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Archive for December, 2019

Mince Pie by Nutmeg

Posted by shirleycurran on 27 December 2019

It is always a pleasure to see Nutmeg’s name at the head of a crossword as we know the clues will be fair and enjoyable. However, there was a moment of consternation when we saw that she was dividing her forty clues into eight sets of five different types, omitted letters, misprints, extra words, thematic ‘wordplay only’ solutions and (sigh of relief) normal. Could she be making a sly comment on the ubiquitous ‘extra letters/ omitted letters/ misprints’ that seem to be regular diet in the current advanced thematic cryptic crosswords?

Of course Nutmeg retains her place among the Listener oenophiles and the evidence was there. A BREWER emerged as the solution of ‘Texan sibling entertains the two of us; I’ll make tea (6)’ We put WE into BRER. ‘Extremely brutal end (5)’ gave us B(ruta)L + END – there are some fine BLENDs around – and shortly we had ‘Nutmeg, full of spirit, beginning to go (7)’ We put GIN into ME + G, giving MELANGE, one of the thematic words. Probably a somewhat tipsy Nutmeg mixing the BLENDs with GIN. Cheers, anyway.

OLIO, MEDLEY, MINGLE, STEW, ASSORTMENT and MESS soon followed making sense of the Christmassy title Mince Pie and once we had decided that ‘bars’ in 9d was not one of the extra words (I wonder how many other solvers were sniffing at that red herring) we made the lucky guess that the letters at the start and finish of extra words (Delhi, gold, elderly, grasp, long, young, hole, and illegal) were going to anagram to HIGGLEDY-PIGGLEDY and that gave us an almost complete grid.

The ‘one letter of the answer is omitted wherever it occurs’ device was the one that we were left with. Luckily, we had spotted the HOT[C]POT[C]H early in our solve S[O]NANTS was clued generously, as was [C]REED but we were left with the two ‘type ii’ solutions in the south-west corner [K]INGED and A[L]IBIS to suss to give us COCKTAIL before we could complete this MIXED BAG of clues. Many thanks for the challenge, Nutmeg.

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L4584: "Mince Pie" by Nutmeg

Posted by Encota on 27 December 2019

Delightful! As some of you will know I am a massive fan of Nutmeg’s clueing and normally point new setters towards her work as examples of how to write the very best cryptic clues.

So what have we here? Five types of clue, only one of which is normal. Eight words had to be identified – these turned out to be HOLE, ILLEGAL, GRASP, GOLD, LONG, ELDERLY, DELHI, YOUNG – where their end letters could be jumbled to provide a thematic word to be placed under the grid. Ah, HIGGLEDY-PIGGLEDY!

Other ‘thematic’ letters formed COCKTAIL and MIXED BAG. What with the Mince Pies of the title, this could make a good party … And that Title is far more likeable than some of the alternatives: SUPPLY PANTS, for example. Back to the plot …

The eight themed undefined words proved to be: MEDLEY, BLEND, MINGLE, STEW, OLIO, ASSORTMENT, MELANGE and MESS.

And there were more anagram_indicators besides, including HOTCH-POTCH and OBSCENE! Impressive!!

I hope you have all had a good Christmas and, for those that choose to, Round 3 with the turkey has gone to plan.

Cheers all,

Tim / Encota

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Listener No 4583, Potatoes: A Setter’s Blog by JFD

Posted by Listen With Others on 22 December 2019

I was asked to provide this blog as a debutant setter. I have been a Listener solver intermittently for many years, and fairly regularly for the last five. Imagine my surprise when, in a casual conversation about crosswords at my local bridge club one evening a year or two ago, I discovered that my interlocutor was the incomparable Shackleton.

He should not be insulted if I say that he’s a better setter than he is a bridge player, as that evaluation still leaves plenty of room for a high quality bridge game! We had a pint together a few weeks later, during which I picked his brains about the setting process and he encouraged me to give it a try.

I’ve always been good with words but chronically lacking in imagination (as a writer, I would have been a biographer rather than a novelist) so I started by searching for a suitable quotation around which to construct a puzzle. I had read Fruits of the Earth, in translation, at university almost 50 years ago and the advice to Nathanael particularly appealed to me at the time. I even used it as the basis of a very ham-fisted teenage poem.

So the quotation was filed away in the back of my brain waiting for its day in the sun, and this was provided when the reference to emotions being an intoxication suggested a grid fill. Repeated letters (S in SADNESS and DISGUST) required some care to ensure that there was no ambiguity.

