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Archive for February, 2019

L4540: ‘Chalked Up’ by Nudd

Posted by Encota on 22 February 2019

2019-02-11 14.14.16 copy

Many thanks to Nudd for a fun puzzle.  I solved this one overnight on the Eurostar from the UK to Moutiers and, what with having to hand-draw the grid as I only had the puzzle on-screen, it took me to somewhere North of Paris to complete.  I think, if you screw your eyes up and look at it in a certain light, then even my representation above looks similar to the WHITE HORSE of UFFINGTON, to be found on WHITE-HORSE HILL.

I particularly liked how there was no ambiguity at all as to which letters needed to be used to form the final ‘white horse’ – and the 3, 4, 10 & 11 letter info in the Preamble made it a pleasure to solve.


Tim / Encota


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Chalked Up by Nudd

Posted by shirleycurran on 22 February 2019

We’ve seen Nudd’s colourful and artistic grids before so we greeted the preamble of this one with pleasure. The preamble was not too daunting and the other Numpty was off like a horse that has scented its stable, solving these very generous clues at such a gallop that I could barely write fast enough. We were mildly worried about the speed of the grid fill as we cantered over the finish line with just a handful of word plays still to understand in well under an hour. What fearsome end game did Nudd have in store for us?

I barely had time to check for the alcohol content and Nudd was being rather sly about it. ‘Not to mention the French stock (8, two words)’ gave us ‘LE TALON’ and we guessed that an E was missing from the word play so ‘Let alone’. We assumed it ws a stock of vintage, so ‘Cheers, Nudd!

“A work of art in chalk?” said the other Numpty – “that must be The White Horse of Uffington.” and he disappeared with his grid to mark those missing word play letters while I struggled with the last few clues where we had the answers but hadn’t worked out how. Which of the old words for grey was going to come out of OGREISH? (GRISE, GRIS?)’Antique grey, like a fearsome giant (7)’. Well the final art work resolved that one and we removed the O, E and H, giving us one of the two that had to lose three letters. HSE came out of HOISE when we raised IO (priestess of Hera) skyward and that gave us more evidence that we were going to draw a horse.

‘Draws knowing gesture from brainless American (4)’. We worked backwards from TIES with the S clearly missing from the word play as we needed it for the horse’s lower leg. ‘Twinkie’, said my niece who is here for a ski-break, so we removed wink, and with it our final problem. We joined up those 28 letters with four curves, checked with Google and agreed that this was another fine compilation by Nudd.

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Removal by Gos

Posted by shirleycurran on 15 February 2019

“Nice short preamble” we said, “but ‘undergo removal’? There’s something fishy about that unusual wording.” There was something not quite right about some of the clues too, as I scanned them for the usual alcohol, which was, of course there. ‘Take Victoria’s drinking therapy for lively party (4)’. Later, when we had sussed what was going on, we moved ‘Victoria’s’ and decided that was an Aussie RORT. Gos continued with ‘Bar, one accepting 80 selections (8)’ Chambers tells us that 80 = R and that had to go into EXCEPT A to give us EXCERPTA, for selections. Selections of fine malts, Gos? Cheers!

We knew something was going on, but solved for almost an hour coming up with incomprehensible clashes when we solved the easy anagram at 13d, ‘Governor desperate to land a deal after losing bit of leeway (10)’ We had already slotted DUOMO in at 2d, though the wordplay didn’t quite work, and ADELANTADO gave us an impossible DM at the start of 15ac. It didn’t fit with BEBOP at. 34ac either (Jazz with live beat (5) = BE + BOP).

It was the SYBO and the BRIBER that cracked it for us. In both of those clues, we realized that a word had to move WITHIN the clue, ‘Small young bothyman’s onion primarily’,(first letters of S Y B O) and ‘Greaser born in Brazil, that is right’ (BR IE R round B), and we saw that BEBOP had to fit into 28d, so clearly words were ‘changing location’ within the clues and within the grid. Of course, Chambers told us that that was one of the meanings of ‘removal’. There had to be some other thematic material here as well as simply shifting clues around and moving words in clues so we did a fair amount of head-scratching and attempting to make something emerge from the words and clues we had moved – but it was not to be. So we breathed a silent thanks for a relatively simple solve.

