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Archive for November, 2019

Listener No 4577, The Gaudy: A Setter’s Blog by Paddock

Posted by Listen With Others on 10 November 2019

I can’t say that I am a particular fan of Morse in either his literary or televisual (pre-Endeavour… or do I mean post-Endeavour?) incarnation, albeit Last Bus to Woodstock is as far as I know the only novel wherein every character shares their surname with a distinguished competitor in the Ximenes competitions of the latter half of the 1960s.

However, I believe that Colin Dexter’s clues for the Azed competitions between around 1980 and 2005 mark him out as arguably the finest precision clue writer of that period, and I was keen to produce some kind of homage to the man known to Azed aficionados simply as ‘NCD’.

Digressing slightly, when I started setting puzzles a few years ago I decided that I wanted my thematic crosswords to be rectangular in shape, to use only real words (and no proper names unless they were directly linked to the theme), and not to require shapes to be drawn in the grid, which would demand far more imagination and artistic skill than I possess. I decided more recently that I would also avoid certain clue gimmicks, such as deliberate misprints, which I felt were overused (not least by me!). These strictures limit the range of my output, but I know that there are lots of less inhibited setters out there to redress the resultant innovation deficit. I also try to choose themes, or treatments thereof, which do not substantially favour solvers who possess relevant knowledge. I didn’t manage to achieve that here (of which more later).

In this crossword I planned to include the pseudonym which NCD used for his puzzles in the Oxford Times, ‘Codex’, and to bring MORSE into the final grid, ideally replacing CODEX, since the latter also means ‘code’. I hadn’t previously seen a puzzle where specific phrases were omitted from the clues, and I thought it could work if the surface readings were sufficiently helpful to solvers. Using phrases of more than two words would have made it well-nigh impossible to write proper cryptic clues that also gave a good pointer to what was missing (eg “Fellow sleuth’s [last seen wearing] hat” could indicate the last letter of ‘sleuth’ being contained by ‘cap’, giving CHAP, but how is the solver to deduce ‘seen’?), and I rapidly rejected the idea of using the first two words of each title, three definite articles adding up to one definite ‘no’. There were sufficient titles for eleven ‘missing phrase’ clues, but six seemed about right, so I identified six words for which I could write suitable clues (this was far and away the most difficult part of the setting process), and replaced the missing words in these clues with ‘# #’ (no lengths being given for the absent words).

I had the PADDOCK/DEATH thing lined up, and was pleasantly surprised to find that the letters of DEATH could be taken from THE REmorseFUL DAY (which features the DEATH of MORSE) leaving REFULY, the constituents of FLEURY. The time had arrived to populate the grid (trying to arrange the six pre-selected solutions so they didn’t cross each other in too many places), write the remaining clues, and submit…

[Spring turns to Autumn]

I don’t use test solvers, so the editors were the guinea pigs. Neither was familiar with the titles of the novels, and the absence of lengths for the missing words caused them problems in the solve. Hence they decided to replace my original hashes with the word lengths in square brackets. I’m sure this was the right thing to do, making the puzzle fairer for everyone, but it did perhaps mean that those familiar with the books (who were always, unfortunately, going to be at a significant advantage) could identify the theme even more readily. As ever, the editors did a great job of improving the preamble and adjusting/abridging a few clues.

Feeling that the thematic aspect would be relatively straightforward to untangle, I had tried to make the clues quite tricky, eschewing lurkers (and homophones, but I never use them anyway), and limiting anagrams to just the non-standard clues. I took particular care to ensure the soundness of these six clues, not wanting to have to rewrite any of them! The editors did raise a question over the use of ‘bodies’ in 27d as a containment indicator, and while Chambers gives one meaning of ‘to body’ as ‘to embody’, the examples given by OED are only as convincing as one chooses them to be. I wanted this clue to work, because the surface gives a clear indication of the missing words, but in hindsight I should have gone back to square one with ‘the dead’. Moral: if you as the setter are having to justify the legitimacy of any element of a puzzle to yourself, then even if it is technically sound it is almost guaranteed to raise questions in the solver’s mind and detract from the overall effect of the puzzle.

