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Archive for September, 2020

Listener No 4623: Tears by Oxymoron

Posted by Dave Hennings on 25 September 2020

Every now and then, before seeing the weekly Listener, I wonder who the setter might be. This week, I wondered if it might be Tiburon, Ferret or Shark. Imagine my surprise to see that it was none of those but instead Oxymoron. I wouldn’t have guessed that in a month of Sundays since that is the Sunday Enigmatic Variations pseudonym of our late departed Schadenfreude. I wondered if this was a present from the guys at EV where Oxymoron may have been scheduled to appear after the now-averted closure of that series.

Here we had a grid containing clashes in some cells that would give thematic items that would eventually need replacing. The replacement would be given by an extra word in some clues to non-clashing answers that had only one letter in common with their entry, a technique originated by this setter, I believe.

As usual, the clues were generally tricky but fair and the clashes were slowly eked out. Unlike some other puzzles, the clashes weren’t jumbles, but spelt out the thematic items in sequence of across/down or down/across letters. Thus, HEAVEN, STAR and GOSPEL were easily uncovered.

Unfortunately, none of those, nor SHINER, RANGER or RIVAL, gave me any inkling as to what the theme may be. With most of the grid complete, I decided some ODQing was required, and chose “gospel”. Luckily, there were only six entries, and the first gave “Four for the G. makers   Anon 19:7”. (In an older edition, it was under Songs, spirituals, and shanties.) This is The Dilly Song featuring “Green grow the rushes O.” So Tears = Rushes as in speeds along!

With that, I could finish everything off. However, I was a bit concerned about 33ac Hard growth on west-facing tree (6). The wordplay seemed to give CORN + RE<, but surely the tree was CORNEL. The entry for corner didn’t help, so a bit of reverse engineering was required to see that under tree was “to drive into a tree, to corner (also fig)”. So CORNER it was. (Mrs B would also have helped.)

All done and dusted, with the extra words revealing that the number was to replace the thematic entries. In reverse order, 12–1: APOSTLE, HEAVEN, COMMANDMENT, SHINER, RANGER, STAR, WALKER, SYMBOL, GOSPEL, RIVAL, BOY, ONE.

Farewell again, Oxymoron. Enjoyable as always.

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Tears by Oxymoron

Posted by shirleycurran on 25 September 2020

Imagine our surprise on finding a crossword by Oxymoron. We have already said our ‘Goodbye’ to Schadenfreude (his other setter pseudonym). Here we find ‘Tears’ – another sad goodbye? Is it disrespectful to wonder whether the first clue, ‘Strange letter about ancient ghost’, is a ‘beyond the grave’ comment? Ah, no. We invert RUM EL and find a LEMUR (and, of course, that rum, as well as the ‘angel’s share’ in clue 9 will provide the necessary alcohol to drink to Oxymoron’s health). We raise our glasses.

A mere five lines of preamble and we are left in no doubt about what we are going to do. Across and down clues are going to provide us with the two parts of words and we will replace those in our grid with something that will ‘replace the thematic item’. We guess already that this will be some kind of symbol, probably a number, and when RIVAL, WALKER, RANGER and SHINER appear from the combined elements of our solutions, a familiar song is evident; ‘Green grow the rushes, O’.

That LE from the LEMUR has to combine with the APOS from APOSTATIC to give us number 12, ‘Twelve for the twelve apostles’.

Still, we know that we will need to find GOSPEL-MAKER, COMMANDMENT and LILY-WHITE BOY and those are clearly going to provide a challenge for Oxymoron. Then we see that we can combine TELE-COMMAND with CLEMENT in the bottom right-hand corner. – one problem solved – we have one of the commandments.

‘Moral offences disturbed slaves in North Island (8, two words)’ anagrams to VENIAL SINS and this is clearly going to give us the VEN of the ‘Eleven who went to Heaven’, but we waste too long attempting to pair this with a word beginning with ELE, when what is needed is one beginning with HEA (for HEAVEN) and when ANGELUS and GOSPODARS pair up to give us GOSPEL (‘Four for the Gospel makers’) we realize that Oxymoron has been obliged to take a few short cuts, HEAUMES gives us the ‘old-fashioned headgear’.

So OSBORNE (the playwright in 34) pairs up with the Y of STILTY (hidden in ‘Limited amount of foreST IN TYrone) to give us simply ‘BOY’ for the ‘lily-white boy’ (clearly he’s lost his purity on that RUM and the heroin of clue 6, ‘Sixteen seen taking heroin (6)”). We have already found our SHINER in clue 16’s SHINiness, so this is clearly one clue referring to another (we always mutter about those) and gives us SHEEN.

We have our twelve and all that remains is to replace them with the appropriate numbers. Another Oxymoron gem with challenging but fair clues.


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L4623: ‘Tears’ by Oxymoron

Posted by Encota on 25 September 2020

A precisely constructed and clued puzzle from Oxymoron (aka the late Schadenfreude).

For me the toughest clue by far was 33a’s:

Hard growth on west-facing tree (5)

I think I first attempted it when it seemed more likely that the answer would have 5 letters, which threw me somewhat.

Then I realised it may well have more and found a tree CORNEL (or CORNELIAN), which looked promising. The CORN part for ‘Hard growth’ was easy. But was the rest of the wordplay going to be some sort of cut-down LEG (i.e. ‘on’ in cricket), reversed? LE’ Before Wicket, something like that? No sign of that in The Dictionary.

Eventually I ‘bothered’ to look up tree in the BRB and happened upon, for me at least, the following unexpected definition:

tree (vt): to drive into a tree, to corner (also figurative)

So CORNER was the answer, with simply RE< for ON, so providing the ‘NE in the grid of ONE (All Alone etc from the song Green Grow The Rushes O).

The prompt to use the ODQ version was vital as there appear to be so many versions of the song to choose from: I was looking for RAINER at 8 and ARRIVAL at 3 initially, for example!

Cheers all,

Tim / Encota

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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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