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Archive for March, 2019

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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Listener No 4544: The Session by Gila

Posted by Dave Hennings on 22 March 2019

As I read the preamble this week, I could picture the scene over in the living room at another LWO house. Someone is being given smelling salts to revive her from having fainted onto the sofa. “A whole puzzle about alcohol. Outrageous!”

She was talking about Gila’s first Listener, although he has had several over at EV and Inquisitor. Here we had four clue types: alcoholic, post-alcoholic, recovery therefrom and alcohol-free. Of course, we weren’t told which clue was which, but everything came together nicely.

Some of the clues were a bit perplexing! For example, I didn’t really now who the culprit was out of Naomi, Heather and Helena in 5dn: … Naomi at first — more than tipsy — protecting Heather from Helena? (13, two words). What had Heather done to provoke Helena?

However, I wasn’t at all surprised by the antics of the clergy at 2dn: Drunk bishop losing head following the end of one barrel (7). In fact it reminded me of the bishop and archdeacon, and their fondness for a tipple of two of sherry, in that excellent 60’s BBC sitcom, All Gas and Gaiters.

I must say that I found the endgame a bit tricky. Letters dropped from the clues would lead to a Maxim and an Item which needed to be written in the spaces under the grid. The downs weren’t too bad, with all the dropped letters giving something to help with a hangover:


As usual in these situations, a bit of doodling of letters helps. In this case, I tried PLOTEACARMA which looked vaguely Pharmaceutical. I should have sussed it then, but it took half a dozen more attempts to tease out Paracetamol.

The across Maxim was, however, a lot more tricky. Made so because the 11 letters dropped from the unaffected clues had to be joined by two of the five hangover clues which had their last letters dropped:

N R V E S O T I A I V, plus two of P I S N D

I won’t go into the convolutions that I went through with these letters. Suffice it to say that it took two (or was it three?) 15-minute visits to see the wine and come to In Vino Veritas. (Perhaps I should have had a couple of glasses before starting my doodles.) I had my doubts about the fairness of those two rogue letters but, hey, I got there in the end.

Good fun, thanks Gila.

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Listener No 4543, Migratory Birds: A Setter’s Blog by Malva

Posted by Listen With Others on 17 March 2019

It probably won’t come as much of a surprise to most Listener solvers if I admit to an interest in birds. Obviously, I’m not an obsessive twitcher, riding a moped 200 miles to catch a fleeting glimpse of a tawny frogmouth, but I do like wandering through woodland, pausing for a fag and seeing a nuthatch head-down on a nearby tree.

My interest goes back quite a long way and just after I left school, I even formed a band called The Dippers that only did songs with a bird’s name in the title. Regular things like Rockin’ Robin, Little Red Rooster and Pretty Flamingo, but also less predictable stuff such as Knot Fade Away, Vireo killed the Radio Star and anything by Owling Wolf.

To be honest, we never really made it as a band and within a year or so, we’d broken up due to ornithological differences – the drummer wanted to concentrate on passerines and the bass player was heavily into raptors. In fact, he went on to found the Buzz(ard)cocks with Merlin Bragg, Angela Eagle and Peregrine Worsthorne and they had a minor hit with their death metal version of Chirpy-chirpy Cheep-cheep.

Anyway, I pursued my interest by becoming a volunteer warden at our local nature reserve. It was on the edge of a harbour and most of it was marsh, so it was packed with waders and wildfowl in the winter. Unfortunately I wasn’t very good with waders and wildfowl, so most of the people who asked for my help were under the impression they’d seen a whimbrel even if it had four legs and was shaped like a horse.

Returning to Migratory Birds, of the 38 featured in the clues, I’ve actually seen 29 of them (or 32 if you count the stuffed tui I saw in a bar in Auckland, the nandoo that turned out to be a hallucination when I contracted food poisoning in Skiathos and the pelican that was attached to the hat of a woman who’d obviously mistaken a rain swept November day at Wincanton for Ladies Day at Ascot).

And let’s face it, even if you’re indifferent to birds, try imagining what my crosswords would be like if I’d been an ardent trainspotter all these years. A tad wearying, I’d say. Apart from the odd reference to the Mallard, of course.