The title of the final novel, The Remorseful Day, has its origins in Henry VI, Part 2 (“The gaudy, blabbing and remorseful day is crept into the bosom of the sea”), and subsequently appears in the poem How Clear, How Lovely Bright (“How hopeless under ground / Falls the remorseful day”) by Morse’s favourite poet, A E Housman (coincidentally also much liked by Dexter!). I felt the title ‘The Gaudy’ offered a whiff of Oxford but didn’t give too much away; ‘Gaudy Day’ and ‘The Gaudy…’ were other possibilities which would probably have been no more and no less clear (or lovely bright) to solvers. ‘Crimes to Person’ had a certain appeal, but was rather obviously an anagram and could have given the game away at the outset. Anything that involved ‘Blabbing’ was way too googleable.

My original clues for two crossing entries (26a and 21d) both included obscure words in the wordplays for solutions which are themselves obscure. I had clearly been trying a tad too hard to make the clues tough, as I normally view this type of clue with the same degree of enthusiasm as I do a plate of broccoli. I rewrote both clues, and the new clue to 26a was probably my favourite of the lot – not up to NCD’s standard, of course, but I’d like to think that it might at least have given him a smile…

Paddock, October 2019

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The Gaudy by Paddock

Posted by shirleycurran on 8 November 2019

I was all set to mutter about a setter expecting us to write our own clues (though, come to think of it, that is not such a bad idea – I have an inkling that the majority of setters prefer creating the grid to setting the clues – I remember how we smiled when one budding setter announced that he had some great grids drawn up but was looking for a co-setter to do the clue-writing). However, when I read through Paddock’s clues, I was speedily distracted by the alcohol absolutlely dripping through them and forgot that we had some clue writing to do.

‘Trump’s restricting acceptable drinking vessels at Turnberry (5)’ “Ah, that’s a Scottish indicator isn’t it?” I asked, and the other numpty confirmed that we needed a Scots word for those vessels CUPS around A giving us CAUPS. ‘One may scoff at returning wine bottles (5)’ We decided that the RED was the returning wine and that that bottles (contains) AT = IN, so it was a DINER at Trump’s golf course doing the scoffing and emptying of the bottles. ‘Scots lament only drinking in moderation (5)’ (Depends what we are drinking doesn’t it – it’s a shame to drink one of those fine vintage Taliskers that we were drinking on Lewis a couple of weeks ago in anything other than moderation!) However, we put HO (‘moderation’, as well as an unspeakable US variant) into ONE (= ONLY) and had our Scots lament, OHONE. Paddock hadn’t finished: ‘Titled soak knocked back “medicine” (6)’ One has to wonder what he was drinking but we reversed RET, added MED and entered TERMED. What can I say? Cheers, Paddock!

Those clues we had to partly write ourselves took us much longer than they should have done to twig. ‘Felt revulsion at shifting [3.4] bodies about (5)’ gave us HATED and suggested THE DEAD, but that led me on a wild goose chase. Teaching James Joyce’s The Dead is not one of my most memorable educational experiences but that seemed to be a likely candidate, and a number of other authors (Agatha Christie, Stephen King …) produced likely candidates for our author and series of novels, but it wasn’t until OF JERICHO appeared (Brave Joshua’s first to come out [2,7] after collapse (6)’ [J]ERICHO* less J, that we finally saw the light. “It’s Morse!”

Wiki kindly provided a list and we saw Last Bus to Woodstock, The Silent World of Nicholas Quinn, Last Seen Wearing, Service of all the Dead, The Dead of Jericho, The Riddle of the Third Mile, Death is Now my Neighbour and The Remorseful Day. All that remained was to fit those extra letters DE that had been omitted from the clue to CODEX into another word to produce that penultimate title. There was only one place to do that and we converted LOATH to DEATH then saw, with delight, that DEATH was now the neighbour of our setter PADDOCK.

We had two new words, DEATH and FLEURY and when we extracted their letters from THE REMORSEFUL DAY, what did we see? MORSE, of course. We had to place him somewhere else in the grid and CODEX was the obvious location and produced only real words. A fine achievement, Thank you Paddock.


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Listener No 4577: The Gaudy by Paddock

Posted by Dave Hennings on 8 November 2019

Paddock’s third Listener hit us this week, following on from a game of Battleships in 2016 and Ovid’s Metamorphoses last year. Here we had an interesting clueing technique with phrases from book titles had to become part of the clues signified by their word lengths in square brackets.

