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Archive for October, 2019

Well-spoken by Miles

Posted by shirleycurran on 18 October 2019

We have already solved fairly challenging compilations by Miles at the C and D level in the Magpie but this is his first Listener and the title ‘Well-spoken’ doesn’t say much to us (it still doesn’t now that we have solved it but I am sure Dave or Tim will  explain it). I quite like a carte-blanche crossword. It is clear that this one is going to have some drawing as the endgame, so bars would probably be an encumbrance and we are given three 11-letter solutions that help us place the remainder of the words we solve. I believe the clues have to be fairly generous in a carte blanche since the solver is starting with a blank grid and no guiding spaces with numbers – and this was a generous set.

We are also given enough alcoholic clues to give Miles admittance to the Listener oenophile setup. ‘Drop bits of egg fermented into French drink; it’s like fizzy yoghurt (5)’ (Well it would be wouldn’t it – what a gross way to handle your apéritif!) We put E(gg) and F(ermented) into our KIR and get KEFIR ‘an effervescent drink made from fermented cow’s milk’. ‘He might generously subsidise upsetting waste on NY bar-room bill locally (10)’ There’s a rather strange surface reading there but we work backwards from BENEFACTOR producing NEB< as the bill, CAFE< as the NY bar-room and ROT< as the waste. ‘Then there’s ‘Sicilian smoker burns alcohol in a saucer (4)’ A bit of an old chestnut, ETNA and the first one we solved but ‘Cheers!’ anyway, Miles, I’m raising my glass to a fine set of clues that soon gave us a complete grid.

The omitted wordplay letters had spelled out EULER LINE. It’s rather an EULER day today. The numerical crossword setters Oyler [sic] and Zag have just issued Number 12 of the Crossnumbers Quarterly where solvers who enjoy numerical puzzles can enjoy about nine of them in each three-monthly addition. Take a look!

We needed to take a look at Wiki in order to understand what half of the preamble was spelling out for us then, when we had joined our three Xs to make a triangle, there was a smile of understanding of that unch phrase for there almost in the centre of our grid A LONE TEPEE LEANS.  Those four small unclued words ELAN, LEO, STEP and EEN would have lowered the median word length considerably had they not originally been split up by bars in our grid and they performed the delightful task of describing what we were drawing.

It must have been quite a challenge to fit words into a symmetrical grid with those Xs, Os, and EULER correctly placed to produce the Euler line and as usual, I learned something new so thank you, Miles.


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L4574:”Well-spoken” by Miles

Posted by Encota on 18 October 2019

Title: Homophone for an (oil) well => “OILER” => Euler.  Aha!

Well, mine looked like this:

I’d forgotten there was such a thing as a Nine-Point Circle, let alone what all the 9 points actually were. I see it is also known as Euler’s Circle, which is neat.

Tim / Encota

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Listener No 4573: Jean’s Stuff by Schadenfreude

Posted by Dave Hennings on 11 October 2019

Schadenfreude’s very last Listener puzzle this week, following on from Falling in Love Again / Sagittarius Rising back in April.

OK, so I’d heard of the Karelia Suite, which provided the theme music for This Week on ITV way back when, but none of the others rang a bell. Hold on! There was Finlandia as well, and that eventually gave me the way in after I finally twigged that 1ac Top sailor overcome by alcohol got stripped (5) wasn’t a sailor but a top, DIABOLO.

Opus numbers no doubt led all of us on a search for the opus numbers of Sibelius’s works for which Wiki provides supplemental JS numbers where appropriate.

15ac Bacon spots Lady Sarah’s auntie (6) brought a smile for RASH + ER, and I never thought I’d find LI’L ABNER in a Listener crossword! As for the title, Jean’s Stuff, Sibelius must be turning in his grave.

For the last time, thanks, Schadenfreude.