There had to be 18 clues of each type, which rendered our grid fill much easier, now that we knew what we were doing but we still struggled with out last few clues. Yes, 29ac must be an IKON but why. The other Numpty, the military historian laughed out loud. “It’s an OERLIKON OER L’ – once over line – removed”. That left me with ‘Food plant used as fodder for birds perhaps (7)’. Packers, peckers, pickers, puckers? I should have known, I set a weekly crossword for the Farmers Guardian and know that ERS is a fodder plant, so the food had to be PECK and the birds PECKERS. Many thanks to Gos for an original device and an entertaining solve.

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Listener No 4539: Removal by Gos

Posted by Dave Hennings on 15 February 2019

Gos last entertained us here with his Graham Greene Third Man themed puzzle. This week, we had a fairly short preamble telling us to remove a word from half of the clues before solving and do something similar with half the answers before entering.

One of the things I like to do when approaching a Listener is to look up every word in the title for unusual meanings. If only!!.

After unsuccessfully tackling half-a-dozen or so across clues, I decided to try the downs. Immediate success with 2dn Two old guys married at cathedral (5) sort of looked like DUOMO… but not quite. Luckily, I managed to work out 5 Canada confusedly changing name for independent old eastern part of it (6) as ACADIA, although I’d never heard of it, and 8 Puzzle misset some-blessed-how, say (6) gave TMESIS. A short while later, and ADELANTADO went in at 13dn, and I was up and running.

Except, of course, the T of TMESIS and the first D of ADELANTADO clashed. Nothing in the preamble told me about that! The clue that finally came to my rescue was 25dn. At first sight these airport roads are mostly concrete-covered (6) was obviously TARMAC, except it didn’t quite work until are and mostly got swapped.

Even then, it would be some time before I looked up removal in Chambers: “change of place”. Then, it was an entertaining time juggling with words in either the clues or the grid.

My favourite clue was 23dn Garden oddly overlooked connected parties alongside a different part (6) which had to change to Garden parties… and led to (g)A(r)D(e)N(p)A(r)T(i)E(s). 36ac Songster, little fella, trapped by flood recurrent after precipitation starts (10) when adjusted took a bit of time to rationalise as TICH in SPATE< after P(recipitation) — I think.

10dn BATTLEDORE reminded me of a Rustic EV puzzle in back in 2012 which was based around the game, and at which the late James Leonard himself (Citrus, Mr Lemon, Rustic) was, apparently, highly proficient.

Thanks for a very enjoyable puzzle, Gos.

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L4539: ‘Removal’ by Gos

Posted by Encota on 15 February 2019

2019-01-27 19.59.12

This puzzle featured the shortest Preamble so far this year – and one of the shortest I can recall for a long time.  It simply read:

In half of the clues one word must undergo removal before solving.  The answers to the other clues suffer a similar fate when entered in the grid.  The Chambers Dictionary (2016) is the primary reference.

Some people have asked me how one goes about solving Listener crosswords for the first time.  Now I’m no expert, but I can solve most, so perhaps I can use this one as an example – and it maybe especially relevant as I was totally baffled for a while.  Here goes, with my interpretation …

