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Archive for Apr, 2020

The Name of the Game by Chalicea

Posted by shirleycurran on 26 Apr 2020

I think people hear more than enough of the Numpties on these pages and don’t normally write a setter’s blog but so much has come to me from friends (and the many who were friends until they put the three billiard balls outside the bounds of the ISAMBARD KINGDOM BRUNEL billiard table, this committing a foul in the game of billiards, and wrecking their all-correct Listener records – if they still had them after mangling lower-case Greek letters in Opsimath’s the week before) that I thought I should write a few words of apology.

My original grid was carte blanche because it required no bars until a final set to be drawn around IKB’s name, thus delineating the thematic item. One of my problems, as a setter, is producing too many words and editorial tweaks pointed out that there was no need for the bars as a solver would realize that his three coloured blls had to be on the table – so words cut, as they were very cleverly by the second editor, producing succinct and better peamble and clues – we do owe those editors so much – but he had over-estimated the nous of the solver and the floor was littered with balls – so sorry!

Masses of praise has come over the ether, or whatever it is, for my knowledge of billiards, (actually I am rubbish at snooker which is the nearest I ever got and I know next to nothing about the game but the Internet is great isn’t it?) but It was Shark who did the last test-solve of my puzzle and he had a billiard champion in his family, and is also an astonishingly able test-solver. The warm comments about what was good about the puzzle should really go to him. My speciality is the Brunel bit – he is one of our heroes and I have been astonished by the number of solver and setter friends who tell me that they live within a mile, say, of the Great Western Railway and didn’t know it was Brunel’s billiard table. If he had played his game (billiards?) a little better we would have his wide gauge everywhere.

So many thanks to testers, our superb editors and dear John Green (no, not to Tim and Dave – fellow bloggers – what’s all that about alcohol!).


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Listener No 4601: The Name of the Game by Chalicea

Posted by Dave Hennings on 24 Apr 2020

It has only been nine months since Chalicea’s last Listener with its Brucie Boy and Bannockburn theme. This week we had a carte blanche with a final grid that was almost 180° symmetric. I’m not sure I’ve seen that spelt out in a preamble before.

Nine clues had to have a word removed before solving with a message given by the initial letters of the word either side. In the final grid, an area bounded by a name would need shading — in the conventional colour, and not too much I hoped — together with three items.

As you may know, Chalicea is a member of the Gin Worshipping Ring but tries not to reveal that in her clues. However, she frequently, and sub-consciously, introduces alcohol to her entries. Here, every one had a shot or two (or more) of GIN & TONIC. Some were quite blatant, such as KINGDOM and OVERBOOOKING. One was just neat gin — GLEEMAIDEN. Shame on you, Chalicea.

Back to the puzzle, and we had a fairly straightforward solve, although the link between the extra clue words didn’t jump out at me: red, Jenny, cannon, eccentric, nurse, white, kiss, pills, yellow. However, the two entries that made the grid slightly unsymmetrical (9dn and 25dn) were LONDON and BRISTOL.

A bit of googling was still required to find out how BILLIARD TABLE linked the two. At first, I wondered whether Brunel and his engineers used Maidenhead Bridge as a large snooker hall before the tracks were laid. Sadly not! Because the track was so straight and level from Paddington to Swindon and beyond, it was referred to as Brunel’s Billiard Table.

ISAMBARD KINGDOM BRUNEL could be found in the grid marking out a billiard table with letters O for the White, Red and Yellow balls. Lucky for Chalicea, a yellow ball is now used rather than a white ball marked with a black spot. Who knows how that could have been an extra word in the clues! Lots of green shading was required at the end, not any of the bizarre greys, blues, oranges and reds that I saw in Google images.

Another gentle puzzle, thanks Chalicea.

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L4601: The Name of the Game by Chalicea

Posted by Encota on 24 Apr 2020

This features a clever intertwining of two themes – billiards and The Railway Engineer, Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Fans of IKB will know that the engineering of the Great Western Railway line from London Paddington to Bristol Temple Meads meant that the accuracy of its flatness earned it the nickname of ‘the billiard table’. So with BILLIARD TABLE running between BRISTOL at the Western edge of the puzzle and LONDON on the Eastern side, the tracks had been laid.

ISAMBARD KINGDOM BRUNEL himself then featured around the outer edge of the traditional green baize of the billiard table, with even the spaces between his names being provided by the three billiard balls, Red, Yellow and White. Each ‘ball’ occurring in the clue that hid it – another very nice touch.

I was slightly concerned, what with Chalicea’s recurring theme of alcohol in her blogs at this site, that she might have gone TT. But then I spotted that she has offered a Red at 11a, and a White at 18d, all washed down with ‘Fruit of alcoholic highball’ at 32a. And, if one is desperate, there’s a single Rum available in Row 4. Clearly there was no need for me to worry 🙂


Tim / Encota

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Listener No 4600, Polygram: A Setter’s Blog by Opsimath

Posted by Listen With Others on 19 Apr 2020

This was one of the very first puzzles I attempted to set. I know, because I only stumbled on my pseudonym while looking for suitable words to use for the grid. Putting *psi* into TEA produces loads of words like campsite and lop-sided, but oΨmath caught my eye and seemed appropriate, since I was already well into my 60’s when I even started to think about setting. Plus, I was always a Math teacher. [To save you rushing to Chambers, an opsimath is someone who learns late in life. I’ll admit to having been offered the very best schooling from an early age, but I only started to learn quite recently.]