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Jean’s Stuff by Schadenfreude

Posted by shirleycurran on 11 October 2019

Sad indeed to see that message in italics at the head of the preamble. We’ve grown used to solving very fair and imaginative Schadenfreude crosswords over the years and this one was no exception. One friend tells me that the title suggested the theme to him straight away but we had decided that KURGAN intersected with PTOLEMAIC producing KUOLEMA as clashing letters before we had a hint of what was to follow. Even then, I anagrammed those unfamiliar letters and produced an eye illness LEUKOMA before reading the preamble more carefully ‘The clashing letters specify whole thematic items exactly’. What a feat to produce words whose elements could be extracted and combined to give eleven of Sibelius’ works!

We had been attempting to justify FINN (for Mika Häkkinen) at 1d but now realised that he is a FINLANDER and that we can combine the FINLAN with the DIA of DIABOLO to give us FINLANDIA. KARELIA had to be there and we found it in the KAR of SIRKAR and the ELIA of TRISKELIA. I had muttered about the non-symmetrical grid but was now astonished tha Schadenfreude had managed to fit so much into a grid at all.

We needed Wiki to give us TAPIOLA, EVERYMAN, ODLAN, SPRING SONG, THE BARD, SWAN WHITE and SNOFRID and had now understood that we had to replace those titles with OPUS NUMBERS but we needed Wiki again to produce those, and were puzzled about three cases where ‘a secondary system must be used for the replacements’ until we grasped that a secondary JS system was used to identify nos 113, KUOLEMA, 115, KARELIA, and 189, SWAN WHITE.

I thought this was a delightful compilation and wish Schadenfreude could be with us to celebrate its appearance. Of course he was a first class Listener oenophile and his clues started and ended with libations, ‘Top sailor overcome by alcohol got stripped (5)’ gave us DIOL around AB and (g)O(t) = DIABOLO for the top, and ‘Junior officers getting drunk finally hearing Wren’s quiet call (4)’ produced SUBS + ON + (hearin)G + SUBSONG. We found coopers, sponges, Greek container for liquid, and a gin in the clues too, so let’s raise our glasses with a grateful toast to Schadenfreude.

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Listener No 4572, Don’t Tell: A Setter’s Blog by Poat

Posted by Listen With Others on 6 October 2019

The world of thematic cryptics is probably more accustomed to Victorian nursery rhymes than the drug-fuelled outpourings of amoral sexually-fluid libertarians such as William Burroughs, but I had always been intrigued after reading a couple of his books as a teenager. Finding out more about his cut-up technique gave me the germ of an idea a while back, and then in 2017 Victorian Opera mounted a production of The Black Rider in Melbourne. Fascinating – the back story was a treatment of the Freischütz legend, but recalled the tragic events of Burroughs shooting dead his own common-law wife Joan Vollmer, supposedly during a game of William Tell. So I reckoned that finding the title could constitute the endgame, subject to certain manipulations of parts of the grid in accordance with that technique.

I set to work allying grid movements with the workings of the seven thematic clues whose answers would give a hint to VOLLMER. Long-standing solvers might remember an old puzzle of mine (Listener 3983) which delivered W B YEATS in a similar way. Some of the new words here after manipulations (e.g. BERG-ADDER to BERGANDER) were suggested by the handy Quinapalus pattern-matcher, and a few fragments of GUILLAUME/WILLIAM TELL somehow found their way into the grid.

There were no circled cells initially (an improvement wisely offered by the meticulous Listener editors), and I was uncertain whether solvers would be able to track down the solution from the letters of VOLLMER alone – I can’t say I had heard of her before doing the research. However, the first draft was ready just in time for my trip to Kenya, attending the first African-based WESPA Scrabble championship in November 2017.

Fortunately there were two top-level Listener solvers also making their way to do battle in Nairobi, and we were on the same pre-tournament safari in the Masai Mara (see pics). I imposed my puzzle on them as testers and got some useful feedback – thanks are due to David and Esther, though I should really have let them spend more time enjoying their choice of beverage by the pool. Before too long we were all doing battle in the Laico Regency, and then the caravan moved on…but I will still associate this puzzle with Kenya.

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