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Archive for Jan, 2021

Listener No 4641, Continental Drift: A Setter‘s Blog by Opsimath

Posted by Listen With Others on 31 Jan 2021

My interest in the Lewis & Clark Expedition goes back about 6 years (before I even thought of setting a puzzle) to when my American neighbours went away for a month and I would pop into their house for a check now and then. I picked a book at random from their shelves, and was instantly hooked.

Bernard de Voto’s edition of “the Journals”, I still find un-put-downable. Bear in mind that the “Captains” wrote these diaries every evening at their latest campsite — and encouraged a number of Sergeants and men to keep their own journals too, on the assumption that they were all likely to die, yet at least some written records might survive. Turn a page and you read how they find a mangled pile of buffalo carcasses that have been stampeded over a cliff by the Indians who send a fit young man in skin and buffalo horns to lure them. A few pages later we read of the first encounter of Europeans with a grizzly bear. The men’s curiosity about this animal “was soon satisfied”, and they sincerely hoped not to meet one again.

They set off up the Missouri river in 1805 and were not heard of again for two years, by which time the President and the public had given them up for lost. In fact, due to their extraordinary discipline and co-operation – amongst themselves, but also with the Native Tribes they encountered and lived with — they all survived (apart from Sgt Floyd who died early on of appendicitis).

Indeed, more of them came back than set out, since the famous Sacagawea (native Shoshone, taken from her tribe by the more aggressive Hidatsa and sold to the trapper / guide Charboneau, gave birth to a little boy who was already a toddler when they returned to “civilisation”. [Clark later adopted him – as soon as he was “old enough to leave his mother”, and gave him an education. Later, as a speaker of native languages as well as French, English, and German, Jean Baptiste became a guide and companion to the Emperor of Austria.]

I have huge admiration for the two Captains. Meriwether Lewis was personally selected by Thomas Jefferson, and trained for the project in many disciplines. Lewis then chose Lt Clark — an expert navigator and cartographer – and requested he be granted equal rank. Not surprisingly, the U.S. Army decided this was inappropriate for a military expedition. Lewis never revealed to the men of the “Corps of Discovery”, that his colleague “Captain” Clark was in fact his subordinate in rank.

This spirit of democracy went further: when the group held a meeting to decide how to manage the approaching winter beyond the Rockies, a vote was held. The opinions of 17-year old native Sacagawea and Clark’s black servant York were given equal weight in the ballot.

Of the setting process I remember little beyond the desire to share this interest with some Brits who may know less of this story than our friends over the Atlantic possibly do.

Many of my clues were tweaked, improved or completely changed by the editors, to whom many thanks of course. Thanks also to John Nicholson (Wan) who cast an eye over the puzzle early on and quickly spotted that the position of two Rs at the head of the mountain range made for an ambiguity, dammit.

As I write this, in late 2020, there is so much dreadful news swirling around that I find it difficult to focus, despite avoiding as much exposure to “the news” as I can. When the editors sent me their proof, I found I was unable to solve my own puzzle, and had to rely on You-Know-Who for proof-reading. I suspect that any mention of festive drinks has disappeared from the clues, and the puzzle may not even have my trademark mention of Turkey, my adopted home. Fingers crossed it may still be a pangram, but I’m not even sure of that!

I thought to look at what happened with the Corps of Discovery on any anniversary of the publication date of my puzzle: January 9th. So here goes…

9th of January 1805

…Several Indians call at the fort nearly frosed,

10th of January 1805

…last night was excessively Cold the Murckery this morning Stood at 40° below 0 which is 72° below the freesing point, we had one man out last night, who returned about 8 oClock this morning. The Indians of the lower Village turned out to hunt for a man & a boy who had not returned from the hunt of yesterday, and borrow’d a Slay to bring them in expecting to find them frosed to death about 10 oClock the boy about 13 years of age Came to the fort with his feet frosed and had layed out last night without fire with only a Buffalo Robe to Cover him, ….

… we had his feet put in cold water and they are Comeing too. Soon after the arrival of the Boy, a Man Came in who had also Stayed out without fire, and verry thinly Clothed, this man was not the least injured. Customs & the habits of those people has anured [them] to bare more Cold than I thought it possible for man to endure.

