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Archive for August, 2019

L4567: ‘Going Concern’ by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by Encota on 30 August 2019

Another neat puzzle from Hedge-sparrow.  This is my rough version.
Of the extinct creatures I could find HUIA, BAIJI, AUROCHS and QUAGGA evenly spaced around the grid.  The means of determining which letters were involved made for an unambiguous and quick endgame – which I think makes a change from some recent puzzles.  No requirement for Highlighting, too 🙂
Were the four extinct creatures purposely picked to be of lengths 4, 5, 6 & 7 to match the Puzzle number (or vice versa)?  I am assuming Yes.  At least I do hope so!!
SCAN0624 copy
Instead of the unchecked letters in the eight endangered ones I knew [really? Ed.] Hedge-sparrow would be hiding something in the checked letters.  These turned out to be the LOWER CASE letters left in the following:
kaKApO sAOlA FOssa AXolOtl KAtIpO saigA bOnObO rHiNo

So I went for, as Hedge-sparrow did, a range of rarer species.  Jumbling these other letters together, and the result? “Becoming ever rarer in our towns & countryside, forests, plains, oceans and mountains: BATS, POLLS, OKAPI, LINGS … and T-BARS”.

It was all going so well but I definitely went downhill after the last one.
Tim / Encota

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Going Concern by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by shirleycurran on 30 August 2019

There’s a celebration of an anniversary of the mini car this month so, when I read the title ‘Going Concern’, I expected a crossword about that, but Hedge-sparrow is known for his compilations concerning living things so we held our breath, but only after checking the clues to confirm his place amongst the Listener oenophiles.

Alcohol, drop of malt on tap, poured for drinking companion (6)’ gave is M(alt)ONTAP* = POTMAN for a drinking companion – and left us with little doubt, and one extra word ALCOHOL from which we extracted the LO.  Then, ‘Utensil fermenting esteemed Bordeaux (8, two words)’ produced the rather surprising ST JULIEN with a J missing from the anagrammed UTENSIL. We looked it up and found that it is indeed an esteemed Bordeaux. Cheers, Hedge-sparrow – good taste too! None of the regular crossword ASTI or ALE.

A generous set of clues soon filled our grid, especially when SLIMED appeared to the right of the ST JULIEN (Male in drag, smeared with goo (6)’ SLED round M with an extra I). “That can’t be right” said I “as it means the unclued word has to end with TL”. “AXOLOTL” said the other Numpty and we had the theme. “These must be rare animals heading for extinction or already extinct. ‘The eight unclued entries are items tht may join the hidden ones before long’. We were able to add KAKAPO, KATIPO, SAOLA, SAIGA, FOSSA, BONOBO and RHINO to the axolotl and had our complement of eight.

I studied TS Eliot’s works a long time ago and pride myself on being able to recognise quotations from them, but this one took a while (of course, the ODQ quotes only the two lines that precede ‘WHERE IS THE LIFE WE HAVE LOST IN LIVING’, from The Rock.

I had kept a careful check of those extra letters, colouring them as we found them, so HUIA, AUROCHS and QUAGGA were spelled out for us and we were left with some doubt about the BA?JI. Chambers didn’t seem to have that creature and we weren’t totally confident about IRON for the ‘grating (Run over grating (4)- giving us the extra letter and RON). However, Chambers has ‘grating’ or harsh for IRON and our friend and ally Wiki produced a BAIJI for us.’The baiji (Chinese: 白鱀豚; pinyin: About this soundbáijìtún , Lipotes vexillifer, Lipotes meaning “left behind”, vexillifer “flag bearer”) is a type of freshwater dolphin thought to be the first dolphin species driven to extinction due to the impact of humans’.

Yet again, the Listener crossword has taught us about something.

A most enjoyable crossword, even if rather disconcerting in its theme. Many thanks to Hedge-sparrow.

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Listener No 4566, Dream On: A Setter’s Blog by Agricola

Posted by Listen With Others on 25 August 2019

Yes, it’s very self-indulgent to choose your favourite poems as puzzle themes, but this time I couldn’t resist.

The main challenge in this case was the enormous amount of potential thematic material: how to choose? The site of the Great Khan’s summer palace is in the Xilin Gol League of Inner Mongolia, long famous for its cretaceous fossil record, including the wonderfully named Gigantoraptor. Xanadu has also given its name to an ice continent on the Saturnian moon, Titan, photographed by the Cassini probe. Sadly, cramming the dinosaurs, methane rivers, and sunny spots of greenery into a single symmetrical grid proved to be too much of a challenge, and I settled on something more modest.