My original submission contained two basic errors. First, I failed to spot that the device I was using to spell out the quotation was inconsistent with several of my suggested clues, as they implied that the wordplay with the extra letter, and the definition without it, were equivalent. Secondly, in my enthusiasm to cram in as much thematic material as possible, some of my clues were ridiculously contrived.

The editors ruthlessly (but entirely justifiably!) purged all my clued references to Gide’s dodgy weekend with Oscar Wilde in Algeria, his connection with the French existentialists, his introduction to Hogg’s Confessions of a Justified Sinner and the titles of several of his own works. They very generously described this major surgery as ‘tweaking’. The rigour of their tweaking, and their inventiveness in proposing far more elegant (if less thematic) alternatives, were an eye-opener and will be very useful if I decide to put my head above the parapet again.
 

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L4583: "Potatoes" by JFD

Posted by Encota on 20 December 2019

Starting with the Title, I am hoping my logic of approximately equal items is JFD’s train of thought:

  • Les nourritures terrestres ->
  • Fruits of the Earth ->
  • Les Pommes de Terres ->
  • Potatoes

This week’s puzzle was based upon a quote from Gide which translates, again roughly – my French is middling at best – to: “Let every emotion become an intoxication for you”. i.e. No half-measures – now that seems a good rule for life …

One clue in particular (6 across) stood out for me:

Out of bed, Queen dresses at Balmoral or Sandringham, maybe (7)

You may recall, the wordplay in this puzzle led to the answer with an extra letter. In this case it is (U)P (‘out of bed’) + ER (‘Queen’) + HAPS (‘covers up’, with Balmoral as a Scottish_indicator and Sandringham as an East_Anglian_indicator, the two regions where HAPS has that meaning!), and with the definition being that seemingly throwaway ” , maybe ” pretending to be a Definition By Example indicator. So the answer is PERHAPS. Fabulous! We see a lot of good clues in the better cryptic offerings each week but that has to be one of the best in recent times! YMMV etc. caveats applying, of course.

Wishing you all a great Xmas.

Cheers,

Tim / Encota

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Potatoes by JFD

Posted by shirleycurran on 20 December 2019

This looks like a new Listener setter and he (she?) gives us a succinct preamble with that oh-so-familiar ‘In each clue the wordplay leads to an extra letter that is not entered in the grid; these letters spell out a piece of advice given in a literary work, followed by the author’s name.’

One small addition – that we have to heed that advice when entering certain answers – and finally we have to highlight the nine-letter name of the recipient of the advice.

Of course I have to check whether this newcomer gains admission to the Listener setters’ oenophile elite and he leaves me with some doubt on my first read-through of the clues. There’s Polynesian spirit, ‘Island of the French Polynesian spirit (4)’ and we parse that as AIT + [D]U nd find AITU but that seems to be a demigod rather than a drop of the hard stuff. There’s a jug though; ‘To record nightingale’s last jug (4)’ [T]O + LP + (nightingal)E, giving us OLPE. a Greek jug. Greek wines get better and better – we had some fine ones when we were with our Greek sister-in-law this summer – (of course, when we had found the quotation and the IVRESSE – drunkenness – it became clear that our new setter had consumed the entire contents of the OLPE) so ‘Cheers! JFD.

As we solve, we begin to wonder whether the JF of JFD is Jean-François, as a French message is emerging as well as the occasional French word (ETRENNE, GRANDE). We need the last four extra letters that spell out GIDE before we are able to ask Google to complete the quotation: NATHANAEL, QUE TOUTE EMOTION SACHE TE DEVENIR UNE IVRESSE.

We learn that the quotation comes from Gide’s Les Nourritures Terrestres (Earthly Fare) so, with a smile, understand why the puzzle is entitled ‘Potatoes’

That quotation is pretty advanced French with the subjunctive ‘sache’ but I imagine the context resolved that for solvers whose French stopped at O level, say. It was clear that the emotion words, SADNESS, ANGER, DISGUST and FEAR had to be anagrammed, or fuddled in a drunken way. We did that and highlighted the nine-letter name and had a welcome early finish (as we are still ‘grandparenting’ in California and have the culturally enriching experience of Disney’s Frozen II with the four and six-year-old this afternoon).

Later: Frozen II exceeded expectations – certainly superior to Frozen – almost fun in places.

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