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Migratory Birds by Malva

Posted by shirleycurran on 15 March 2019

Haven’t we met Malva’s birds before? We had an astonishing flock this time, forty-three in all, I think, if we count the HERON and TIT that migrated from the clues into the grid, as well as the three jumbled ones. It didn’t take us long to find the ones in the clues and to see that they each had to migrate to a different clue, though I had never heard of a KOKAKO or a PRION. The last three, the rather confused wee things, the CRAKE, TEREK and VIREO were more difficult to spot.

Alcohol? Not a drop but some fairly gory eating going on. ‘Old noble juror reversing right to eat innards of raven (5)’ We switched the raven for the prion and we reversed RT round its innards to give us TRIOR. We were decapitating birds, ‘Don Quixote maybe decapitating grebe in front of King Edward (6)’ – we swapped the grebe for a stilt, removed its head and got TILTER – and had a Maori meal of the last of buzzards, for just over a pound. It took us a while to work out where we were going to get our T to put into KAI to give KATI. Was it the tit, the peewit, the parakeet, the stilt or the avocet? We needed to keep a careful record of the birds that had migrated in order to suss the wordplay of our last few clues.

SCRIGGLED was our final entry and fortunately, we knew we still had that grebe to place so we were able to anagram SCALDING GREBE less BEAN to produce a word that Chambers tells me means writhed – ‘After spitting out jumping bean, scalding pintail twisted and writhed about (9)’

What can I say? I thought Malva was a bird lover, but we have a peewit that’s lost wing, that decapitated grebe, a half-hearted stork, pigeons that go weird, a very sad swift lacking bone, odd parts of a kite used to make rosin and mangled bird remains all over the grid – a mighty massacre, almost reminiscent of the Jago wren event of several years ago. It just won’t do, Malva! I wonder whether your setter’s blog will tell us that you have quit the twitching and are taking up cookery, train-spotting or stamp collecting.

But it was a great grid to fill and a lot of fun. We’ll look forward to the next flight.

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L4543: ‘Migratory Birds’ by Malva

Posted by Encota on 15 March 2019

Warm wishes from Sunny Suffolk, the home of RSPB Minsmere where numerous fans of this puzzle most likely congregate before heading off to warmer climes for the winter.

2019-02-23 21.54.56 copy

I greatly enjoyed the moment when it became clear that birds, one of which featured in every clue, ‘migrated’ from one clue to another before solving could finally take place.  Of course half the fun was finding that the wordplay nearly worked in some cases before the move but was in error – and it was that which allowed me at least to see what was actually going on.

There were 38 clues/birds to migrate: I sorted the first 25 of them, then resorted to a small checklist (see right hand side of diagram above) to compare the remaining (13) birds at that time with no new home with their potential wordplay ‘nests’ [I think this analogy has gone way too far: Ed.]

I particularly liked the subtlety in the clue,

  Idiot putting any odd bit of heron under beetle (4):

Now we’ve seen DOR for beetle before (and I’ve forgotten it several times, too!), so the idiot looks like it may well be DORK.  But how does the final K come from the rest of the wordplay?  Well, one of the birds still looking for a new home is the ‘KoKaKo’: and ‘any odd bit of KOKAKO’ is the letter K, so all is sorted.  That also used up one of the two remaining birds beginning with a K, allowing me to be certain that the one left, KINGFISHER, moved to 28d’s,

At the start, prion to roll up wooden ball 

The wooden ball was a KNUR, made up of K+RUN<, so replacing ‘prion’ with ‘kingfisher’ sorted that one out too.

The correct repositioning of the birds in the clues was for me the most fun part.  There were three jumbled birds also hidden in the grid, in vertical lines.  I think I went through all of Mrs. Bradford’s 5-letter birds in all the columns and could only find – jumbled in contiguous cells – VIREO, TEREK and CRAKE, which I’ve highlighted.  I’m not sure I haven’t missed something far more subtle hiding there, but what I’ve done meets the spec of the Preamble, so I called it a day at that point.

Prior to that I had hunted out as many 5-letter birds as I could find in each vertical, in case that was going to give me further enlightenment – you may detect their faint tracks in the image above.  And when I was reminded by Mrs B that ‘Wonga’ was a bird then I did try, naturally with a very high level of interest, to find it in the grid.  However, it appears that bird has flown.

Finally, I did quite like the Sarf London description of birdsong at 32a, pronounced TWI’ER.  I’ll get my coat …


Tim / Encota

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