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Archive for May, 2019

Listener No 4553: Inscription by Dysart

Posted by Dave Hennings on 24 May 2019

Dysart’s puzzle previous puzzle was only six months ago, and was all about Benjamin Britten’s work, War Requiem, incorporating poems by Wilfred Owen. That was the Listener’s Armistice Day puzzle. This week, it appeared that some artistic skills would be required. (In hindsight that’s putting it mildly!!)

Across clues were in normal order, downs in alphabetical order of answers. 20 clues omitted a letter in the wordplay, and these would spell out the name of a work which we needed to sketch. Our drawing would need to be “guided by three words that appear twice or more in the grid.” That sounded daunting.

Cutting to the chase, the work was Leonardo da Vinci’s L’Uomo Vitruviano, as spelt out in the grid by the letters omitted from wordplay.

Hands up those who spotted that the grid, as printed, seemed to have sunk a bit on the page?! I certainly didn’t. Of course the reason was that the instruction spelt out by the initial letters of down clues in conventional order required us to Draw circle centred on dot and that circle strayed outside the top, left and right edges of the grid. The three words appearing twice or more in the grid were ARMs (4 of them), LEGs (also 4) and TORSOs (twice) so it was necessary to ensure that our drawing went through those cells. It was also necessary to draw a head in the large square at the top of the grid.

This drawing was featured in a Magpie puzzle by Pieman 15 years ago entitled Circling the Square. That was an E-grade on the Magpie scale, ie a tad hard! Luckly, this wasn’t too tough, so thanks to Dysart for a fairly forgiving workout.

However, if my initial attempt at drawing the man on my grid was anything to go by, some of the submissions must have made da Vinci turn in his grave! No doubt they provided JEG with some amusement though.

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Inscription by Dysart

Posted by shirleycurran on 24 May 2019

We read the name Dysart with pleasure. This was going to be a set of challenging but very fine and fair clues with something delightful at the end – and it was just that.

I didn’t have to read very far to confirm that Dysart retains his membership of the Listener setters’ oenophile outfit. ‘Rum’s all to be packed by American soldiers – special characters (5)’ gave us AURAE, followed by ‘Noise from knocking sailor over, so long drunk! (7)’ We returned the TAR over and said TATA (so long) – RATATAT. Drunk already on rum! Soon after that we read, ‘County receiver carrying empty file sees bottled liquid concentrate (13, two words)’ This sounded hopeful but it gave just COFFEE CONCENTRATE – well, I imagine the drunk needed that. Cheers, Dysart.

My current whinge about setters is the gimmick that requires solvers to have a full grid before they have to re-organise clues that were put in alphabetical order, in order to find a message. To my mind, this removes the pleasure of spotting a message that progressively emerges during the solve. In this case, we discovered that we had to DRAW CIRCLE CENTRED ON DOT and that dot eventually turned out to be the navel of Leonardo da Vinci’s L’UOMO VITRUVIANO. However, there was a second message – a title produced by omitted letters. That title was much more difficult to find as we are never much good at spotting the extra letters that are required to give a solution. But it was a second prompt to the theme.

Had we needed a third prompt, we had TORSO, ARM and LEG adding to a convenient total of 38 cells, and, of course, Wiki kindly provided models for us to copy. That explained all those consecutive Rs, Ls and Es in the grid and what a lovely final touch the da Vinci man was. Thank you, Dysart.

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Listener No 4552: Mortality by ’Eck

Posted by Dave Hennings on 17 May 2019

’Eck’s previous Listener was based on Ariel’s speech in The Tempest reporting Ferdinand’s cry “Hell is empty and all the devils are here”. This week, a bit more gloom and doom with a lot of people seemingly suffering a fatal affliction!

The preamble started by telling us that there were three normally clued entries which needed changing. That left an awful lot where the clues themselves needed amendment: extra words or phrases appeared in nine clues; seven required two or three letters to be repositioned; six clues had wordplay only and 24 had a misprint in the definition.

All of this was cunningly disguised by ’Eck and required a bit longer than usual for me to get past the post. However, once the grid was complete, a quick scan enabled me to see PIMPERNEL in the middle row. Thus we were in the midst of the French Revolution, courtesy Baroness Emmuska (didn’t know that) Orczy’s elusive character.

The three normal clues gave SEJEANT, RELUCT and MAGNESIA, with the wordplay-only clues giving GASTON, EMILE, JULES, ALAIN, LEON and CHARLOT, all French guys. It didn’t take long to see that the last group would all give new words when decapitated which happened when JEAN, LUC and AGNES left the grid. These new words were all defined by the extra words/phrases in other clues.

