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Archive for March, 2019

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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Listener No 4543: Migratory Birds by Malva

Posted by Dave Hennings on 15 March 2019

Ah, it’s nature week again with Malva (formerly Dipper). Last year’s puzzle was based around alternative names for birds. This week gave us the shortest preamble for a very long time, and just explained what we had to do once the grid was filled — highlight three muddled birds.

As I read through the across clues, I marvelled at Malva’s ability to incorporate a bird in each one. However, my solving was not so marvellous, and after 7 or 8 across clues, I decided to try some downs. No luck!

I then wondered if the birds were just extra words that needed to be removed before clues could be solved. Going back to 1ac, that idea failed to fly — pardon the pun! Finally getting my brain into gear, 15ac Elegise nandoos creatively in cast iron (12) seemed to be a likely anagram, but just a couple of letters too many. “SPIEGELEISEN”, I said out loud, but not until I’d read “spiegeleisen” in Mrs B under iron! I must admit that I didn’t really expect to find that there. Disentangling elegise from it, I found that the clue should have read Elegise snipe creatively in cast iron (12), the snipe coming from 8dn.

How cunning, and how obvious from the title! So, for the next couple of hours (actually, a bit more, I think) all these birds had to migrate to different clues before they could be solved. Very enjoyable. My favourite clue, primarily because of its novelty, was 9dn. Once the heron and been replaced by the kokako, we had Idiot putting any odd bit of kokako under beetle (4) — DOR + (K(okako) or (ko)K(ako) or (koka)K(o))!

Finding the three birds in the grid that were muddled was relatively straightforward, helped by the preamble: “each 5 letters, in a vertical line.” CRAKE was the first to pop up, in column 11. TEREK took a bit of time (column 6), followed by VIREO (column 4).

Thanks, Malva, for a nicely thematic and entertaining puzzle.

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