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Archive for July, 2019

L4560: Midsummer by Chalicea

Posted by Encota on 12 July 2019

The title reminded me that my puzzle featuring Nick Bottom the weaver featured in this same Midsummer slot last year – at least I think it was last year!  And 1ac’s clue reinforced the Shakespearean play link:

Destroys reputation of essentially naive Bottom chasing donkey after donkey (12)

Knowing Chalicea of course, these hints to a Dream on a Midsummer’s Night were more likely to be red herrings than not – and so it proved!  In the case of this clue it parsed as ASS+ASS+(na)I(ve)+NATES, defined as ‘Destroys reputation of’.  A great start to a puzzle!


I was educated during the period when knowing dates was seen to count as knowledge.  So knowing that Bannockburn was fought in 1314 came quickly to my mind, even if I was much harder pushed to know who actually fought who, and why, and who won!  And I hadn’t known the Midsummer link – it was fought on 23 and 24 June, it transpires.

So I did check what was at clues 13 & 14 – The Battle of MinnockBumbag.  Hmm.  No, that doesn’t sound quite right.

The hidden letters in some clues spelt out WHERE DID BRUCE WIN, so that answered one of my questions above.  The answer, included twice in the grid on the diagonals, spells out AT BANNOCKBURN.  My suspicion is that the details of Bannockburn feature more highly in history lessons in Scottish schools rather than English ones – but what do I know!

Unclued 39d was after solving checking clues, looking like B.UE.   And colouring all but the diagonals in Blue, as the Preamble demanded,  ended up with the Scottish flag (the saltire, or saltier) – very neat!

There appeared to be a Nina, or rather a NINA, in Row 6 – intriguing.

And as for Chalicea’s clue at 10d:

Floppy genitals, and away they dangle (7)

Fortunately the answer was AIGLETS, things that dangle, an anagram of GE(n)ITALS after the ‘N’ (and) was deleted.  Very funny 🙂

Cheers all,

Tim / Encota



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Listener No 4560: Midsummer by Chalicea

Posted by Dave Hennings on 12 July 2019

Last year, we had two puzzles from Chalicea: one based on Saint Patrick, the other based on King Lear with its “whoreson zed”. Here we had to finish the grid and make the grid thematically 39.

First of all, I had to check to see if Chalicea was trying to convince me that she was only a minor member of the Rum Or Beer, Everything’s Really Tasty alcohol society. Indeed, a puny three clues caught my attention: 26ac with its retsinas and tokays, 29ac with drunks on the job and 47ac with sailors and their angosturas and gins. But hold on! There’s a word chain lurking, exceptionally long to deceive us, starting from RUM (reversed in row 2) through RUB, ROB, SOB, LOB, LAB, LAG, BAG, NAG, GAG, GAS, GAN to GIN (in the bottom right). Nice try, Chalicea!

Attempting to sober up fairly quickly, I staggered through the clues and grid. There were some extra words to find with the words either side eventually providing the clue we needed: Where did Bruce win? It didn’t take long to find (twice in the grid) AT BANNOCKBURN, referencing Robert the Bruce’s win against Edward II at Midsummer, 1314.

My heart sank as I saw that 39dn was BLUE, and an enormous amount of shading was required, making sure that all the letters were visible. Thus, we had the flag of Scotland in blue with a white saltire.

Also in the grid, although I’m not sure how relevant, were PATRICK from last year’s puzzle, DOUGAL from The Magic Roundabout and IRIS MINNOCK (wrongly spelt, I’m afraid).

Thanks for a gentle week, Chalicea.

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Listener No 4559, G: A Setter’s Blog by Xanthippe

Posted by Listen With Others on 7 July 2019

The inspiration for this came from Elgin’s 2018 puzzle; ‘Doing a Sort’. Sadly, I didn’t attempt to solve that puzzle but reading about it afterwards I admired the way letters fell through the grid. The Trotters television episode came to mind and I looked at getting two chandeliers side by side. The result was much too large a grid and the idea was put aside.

Later, I realised that the two halves of the scene were similar, both having the chandelier and bolt, it was just the players that were different. By using clashes in the grid both parts of the scene could be portrayed. At this point I looked up the episode and found it was an earlier one with Grandad, not Uncle Albert as I’d remembered. This was pleasing as I could have Grandad displacing the ‘bolt’ resulting in new words.

My initial plan was to have a symmetric grid and proper words left when the chandelier was removed. This was much too ambitious so I resorted to asymmetry for flexibility. I looked up pictures of chandeliers and played around with a few but needed something simple that was symmetric with 18 letters. My submitted preamble had the phrase ‘with some artistic licence’ but the puzzle was large so the original preamble was made more concise.

How to get all those letters of the chandelier smashed and scattered on the floor at the base of the grid? Initially with 18 letters to drop I thought of having chunks of chandelier, 1, 2 or 3 letters in the bottom row making new down words. At this point I realised that the writer’s name was in the dropped letters, cushty! Now only 10 letters to get into the bottom row. I completed the grid dropping mainly single letters to the bottom row but used some double letters. The ‘UNDERKEEP” in the final puzzle was there so that ‘ER’ could go under it on the bottom line. Pleased to complete the grid, I was about to start cluing when that sinking feeling arrived. The removal of the ‘D’ meant this didn’t work at all – you plonker! I couldn’t face a complete rewrite so put it aside.

Returning some time later I realised that cells I’d originally discounted on the bottom line could be used to make 2 letter words. With the cell under ‘UNDERKEEP’ out, I then had 12 cells for 10 letters if I stuck with single letters, probably doable but it had to be unique. After more manipulation, the grid was complete.