I do, however, have a confession to make. While researching the material for the theme, I realised how much poetic license Coleridge had taken, but I still decided to run with it. The poem was inspired by the writing of Samuel Purchas, who drew heavily on the account of Marco Polo: “In Xandu did Cublai Can build a stately Pallace, encompassing sixteen miles of plaine ground with a wall, wherein are fertile Meddowes, pleasant Springs, delightfull streames, and all sorts of beasts of chase and game, and in the middest thereof a sumptuous house of pleasure.”

Nowhere do either Purchas or Polo mention incense-bearing trees, and for a very good reason. The climate in Xilin Gol is extreme, and winter temperatures often fall below –20°C: with the possible exception of the spruce, none of the trees or shrubs in the puzzle would survive there. But still, it’s a great poem.

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L4566: ‘Dream On’ by Agricola

Posted by Encota on 23 August 2019

It didn’t take too long to find TOWER and WALL placed symmetrically in the top and bottom rows, nor to find the (river) ALPH in columns down the centre.  But now what?


The River Alph sounds like Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Kubla Khan?  Or perhaps Xanadu by the 1970’s Canadian rock band Rush, which was my first introduction to the poem (am I the only one?).  Unfortunately I don’t think the latter mentioned Coleridge’s “incense-bearing trees”, otherwise I may have got this endgame much faster.

I could see LASERWORT in the r.h. column and knew that was something.  And BALSAM in the l.h. column.  After that I really wasn’t sure what I was doing.  Eventually, with much help from the BRB, I pieced together LASERWORT, SPRUCE, BALSAM, BOSWELLIA, SANTAL & CISTUS.  That makes 42 characters but two are shared, needing only 40 cells to be highlighted.  Thank goodness!

The extra words in clues were very well hidden – at least that’s what I found.  It was almost after the event that I nailed down all of COLE-RIDGE’s IMAGINATION BLOSSOMING; SPECIALISED MONGOLIAN HORTICULTURE INSPIRING SAMUEL.  And I am still uncertain where the first hint stops and the second one starts!

And there’s still one clue that I may have got wrong:

28ac’s Area above French city in Assyria (4)

I had ?SUR in the grid.  It looked like it might parse as A+SUR.  Is this an alternative spelling of ASSUR?  Or should I have included two letters in one cell?  I await the solution with interest!



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Dream On by Agricola

Posted by shirleycurran on 23 August 2019

We downloaded a puzzle with a fine, clear and short preamble. That word ‘collinearly’ was a new one on me. I wondered, initially, if it was something to do with railways in collieries but decided to wait and see what the endgame produced to confirm it. I didn’t wait to see whether Agricola retains his Oenophile place in the Listener Setters’ outfit. A rather crude ‘Check over soak’s stool in Maine (7)’ gave us TAB + O + RET and suggested there was some alcohol about, and it turned out to be quality stuff – malt, ‘Mongolian malt extracts to scatter about (5)’. We turned over STROW to give us WORTS, which the BRB tells me are ‘malt extracts unfermented or in the process of fermentation’. I think we can drink to that, ‘Cheers, Agricola!”

‘Mongolian’ seemed to be one of the extra words that we needed to locate in order to find which solutions contained ‘collinearly’ the items we ultimately needed to highlight. They were an odd set but we selected COLE RIDGES IMAGINATION BLOSSOMING THUS SPECIALISED MONGOLIAN HORTICULTURE INSPIRING SAMUEL.

I kick myself that we had found WALL and TOWER each appearing twice symmetrically before we spotted ALPH, the sacred river, winding its way between them, and put together SAMUEL COLE RIDGE (what happened to his TAYLOR?) Our gridfill was speedy and we knew that we were in Xanadu with Kubla Khan, but we spent a few fruitless minutes hunting for caverns, a pleasure dome and a sunless sea – but it was not to be.

“CISTUS” said the other Numpty, “Isn’t that an incense-bearing tree?” We were off on a tree hunt, happily prompted by those clues with the extra words but I was still tempted to include LIANE, or even LING or DAHLIA. The forty-letter constraint finally led me to see whether there was a tree called BOSWELLIA – happily there is, so I highlighted it with BALSAM, SANTAL, LASERWORT and, to my surprise, SPRUCE. I learn something from every Listener that we solve. Thank you, Agricola.

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