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Archive for February, 2020

L4593: ‘Death Row ‘ by Ifor

Posted by Encota on 28 February 2020

I found this a tricky and very enjoyable solve.  My thanks go to Ifor!   I was finishing about 10 a.m. Saturday, having started the evening before, so that puts it in the top third of difficulty, I’d reckon.

I thought the ambiguity on the bottom row a very good feature, to fit in with the Lizzie Borden rhyme. You had to know who got 40 whacks and who 41 to enter MOTHER and FATHER in the right places.

As ever with Ifor there were some tough clues: always fair, though (as I have come always to expect from him!).  I thought it a very good theme and the AX removals were all neat.  MAXILLIPEDE threw me for ages:

Bit of lobster that gets in food hamper in places carried by modern girl (9)

… parsed as PED (‘food hamper’) in (thoroughly modern) MILLIE

and: Endorsement passing test, one with only a single line of symmetry (6)

… for MONIAL was one of my last ones parsed.  It seemed so obvious when I eventually thought of (testi)MONIAL – and I do mean eventually! 

Finally I need to remember to think ‘the’, when reading ‘so much’ in a clue.  I bet I won’t, though!

Thanks once again to Ifor for a great & enjoyable puzzle.


Tim / Encota

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Death Row by Ifor

Posted by shirleycurran on 28 February 2020

Rather a threatening title from Ifor – ‘Death Row’ indeed. We study the preamble and don’t instantly spot the theme, though two delighted solvers told me that they did (one an American, who might be more likely to recognise the theme of a rhyme possible more familiar over there). We know Ifor’s style well – the challenging clues that use a number of subtle removals of letters from wordplay (or even definition) to prompt the solver how to handle the clue.

‘Wary Bruce ill, beginning to mistake feature of some spiders (9)’ we see, and we know that ‘wary’ must lose an A to become WRY – an anagram indicator – and BRUCE ILL + M gives is CRIBELLUM. ‘Late start caused by poor decision (3)’. This time we take out the U and find CASED, a containment indicator, and ORD is hidden there. What a wonderful surface reading Ifor has managed to engineer. That is his special crosswording talent isn’t it – to create flawless word pictures incorporting subtle shifts that mean that the entered word goes off in a completely different direction. Take ‘Skint following incomplete contacts (6)’. I’m looking for someone whose bank manager has let him down but the wordplay gives me F(ollowing) + LENSE(s) and I find that I am skinning a whale (FLENSE).

Not easy – Ifor’s puzzles never are (‘Stripey horse (5)’ isn’t his style) but we know that his clues are perfectly fair and when a number lead to definitions containing AX where the wordplay lacks the AX, we smile with delight and understand why our extra letters have spelled out MASS MURDERER. Another solver has commented to me that he was astonished how many AX words Ifor used, that worked perfectly without the AX (POLEAX, MAXILLIPEDE, MONAXIAL, TAXINGS, MALAXATE, TAXABLE, CLIMAXES, RELAXATIONS and LAXEST). “Who was it who ‘Took an ax’?” I ask the other Numpty, and, with his astonishing mental store of useless trivia, he immediately responds ‘Lizzie Borden – not a very charming daughter!’

Lizzie Borden took an ax/ And gave her mother forty whacks,” runs a nursery rhyme nearly universally known among Americans. “When she saw what she had done/ She gave her father forty-one.” (Wikipedia) It was the Massachusets murders, wasn’t it? So that explains the MASS at the start of the description – a fine play on words. Indeed, if there were 81 ax strokes, this was a MASS murder in a couple of senses.

The extra letters in the down clues have told us to ‘SHUFFLE LETTERS FROM ONE ROW as a way to find the name of the hacker, which solvers must write below the grid’. We work backwards from LIZZIE BORDEN to DOZIER BENZIL (No, Ifor wasn’t attempting to make his grid pan-alphabetical as we had initially suspected, a setter exercise I consider to be self-indulgent and futile, unless it is given some thematic purpose). That neatly balances the MOTHER/FATHER that we are now able to put into our final row. We had wondered how we were going to distinguish between CALM and CALF. What a lovely final touch with no frustrated grid-staring. Clues 40 and 41 – the icing on the cake.

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Listener No 4592, Graven Image: Link to a Setter’s Blog by Phi

Posted by Listen With Others on 24 February 2020

Phi’s setter’s blog can be found at his own web site: Graven Image by Phi


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L4592: ‘Graven Image’ by Phi

Posted by Encota on 21 February 2020

I found this a fun solve – thanks Phi!

I was caught out by what seemed to me as an alternative answer to 19a’s: Disgusting tart curtailed fun at the fair (6)
I had read this as potentially a clue with a word reversed in it, namely:
Disgusting trat curtailed fun at the fair (6)
Which I then parsed as TRA(t)+SHY, what you do at a coconut shy at the fair. Did TRASHY mean disgusting? Well, I convinced myself it was close enough – and this held up the rhs of the puzzle for much longer than i should have allowed.

Eventually I saw tart could be changed to start, so leading to PUT+RID(e). Phew!

This was a neat construction with an interesting theme – thanks Phi!

Tim / Encota

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Graven Image by Phi

Posted by shirleycurran on 21 February 2020

The title didn’t really tell us anything though, when we had completed our solve and spotted ALBRECHT DÜRER in the Knight’s moves, I did think that maybe the wonderful Dürer HARE was a graven image. After all, there was a hare of the Poat kind sneaking into the clues. ‘FrencH ARE leading vice trial as before (5)’ We opted for ES + SAY (vOice for vice as an added letter) and I looked up the iconic hare, to find, sadly, that he was water colour and not a graven image..

Naturally I looked for Alcohol in Phi’s clues too and found “Glasgow’s dray and vat not fully visible in the smoke there (6)’. By this time, we had realised that some words were being entered in reverse in the first four columns and that almost all of the remaining clues in those columns had a word reversed (except KNIGHT – leading us to our ultimate knight’s moves – I know Phi and Sabre have set together as Phibre – is the Sabre knight’s move virus catching?) That KNIGHT was of course the word that was in the wrong set and prompted us that we had to follow ‘a principle befitting the first element of the title’.

Here we reversed DRAY, giving YARD and decided that the VAT was a KIE[R}, giving us REEKIE – Glasgow’s smoke. Well – a whole vat! Cheers Phi!

AGAR, SEDNA, IN ON, MART and RECCOS all reversed so we had one of our alterations. I found working out the other two more difficult as I could never remember whether I was adding or subtracting a letter and just when I thought we had sorted it out, a word seemed to be in the wrong set. DEARTH had a letter missing and was entered as DEATH when we thought it ought to be gaining a letter. Then 9d led us to LIVED (‘Was volume reduced in song (5)’. V in LIED). However our grid required DEVIL, so that gave us our third word that had moved into the wrong set.

And there was our hint. Knight, Death and the Devil – a Graven Image by Albrecht Dürer. And we were able to fill in the missing letters, completing his name in Knight’s moves. A nicely thematic conclusion. Thank you Phi.



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