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Archive for January, 2021

Listener No 4640: Replacements by IOA

Posted by Dave Hennings on 22 January 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 January 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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Listener No 4639, Hotfoot: A Setter’s Blog by Vismut

Posted by Listen With Others on 18 January 2021

So you’re sitting in front of the telly watching Mastermind or University Challenge or Only Connect and in respect of the latter not making any connections at all, just looking forward to the missing vowels round. One of the questions is about The Planets by Holst. My only knowledge of this came from my brother playing it very loudly on his record player in our teens, which’ll give you an idea of how long ago that was. What I hadn’t known about was the “nicknames” given to each planet, Jollity, Old Age etc and when this came up in the quiz show (whichever one it was) I immediately thought it would make a good puzzle.

Incidentally, since I started solving and writing thematic crosswords I’ve got a lot better at University Challenge. There seems to be a correlation between crosswords and TV quiz shows. Could it be that some of the compilers also write quiz questions for the box?

I digress. Having seen that two of the planets were War and Peace, Tolstoy came to mind and thus an end game is found. Mars=War, Venus=Peace and H(=T)olst(oy).

So roughly a year after Hotfoot was submitted, I am delighted to see it in print. I hope you enjoyed it and your Christmas and after a year during which I got struck by lightning and we’ve all struggled through a pandemic I look forward to 2021 and sincerely wish you a Happy New Year.

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Hotfoot by Vismut

Posted by shirleycurran on 15 January 2021

The last Listener crossword of the year and what a pleasure to see that it is by a lady setter. We already saw Vismut at the start of the year and have also solved one of Skylark’s compilations, but ladies still produced less than 8% of the year’s Listener output. One has to wonder why there is this massive imbalance.

However, Vismut speedily qualifies for the Listener Setters’ Elite Oenophile Set with, ‘Wicked enough to get drunk [messenger] to mislay second letter (6)’. It is Christmas day so she has an excuse, maybe, and we remove the second letter of SKINFUL to produce SINFUL. She declares an alcohol preference with, ‘Spirits essentially short, unless mixed (7)’. We mix UNLESS with the heart of ‘shOrt’ and get ENSOULS. With that skinful of spirits, short or mixed, “Cheers! Vismut.

‘Hotfoot’. It’s an intriguing title (we wonder – are we going to meet Brer Rabbit or ‘The boy stood on the burning deck’?)  We are told that there are seven extra words in clues and that a word’s ‘position in the clue indexes a letter from the answer. These words and letters identify most of a work …’ That is Vismut’s special device that we have already met in her puzzles – a pleasant change from misprints and extra letters in wordplay.

We also have to find the ‘rest of’ that work in the grid and change it to identify a second work.

Ah but then we read that down clues will contain ten misprints of one letter in the definition (misprints after all, but only ten!) and that corrections will ‘spell out a hint to what else solvers must change in the grid, to reveal the second work’s creator’.

It is ‘jollity’ that gives us our penny-drop-moment. The other Numpty with his encyclopaedic knowledge of trivial detail says, “Jollity, Winged Messenger, Magician, Mystic? Those are Holst’s Nicknames for the characters in his Planets Suite.” and Wiki produces the list for us. So we spotted ‘Old’ and ‘Age’ in two more clues, even in the order they appear in the list, though War and Peace were not there.

  • Mars, the Bringer of War (1914)
  • Venus, the Bringer of Peace (1914)
  • Mercury, the Winged Messenger (1916)
  • Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity (1914)
  • Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age (1915)
  • Uranus, the Magician (1915)
  • Neptune, the Mystic (1915)

Of course, we understood when ‘Copper’s village emptied before star shown around (5)’ gave us V(illag)E + SUN< which spelled VENUS “That’s a reference to copper in alchemy,” proclaimed the erudite Numpty. We had to find MARS and there was the Bringer of War hiding at the left of the grid. We saw HOLST there too, down the leading diagonal – naturally!

