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Archive for Nov, 2019

A Game of 11 by Glow-worm

Posted by shirleycurran on 29 Nov 2019

I was still making a Crossword Compiler grid of the puzzle – not as easy as usual as it was particularly unsymmetrical – clearly because of the requirement to have that quotation around the perimeter without creating an unfair proportion of unchecked cells – but the other Numpty was racing through the clues and filling his grid full tilt. I suppose I should be using words like smash, volley, or lobbing the solutions in.

I had barely time to check that Glow-worm retains his entry ticket to the Listener Setters Oenophile Outfit but did uncover the surprising fact (on Dave Hennings’ crossword data base) that Glow-worm has produced ten Listener crosswords in the past  (since 1997) and that almost all of them have been ‘A Game of n’, where n has ranged from 1 to 15, with even a previous Game of 11.

The alcohol was well hidden, but, of course, it was there: ‘”Fantasist” is set roughly around Glengarry perhaps (8)’ We put IS SET* around CAP, producing ESCAPIST and raised a glass of Glengarry single malt to Glow-worm. Cheers!

Our first guess was that we were playing CHEMIN DE FER but the FLYING SQUAD and OLD MASTER smashed that idea into the net and CHASE THE ACE appeared. That sounds like a fine variant of snap to play with the grandchildren and it established for us that the ACE OF SPADES was our quarry.

The pairs of extra words were a very generous set that easily stood out from the remainder of their clues: ONE POOR, OUTSTANDING UGANDAN, TENSION UNIT, PARAGON NEAR, TORNADO PILOT, FILIPINO WHIT, HOTSHOT AFGHANI, and SERVE ORANGE, though we had ‘HELP US’ and ‘IN COPPELIA’ as potential offerings too, since we hadn’t, at that stage, seen that we could remove forms of ace from those pairs. That is the problem with extra words that have to be removed, to give a message, isn’t it? It imposes absolute succinctness on the setter with no room for the slightest redundancy.

WHIZZING appeared as a likely first word of the quoted line from the poem and that gave us WILLIAMS, so we guessed that EVERT and GRAF were two more tennis aces so tennis was also a theme. We suspected Betjeman at once and read right through Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, but, of course, it was PAM we needed to find the quotation ‘Whizzing them over the net with the strength of five’.

It took me a while to realize that the pilot, whit, paragon etc. were all aces, leaving me the letters PRUNTNNRTOFOAIOE to sort into that five-word phrase. “A POINT OF NO …?” I muttered. “RETURN, of course” said the other Numpty. Game, set and match!

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Listener No 4580: A Game of 11 by Glow-worm

Posted by Dave Hennings on 29 Nov 2019

Over the last twenty years or so, Glow-worm has played a lot of games with us. These have included a 2, a 5 and a couple of 1s among others, and have finally been uncovered as the likes of Sardines, Hunt the Slipper and Tic-Tac-Toe. This week, the preamble told us that a line from a poem in the ODQ had to appear in the perimeter squares, and that this was addressed to 1.

Luckily, 1ac Mayhap a mountainous sports girl immediately enabled PAM to go in the grid. Thirty seconds was all it would take to look her up the ODQ index to reveal the Betjeman quotation Pam, I adore you, Pam, you great mountainous sports girl, Whizzing them over the net, full of the strength of five. Popping that into the perimeter followed by some straightforward clueing, enabled CHASE THE ACE to slot into the central column, a few female tennis players to complete the grid and A POINT OF NO RETURN to go under it.

Unfortunately, if you were like me, you really didn’t expect Pam to appear so blatantly in the index. I spent ages looking for tennis, nets, balls and rackets, all to no avail since the index didn’t reference any other word in that extract from Pot Pourri from a Surrey Garden. Only as a last resort, did I check on Pam, et voilà.

Thanks for the run around, Glow-worm!

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L4579: ‘Skywriting’ by Donarino

Posted by Encota on 22 Nov 2019

I love puzzles where a high % of the completed grid features in the endgame – so this one was a delight! Not only did the quote “IT HAS BEEN SAID THAT AN (ENGINEER) IS A MAN WHO CAN DO FOR TEN SHILLINGS WHAT ANY FOOL CAN DO FOR A POUND” feature, but also his writing surname of SHUTE and his actual surname of NORWAY. And, if that wasn’t enough, so did (A) TOWN LIKE ALICE, another of his books, SLIDE RULE his autobiography and five other engineers – BRUNEL, BAIRD, DIESEL, OTIS and NOBEL.

So, of 169 letters in the grid, only 37 aren’t used in the Endgame. Those letters are, of course, yet another jumble – this time making “Thompson or Giles composed air-charged fury“. No idea of its significance, except Nevil Shute being an aeronautical engineer, naturally 😉

This was great fun to solve – many thanks to Donarino, whoever you may be.


Tim / Encota

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Skywriting by Donarino

Posted by shirleycurran on 22 Nov 2019

I download this puzzle by a new compiler (but after solving am pretty sure that Donarino is no newcomer – clearly a wolf or two lurking under a new coat) and I gasp in horror. Can this be serious? ‘All entries are entered JUMBLED’. We almost abandon at once but then pour a stiff double and check whether Donarino earns (or retains) his Listener Oenophile status. I find ‘Reviewing case of addiction, you drink (5;1)’ and Chambers tells me that ANYOU* (Noyau) is ‘a liqueur made from brandy flavoured with bitter almonds or peach kernels’. Well, that allows me to enter only one letter in this most original method of compiling – the N – but I raise my glass anyway. Cheers, Donarino!