[A year later the Corps have crossed the Rockies and settled for the winter on the Pacific shore. Capt. Lewis discovers from the native “Clatsops Chinnooks and others” that white traders have in the past visited by ship to trade with them and hunt for beaver, elk etc. ]

Friday January 9th 1806

The persons who usually visit the entrance to this river for the purpose of traffic or hunting I believe are either English or Americans; the Indians inform us that they speak the same language with ourselves, and give us proof of their varacity by repeating many words of English, as musquit, powder, shot, nife, file, damned rascal, sun of a bitch &c.…

I’ll sign off from this setter’s blog now, at the very start of a New Year, hoping that by the time this is published we will have said goodbye to the worst of Anno Domini MMXX: Trump, Brexit, Aegean earthquakes — oh, and yes, that freaking Virus.

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Continental Drift by Opsimath

Posted by shirleycurran on 29 Jan 2021

Just three and a half lines of preamble. We like that. Of course, we also like finding that yet another setter has needed alcohol to complete his grid. We have sat with Opsimath in his hometown raising glasses of his local Efes so have high expectations, and, sure enough, we soon find that ‘[G]roat may buy this drink under the table (viz sit low) (9)’ Surely it’s a Croat buying this stuff – so we have our first corrected misprint.

That’s a fairly generous anagram for the strong stuff (SLIVOWITZ) and we need a further clue to water it down, ‘Aerated wa[f]er provided by US prosecutor (4)’. We change the wafer to water and add SO to DA to give us our SODA. Time to raise our glasses again. “Cheers, Opsimath!”

We know that Opsimath likes his crosswords to be pan-alphabetic – to have every letter of the alphabet in them and together with that SLIVOWITZ, we find ZORIL, EXERT, JOKE and QANAT- he’s doing it again!

We solve steadily with no theme immediately apparent but a useful message slowly appearing in the corrected misprints. LEWIS AND CLARK …

Penny-drop moment. That is why we had this rather unusual 16 X 11 grid and the title Continental Drift. We need Wikipedia to confirm that ‘The United States purchased Louisiana from France in 1803. The huge part of the land west of the Mississippi River was completely unknown to Americans and needed to be examined first before it could be settled. President Jefferson decided to send an exploratory expedition west so he appointed his own private secretary, Meriwether Lewis as a Commander in charge of the expedition and finding appropriate guides for it. Lewis invited his former superior officer from the Army, William Clark, to be his Co-commander.’ Now that was a president behaving in a civilised, presidential manner!

We know what we are looking for now and find those three rivers, OHIO, MISSOURI and COLUMBIA and the ROCKIES exactly where they should be. The remainder of the corrected misprints tell us to HIGHLIGHT ONE MOUNTAIN RANGE AND THREE RIVERS so out comes the blue highlighter.

Those explorers  were the crew of the PATHFINDER, and we spend some time hunting for a letter we need to change in the grid to produce that, but then realize that we simply had to change that last letter of the vaulting POLE at 34d to a different sport, POLO, to find our CORPS OF DISCOVERY. Very nice, thanks, Opsimath – another puzzle that sends us to fascinating sources to brush up our knowledge.

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Listener No 4641: Continental Drift by Opsimath

Posted by Dave Hennings on 29 Jan 2021

The third Listener from Opsimath this week, his previous being a mixture of Greek and Latin letters in last year’s Polygram. Quite a big grid presented itself here, being 16×11. Misprints in the definition of all clues would give us a hint to the theme plus an instruction to follow to reveal the “scope of the endeavour”.

The title reminded me of Phi’s Listener from ten years ago with its tectonic plate theme, not to mention Shark’s from 2012 titled, erm… Continental Drift!

Clues were fairly straightforward, and it was nice to see a few H and G misprint corrections bunched up in the middle of the across clues. That almost certainly hinted at their being some shading required at the end. However, the other corrections were a bit sporadic and I needed most of the grid to be completed before everything was fully revealed.

My favourite clues were probably 10dn Vaulted vertices of church round every window (4) (Vaulted/Vaunted) for CREW and 19ac Groat may buy this drink under the table, viz sit low (9) giving SLIVOWITZ — if only alcohol were really that cheap (Groat/Croat)!

So the corrections spelt out Lewis and Clerk and Highlight one mountain range and three rivers. It didn’t take long to google the pair, highlight the ROCKIES and the OHIO, MISSOURI and COLUMBIA and finally change the bottom row to give CORPS OF DISCOVERY.

Thanks, Opsimath.