The corrected misprints spelled out TITLE ODDLY, and we wondered, for a while what we were going to do with the PLANETS SUITE but then realized that the odd letters of the crossword title HoTfOoT spell out H to T. What a delightful endgame. We change the H of HOLST to T and TOLSTOY obligingly appears so we need to change MARS and VENUS to WAR and PEACE. Most satisfactory, thank you Vismut!

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Listener No 4638: Head-start Clues by Elgin

Posted by Dave Hennings on 8 January 2021

It really doesn’t seem nearly three years since Elgin’s last Listener. That was the fabulous puzzle about the Ealing Comedy film The Ladykillers with the railway signal dropping down on Alec Guiness’s head. Whatever this week’s theme, I knew we’d be in for a treat. Not only that, it would probably be tough. My spy tells me that all of Elgin’s puzzles over at Magpie have been grade D… apart from one which was an E!

No great clueing mischief this week, just six cells with clashes, a couple of ‘head-start clues’ which helped some hunters, and a handful of unclued entries.

Tackling the acrosses proved less than fruitful with only a [insert quite a low number here] solved on first pass through. Luckily the downs were more forthcoming and fleshed out the top of the grid more than I was expecting. Unfortunately, I hadn’t come across any clashes. That was hardly surprising, given that I only had six non-clashes.

Gradually, the top of the grid was nearly done and 1 6 looked like it would be FISHER KING. I knew that he had Arthurian connections but I decided that it was too early to start consulting any reference material like Wiki or Brewer’s or the two books I have.

As suspected, the clues were tough, with one or two being really quite devious. My favourites included 15ac Settles comfortably and starts to eat naughty cakes containing a drop of cream (9) for ENSCONCES [E(ats) N(aughty) + SCONES around C(ream)]. This struck a nerve since these lockdowns seem to have got me eating and drinking too much! 5ac She flies in part where earth and fire erupt (3) was an unusual double-hidden — (whe)RE E(arth) and (fi)RE E(rupt).

Before the grid was finished, I had identified GAWAIN, LANCELOT and PERCEVAL as three of the knights. Luckily BORS was revealed by all the crossing entries as I’d not heard of him. Unluckily, I made a right pig’s ear of 14dn by entering him as PERC-I-VAL which made 30ac impossible as I..I.! I also had a brain freeze with 16dn Second out of three sets upset some players (8) which seemed to be (THREE SETS – S)* but was in fact (SET + SET + SET – S)*.

Eventually though, the grid was complete and on to the endgame. What a treat that was.

Starting from the p in row 1, there for all to see was SIR GALAHAD jumping in knight’s moves (ie thematically) with the fifth and eighth letters filling out the isolated squares. Perceval was featured in the writing of Chrétien de Troyes with his name being spelt out by the letters a to p in the grid. The head-start clues led to BLOOD and GRAIL being cryptic references to de Troyes book on Perceval where “a loathly lady enters the court and admonishes Perceval for failing to ask his host whom the grail served and why the lance bled, as the appropriate question would have healed the wounded king.” At least I think it was just a cryptic reference. These were especially sneaky since they were 5-letter answers for 6-letter entries.

So these entries were BR…E and .L..ES and had to be filled with the unused letters from the clashes to give two items negotiated by a more modern hunter. Well those letters were ENOAIS and no amount of squeezing would fit those letters in the grid. One solver has coined GWIT for Guess What I’m Thinking. For me, this was WTF (pardon my language)!

The only more modern hunter I could think of was Indiana Jones, one of whose films was The Last Crusade. A bit of research on that film revealed three obstacles he overcame, including a BRIDGE and BLADES. Well they fitted, but where did the IRGLAS come from?

Don’t ask me when I came across the solution. I think it was after rereading the preamble for the umpteenth time and seeing if there was another “lettered top-row cell”. Indeed, starting from letter f in the top row, we had INDIANA JONES, again going in knight’s moves but this time right to left, through the isolated squares up to the p square in the top.

A bit of GRAIL highlighting finished this phenomenal puzzle. Very many thanks, Elgin.

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