Solving proceeds oh, so slowly, ‘Somebody involved in gathering liquid from broken ribs? (7;2,3,7)’ gives us a smile as we put ONE into BOIL and can enter the O,N and L into our grid. We attempt the clues that allow us to enter several letters, ‘So police returned, concerned with probability of a recurrence (7;1,2,3)’ gives us ERGO + CID< (ERGODIC), and we can enter the ERG. There is a complete word we enter, ‘Tara’s shot Myrtle’s cousin in Dunedin (4;3,4)’ RATA must be entered ARTA if only the last two letters remain in place. Another of those, ‘Highland cattle, no trouble elsewhere (4;2,3)’ allows us to enter TOWN, since NOWT retains only its second and third letters and, slowly,some cross-checking appears and allows our grid to progress with HOTPOT, NACHO and FOLATE (we have a ‘Goose’ there ‘half-heartedly’ = FO[o]L ‘swallowed salt (6;1,3)’ with FOLATE producing F and L. What a goose, when there was that NOYAU available!)

HABITS at 1dn gives our first penny-drop moment ‘IT HAS BEEN SAID …’ and we have an inkling of ‘ANY FOOL CAN …’ in the third column from the end, so we suspect that the quotation is appearing in columns as no coherent words have yet appeared in rows. Of course Wiki comes to my rescue. IT HAS BEEN SAID THAT AN ENGINEER IS A MAN WHO CAN DO FOR TEN SHILLINGS WHAT ANY FOOL CAN DO FOR A POUND.

I loved A TOWN LIKE ALICE as a child. No Highway, On The Beach (which was made into a haunting film), and SLIDE RULE are on our booksheves so our filling speed now increased. SHUTE, of course, completed the last column and the other Numpty knew he was Nevil Norway Shute so we could complete NORWAY and now knew that we were hunting for engineers. We have a bit of an obsession for BRUNEL’s achievements and BAIRD, DIESEL and NOBEL were not difficult to spot but I was somewhat bemused to see two other potential engineers HILL and OTIS. Edwin Hill’s creation earned him recognition in 1851 at Crystal Palace. Do I highlight him?

No, our setter(s) has seen and excluded that possibility: ‘Separate from all of these items (the quotation, the Shute autobiography, and Town Like Alice) are a six-letter last name and five other examples of the subject (engineers)’. So I highlight OTIS and marvel at this astonishing compilation. Thank you, Donarino.

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Listener No 4578, Trick or Treat: A Setter’s Blog by Deuce

Posted by Listen With Others on 17 Nov 2019

The B-Word

First of all, profuse apologies to all those of you had hoped to escape the dreary repetitions of the daily news to find some escape on the puzzle page. The B-word finds its way into everything these days; there’s no escape.

The idea for this puzzle came fairly naturally. Beleaguered as we all are by the endless politicking on Brexit, I noted a strange symmetry in the legal aspect of what was going on: the continentals attempting to extract the UK from their body of law as much as vice versa.

Most crucially for a cruciverbalist, the excision in both cases involves exactly two letters, “EU” and “UK”: two pairs of letters which, a quick Chambers check showed, occurred in a decent number of English words.

Two more ideas helped make the concept complete. The half-and-half flag that has been so recently beloved of picture editors struck me as a workable grid. And of course I wanted to use the former prime minister’s excellent catchphrase; the B-word entered the OED in late-2016, albeit with a more helpful definition than simply BREXIT MEANS BREXIT.

Then comes the trick of cramming as many of the theme words in as possible. Sadly delights KABUKI, PUKKA SAHIB and BOOZE-UP fell by the wayside, leaving REUTERS, REUNIONS, DEUTERIUM, NEUROLOGY on one side, JUKEBOXES, DUKEDOM, LUKEWARM and GREAT AUKS on the other. (I briefly thought about mixing the two, through EUKARYOTES or LEUKOCYTES, but that took the complexity too far).

Sadly this phase also saw the original ambition curtailed. Jurisdictionally speaking, the left side of the grid should of course be half a Union Jack. But a grid can only be constrained so much; tucking in the diagonals made the insertion of further words unworkable. And I felt a St George’s cross could sort of be passed off as legitimate political commentary on a decision that divided the Kingdom (even if, by rights, I should have included a Welsh dragon into the grid: answers on a postcard for how to do that).

Crosswording on contemporary topics always presents a risk the theme will end up out-of-date; bear in mind I started this one some time in mid-2018. In this case I took a punt that Brexit would still be in the headlines; and I think I won it, even if 31 October proved not to be what it once was. Fortunately I managed to avoid citing the personalities who have rather disappeared from the picture, such as DAVIS; BARCLAY would as it turns out have been a better correspondent for BARNIER, but was at the time unheard of.

From what I can tell 1ac proved critical to solvers: those who saw the word REUTERS and worked back would have a big clue from the get-go; others didn’t get there until later.

From the limited feedback I’ve been able to glean, I gather some were left scratching around trying to find some yet more hidden level of meaning within the grid, after spotting FARAGE and JACOB REES MOGG. I take the point it would have been better to say those names “found,” rather than “hidden”, in the grid, given that they were hidden in plain sight: still, simplicity is nothing to apologise for; it’s often a synonym for elegance.

The original title for the puzzle, DOUBLE STANDARD, would perhaps have made it clearer what the aim was, but was rejected as the same play on words had been used in a a recent Listener puzzle, Harribobs’ International Standards Organisation; I must admit I didn’t think about the implications of this for the endgame until too late.

Most of all I’m thrilled to be included, for the first time, in the illustrious company of Listener setters. To be honest, I only tried getting into setting after hearing the excellent Desert Island Discs with John Graham, Araucaria, who confessed to Kirsty Young that he, like me, was not much of a solver. I can on a good day finish the FT daily, but a Listener is beyond me; I had always assumed that this would have excluded me from setting, in the same way my lack of footballing prowess excluded me from being England manager.

So thanks to all for your feedback! I’ll still never be England manager.

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