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Archive for November, 2020

L4632:’Heads and Tails’ by JFD

Posted by Encota on 27 November 2020

I found this one quite tough, if I am recalling it correctly. Eventually I had the well-disguised message from the eight extra words: COLOUR THREE CHARACTERS AND DROPPED CLOTH CONNECTING THEM. My knowledge of this particular Shakespeare play, OTHELLO, is non-existent, so I had to look up what was hiding in Act 2 Scene 1: THAT IN WISDOM NEVER WAS SO FRAIL, and finish it off with TO CHANGE THE COD’S HEAD FOR THE SALMON’S TAIL. A simple C <-> N swap everywhere in the grid allowed the completion of CASSIO, DESDEMONA and HANDKERCHIEF, whereas the villainous IAGO seems to remain unaffected. Was that part of the plot?


Tim / Encota

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Heads and Tails by JFD

Posted by shirleycurran on 27 November 2020

JFD’s relatively short preamble gave us three instructions and promised a fourth. We learned that most of the clues had a ‘letter wrong’ in the definition and that those ‘wrong’ letters were going to spell out a line from a work and the title of the work. We at once agreed to nudge each other as it is all too easy to accidentally record the corrected misprint, as is conventionally required in this situation. The next line was going to suggest changes we would have to make in our completed grid. The third instruction said we must complete the unclued bottom row of the grid and then perform an instruction that eight extra words in clues would give us.

Clearly we needed a drop of alcohol to stomach all of that so, of course, I read through the clues to see whether JFD retained the entry ticket he earned with his first Listener crossword about ‘Potatoes’ last year. He confirmed it fairly quickly. ‘Soak in visit turns Ian’s steaks rapidly (7)’ We turned RET in STAY and produced YATTERS.

More convincing for that soak was ‘One can be ordered to collect ancient liquid and measure around three pints (3)’ CAB, we learned, was the double definition for the taxi we can order, and that measure. (We noted the rather suspicious redundant ‘and’ there that was soon added to seven other words to produce COLOUR THREE CHARACTERS AND DROPPED CLOTH CONNECTING THEM).

I know the play really well having ‘taught’ it rather unwillingly on many occasions. I wonder why an examination board would select it when Macbeth is so much more exciting and understandabl for teenagers, and Hamlet is so far superior with its stunning use of language, for the older students.  Ah well – back to the alcohol – and there was more. We solved the next one without the wordplay, ‘Frenzied expression after many wives feud and toil endlessly (4)’ That crossword favourite [f]EU[d] [t]OI[l] had to be the Bacchic EUOI after many wines. More wine in the next clue ‘Volume going across ordinary wire (5)’ We put a PINT over O[rdinary] producing PINOT. Next came ‘Old call for help upending half of Arabian wine (7)’ We turned half of MAYDAY around after O getting OMAYYAD and decided that this spilt Wine was a Line – no wonder it was spilt with such a mixture of wine and beer, but ‘Cheers, anyway, JFD.

With some obvious and some subtly concealed ‘wrong’ letters, we had a quotation from Othello, “She that in wisdom never was so frail …” and Google provided the following line, “To change the cod’s head for the salmon’s tail.” So we knew that there was some shifting of C and N to do in our final grid. HANDKERCHIEF had already gone into the bottom row so we had to do a little back-solving to reason that we had already changed TORC to TORN and ACTIN to ANTIC. All that remained was to find the three characters. IAGO and DESDEMONA appeared at once but I wasted time hunting for poor EMILIA. Imagine being the wife of a villain like IAGO! Of course the only other C/N in the grid allowed MINAS to become MICAS and CASSIO appeared. Many thanks to JFD for a little literary relief after a stressful week watching ex-President Trump’s 35 downs.


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Listener No 4632: Heads and Tails by JFD

Posted by Dave Hennings on 27 November 2020

JFD’s first Listener was last year and had André Gide’s The Fruits of the Earth as its theme with every emotion becoming an intoxication. This week, we had eight clues with an extra word, the rest having a misprint in the definition with the wrong letters giving an extract from literature, and we were even told that it was “in the fourth of its 15 parts”. Almost certainly I would note down the correct letter in a few cases since that was the norm.

I was fairly slow in solving the across clues, although I was chuffed to get 13ac Minute coin in the Forum makes three sums in the Agora (5) (with extra word three) giving MINAS. A long pause before 23ac What sadly could be the end of ICI (4) gave THAW although I thought shouting ICE was a bit OTT! 29ac just below gave DEMO and revealed another extra word, characters.

A few more acrosses went in (not many), and the downs were almost as reluctant to be forthcoming. I suspect that was because there were some devious little misprints lurking. Fairly soon, 1ac Difficulty with changing colour of coreless pearl in artwork (12) beginning SE… went in as SELF-PORTRAIT — extra word colour, STRAIT about (OF + PE(a)RL)*. Things sped up a little then.