The first such clue that I got was 14ac Brave Joshua’s first to come out [2 7] after collapse (6) where what looked like HEROIC with J(oshua) gave us of Jericho as the book title bit. I’m afraid I’m not an expert on that Oxford detective, but I recalled that one of the books was [checks Wiki] The Dead of Jericho. That revelation came fairly early in my solve, but little did it help me with the other book titles that we’d need. I knew that the last was going to be The Remorseful Day, but that belonged to the endgame.

A few clues stood out for me:

15ac CODEX Against banning new “adults only” book that hasn’t been printed (5)
CON – N + X (with the wordplay for DE omitted
19dn SEEDCASE Judge going over statements to court accepts conclusion of Raymond Burr, maybe (8)
SEE + CASE around (Raymon)D
22dn FLATLET Low-rent accommodation (7)
One clue made me shudder with its reference to some bloke:

7dn AXOIDS      Figures old Tory leader no longer supports a vote (6)
O + IDS (say no more) after (A + X)
And so the restored clues gave us:

14ac HEROIC Brave Joshua’s first to come out [The Dead] of Jericho after collapse (6)
35ac LENSES Loony [Last] Seen Wearing extreme pair of ladies’ glasses (6)
6dn WORDLESS [The] Silent World [of Nicholas Quinn desolated, being short of energy (8)
10dn TRACE Spot one’s Last Bus [to Woodstock] close to midnight, heading north (5)
27dn HATED Felt revulsion at shifting [Service of All] the Dead bodies about (5)
33dn ARMS Limbs are beginning to suffer around marathon’s [The Riddle of the] Third Mile (4)
Finally, the DE from CODEX moved to the LO of LOATH to suggest Death is Now My Neighbour (or at least Paddock’s at 30ac) and the letters from DEATH, FLEURY and MORSE (replacing CODEX) gave us The Remorseful Day.

Thanks for the entertainment, Paddock.

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L4577: ‘The Gaudy’ by Paddock

Posted by Encota on 8 November 2019

I don’t know about you … but for me the theme for this neat puzzle by Paddock dropped out quite quickly. 14ac read:

Brave Joshua’s first to come out [2 7] after collapse (6)

… where the square bracketed part was explained by the Preamble to be part of a novel’s title. What with ‘Heroic’ being a synonym for ‘Brave’ then it looked very much like JHEROIC* being part of the book title and that looked very much like Jericho. But isn’t that part of a Morse novel’s title &/or part of Oxford? Ah yes, ‘The Dead of Jericho‘. After that the others soon became clear.

15ac originally solved as CODEX, with this being the one clue where the wordplay omitted a consecutive pair of letters. It transpired that two meanings of ‘consecutive’ applied, with the missing two letters in the Wordplay being the D&E of CODEX.

As an aside, I did wonder if I could spot a hint of COLIN DEXTER hiding in this part of the grid, that finally got changed to MORSE? Perhaps coincidence?

13ac’s WOX to mean WAXED or and old word for GREW was a new one to me and an intriguing word! I wonder if I’ll remember it when it next turns up in 1000+ puzzles’ time? Knowing me, probably not!

The one clue I failed to parse properly was 27d’s:

Felt revulsion at shifting [3 4] bodies about (5).

At this stage I had HA.ED and so it was hard not to jump to the conclusion that the answer was HATED, defined by Felt revulsion (at). But [3 4] had become ‘the dead’ from the relevant Morse novel. It almost felt like the missing D&E from 14ac had reappeared here with HATED being derived from {THE (de)AD}*. No other HA.ED possibilities seemed to make sense, so HATED I entered into the grid. Don’t you just intensely dislike it when that happens? I always feel that, if you can’t parse a clue in the Listener then you may well have the answer wrong. I await the solution with interest!

I also failed to get the full significance of the Title. Auntie Google noted that The Gaudy was an Oxford college celebration of some sort and referenced one Morse story and also Dorothy L Sayers. But that is as far as I managed. ‘Enigmatic death guy‘ or similar as a description of either Morse or his creator? At this point I will stop clutching at straws!

Many thanks to Paddock (& to the editors) for another classy puzzle!


