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Archive for March, 2019

Listener No 4545: Polyfilla by Ifor

Posted by Dave Hennings on 29 March 2019

One of our more prolific setters greeted us this week and no doubt it would be quite tricky. His last was the puzzle that combined John Donne’s Holy Sonnets and single-letter chemical elements. This week, as with other Listener’s recently, an oddly shaped grid.

1ac and 5ac were quickly solved: AFEAR and GIMME. I liked Ifor’s definition of the latter: giveaway, not needing a hit. It is more realistically defined as an agreement between two golfers, neither of whom can putt very well! After those first two, my success with the acrosses was somewhat sporadic, made a tad difficult because each had an extra word that had to be removed before solving.

As for the downs — well. Lots of 3-letter answers, plus a lot more 6-letter answers that could be split into 3-letter words. Each had a number in brackets that dictated which clue(s) each 3-letter word thematically contributed. Moreover, the letters either side of each extra word would spell out two messages: an instruction that had to be applied to the unclued 8dn, plus a clarification of what that entailed.

It became fairly clear to me that all these little words would somehow anagram to the entries they contributed to. However, I confess it took the messages from the across clues to fully spell it out. I saw Cyril lurking there, followed closely by Russ, but it took Dolly’s discovery for everything to fall into place. The down entries would be like those Russian dolls that fitted inside each other with one word inside another inside a third and, in two cases, inside a fourth.

Finally the two messages were Enter Russian doll and Cyrillic capitals. My Russian is a bit rusty, so I needed Google to reveal how MATRESHKA needed to be modified for the Russian equivalent. I think it was MAPЁшKA, although I’m not 100% certain if the dotdot over the E is mandatory or not. I must also confess that I’m flummoxed by the clue to 21ac Whoop [unlikely] approval and take time after flight to Medina; it obviously referred to HIJRAH but I couldn’t see what knocked the HIJ off.

All in all, good fun as usual, so thanks to Ifor. Great title, too. Apparently, the world record is 51 dolls!


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Polyfilla by Ifor

Posted by shirleycurran on 29 March 2019

Yet another rather unusual grid, We read through the preamble with no undue concern and noted the ‘Iforish’ device of extra words in across clues producing letters that would lead to two messages, one telling us what to enter at 8dn and the other telling us what entering that would entail. I scanned the grid for a sprinkling of alcohol and didn’t find much – in fact only a BAR in ‘Support for women without needing right to be promoted’.  We had to promote the R in that clue leading to BRA so it was a rather reluctant ‘Cheers, Ifor’ until the clue ten further down ‘Lots of fluid from burst blisters after removing skin’ led to an anagram of (b)lister(s) and LITRES. Hearty cheers, Ifor!

Solving as many across clues as possible was clearly the way to go and the three-letter ones went in fairly quickly, followed by WARLORD, GIMME, AFEAR and TABARDS. HEADSHEETS had to be the answer to ‘Bows change these in pursuit of titles’, (HEADS+ SHEETS*) and we were helpfully told that this had to be 10 letters long and tentatively placed the SH in the centre of the answer.

We were producing a message (well, the beginnings of two messages) ENTER RUSSIAN ????  and CYRILLIC CAPI ????, and what was even more helpful, TEA and Chambers gave us suggestions for those long down clues, WITHEREDNESS, AGALACTIA, FIREBRAND, AMOURETTE, REREDORSE and DISFEATURING.

I am sure Ifor didn’t expect us to solve those small clues in reverse but that was, in fact, in many cases the way we did it. 10d, for example, offered us MAHSIR or
MOHAIR and we could see that AHS must be the entry to the first of the downs, nested in MIR – penny drop moment!NESTED! Suddenly it all made sense. We had LAC, nested in GAT, nested in AIA. DISFEATURING was made up of EAT, in FUR, in SIN nested in DIG. Nesting dolls! Surely we each received a set of nesting dolls as a present when we were small.

Of course the unusual shape of the grid now made sense – there was our Babushka!

So SPA went into INN, CAN into ARE, HEM into TIS, ASH into PED, and BAN into LIT and our grid was complete, except that we had to. ENTER RUSSIAN DOLL in CYRILLIC CAPITALS. We had a putative MATRYOSHKA down the centre of our grid and knew we had to be careful after that KOHb of some years ago so carefully checked our capitals with the Russian neighbour and opted for MATPEWKA – or a version of that.

Very ingenious. Thank you Ifor.

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L4545: ‘Polyfilla’ by Ifor

Posted by Encota on 29 March 2019

Yo! Yo! Yo! Yo! Yo! Yo! Yo! Yo! Yo! Yo! (i.e. repeat IO / many times).  Firstly, a must for (whether closet or not) Sesame Street fans everywhere:

So what character do you get from Unicode (1025 dec), I hear you cry?  BTW, I almost suffered with diaeresis at the weekend – but I think that counts as oversharing …

On the way to the York- based Listener dinner the week before this puzzle appeared (aside: thank you Jane & John!), my wife and I stopped for a night in Lincoln, where we visited the Matryoshka Russian Doll shop
Luckily I didn’t get started on a Listener Russian doll-based idea as, when this puzzle appeared the week after, Ifor clearly had the idea before me.  Phew …

I suspect at least one person is going to be kicking themselves for putting an E rather than an Ë character.  I think it’s something like (though my capital ‘SH’ isn’t very good!)



