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Archive for August, 2020

L4618: ‘You Don’t Say’ by Stick Insect

Posted by Encota on 21 August 2020

First of all thanks to Stick Insect for a gentle and entertaining puzzle!

I never saw a purple cow
I never hope to see one
But I can tell you anyhow
I’d rather see than be one

I enjoyed being re-introduced to the ‘purple cow’ poem, which made me smile.  I didn’t recognise the name Gelett Burgess but a little bit of research soon connected his name with the word ‘blurb’.

The clues were terse, even for the Listener, with several using only 3, 4 or 5 words – very efficient!

I liked some of the misprints, e.g. Good to engage walker on Ben Nevis (6), with ‘engage’ actually being a misprint ‘enrage’ and the clue parsing as G+ANGER.

This felt like one of the easier puzzles of recent times – though perhaps several in a row are now going to feel like that, coming so closely after ‘that Sabre’ at L4617!!

Perhaps the only pity was it was all over too quickly, though, as I have commented in the past, that is something of the joy of the Listener – settling down with the puzzle not quite knowing what one is faced with!

Thanks again to Stick Insect!

Tim / Encota

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Listener No 4618: You Don’t Say by Stick Insect

Posted by Dave Hennings on 21 August 2020

Last year’s Stick Insect puzzle was the one celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Moon landing. This week, we had a fairly small 11×11 grid with a couple of couplets by a poet (should that be a coupler?) to appear one after the other in the perimeter. Every clue had a misprint not in the definition, with the incorrect letters spelling out some information about aforementioned poet. The odds were on my making a note of the misprint correction in at least one clue. (It would be just one.)

After the first pass through the clues, I had a fair smattering of entries in the grid, including SEROTINES (bats) and STRONGEST (fastest-moving). Although the absence of anything in the perimeter upped the uncheck count, I had a finished diagram in about an hour.

The perimeter I now had was •I•E•E•S•W•P•R•LECO••NE•ER•O•E••S•EO•EB•. We were given the unchecked letters as RAVEN PUT UP WITH AVON, and with P•R•LECO•• on the right-hand side, I guessed at PURPLE COW with a niggle at the back of my mind that I had heard this before. (In hindsight, I hadn’t.) I determined not to google that, and it didn’t take long to fill in the blanks to give the two lines we were looking for. My first inkling was that the poet was either Spike Milligan or Billy Connelly.

However, taking the message from the misprints, we had He is responsible for creating blurb. Chambers has blurb attributed to American author, Gelett Burgess (never heard of him before), and the ODQ obligingly has the two verses required, the first called The Purple Cow and the second Confessional.

I never saw a Purple Cow,
I never hope to see one;
But I can tell you, anyhow,
I’d rather see than be one!

Ah, yes, I wrote the ‘Purple Cow’—
I’m sorry, now, I wrote it!
But I can tell you anyhow,
I’ll kill you if you quote it!

(Personally, I’m sorry he wrote it too!)

Slotting the first lines of the second into the grid (having the required number of letters to fill the perimeter) didn’t leave real words. I could see that 11ac EMBER could simply become AMBER to start off the two lines and I was home.

Thanks for a relatively gentle week, Stick Insect.

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You Don’t Say by Stick Insect

Posted by shirleycurran on 21 August 2020

We found a fine, clear preamble here, that told us exactly what we were going to do, though the highlighted ‘incorrect‘ warned us that, unusually, we were not going to highlight corrected misprints and, what’s more, these misprints were ‘not in the definition’. It is difficult to change such an ingrained habit and I needed my eraser as I kept highlighting the corrected word.

Could Stick Insect retain his place among the Listener Setters’ Oenophiles? I hunted through his clues and had almost given up hope for him until I saw that ‘Returned batches bound for Ayr (4)’ Those batches could only be one thing, so we raised our glasses of malt. ‘Cheers’, Stick Insect! (Actually we decided that our solution must be STEN, so we were returning Catches, giving us a B incorrect letter – but ‘Cheers’, anyway.)

A speedy gridfill spelled out HE IS RESPONSIBLE FOR CREATING BLURB and we needed a visit to the internet to learn that Gelett Burgess coined that word as well as ‘tintiddle’. We needed a couplet written by Gelett Burgess and the words PURPLE COW were appearing down the side of our grid.