Many of my puzzles have been made easier (both for the setter and the solver) for being accessible with Qxw – the brilliant program I use most regularly. But, with Polygram, I had to do a bit more work by hand (as it were) before a usable grid appeared. This may be the one saving grace of a puzzle which I’m sure will be slated (again) as “Not Really Listener Standard” – since those solvers who rely on Qxw for help may have been stymied for a minute or two. If Qxw can’t offer hints for one section of the grid, it gives up on the whole thing.

My dear friend Chalicea has strong feelings about pangrams, I recently discovered, whereas I have found that using a variety of letters around the grid helps me decide which words I might use, if given a choice of many. Thankfully, I notice she added a qualifier:

…X 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).”

Anyway, to keep Chalicea sweet (as it were) I made sure to include the word “drink” or “drunk” three or four times in my clues, and a single clue actually includes the words Rioja, Xeres and port. Hopefully we may soon still meet up “somewhere around ΕΦΕΣΟΣ” and we’ll share a bottle of local wine – even if it is during the month of Ramadan.

Once again, I must thank the Listener editors who “tweaked” and improved so many of my clues, without worrying me in the process. I can only guess that they appreciate the effort we setters put into the initial concept, the grid, the symmetry, the balance – and how we’re only too happy to leave details of the blasted clues to the hard-working editors.

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Polygram by Opsimath

Posted by shirleycurran on 17 Apr 2020

What a pleasure to see the name of our good friend Opsimath at the head of this crossword. He has been creating puzzles for several advanced thematic cryptic outlets for some time now. ‘Ambidexter ‘appeared as his first Listener last year, where we stood, with Byron, on the Bridge of Sighs, in Venice with a PALACE and a PRISON on each hand, and we have solved several Magpie crosswords as well as those in the Enigmatic Variations and Inquisitor series and a first in 1 Across this month.

We have sat with Opsimath in his hometown of Seljuk on a regular midday date, enjoying his favourite ‘Efes’ and solving the Times cryptic together so I really do not need to confirm that he maintains his right of admission to the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Elite, but I run quickly through his clues to be sure and find the alcohol absolutely swamping them. There’s a ‘Fabulous drink when priest gets last of tax to the revenue men (5)’ – but we realize at once that ELI + (ta)X + IR has seven letters so we have our first prompt that ‘Numbers in brackets show grid entry lengths’ is an indication that our entry has to compress some of those letters.

‘Italian port loses first bit of citrus fruit (5)’ suggests AN(c)ONA, then ‘Hero has a Rioja and first taste of Xeres but no port (4)’ (what a clever clue!) tells us to remove Rio from that ‘a Rioja’ and add an X(eres) giving us AJAX. The tippling continues: ‘Partook of drink, deluding drunk (3)’ produces an anagram of deluding – INDULGED and the Ephesus appears again (spelled out this time) ‘One on one at either end of arena somewhere around Ephesus (5)’ giving us I ON I A = IONIA.

‘Obstruct one room [letters] in public house’ (3}’ leads us to BAR and we clearly have one of the words that we have to remove in ‘letters’. Sadly, Covid19 is obliging us to cancel this year’s Seljuk visit but we can say a remote very well earned ‘Cheers, Opsimath!’

It gives us immense pleasure to have a perfectly succinct and brief preamble with no jumbles, misprints or references to obscure themes we have never dreamed of and we have the particular advantage of knowing that we are dealing with a most erudite setter, a polymath rather than an opsimath, who is fluent in Greek and Turkish so we very quickly spot the message ‘Insert lower case Greek letters in Chambers appendix’. Of course, that explains the extra xi in ELIXIR. I can muddle by in modern Greek, having a Greek sister-in-law but I am hopeless at reading it, however, the other Numpty can do the reading but not the talking so, a bit like Jack Spratt and his wife, we almost manage a clean platter. Let me admit that we were originlly test-solving this crossword in Izmir airport as we waited for an Istanbul plane and we had no Chambers available and had to get home before we could confirm all those twiddly little lower case letters – but we know what we are looking for.

We enjoy teasing out COM[mu]NAL, ELI[xi]R, T[eta]NOID, SERA[phi]C, E[chi]DNA, AUD[iota]PES, CUS[psi]DOR, RES[tau]RANT CAR, CA[psi]D, LAY[the ta]BLE, ON TENTE[rho]OKS and finally S[omega]TE – yes, that last word was new to us and I imagine that it was Quinapalus wonderful crossword compiling system that found it for Opsimath. What a polished and elegant compilation with those letters symmetrically placed. Many thanks, Opsimath.


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