But maybe I’ve got it entirely wrong…


Tim / Encota

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Listener No 4544, The Session: A Setter’s Blog by Gila

Posted by Listen With Others on 24 March 2019

One of the first Listener puzzles I remember solving — or, more specifically, remember actually finishing — was Class by Gioconda (no. 3,964, way back in early 2008). For some reason, the theme of that puzzle — groups of answers being modified in accordance with theme words (‘tall’, ‘fat’, ‘short’, etc.) — stayed with me.

The world of drinking lends itself quite well to wordplay indicators, so I thought it would be a decent starting point for a puzzle along similar lines, not least as I hoped it would presumably secure my entry to the Listener oenophile elite before a single clue was written!

‘Having a drink’ and ‘drunk’ groups were fairly easy choices for thematic treatments. I was initially less sold on ‘with a hangover’ to indicate an additional final letter, but reasoned it would be OK if I tried to make the final grid contain only real words and then defined the clue entries separately. There are no doubt simple scripts/code that will quickly and easily identify all possible starter words which remain valid words when you put, say, PORT inside them. Ditto all words (plurals aside) which you can suffix with an extra letter to make new words. I’m yet to learn these skills though, so there was all manner of silly jiggery-pokery involving word lists, Excel VLOOKUPs and the like in order to create valid lists. I’m sure I first encountered the maxim IN VINO VERITAS in the crossworld – and have certainly failed to heed it enough times in the real world – so decided this would be a good additional step for the non-treated clues.

Clueing was good fun and I tried to use thematic surfaces as and when the opportunities arose. As is often the way when you’re too close to a puzzle to see its potential flaws, it never occurred to me that it would be impossible to tell a hangover clue from one where the wordplay omitted the last letter. Had I spotted this, I would have started over, but we were able to allow for this by referencing the impostors.

It was a nice cherry on the cake to have my debut puzzle published on the same day as the setters’ dinner. I hope it was solved in the spirit in which it was set and that not too many solvers found themselves in Stage 3 on the Sunday morning. Many thanks too to the editors for their suggested amends to the preamble, for cleaning up my clues and for dutifully Googling the nutritional breakdown of a Greggs pasty in light of the ambiguous PASTY/PASTA clash at 20dn!



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The Session by Gila

Posted by shirleycurran on 22 March 2019

The weekend of the Listener Setters’ Dinner, superbly hosted by Jetdoc and Enigmatist in York, this time. Traditionally we expect a relatively undemanding crossword for this weekend and it appeared that we had a new setter here – was I going to be able to welcome him into the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Outfit? I read through the preamble in horror: ‘Some entries are words that are affected by one of the session’s three stages (i) having a drink (well, for dinner goers, that was at the Fox and Roman this year) (ii) drunk (Oh dear, wasn’t this going a bit too far with all that lovely alcohol flowing at the dinner and after – till around 2 a.m. for the stragglers this year?) or (iii) with a hangover (seven of each)’.

I was having serious concerns about the suitability of Gila by this time but read on and found that omitted and extra words in the wordplay of across and down clues were going to give us an appropriate maxim and something to help with the hangover. I decided that judgement would have to be reserved. Can we really allow our reputation to be sullied by rollicking inebriation?

The clues didn’t reassure me: ‘With cola, I made mixes of nasty spirits (10)’ We added an N to that anagram and produced DEMONIACAL. ‘Acceptable craft beer and a dash of liqueur with ice (10)’ Another anagram of BEER ICE A and L(iqueur) and another V omitted. The other Numpty was already muttering ‘In vino veritas’ and suspecting that we had even more alcohol in the maxim.

We had a delightful new attendee at the dinner, a newly-retired bishop and he confided his amusement to me on reading 1d. ‘Drunk bishop losing head following the end of one barrel (7)’ We sadly removed the head of our PRIMATE (with the M as an extra letter) and put the RIATE after (on)E B(arrel), producing EBRIATE, or ‘drunk’. Hmm, Gila!

‘Free beer on drinking binge for … (6, two words)’ gave us [A]LE + TOUT so ‘let out’, and the young lady in the next clue was, not surprisingly, well sozzled: ‘…Naomi at first – more than tipsy, protecting Heather from Helena (13, two words)’. We removed an E and put an anagram of MOR THAN round ERICA (heather) after N and the superb clue (if we ignored the surface reading of the drunken screaming, hen-party girls) gave us NORTH AMERICAN.

‘Red wine’s drunk – poet’s made more powerful (7)’ gave us SINEWED with an extra R (though seriously, I’d expect the poet to be flat out on the floor after all this bingeing!). ‘A drop of Lambrusco? That is a fizzy drink! (7)’ (yes, it’s rather too fizzy for me!) put a drink MEAD into L(ambrusco) IE and told us how some entries were going to ‘have a drink’.

‘Old brewer’s limited microbars (6)’ puzzled us until the end of our solve when we had found those drinks everywhere: liMEADe, staGINg, diALEd, saVINg, airPORTs, and conTENTed, and we decided that RYE had to be surrounded by BAS(s) – the BASS brewery’s founder. Clearly the drunken solutions would be anagrams and we opted for RAVE, NERITA, PIERCE, ARVO, HUSTLE, TONETIC and SEMILUNAR. What a gem that last anagram of UNREALISM was!

Just extra letters at the ends of words for the hangovers (ASSES[S], MOO[R], PAST[A], PLEB[E], SCAR[P], PRO[D] and BUR[P]) – the last of those didn’t surprise me at all – but, fortunately, by this time, the somewhat drunken extra letters MAEAPLOTRCA had supplied PARACETAMOL. What can I say? Cheers Gila!

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