I don’t think there are many purple cows in the UK but anyone living where we do has seen the one that frequently appears in the supermarkets advertising milk chocolate. She is a great children’s favourite but they had to repaint her nose which became very grubbywhen carressed by small hands.

When we were small, we had things called autograph books, and relatives and friends used to fill one of the pastel-coloured pages with a drawing, a joke or a couple of lines. I loved my cousin Malcolm’s ‘I never saw a Purple Cow/ I never hope to see one/ But I can tell you anyhow/ I’d rather see than be one’ accompanied by  his drawing of a purple cow – so that couplet leapt out at me – though we needed the ODQ to give us Burgess’ follow up: ‘Ah yes! I wrote the Purple Cow! …/ I’m sorry now I wrote it!/ But I can tell you anyhow,/ I’ll kill you if you quote it!’ Poor Burgess – he must have grown weary of having his lines quoted at him – he died in 1951, so I believe I can ignore his threat.

How delightful to be able to insert those new lines around the grid and find that we still had real words. (If I were an editor. I would gently reject any puzzle where changes in the grid led to jumbles or non-words, unless there was a really valid thematic reason) but Stick Insect is no amateur. We see him at least once a month in Wednesday’s Telegraph Toughie, as well as elsewhere).

Great fun, thanks, Stick Insect.


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L4617 ‘Selfie’ by Sabre

Posted by Encota on 14 August 2020

Wow!!!   Thank you Sabre! See the report from other bloggers on more details of the puzzle itself. I’ll focus on a few of the clues and a mention of Excel as a helper.

My rather embarrassingly slow timetable for getting this finished summarises as follows:

–          Fri 4pm                                     Start

–          Sat 12 noon                               Only 30/50 solved + ‘extra words’ found

–          Sat 11pm                                  Only 38/50 solved

–          Sun 5pm                                    Nudged up to 42/50

–          Sun 10pm                                  Now 46/50

–          Mon 9.30am                             Full grid & messages

–          Mon 8pm                                  Grid updated with Goya columns

–          Mon 9.30pm                             Final grid ready to send!

Perhaps twice as long as any other in 2020.  OK, there was some ‘real life’ dovetailed with the above but bloomin’ ‘eck, that’s the toughest of the year by far for me!  I loved it!

The enumerations were, if you recall, always one out, so an indication of (6) meant that the answer had either 5 or 7 letters but you didn’t know which! As a slight aside, I always find not knowing the length of an answer slows me down considerably.

It took me two days(!) to derive any sense from what turned out to be ‘of root cylinder’ in 30a’s:
Only one (centimetre) length in crack of root cylinder (6)

Here the word in brackets (centimetre) was to be deleted before solving, then (A+L) fitted into STAR (‘crack’) to form STELAR, of a STELE, the cylindrical form a of a plant’s root.

Other ones I struggled with included:

27a Thoroughly beat (O’Flaherty’s) drunk (5)
which I eventually spotted was a triple definition of FULL.

38a (Britons) backward in language (6)
where I missed the now seemingly obvious definition of backward as HIND to form a simple charade HIND + I’ = HINDI. The clues – such as this – where one knew by this stage that a word beginning with B had to be deleted but not whether it was BRITONS or BACKWARD that had to go, really added to the challenge.

36d Picnic rolling (game) always making good day (5)
looked very likely to be DODDLE for ages (in the sense of easy, a picnic) but I couldn’t see why for a long time. It was only when all other entries made it certain to be DODDLE that I spotted it was GOGGLE (‘rolling’) with all Gs changed to Ds: sneaky! And I’d never thought of goggle-eyed as having that exact meaning but BRB is there to prop me up!

Once the grid was complete, two (connected) hidden instructions told us to ‘replace two columns in code add to them this puzzle’s heading’. Taking part recently in the recent fabulous Edric’s puzzle hunt had honed my Excel skills a little, so it was relatively straightforward to combine the CODE, CHAR and MOD functions. I know to many reading that’ll all be obvious! However, if not, then experiment with functions like =CODE(A1)-64 to find the ‘A=1 etc’ value of a character, =CHAR(A2+64) for the reverse, and something a bit like =MOD(B1,26) to make 1 and 27 the same, 2 and 28 the same etc. Where A1, A2, B1 is the cell that contains the value that you want to convert. Adding one set of letters (e.g SELFIEBYSABRE) to any other thus becomes simple to automate.

