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Archive for January, 2020

Слушатель 4588: Черная Мария по Агрiкоla

Posted by Dave Hennings on 24 January 2020

Gosh! Only 5 months since Agricola’s last Listener with its theme of Coleridge’s Kubla Khan. I guessed that this week’s must have some date-related link. Seven wordplay-only clues would give us most of the thematic material with a couple of Arabic numerals and a foreign word for good measure.

2dn Frame from Gary Larson coloured with leaderless sheep (12) looked like it would be anagrammatical. That could be from G(ar)Y + LARSON + C +(s)HEEP, except that was too many letters and no anagram indicator! Coloured can mean disguised, but no amount of letter doodling revealed the answer.

No matter, the image of Gary Larson’s weird Far Side world that the clue conjured up was superb. Trying a few of the downs, 3 ERNE and 5 ELLA enabled a bit more doodling, and SELENOGRAPHY soon popped out. So we were dealing with Lunar activity and, given 2ac, far side lunar activity?! I remembered that the Russians were the first to photograph the far side back in the late 50s, but I couldn’t recall any more detail than that.

There was only one thing to do: finish the grid and try to find the devices, topographic features and personal names. Finding all these items certainly brought smiles to my face. 1dn and 29dn were the two devices: CHANG’E 4 and LUNA 3 with 4 O’CLOCK and 3-DIMENSIONAL as their crossing entries. CLEVERNESS and MUSCOVY were the two large topographical seas on the far side, and and DIANA and ARTEMIS were the two personal names for the moon. Luna 3 was a Soviet spacecraft launched in 1959 and was the first mission to photograph the far side of the Moon. Chang’e 4 was a Chinese mission that achieved the first soft landing on the far side of the Moon in January 2019.

Of course, the clue to 28dn was icing on the cake:Today 17 get back Cuba and Niger on reflection (6) led to Россия (COP< + C + RN<), Russia in Russian with RN for Niger reflected… literally! It needed a final reading of the preamble to remind me that both DIANA and ARTEMIS were wholly entered to give Россия, including the D, E and S to be entered in mirror image.

Good fun, Agricola, and a great start to the year. Here’s a video of all sides of the moon courtesy of Nasa on YouTube.
 
 

 

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L4588 ‘Black Maria’ by Agricola

Posted by Encota on 24 January 2020

A gentle start to 2020 – or so we initially thought!

Find the Spacecraft and Moon references, add a bit of Cyrillic and we’re done.

Aargh! I almost missed the subtle message asking us to identify the successful Moon Landing astronauts. I expected them all to be shown by what NASA call their tri-codes: ALDrin, CERnan etc., but some were much more subtle.

Here is my completed Grid:

And to think I expected an easy one this week. But The Listener has to keep up its ‘very difficult’ ranking, of course – we’d expect nothing less 😉

Cheers all,

Tim / Encota

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Listener No 4587, Of Course: A Setter’s Blog by Malva

Posted by Listen With Others on 19 January 2020

I have to admit it came as a pleasant surprise to learn Of Course would appear during the festive season, and for a few deluded moments, I even considered the possibility of my puzzles becoming as much a Christmas tradition as watching The Guns of Navarone, picking up the poinsettia leaves that start dropping off 30 minutes after you get it home and wondering if there’s any connection between inadvertently forgetting the binmen’s Christmas box and finding our wheelie bin up a tree at the end of the road.

Realistically, I suppose there’s not much chance of my puzzles becoming a seasonal staple, so I’ll just have to content myself with the traditions I’ve helped establish over the years. Like us hosting the Boxing Day extended family bash for a good while, in which, spookily enough, words featured large in the post-prandial games.

There was the dictionary game, where you had to come up with definitions for obscure words (you can tell how long ago it was by the fact that you could say polenta was a South American burrowing rodent and everyone reckoned that was spot on). Then there was the letter game, where you had to compile a long list of things beginning with a randomly chosen letter, but that had its own holly-hued headaches, especially when Aunty Olga would have a nuclear strop because she insisted Yugoslavia began with a J, which was a tad irrelevant because the chosen letter was F, and Uncle Russell had already given himself three points for Fasso, Burkina and no-one wanted to play after that. Usually, by about seven, there had been enough cross words to fill the other 51 weeks of the year and the assembled crew trotted off and we were just left with about six hundredweight of washing-up and not a single morsel (or ort as most solvers would say) of uneaten food apart from a bucket of Cousin Helen’s homemade chestnut stuffing, which I eventually used to waterproof the porch roof where a couple of the tiles had slipped.

