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Archive for July, 2019

Listener No 4562, My Nap: A Setter’s Blog by Mr E

Posted by Listen With Others on 28 July 2019

I came across the quotation [‘What an addition to company that would be’] while reading Samuel Beckett’s Company [it occurs I believe 5 times] and immediately saw the possibility of using it for a puzzle, having words that could be jumbled and added onto CO to make another word.

I decided to use extra words in the clues of normal entries to generate the quote, but I did not want to give ‘company’ so directly. So I had the extra words give the quote (without ‘company’) and author’s surname, which comes to 34 letters.

I’m not one who tries to fit large numbers of thematic entries into a grid; fitting in more than about 5 gets more difficult than I like to bother with, and I don’t feel that having more necessarily makes a puzzle better anyway. I figured 5 or so was good enough.

How big to make the grid? Well, a standard 12×12 such as Azed or Mephisto typically has 36 entries and about 54 unchecked cells in a grid of 144 cells; dividing those numbers by 18, that means that for every 8 cells, there will be 2 entries and 3 unches. I like to stick as close to that as possible even in Listener or Magpie puzzles, and generally I have found this possible if I don’t put too much thematic stuff into the grid. So 39 entries x 8 cells per 2 entries gives 156 cells, so a 12×13 grid. 39 entries x 3 unches per 2 entries = 58.5 unchecked cells was the goal (as it turned out, 58).

The bar pattern did not have to be anything special, anything with the usual variety of entry lengths was going to be ok, so I made a suitable blank grid without knowing what the thematic entries would be or where. I made lists of (many) suitable words of 4 or more letters, picked out five, including some with two unchecked cells [with some trial and error of course] that seemed suitable, and (using Word Matcher), went about filling the grid word by word [I don’t do autofills]. Eventually I got a fill that I liked and wrote the clues, working on them until I got surface senses I was satisfied with (definitely not a quick process – clueing a puzzle generally takes me several weeks).

The title fits in with the ‘company’ idea, and also seemed ok because the narrator of the work is confined to his bed.

I believe the editors needed to change only about 4 clues a little. So there it was – I have not yet seen solvers’ reactions or statistics.

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My Nap by Mr E

Posted by shirleycurran on 26 July 2019

Redstart and Wren flew out at me as I was printing Mr E’s crossword so I suspected that we were going to have something like a Hedge Sparrow compilation. Of course, I then checked that Mr E was retaining his admission to the Listener Oenophile Elite and he left me in little doubt. The ‘pints’ started it off (though they were ‘cuckoo’). ‘Sundials upended – note one among cuckoo pints (9)’ gave us SOL + I in ARUMS = SOLARIUMS. Things became a bit more boozy with ‘Members of Russian sect do OK mixing brandy with shrub (9)’. We extracted the brandy as an extra word and mixed DO OK with SHRUB to get DUKHOBORS (fortunately the other Numpty had heard of them so our grid fill advanced substantially).

Things improved after that shrubby brandy, ‘When imbibing spirit, they may favour the young bourbons (7)’. Again we extracted the alcohol and opted for AS rounf GEIST, giving us AGEISTS. With the pints, followed by the brandy then the bourbons, we can safely say “Cheers, Mr E!”

The grid filled easily except for those wretched jumbles. Yes, we spotted the WIRE, the MUSTELINE and the SUCKER but how were we going to jumble them. Fortunately a phrase emerged from the extra letters WHAT AN ADDITION TO … THAT WOULD BE and better still, BECKETT. I pride myself on knowing Beckett’s works quite well having worked with students on ‘Malone Dies’, ‘Waiting for Godot’ and ‘Endgame’ many times, but I had never encountered ‘Company’, and the ODQ was no help. Yet again, thank you for the Internet.

And what a delight to see that adding a little COMPANY (CO) to those jumbled words would give CONTUMELIES, COCKSURE, COWRIE, COPPERNOSE and CONCIERGE. We were left with one empty cell: TOE? Well, I know that the TOEA is the coinage of Papua New Guinea and that is ‘sort of’ on edge of Australia’ but can ‘ordinary’ be coinage and is TEA a writer of mysteries. Flummoxed! I wondered whether any solverswill opted for TOEA (and not TEY round O, TOEY, which apparently means ‘on edge’ in Australia.

Gentle and good fun. Many thanks to Mr E.

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L4562: ‘My Nap’ by Mr E

Posted by Encota on 26 July 2019

As soon as 17ac’s entry began to look like -NCIERGE I knew we were in for a treat.  Mr E’s use of the not-so-easy-to-find quotation, “What an addition to company that would be”, from Beckett’s novella Company, was delightful.

It transpired that the ‘normal’ clues had to be entered in a jumble, such that the addition of CO- for Company at each start would form a new word.  So, as well as (CO)NCIERGE, the puzzle featured (CO)WRIE, (CO)NTUMELIES, (CO)CKSURE & (CO)PPERNOSE.

And the Title?  With Mr E, we’re clearly in good (CO)MPANY*.