Oh, and I wonder how many people will have spotted the impact of converting all letters in the grid into pixels?*

Thanks again to Sabre!  Masterful!

Cheers all,

Tim / Encota

  • Well, made you wonder, for just a microsecond !? And yes, I did try it whilst solving, ‘just in case’!

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Listener No 4617: Selfie by Sabre

Posted by Dave Hennings on 14 August 2020

It’s always nice to celebrate an anniversary, and here we were told that this puzzle marked 50 years since Sabre’s first Listener. According to the Sabre’s page at the Listener Crossword web site , this would be his 71st solo outing, with two other collaborations, one with Salamanca back in 1989 and one with Phi last year. That’s some feat.

(I find it somewhat depressing on such occasions to recall what I was doing back then. In this case, I was working as a Cobol programmer for Barclays Bank just off Tottenham Court Road.)

Anyway, here we were in 2020 and a nice self-portrait of Sabre appeared to be coming our way. But first, the clues, and you just knew they were going to be tricky, some more than others. Every one had an extra word, half lost a letter on entry, and half gained a letter. The first letters of the extra words would give features of the selfie, and the extra/missing letters would spell out a two-part instruction requiring changes to the grid and “leading to a different portrait”.

Oh. My. God. (That’s Twitter-speak for “Oh my god!”.) So onwards and upwards.

Needless to say, this puzzle was pretty much as tough as I was expecting it to be, starting with 1ac A summons involving New Zealand chief in stopping cause of oppression (10). Now when I say “starting with…”, I mean getting myself in a box after some time by thinking it was RIOTOUSNESS. After that, it was an age before ONEROUSNESS came to the rescue, with Zealand being the extra word.

I won’t go into all the trials and tribulations I went through with this puzzle, but will just highlight some of the clues that gave me pleasure:

30ac STELAR Only one [centimetre] length in crack of root cylinder (7)
STELLAR with only one L
36ac OVERREV Against following through on [shooting] gun too much (8)
V after (OVER + RE) with an extra word/definition to totally mislead
46ac YESTEREVE The aged give boxes antique sixpence [each] (not the first time), even recently (10)
YEVE around TESTER – the first T and not YE + something
4dn SAREE Bollywood [titans] covering tracks are evading shows (4)
(track)S ARE E(vading)
a simple (?) hidden
36dn (D)ODDLE Picnic rolling game always making good day (5)
GOGGLE with every G becoming D
a nicely misleading definition
39dn MANET Artist playing piece [in] E flat in conclusion (4)
MAN + E (fla)T

There were an awful lot of geographical references in the clues, including New Zealand, Quebec, Paris, Malham, Cadiz, Cambridge, Newcastle, Monte Cristo and Japan. Were these all places that Sabre has been to over the years?

I could see where Sabre was going with the initial letters of the extra words as Zimmer was emerging from the early acrosses. Eventually, we had Zimmer frame, bifocals, bald pate, toothless grin and hearing aid.

As for the instruction given by added and omitted letters, that was a bit more tricky. Replace two c.l… had me initially guessing that two cells needed to change. Oh no! Replace two columns in code and Add to them this puzzle’s heading. “Selfie by Sabre” was this puzzle’s heading, and two columns were completely unchecked. Just add one to the other.

(Note to self: the seventh letter of the alphabet is not F.)

Having sorted out my alphabet counting error, it didn’t take long to see the “different portrait” required by the preamble: GOYA’S DOS VIEJOS COMIENDO SOPA, Two Old Men Eating Soup. Painted in the early 1820’s, originally onto a wall of the Quinta del Sordo, a house in the outskirts of Madrid. It was transferred to canvas fifty years later. It was not a work that was unknown to me and is housed in the Prado Museum in Madrid.

What a fantastic ending. No self-portrait of Sabre (at least I hope not), but a portrait by Goya. Thanks a million for a fine puzzle.

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