OK, so Of Course won’t be setting any Yuletide precedents and probably a proportion of solvers will be hoping I at least follow New Year tradition by resolving to create just one more avian puzzle at the most – obviously to be completed using a feather quill and delivered to John Green by carrier pigeon. But then, who makes resolutions any more?
 

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Listener No 4587: Of Course by Malva

Posted by Dave Hennings on 17 January 2020

Malva is the ornithological version of Dipper the Gardener, his previous puzzle with its migrating birds appearing less than a year ago in March. Here we had the answers and the clues being altered thematically, half one way and half another.

Cutting a long story short [Pun intended? Ed.], the thematic adjustents consisted of losing the last two or three letters of words. This seemed a bit vague to me, but assumed that all would be made clear later.

My favourite clue, due its novelty, was 7dn 4/13 + 2/3 + 3/4 + 1/6 is example of sum[ach] (4) for RHUS. I wondered if Malva thought this would be accepted by the vetters — or was it their clue?! And thank goodness he didn’t use this technique in his clue for BANDOLEONS! I also liked some of the thematic adjustments, like pass[age], fun[gal] and aster[oid].

Reaching the endgame, I must confess that the link between the title and the missing letters didn’t jump to mind. After all, losing two or three letters is not quite the same as scoring fewer shots, golf being a game where fewer is better! It needed me to find ALCATRAS in column 4 of the grid with its definition in Chambers telling me it was “a name applied to several large water birds, such as the pelican, gannet, frigate bird and albatross”. Kerching! And there in row 10 was ERNE the Eagle.

I have only ever seen one person at my golf club get an albatross, a rare feat indeed: as we left the green of a par 5, a ball rolled up and into the hole — from 220 yards away. One lucky teenager!

Slotting the SARDINE under the grid finished the puzzle. Thanks for the entertainment, Malva. I’d have been mortified if I hadn’t got there.
 

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Of Course by Malva

Posted by shirleycurran on 17 January 2020

“Malva” we said – does that mean birds? (Or birdies? But we didn’t think of a golf course ‘Of Course’ at this stage – that came after rather a lot of head scratching when we had a full grid, a sardine and a couple of large birds attacking it at almost midnight.)

I didn’t really need to confirm Malva’s right of.admission to the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Outfit as I believe he earned that earlier this year. However, I did my customary hunt and there was ‘port’, ‘Lett succeeded hiding in part of harem in port (6)’. By this time we had understood that we were removing two or three letters from the solution or from a word in the clue. We opted for LETT(er) in ODA, giving ODESSA. Not much port there. A more convincing quantity of GINS was upturned in ‘Count fish traps backwards (4)’. We decided it was a COUNT(ry) fish, a SNIG. A rather muted “Cheers, Malva”. Clearly there might have been a few EAGLES and ALBATROSSES but no hole-in-one, when Malva would have had to buy a round for everyone in the clubhouse but we’ll settle for the port and gins.

Filling the grid became easier as we progressed and long words like NYSTATIN, HEPATICA and SPATTERDASH and BANDOLEONS were offered to us by TEA or Crossword compiler using the letters we had, but it was the short words like HAFT, FIAT, SORRA and TETRA that proved to be the most difficult, since we didn’t have the reassurance of word length provided. Still, we soon had AR, IDE and NS as the alterations for the three italicised clues and those jumbled to a SARDINE.

That creature  might not be happy to see either of the ‘examples of a strand in the theme’. We could see a potential CAT, an ERNE and an ALCATRAS in the grid but it took us a long time to suss that two of those were an eagle and an albatross – so the penny dropped – they were what were clipping off the tails of the poor sardines, or being two or three below par ‘of course’.

An interesting new device, Malva. I must remember next time a grid is giving me trouble – just choose a few long words and chop the ends off when I get to a bar. Many thanks for the last Listener crossword of the year.

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