  1. Where the Preamble says ‘Chambers … is the primary reference’, this is code for ‘Access to Chambers dictionary is essential’.
  2. Sometimes the Preamble suggests that the solver might need to do something – but this also may very well be deceptive.  For example, what might ‘removal’ in this Preamble mean?  Use Chambers to check for any alternative meanings or sub-meanings, just in case!
  3. Definitely don’t get too hung up about not understanding the Preamble to begin with.  I used to work with someone who, perhaps unfairly, others said that they could, “understand the words he used but not the sentences”.  Often it feels like that when you first read the Listener crossword’s Preamble.  My strong advice would be to not let that put you off!
  4. Start by solving a few clues, where you can.  Try and spot if you need to do something before solving a clue, if the Preamble doesn’t make it clear.  In this puzzle’s case it appears that half of the clues-through-to-their-being-entered-in-the grid will be handled in one way, and the other half another way.
  5. Sometimes simple checks can help, like (a) counting up the total number of clues and (b) how many of each length are present.  In this case there are 36 in total, with the same number of each length being present Across and Down.  e.g. there are four Across clues and four Down clues each of length four letters, and so on.
  6. Look at some of the clashes generated by the clues you can solve and see if they make any sense.  E.g. 13d’s answer is ADELANTADO and 34a’s answer is BEBOP – but the two letters that clash seem to make no sense – the last D in ADELANTADO and the first B of BEBOP.  Might each of these be jumbled so that one of their common letters (E or O) might be entered in this cell?  But there seems to be no justification for jumbling.  Hmmm …
  7. Solve some more, e.g. ACME for Top money earned by high achiever (4), being M in ACE.  Again, use Chambers to double-check specific meanings, e.g. ‘ace’ for ‘high achiever’, if you suspect but aren’t sure.  If the clues solve straightforwardly, then they are probably one of the 18 clues where ‘removal’ needs to happen after solving but before entry into the Grid (unless you’ve missed something).  But what about the other 18?  One might initially think that a word needs deleting (‘removing’) from each of these 18 before solving but, on inspection, there are no obvious candidates.  Now what?  Answer: try and solve a few more and hope something begins to make sense.
  8. For me this continued until I spotted 9d’s Businessman at seminar showcases a mineral (7).  Now ‘showcases’ in wordplay might hint at a ‘hidden’ clue type. So is one of smanats, manatse, anatsem, natsemi a mineral?  With the last of the four being a shortened form of National Semiconductor there might be a ‘chip off the (old) block’ pun hiding somewhere; apart from that no, nothing seems to work.  But hold on, isn’t ANATASE a mineral?  So, if ‘removal of a word’ means its movement from one place to another, then the word ‘a’ could move in this clue to form Businessman at a seminar showcases a mineral (7).  Check in Chambers that ANATASE is what you thought it was and the first of the 18 of this type of clue has been found!
  9. Since the ‘removal’ action has already been taken on this clue then I can (reasonably) safely assume that this can be directly entered into the grid without further change.  Solve a few more, now looking for clues that benefit from a word moving before solving, e.g. CRENA at 12a and GIMME HAT at 14ac.
    12.Nick’s entertained by Nick’s mediocre narration (5), another ‘hidden’ clue type, in (medio)CRE NA(rration), and
    14.Cap given for company promotion in US might briefly mean company changing appearance (8, two words), an anagram of MIGHT MEA(n).
  10. For me, this now left 7d as a four letter word of the form ?CM?   But that looks like ACME, one of the previously solved clues!?  Might it be possible that ‘removal’ in this case simply means place it elsewhere in the grid?  Double-check in Chambers to confirm meaning 3 of ‘removal’ to be ‘Change of place’ and this feels very much like the right track.
  11. Now try to find homes for other similar clues, e.g. ADELANTADO.  That might go on the first row?  Then use checked letters to look for other words that might fit and find and solve the clues to match.
  12. Double-check that all eighteen of each clue type have been correctly found. Yay!
  13. If you are the sort of person who fills the puzzle out in rough first (I do) and then transfers that to the final grid for posting off (should you choose to do such a thing – see 15 below), then Beware!  As many mistakes are made during this transfer as in the initial solve.  I suspect there are more reliable ways to check for possible errors: I enter them all reading horizontally, then check them vertically to look for self-induced errors.  I find such an error in about one in ten puzzle solves, so it hopefully avoids at least 4 or 5 errors each year!
  14. Another check: if you can’t fully parse a clue then keep trying!  It is often the one clue you couldn’t parse that will catch you out.  In this puzzle there were (at least) two clues where an unchecked letter might be entered in error.  One example is 4d’s actual clue, hiding at 30d, Open country’s the worst part (4).  The first half might be LEA’S or LEE’s – again relying on Chambers to give you all options.  But only LEES fits the other half of this double-definition clue, ‘the worst part’.  So LEES it is!
    A similar trap lurks at 36a where the answer might potentially be PETTICHAPS or PETTY-CHAPS, with that I/Y choice again unchecked.  And it’s I, if you’re asking, with ‘little fella’ of the clue being TICH.  Again, double-check in Chambers to be sure that TYCH isn’t a rare alternate spelling as, in The Listener, the rarer version of a word may well appear more often than its commoner counterpart.
  15. Finally, once you’ve finished everything, it can be great fun to send your puzzle in!  This not only for the chance of winning a prize of a Chambers book.  It also means that your entry gets marked (yes, really!).  After each year completes, then early the following Spring you can receive details of precisely how you did throughout the previous calendar year.  For some time I didn’t send any of mine in, until someone (with the initials RP) kindly suggested that it was fine to send in two at a time.  And I have done so ever since: on the Sunday, for example, I posted off this puzzle and last week’s ‘Joint Conditions’ together.  Halves the number of stamps that require sticking and envelopes that need addressing, which is all to the good!

And if there is one ‘rule’ worth remembering from all the above, it is, “When in doubt (and often even if not), check it in Chambers”.

Only 2 weeks now until the Listener Dinner: I look forward to catching up with many of you there 🙂


Tim / Encota

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