courtesy of OVID in Metamorphoses.

Thanks, Paddock, good fun.

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Listener No 4534, A Secret Unlocked: A Setter’s Blog by Harribobs

Posted by Listen With Others on 13 January 2019

Back in the olden days, before computer games and even before colour TV, one of the more popular entertainments in our house was the comic. At various times we subscribed not only to the ubiquitous Beano and Dandy, but also to Buster, Cor!, Sparky, Whizzer and Chips, Bunty, Jackie, Mandy, and the more educational choice of our parents, Look and Learn. Sometimes, as a bonus, a comic would include a free gift, such as the noisy ‘Flying Fizzer’ in the Beano and the even noisier ‘Banger’ in Buster. But on one occasion the free insert was a card with holes in it which, when placed over a text inside the comic, revealed a secret message. Such was the inspiration for A Secret Unlocked.

The Wikipedia entry for cryptography leads eventually to the subject of steganography. It makes interesting reading: for example, during WWII the UK government was so anxious about messages being hidden in knitting patterns that it banned people from posting them overseas. But my favourite story was that from Herodotus in Histories, where Aristagoras has to cut the hair from the head of Histiaeus’s servant to reveal the secret message.

The trickiest part of the puzzle’s construction was coming up with the preamble template. It needed to provide an introduction, not too stilted, while containing the right number of occurrences of the letters H,A,I,R, reasonably spaced. The slightly awkward ‘popped up’ in the preamble was a late replacement, needed because I had overlooked the ‘R’ in ‘turned up’.

Some solvers were mystified by the instruction ‘USE TEMPLATE AND NOTE WHAT HAIR CONCEALS.’ It could have been clearer, but I reasoned that solvers could act as cryptanalysts, and deduce what the template was.

I can’t remember seeing steganography used in a Listener crossword before, and was surprised to see the excellent puzzle Telling Lies by Somniloquist, published just the previous Saturday, using a similar technique – cutting out some words and folding to reveal others.

Thanks, as ever, to Roger and Shane for their rigorous vetting.

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Listener No 4534: A Secret Unlocked by Harribobs

Posted by Dave Hennings on 11 January 2019

Harribobs hasn’t been on the setting scene for very long but has had some great puzzles, such as the recent Go West, Young Man (except that was over at the Inquistor). This, his second Listener of 2018 followed on from Exchange of Letters with Henry Longfellow’s Kéramos as its theme.

This week we were treated to a short two-sentence story with a mysterious ending. From the preamble, it would seem that this would be needed in association with an instruction to be revealed by letters omitted from 34 answers.

As I expected, the clues were sometimes tricky but always fair. The only one I had trouble deciphering was 17ac System of weights to be seen in Provence (5). Obviously a French word, it was only when I had three letters did avoir pop into my head. So, nothing to do with être; I’m assuming that it reads as a voir but not sure.

Anyway, when all was complete, it wasn’t quite complete! There were a couple of ambiguities that needed to be resolved, eg the AL in ARSENAL/SEASONAL. It didn’t take long to finish them so that the omitted letters spelt out Use template and note what hair (not hlir) conceals.

My initial reaction was to highlight the hair-fixated US TRUMP **** in the middle row and be done! However…

As I note above, this needed to be used along with the two-sentence story. Now there were 169 squares in the grid and it seemed obvious to see how many letters there were in the story. At the end of line 1, I had 81 and I knew I was on the right track. All told there were indeed 169. Constructing a second grid with the story reading from left to right, top to bottom, I noted the positions of H, A, I and R and then highlighted them in my original grid.

After two lines, I had ARISTA… and this time wondered if I had got it wrong. Persevering, it transpired that the message was “ARISTAGORAS, REVOLT AGAINST PERSIANS — HISTIAEUS”. A bit before my time, but this refers to the “…Ionian Revolt against the Persian Achaemenid Empire” about 500BC — thanks, Wiki.

All that remained was to fill in the theme under the grid which was indicated by the clues to answers not requiring a letter to be omitted. Two quick scans of the clues followed, firstly examining their initial letters, and then their last. The last letters gave STEGANOGRAPHY, the concealment of something within something else, here a message inside another message.

One of the first examples was that where Histiaeus sent a message to Aristogoras by marking it on a servant’s shaved head and waiting for the hair to regrow before sending it on its way. The message was hidden until the head was shaved by Aristogoras. Thus, the two-sentence story was finally explained and the secret un-lock-ed!

A lot of checking and double-checking then followed to ensure that the highlighting was correct and that I had correctly spelt the theme word. (I’m still smarting from spelling SCAUMBURG with a BERG in Harribobs’ puzzle about the German postwar chancellors.)

As expected, a fine puzzle from Harribobs.

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