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Archive for September, 2020

Listener No 4622, Kew Knowledge: A Setter’s Blog by Brock

Posted by Listen With Others on 19 September 2020

Watching butterflies and birds

Solving Azed 2469 (see Azed Slip 2469), which was a Spoonerisms clue-writing competition puzzle, led me in October 2019 to ask the question “When is Spooner’s anniversary?” as I had in mind that a thematic Listener related to his life might be fun to set. Scribbled title ideas at that point included “Line Manager” (i.e. Professor of Queue Knowledge). My alma mater is New College, Oxford, and I often suffer from unintentional muddles of words and ideas as Spooner did, e.g. asking “Did you put the butter back in the oven when you finished with it?” as well as actual Spoonerisms.

The butterflies strand of this puzzle was also much in my thoughts, as I’d enjoyed taking part in the UK Big Butterfly Count over the summer and had recently installed the iRecord Butterflies app on my phone. I can highly recommend it as an enjoyable and relaxing activity whether in your garden, a park or the countryside. See Our garden seemed to be teeming with insect life that summer, helped by the mix of wild flowers (weeds to some), herbs, plenty of sun with small patches of shade around the trees and shrubs. It has pained me ever since to see so many gardens being paved or gravelled over around our village, as well as mature hedges ripped up; I suspect there is more loss of habitat proportionally than in the Amazon Rainforest. Having many insect visitors over the summer was probably what led to so many birds in the spring, so I have since been enjoying bird watching too, not just the flutter byes.

The puzzle itself came together relatively easily, with the natural steps being:

  • Creating a viable grid with FLUTTER BYES and as many butterflies as possible, mostly from Chambers.
  • Deciding the number of thematic Spoonerism clues I needed to give the Spoonerised question from additional letters in wordplay and tweaking the grid.
  • Regridding again to fit in SPOONER.
  • Regridding one last time to make WASP OONER work rather than just SPOONER. This last step was actually the trickiest from the grid view-point as I’d already got a lot of thematic material to try to work around.
  • Setting the clues, starting with the thematic ones and then all the others.
  • Trimming the clues to keep them concise and as straightforward as possible (an attempt to address two criticisms of some of my clues in the past).

I enjoyed including some thematic clues and several other insects in the grid in addition to the butterflies.

I was very grateful to the editors for purifying my Spoonerism clues especially, many of which were still inaccurate as Spoonerisms, despite my averaging more than a day to set each of these. My original submission title TINY was also changed to KEW KNOWLEDGE for the same reason.

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Kew Knowledge by Brock

Posted by shirleycurran on 18 September 2020

Strange title! Kew Knowledge: are we going to be informed about exotic flower species? We are going to find seven thematiclly affected answers  and extra letters in the wordplay of all the other answers. I skim the clues (looking, of course, for that inevitable Listener setter alcohol) and find some fine surface readings with messengers discarding clothes, ‘With no sign of hesitation, messengers dicarded clothes (5)’ – I discard the ER from COURRIERS and get COURS with an extra I. Then there is the rather surprising ‘Result of unclothed aunty occupying beach? (6)’ We put (a)UNT(y) into SAN[D] and with that extra D find SUNTAN.

Alcohol? It’s a pretty poor showing, though Brock is clearly suffering from the after effects: ‘Stupor broken by am coffee (5)’ MOCCA goes in there. It has to be that ‘fine’ cycling round lake ‘Collapsed during cycling, fine going around lake (5)’ that caused the stupor (we opted for an ELFIN butterfly). Well, cheers, Brock – you can do worse than having a stupor after an excess of fine cognac!

Our first suggestion of the theme comes when we find ‘Head of academy leaving annoyed queer dean (5)’. We are all familiar with Spooner’s apocryphal toast to the ‘Queer old dean’. We remove A(cademy) from ‘annoyed*’ and find DOYEN with an extra N.

FLUTTER BYES soon emerges so we begin to understand that Brock, too, is playing at being Spooner and providing us either with Spoonerised versions of the answer (like ‘mocca’ for COMMA and ‘gnu Joe’ for JUNO ‘One resembling Buffalo  Soldier in Alabama is tense leaving Confederacy (4)’ – we remove T from JUNTO) or Spoonerisms in the wording of the definition, ‘One’s marked with spite what’s scuppered Real Madrid (10, two words)’. Real Madrid anagrammed to RED ADMIRAL and we back-solved to decide that this was ‘one marked with white spots’. (I had to find the butterfly book to confirm that!)

So ‘Done guarding war ..’ became ‘One guarding door’ for a GATEKEEPER and we completed our seven butterflies with ELFIN (the poor thing ‘fell in’ or collapsed), a ‘key pock’, that became a PEACOCK and one with an ‘underwing band’ – a ‘wondering band’ – the HAIR STREAK. (My book tells me that ‘This species gets its name from the W-shaped mark formed by the white streak on the underside of the hind wing).

By this time we had found the thematically posed question: ‘DO HIDE ON THIS DAY IN NINETEEN THIRTY?’ and who died had to be W A SPOONER and, sure enough, there was his name in the grid, to be highlighted.

It wasn’t until I had completed the solve that I looked up New College and found that there was actually a Spooner connection. I learned that Spooner was the first non-Wykehamist to become an undergraduate at New College. Nicely thematic, as was the entire grid. Many thanks, Brock.