Those that know me (if only from these blogs) will not be surprised that my favourite clue was 6dn Internationals including English goalies? (6) with goalies being the misprint for goolies to give TESTES. I also liked 24dn We British stand for one in a winding sheet? More like a bog roll made of paper (7) — WE + B + BIER with bog becoming big. One of the trickier clues was 5dn Old call for help, upending half of Arabian wine (7) giving OMAYYAD — wine for line and O + MAYDAY with the second half inverted!

Eventually, we had the wrong letters (once a wrong correct letter was corrected) giving: She that in wisdom never was so frail. Othello. The fourth of its fifth parts now made sense since most Shakespearean plays have five Acts, each with three Scenes. This was needed since the extract is not in the ODQ. Scanning the relevant scene soon revealed the next line as “To change the cod’s head for the salmon’s tail”.

Thus three Cs in the grid had to change to Ns, one being in the bottom row to enable HANDKERCHIEF to be completed. Except that would need an N changing to a C, so that and another got swapped as well.

The extra words in the clues gave Colour three characters and dropped cloth connecting them. Well the handkerchief was obviously the dropped cloth, and a quick check of the grid revealed IAGO in row 4. So that was one character in the play, and having changed the Cs and Ns, there were CASSIO in row 3 and DESDEMONA in row 7. It appears that a handkerchief plays an important, but no doubt metaphoric, role in the relationship between the three.

Thanks, JFD.

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Listener No 4631, Seconds Out: A Setter’s Blog by Stick Insect

Posted by Listen With Others on 22 November 2020

Thanks to all those who’ve sent comments on this puzzle, which are much appreciated. A few wondered if it had been inspired by a famous NY Times puzzle where either Clinton or Bob Dole was entered depending on the 1996 election result. The answer is no, as I was shamefully ignorant of its existence. It’s a clever bit of construction so I’m glad to have been alerted to it. By a strange coincidence it was the inspiration for the previous week’s Listener. If you haven’t already seen it, Twin’s setter’s blog on this site provides a link: well worth a look. [This blog does as well now. Ed.]

This puzzle actually started from an idea in early 2016 when I thought a crossword based around the quotation “History is written by the victors” might work with the idea of losers being replaced by winners. US presidential elections seemed a good fit as it would be readily easy for solvers to check and looking at the list of losing candidates also provided a good number of real word surnames which could be clued without immediately making the theme obvious. Having got that far, I then actually bothered to check sourcing for the quotation and discovered, as with many “quotes”, that there’s no firm view on either wording or author and it doesn’t appear in the usual reliable sources. So it didn’t seem like it could be a fair theme to use and I shelved the idea.

I came across my notes for the above earlier this year while doing some sorting out – it was in the first couple of weeks of the first UK lockdown, so that may have been the impetus for the sorting. It was just about the point that Joe Biden had secured the nomination in practical terms, though not quite officially. The fact that the two main candidates would have the same number of letters immediately struck me as giving potential for either to be the final stage in a puzzle and I set to work to produce a grid using that as the centrepiece with the other winners I’d previously identified arranged around them. The symmetrical shape was serendipitous but strangely satisfying.

Of course, less than seven months from submission to publication is unusual for The Listener but I thought Biden’s relatively recently becoming the nominee gave me some excuse, so I sent it off requesting October 31 for publication and asking for the editors’ indulgence, which they were kind enough to give.

Naively, I hadn’t actually considered the possibility there might not be an agreed result in time for solvers to send entries, but as November got closer that clearly seemed to be a strong possibility. I mailed the editors, who had already considered that and come up with the “one’s best guess if necessary” addition to the preamble, which hopefully gave solvers enough flexibility, particularly those overseas with postal deadlines which meant submitting early.

Some have asked whether solvers “voted” more for Biden or Trump. I don’t have the numbers, so that will have to wait for the publication of the statistics next year However, based on the comments I’ve seen, Biden would have no trouble winning the Listener Solvers’ Electoral College.

As mentioned above, it’s great to get feedback on the puzzle and particularly helpful to know which clues worked well and which not so much, so thanks to all those who’ve done that. Overall, the favourite clue was to COX – a very nice &lit, for which the credit entirely belongs to Roger Phillips as it was one he rewrote. My thanks finally to both editors for their improvements and to John Green for his diligent analysis of entries and curation of feedback.

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L4631: ‘Seconds Out’ by Stick Insect

Posted by Encota on 20 November 2020

Fun! But am I tempting fate?

[update] Re-editing this 2 weeks later and I think I’ve got the middle row right. Maybe …

Cheers all,

Tim / Encota

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