Tim / Encota

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Listener No 4576, Striving: A Setter’s Blog by Twin

Posted by Listen With Others on 3 November 2019

I always enjoy it when the Listener grid somehow becomes something else in the endgame, and there have been some lovely examples of it turning into a game board – in particular, I remember Serpent’s “Child’s Play”, which was snakes & ladders, and Rasputin’s “Russian Roulette”, which was chess. With these in mind, I considered other possibilities for games and struck upon Connect Four as being doable. A quick google indicated that it hadn’t been done before.

Initially I thought I might have a central 7×6 group of cells where the game would take place, perhaps with a border around those cells giving instructions as to the game, but relatively soon I realised I could use a full 14×12 grid for the game to take place. I tend to be over-ambitious with these things, so I also had an idea about the four winning discs containing letters spelling out CAPTAIN’S MISTRESS (a new phrase to me, but I liked it), given that there would be 16 letters in both – and, in fact, according to some old notes I’ve unearthed today, I was even thinking about using prime numbers at some stage – an idea that was fortunately jettisoned early on (or perhaps kept for another puzzle with fewer other things happening).

As the plan became clearer, I realised that I wanted to communicate a lot of information to the solver: that this was a game of Connect Four, which columns the discs should be placed in, that solvers had to draw all disc outlines, and that the winning discs should be shaded. I then tried to make a virtue of necessity by thinking up unusual ways for that information to be conveyed, ideally with as little as possible in the preamble (because I didn’t want to give the game away, literally). Having additional words in clues is very common (I’ve done it, one way or another, in all three of my published Listeners to date), but gave an opportunity to use their last letters as well as the first; putting a message spaced out in the grid felt fun and re-emphasised the 42 squares; the gambit of overlapping clues was something I don’t remember seeing before and – even if not particularly thematic – seemed like a nice challenge. In fact, I didn’t have any intention of overlapping them at first, simply planning to use two side-by-side clues, but when I spotted the possibilities of CAPTAIN’S / OVERSEE[r] I thought it was too good a chance to miss. Some were easier than others, and I had all sorts of difficulties getting DISCS / GUNGE to work, but I was pleased with WINNING / ZENNIST. Did I grin slightly at the thought of how this puritanical clue would go down on this site? Possibly… and, as a teetotaller, I was glad to be able to emphasise the beauty of tea in a later clue.

For the actual moves in the game of Captain’s Mistress I started by playing a game against myself, making placements that I genuinely would – albeit with a bit more emphasis on creating rows of three that would then be stopped by the “opponent” – and, while I had to change this around a bit in order to get some clues to work, I’m pleased that I didn’t have to alter too much, meaning that the game itself ended up being fairly realistic – as well as ending on the final possible move. Finishing on column B meant hiding a number of extra words ending in B towards the end, and while this wasn’t too tricky, I did spend some time trying to think up an appropriate word beginning with I and ending with B: eventually, after exhausting what Chambers had to offer, I remembered iMDB (the Internet Movie Database) and incorporated it into what turned out to be one of my favourite clues.

Thanks as always to Roger & Shane for their sterling work in the editing process, which – as always with mine, it seems – involved a lot of shortening clues for space. The most egregious offender might be 23a, a 13-word clue for a 4-letter word, but in my defence it was so I could sneak in a name-check for my twin brother Simon. The other major editing change was the addition of the hint about CMSFWD, which was fair given that I’d not given any hint there at all, and the puzzle was already pretty tough without requiring any full-on cold-solving. I was also glad that the editing team were happy for me to use ‘spare’ instead of the usual ‘extra’ to describe additional words, which was necessary because I couldn’t get EXTRA to work in the grid. Perhaps surprisingly, though, given that a message took up a quarter of the cells in the puzzle, this was the easiest grid-creation I’ve done for any of my Listener submissions (published and unpublished).

Thanks also to Apt, who test-solved the puzzle for me and gave invaluable feedback. As well as helpful points about a number of clues, he noted two of the weaker aspects of the puzzle – a final twist where PIUM was changed to FOUR to intersect with SQUARE (from SQUAME), which he correctly identified as being unnecessary and a bit of a damp squib; and the puzzle’s title, which at the time was Spares & Squares. I must admit that was partially a ruse on my part to back-up my use of ‘spare’ in the preamble, and not really needed. After a while I came up with Striving – IV in STRING, or Four in a Row – which I was much happier with.

Final thanks to John Green, who I’m sure (having had a fascinating conversation with him at the last Listener dinner) won’t mind marking a lot of puzzles with circles drawn over them.

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