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L4622: ‘Kew Knowledge’ by Brock

Posted by Encota on 18 September 2020

Thanks first of all to Brock for an entertaining puzzle! With hindsight I should have realised what was going on from the title. How many years was he at New College, Oxford? In the role of Dean, amongst several others – hence Dean’s appearance in both 15a and 6d.

The puzzle was of course a tribute to The Rev. William Archibald Spooner, who died on 29 August 1930.

The most challenging bit for me was interpreting the clues that had “been affected thematically, one way or another”. In practice we had these seven in the clues where a type of butterfly was the answer:

  • PEACOCK. The clue started ‘Principal pitting …’. To be parsed as KEY POCK, and hence PEACOCK in Spooner’s world. One down, six to go …
  • HAIRSTREAK. This began ‘Wondering band identifies one …’. Read that as UNDER WING BAND IDENTIFIES ONE and the reference to the white band on the hairstreak’s under-wing is sorted.
  • COMMA. The Spoonerism here was clued by ‘…coffee’. I could only assume that MOCHA with its consonant sounds swapped becomes COMMA, though I may have missed something!
  • GATEKEEPER. This starts ‘Done guarding …’. I can’t get that one yet! Ah, it’s ‘DONE GUARDING WAR’ -> ONE GUARDING DOOR. I never get those 3+ word ones!
  • JUNO. Seems to be Spoonerised (is that a word?) using ‘ONE RESEMBLING BUFFALO SOLDIER IN ALABAMA…’ I’m going with “GNU JOE” for JUNO, as I can see there’s a Dione Juno butterfly, which I hadn’t heard of.
  • ELFIN. That’s one of the easier ones: ‘Collapsed during …’ becomes FELL IN, and hence ELFIN
  • And that great anagram for RED ADMIRAL (Real Madrid) appears in 8d. Here ‘One’s marked with spite what’s …’ soon reveals its WHITE SPOTS and we are all done.


Tim / Encota

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Listener No 4622: Kew Knowledge by Brock

Posted by Dave Hennings on 18 September 2020

OK, how long since Brock’s last Listener? Less than six months by my reckoning since No 4597, Bunch of Fives with its starfish grid and piscine theme. That probably means that we were looking at a last-minute date-related theme this week. [Smart arse. Ed.]

The preamble tells us that seven answers are, thematically speaking, 21 3. That didn’t help much since both were unclued. Definitions in these clues were thematically affected, one way or another. Remaining clues had an extra letter in the wordplay and would spell out a thematically posed question. It sounded as though we were going to be stymied until we got the theme!

The clues were a mixture of straightforward and tricky with the seven thematically affected answers generally being tricky. 9ac Hardly long-lived, half-blinded king at Hastings losing life ultimately? (10) was probably the most fun, leading to ONE-YEAR-OLD (ONE-EYE + (H)AROLD – (lif)E).

With most of the top-left and bottom-right complete, it looked as though 21 3 was FLUTTER BYES. Moreover, 1dn looked like COMMA which was a butterfly, so I was on the right track. Mind you, its clue looked odd, Stupor broken by am coffee (5) until you realised than “‘m” was a variant of “am” and we had M in COMA leading to… well, not a type of coffee that was certain. MOCHA, however, was and we seemed to be dealing with Spoonerisms. (If I’d looked at the title again, I’d have been certain.)

Eventually, all came good with the thematic clues which were either spoonerisms of the entry or had a spoonerism in the definition:

19ac Principal pitting gym associate against Rick (7)
34ac Wondering band identifies one task re working on hard tune (10)
Underwing band identifies one → HAIRSTREAK
1dn Stupor broken by am coffee (5)
8dn One’s marked with spite what’s scuppered Real Madrid (10, two words)
One’s marked with white spots → RED ADMIRAL
11dn Done guarding war fortress with gun, always circling (10)
One guarding door → GATEKEEPER
22dn One resembling Buffalo Soldier in Alabama is tense leaving Confederacy (4)
25dn Collapsed during cycling, fine going around lake (5)

The one that caused me most grief (don’t laugh!) was GNU JOE — I’m so use to pronouncing it à la Flanders and Swann, “I’m a g-nu”, especially since it’s not a word that crops up often in casual conversation! My favourite was probably the “wondering band” that became “underwing band”.

And so the extra letters in the wordplay of most clues told us who needed highlighting: Do hide on this day in nineteen thirty needing to be thematically adjusted to ask Who died on this day in thirteen ninety?. Well, not quite!

W(illiam) A(rchibald) SPOONER (1844–1930) was there in column 9. I wondered whether the REV at the beginning of 24ac was also originally meant to be highlighted. He was, of course, a fellow at New College, Oxford.

Thanks for some good entertainment, Brock.

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Listener No 4621, True: A Setter’s Blog by Piccadilly

Posted by Listen With Others on 13 September 2020

Having had the basic idea for TRUE, I tinkered with the wording so that the solution would be a rectangle. I put bars into the grid and decided on some of the number/letter equivalents so that I could do a few clues to give the solver a gentle way in. That was the easy bit.

Next I assigned the rest of the letter/number values randomly and set about the rest of the clues. Finally (the tedious bit) I checked that the puzzle was unambiguously solvable.

Why do I set numerical puzzles? Firstly I don’t hate setting them, only solving them; secondly it’s nice getting paid for them.

I submitted TRUE on 18/04/20 and it was accepted for publication on 5/07/20 – could that be a record?

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