Finally, the letters disappearing and appearing in their clues gave Sir Percy Blakeney, and the correct letters in the misprint clues gave Enter nom de guerre in apt hue, thus requiring PIMPERNEL in the middle row.

It all reminded me of the TV series of my youth. I think it was the one starring Marius Goring, which shows you how long ago it was. Also, MAIGRET at 21ac had me harking back to when Rupert Davies played the character on TV back in the 60’s.

Good fun, thanks, ’Eck.

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Mortality by Eck

Posted by shirleycurran on 17 May 2019

Wasn’t Eck’s debut Listener crossword the one about the Graham Greene’s Brighton Rock that was in the shape of a stick of rock? Then we had two Shakespearian themes, Hamlet and The Tempest, so we could expect a literary theme. Mortality, indeed – wasn’t that Scott?  Vaccination (or the dangerous lack of it) is a current media theme so we wondered whether our preamble was leading us towards Pasteur, and as French words and names filled the grid (Alsace, Charlot, Merlot, Leon Gaston, Emile, Jules and Alain) that still seemed to be a possibility.

Yes, that Merlot appeared fairly early in our solve ‘Dusty blackbird going back as far as plank’. “Plonk”, I said – ‘”that’s a misprint, and we have an old word for a blackbird and TO reverse”. “Merlot is not plonk!” Muttered the other Numpty, filling his glass “but misprints can be tough to find so that’s probably it.” So with just ‘plonk’ do we renew Eck’s membership of the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Elite? Then we saw ‘How many old trews are drunkenly ripped losing ragged end? (6)’ – drunkenly – Hmmm, drunk on plonk (we opted for ‘trees’, removed ‘END* from *DRUNKENLY” in a subtractive anagram and decided that ‘KNURLY’ is ‘How many old trees are) – but there is the redeeming ‘Alsace’ – I think we can say “Cheers, Eck!” We certainly can for such a fine compilation, packed with devices and clues that had us head-scratching till midnight.

So many things going on: there were three ‘normal’ clues that had to be changed ultimately, extra definition words hidden in nine clues, seven clues where groups of two or three letters had to move within the clue and also to be sorted into a thematic name, AND the dreaded misprints. We groaned and started solving very slowly.

When we realized that all those Frenchmen could be beheaded, leaving real words, Guillotine sprang to mind and we laboriously worked out that the moving letters were EN, BL, EY, AK, CY, PER and SIR. Penny drop moment (mixed metaphor, I suppose – it’s a dropping guillotine blade with Madame Defarge gleefully knitting in the audience). SIR PERCY BLAKENEY, the Scarlet Pimpernel. He has to save three of the doomed aristocrats and we realize with delight that they are JEAN (from SEJEANT), LUC (from RELUCT) and a lady, AGNES (from MAGNESIA).

The corrected misprints have spelled out NOM DE GUERRE IN APT HUE and we find PIMPERNEL in the most likely place. I have to combine pink and orange to produce a colour that Wiki would accept as scarlet.  What is left to do? Confirm that we have definitions for the nine new words that have appeared. Not easy, as we were confused about ‘abode’ and ‘assigned’ – which was SET and which was LAIN? Well it didn’t really matter: we opted for

ABODE – probably a badger’s SET.
This was a very challenging compilation but what an achievement. Many thanks, Eck.

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Listener No 4551, Optics: A Setters’ Blog by Phibre

Posted by Listen With Others on 13 May 2019

This puzzle had its origins in Phi’s visit to Phoenix, Arizona for his partner’s pet-blogging conference.  The venue was very close to Sabre’s domicile so they met up.

Eighteen months or so later Sabre visited New Zealand to undertake the Tongariro Crossing and stayed with Phi for Christmas.  From that Phibre was born.

Now there’s fibreboard and fibreglass but they haven’t been set yet because we ended up with fibre optics.  The idea here was actually the second (there’s an aborted grid taking a different tack that might still be revived), and the idea for it owes something to a Phi Inquisitor based on the moon illusion.  Phi took first attempt at the grid, and, when SABRE emerged as a likely entry, made sure PHI was another one.  That grid was then comprehensively tweaked by Sabre.

We then discussed a clueing gimmick, which involved counting the clues and finally settling on lenses with lengths totalling 23 letters, so that they could be included twice, as in the grid.  Adding letters to wordplay is easy, but we needed to be sure there were enough instances of the 23 letters for deletion purposes.

What followed was a long exchange of emails with three clues being added each time, always with a keen eye on not using up the last word containing a P (say) when there was still a clue requiring a deleted P.  As it happens we got through the set without the problem arising.  Then a read-through by each, with proffered suggestions for clue edits, and off it went to the tester, who found it very hard.  So there were a few changes to make it more accessible and then it was submitted.

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