Turning to the clues the solver must be directed to ‘Only Fools and Horses’ for it to be fair. Dropping letters from down clues was thematic, I wanted 3 of each but went with what worked well as I was clueing, the two references to posterior being a chance for solvers to temporarily go in the wrong direction. Initially, the across clues were going to be normal but I was unhappy that the stepladders weren’t in the Del and Rodney half of the scene (too difficult to get in). Adding the extra letters again seemed thematic. With 20 letters for 24 clues how to choose the normal clues? Serendipity again as there were 3 across clues with clashes and the thematic ‘BOLT’ clue.

The episode title ‘A Touch of Glass’ gave me the idea for the puzzle title. One of those titles that is realised at the end so not offering assistance with the theme. That said ‘G’ is the symbol for the gravitational constant, so appropriate in a secondary way.

During setting and submission I did have a slight worry about whether it would be acceptable but believe puzzles that wouldn’t have been fair in the past are now, due to the internet. I know for some overseas solvers in particular, it was tricky. For most, I hope it was either a pleasant reminder of, or an introduction to, a classic comedy. Sadly, not the case for one solver on one of the message boards who awarded me the notorious Z-Cup – sure Del Boy could sell that on as valuable piece for me, mange tout!

Thank you to all solvers for feedback on the message boards and through letters and written comments passed on by John Green. It’s always a pleasure to hear solvers experiences of my puzzles. Thanks as ever to Roger and Shane for all the work they do improving my puzzles.


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G by Xanthippe

Posted by shirleycurran on 5 July 2019

What a long pre-ramble. ‘A scene from popular culture’ – that rang alarm bells for us as, being overseas solvers, we are not generally au fait with the UK’s ‘popular culture’. Keeping up to date with the political shenanigans of B****T and Conservative Party leadership antics is a fairly full-time occupation. We have heard of ‘Corrie’ though, ‘Rapper tours East Indies: he was in Corrie (7)’. There was a DEIRDRE in Coronation Street wasn’t there? We have to look up Dr Dre to confirm that that is a rapper’s name and we have found an extra letter. ‘She’ was in Corrie. She was in the Rovers Return there too on a number of occasions. Does that qualify Xanthippe for renewed membership of the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Mob?

I find ‘Calum succeeded with spirit to spend money (6)’ and decide that we have to remove the U from Calum (giving calm), the M from Mettle and enter SETTLE, so that ‘spirit’ isn’t very alcoholic, but ‘NY diner Angolan enters smelling of ale (7)’ is more hopeful. He’s ‘BEERY’ and we are entering AN (removing the final n of Angolan) so we get a BEANERY, which the Big Red Book tells us is a cheap eating place in the US. Well, I suppose the whiff of ale will have to do. Cheers, Xanthippe!

When I filled in the solution I was sending, I realized what a struggle he must have had to fit that LOUIS XIV CHANDELIER into the grid. It produced a number of archaic and somewhat obscure words, which didn’t help our rather slow solve: ABORE, AVAILE, LAUWINE, CION, TYMBAL, LA TENE, SCROD, BEANERY, LOX, UNDERKEEP, BRIT and SNEE – but we did manage to almost fill our grid and finally decided that BLANKET would give us our two missing clashes ‘Seal ethyl cover (7)’ had to be BLANK + ET.

‘STEPLADDER STEPLADDER’ and ‘BOTTOM’ were a fine red herring but, even if it is almost midsummer, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is hardly ‘popular culture’. We also had ASS, NIT, DUN, RED RUM and NAG – a sort of horsey theme but the nit didn’t fit – he’s more of an ass. Light dawned “They are fools and horses!” Wiki gave us enough to identify the theme as ‘A Touch of Glass’ (which, of course, explains that G in the title – nothing to do with the middle of niGht in the bard’s MSND) and the writer as SULLIVAN. We watched the YouTube video and realized that we had to send GRANDAD upstairs and use that BLANKET (or fail to use it!) RODNEY and DEL were on the two sides of the blanket so all should have been well.

TEA helped us to produce GRANDAD where we had G BOLT ABORE and six new words appeared: RAND, ADORE, DEANERY,ACH, NEE and DRAWLED. But we had to find and remove that ‘symmetrical’ LOUIS XIV CHANDELIER then use the letters OIXCHDEIER (SULLIVAN removed) to create ten new words on the bottom row. What had seemed to be rather unnecessary clashes now made sense. Xanthippe needed somewhere to add his X! What a complex and impressive compilation!

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L4559: ‘G’ by Xanthippe

Posted by Encota on 5 July 2019

How might one clue the letter G in Wordplay?  A bit of grit, perhaps?  Aha!  A touch of glass – that sounds more like it!

We have seen Trigger’s Broom in thematic crossword-land in recent times, and Only Fools and Horses – written by John Sullivan – appears to be a good source of material, as is shown in this puzzle by Xanthippe from the episode A Touch of Glass.  As successful solvers will already know, it’s the one where Grandad unbolts one Louis XIV chandelier from the floor above, whilst Del Boy and Rodney await below on stepladders, with a blanket outstretched between them, ready to catch this chandelier.  Of course, it’s the other one at the far end of the room that falls.  Available on YouTube, of course (what isn’t?).

As usual I managed to get delayed by some of those short words or abbreviations: pu=pulled up (horse racing), Et.=Ethyl (chemistry), en=nut (printing).  I must find a way to remember some more of those.  All tips welcomed!

Cheers all,

Tim / Encota

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