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Listener No 4640: Replacements by IOA

Posted by Dave Hennings on 22 Jan 2021

Most of IOA’s Listeners have been mathematical puzzles, although his first back in 2000, like this one, was a crossword. Here we had twelve answers requiring some sort of alteration before entry into the grid followed by a bit of highlighting.

The clues were normal so I expected solving to be fairly quick and the across clues were indeed generous. When I got to 40 Most of what 24 and 26 are, and one of the first in 28 (3), I thought it a bit unfair since I hadn’t got to 26 yet! [You didn’t need to. Ed. [I know that now.]] In fact, it turned out to be one of my favourite clues.

4dn soon revealed that 12ac CORONAL was probably one of the twelve needing to be altered, but bizarrely nothing seemed obvious. That was soon rectified once 5dn CARDI and 13dn CUES were slotted in, and LOCARNO seemed to be the answer. Off the top of my head I couldn’t think what had happened there.

The initial T of TROUT prevented me from seeing the straightforward HASTENS at 1dn Number behind has to speed up (6), after all, half the entry was given in the clue!

Quite a few clashes were making themselves known and they all seemed to be anagrams of cities or towns, but apart from sporting possibilities like Winter Olympics venues or football competitions, neither of which is my forte, nothing came to mind. Of course, when I belatedly got 1ac Note revealing image passing by (3) for RAY, anagramming to AYR, I assumed that the European nature of the places was the only linking feature.

As well as 40ac mentioned above, where one of the first in EDEN was EVE(n), my favourites were:

  • 32ac: Leader, primarily figure to the left (5) for LENIN [L(eader) + NINE<];
  • 7dn: First of players shows two aces and two kings? (5) for PAIRS [P(layers) + AIRS];
  • 19dn: Drunk in a cave, clutching litre bottle (8) for VALIANCE [(IN A CAVE)* around L]; and…
  • 34dn: Extra in A Man for All Seasons (4) for MORE [2 meanings].

Meanwhile, 22dn Silliest bird found here (7) INANEST made me muse on when ‘more/most’ is better than ‘-er/-est’!

As I finally highlighted the NW–SE diagonal AROUND EUROPE, I recalled the first puzzle of 2012, Dipper’s Fruitful Recipe when I forgot to highlight SOWE CARRETS in the main diagonal. I only realised that as I was writing my LWO blog!

No such mistake this time. Thanks, IOA.

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Replacements by IOA

Posted by shirleycurran on 22 Jan 2021

We were expecting a relatively gentle first Listener of the year so it was no surprise to see only two and a half lines of preamble – no ferocious Sabre or Elgin solve here. However, this is IOA’s seventh Listener crossword so he must be a member of the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Elite, but I scan the clues to check, all the same.

It’s New Year’s Day so I imagine he wasn’t the only one celebrating ‘The drink of over a million bubbles at 21 (7, two words)’. We’ve solved 21 (Kent and Sussex region with top team that’s found at Brighton and Hove (7)’) as SEASIDE so we opt for SEA FOAM here and not the New Year Champagne, however, IOA is soon ‘Drunk in a cave , clutching litre bottle (8)’ and we anagram IN A CAVE around L to produce VALIANCE. How very nice – that bottle turns out to be courage, but I think there are sufficient grounds to raise our glasses – Cheers, IOA!

Solutions come thick and fast  and our grid is speedily filling but we are surprised when almost every solution we enter produces clashes with the ones it intersects with (except for the northeast corner). Still, we were rather slow on the uptake and it is only when I write the confirmed letters into a clean grid that we realize that those twelve answers that need to be altered to fit in the grid are all being jumbled, so that PAIRS, that we have just entered, becomes PARIS.

Penny-drop moment. It is a lively tour AROUND EUROPE that perhaps produces a slightly nostalgic (for the idiocy of BREXIT DAY) crossword that takes on a tour of European cities. We find LOCARNO, VENICE, TRIESTE, HASTINGS, PARIS, VALENCIA, ATHENS, ROME, FARO, NIMES and NICE and need to do a bit of head-scratching for the twelfth with ‘Note revealing image passing by (3)’. Then we find that RAY is an English spelling of the RE note and all is well. AYR is our final city (That’s where the fishes swim to from Troon, when the tide is full and fair, isn’t it?).

Very enjoyable – just the thing for that hangover after the litre bottle. Thank you IOA.


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