Tim / Encota

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Listener No 4562: My Nap by Mr E

Posted by Dave Hennings on 26 July 2019

Two years ago, Mr E gave us Nostrum, with Alice, The Mad Hatter, a Raven and a Writing Desk. That had a lot going on, and came close to tripping me up. This week, a puzzle that looked likely to reflect part of my day during hot summer weather.

Here, we had a few normal clues — well, thanks. Unfortunately, they had to be entered all jumbly in accordance with a quotation found “several times in a work”. The remaining clues had an extra word to be removed with their initial letters spelling out the quotation (minus the title) and the writer’s name.

In fact, the clues started off being quite straightforward, with 1ac [Weary] flyer to get going again around beginning of December (8) giving REDSTART and 7ac Pervert [hates] wife — and all others (5) for WREST, although the pervert meaning was new to me.

With but a rotor as an anagram for OBTURATOR, the top was looking good. Unfortunately, my solving speed began to look less good as there were some interesting clues to unravel but some entertaining surface readings. I particularly liked 14ac Flower from tree in Penny Lane [neighbourhood] (7) (PRIMULA — RIMU in P + LA) and Chemical engineer in Sweden [discussing] the best source of tungsten (9) (SCHEELITE — CHE in S + ELITE). 10dn A bit of rainfall [looming], he drops out of the running (5) (TRACE) describes me when it comes to playing golf.

The normal clues led to GENERIC, SUCKER, MUSTELINE, WIRE and PROPENSE. Three of these could easily be entered as there was only one unch: NCIERGE, CKSURE and WRIE.

Eventually, I had the titleless quotation and author given by What an addition to that would be. Beckett. Unfortunately, my ODQ revealed nothing that could come to the rescue. However, with NCIERGE and CKSURE across the middle of the grid, CONCIERGE and COCKSURE stuck out like a sore thumb and with CO + MY NAP giving COMPANY, I was on the right track. [CO]WRIE was at 7dn.

My ODQ still didn’t help, so it appeared that this was a puzzle where a couple of ducks were required. (I’ve changed my search engine to duckduckgo!). Company is a novella by Beckett in which “… what an addition to company that would be…” appears several times.

So, just finishing off those two ambiguous entries, gave us [CO]NTUMELIES and [CO]PPERNOSE. I think I owe thanks to Mr E for having the cocksure concierge across the middle of the grid as I am not sure that I would have made the connection quite so quickly if they had been downs.

Thanks for an enjoyable puzzle, Mr E.

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Listener No 4561, One or the Other: A Setters’ Blog by Hurón

Posted by Listen With Others on 21 July 2019

The object of the puzzle was to enable solvers to produce a RUBIN VASE optical illusion in the grid.

The Rubin vase is probably the best-known illusion of the type called Figure and Ground where the brain can either see the vase or the faces but not both at the same time – hence the title – One or the Other. It is worth noting that there is no dictionary or common reference book that includes the phrase Rubin Vase whereas there are many on-line references and examples from different sources.

The idea seemed to lend itself to a Right and Left puzzle with mirror symmetry. The clues needed a device(s) indicating where the boundary lines of the faces/vase are to be drawn. To show their understanding of the theme, solvers should indicate RUBIN VASE in some way.

The first outline grid, had RUBY (which can be changed to RUBIN) VASE, lying within the area of the grid that would become the vase, BLACK FACES, lying within the areas that would become the faces, plus FIGURE and GROUND and a thematically appropriate word at 1 across.

The bottom third of the grid is linked to the middle third only through two entries which is not good.

Indicating the line on one side of the grid only and having a message from clues saying DRAW MIRROR IMAGE would enable the illusion to appear. The methods used to indicate the line coordinates and the message had to avoid making difficult to write double-clues even more difficult to write and solve; effectively this meant ONE device per double-clue. Therefore, there would be only nine letters available to indicate points on the line, hence talking heads rather than closed mouths. The number of rows meant lips were never going to be possible.

The second grid on the left is one example of an initially filled grid with lines drawn.

Solvers would colour the two faces black and the vase ruby red, finally, changing the Y of RUBY to IN forming RUBIN (which fortuitously also means ruby red).

WHITE FACES was also a possibility instead of BLACK FACES. This option would stop solvers worrying about obliterating letters when using black.

The correct route to draw the face-line needed to be unambiguous, ideally spelling a thematic word or message.

In this example the linkage in the lower half of the grid is poor and many letters in PAEDAGOGUE would be unindicated. So, other grids were produced to put more unches in 1 across, get rid of the 3-letter entries, improve the average entry length and limit the number of un-indicated letters in an entry to one or two whilst abiding by standard unching rules.

The published grid was a compromise to minimise obscure words and improve connectivity. Unfortunately, that meant the letters for the face-line did not spell anything and required a hint to be added to the preamble.

The puzzle was a collaboration. Hurón is Spanish for Ferret and contains the letters URON from Tiburon. The name was suggested by Mash, one of the test solvers, as a replacement for Tibet, the name we were going to use.

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