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Archive for Feb, 2021

Symbols by Aedites

Posted by shirleycurran on 19 Feb 2021

Our first dismayed reaction is “Oh dear, a carte blanche!” Of course, the reason for that becomes clear later on, as had Aedites given clue numbers as well as the extra word-lengths, he would have told solvers where the symbols were to be entered – so he resorted, instead, to putting the clues in alphabetical order of their solutions, which was a great help to solving, especially as so many began with A, E, I, M, P and S. I was busy drawing up a grid and colour-coding clue and space word-lengths (and, of course hunting for alcohol in the clues) while the other Numpty solved almost in clue order.

The oenophile elite? There wasn’t much evidence of Aedites’ membership. We remember that his last Listener crossword was Chat, where he was at ten to three, drinking CHA with honey for T in the old vicarage ar Granchester. I almost feared he was relegated to tea-drinking again until we found PREMIER, ‘Principal space assumed by nosey parker (7)’ We put EM into PRIER and decided that this had to be the premier cru, so he just squeezes into the elite. Cheers, Aedites!

A solving challenge: here’s our worksheet.

Aedites’ clues were generous and we solved steadily with soon  just ten more clues to cold-solve, but we were mystified about how to fit those long words, that had no evident place, into our grid. VAPORISABLE, ACCESSIBLE, ARTISTRIES, RADIOGRAPHY – and there were no obvious part-words to combine with intersecting words to give us ‘symbols’ where they clashed.

Luckily, I decided to enter two of the 9-letter solutions (STEEPENED and PORTIERES – hopefully ‘porting’ those premiers crus) into the two 9-letter slots, and even more luckily, entered them in the right order so that we could see where we had to enter the 8-letter SANNYASI and VAN, suggesting that RADIOGRAPHY, ASHED and LEARNED would slot into that corner and giving us the jumbled clash letters of VIRGO.

ARABIA had to clash with the L of LEARNED, so LIBRA appeared and brought us a zodiacal flash of inspiration and a penny-dropped with a clang.

Now we could symmetrically place ten more signs of the zodiac. However, the work was not over. We had to work out, for  example, how VAPORISABLE could clash with ENCIRCLE to produce CAPRICORN, and STYLE could clash with POAS to give us LEO, and we still had our final clues to solve. Some of those emerged naturally as we filled the grid: NASCENCY, LABORERS, NERISSA, TAIRAS, but we struggled to understand CAUSALLY (‘Net traditionally trimmed with woolly grip as an inducement’ CAU[l] + SALLY). It didn’t help that we had assumed the word would be CASUALLY – which worked just as well in giving us the needed ASUA of AQUARIUS, the water-carrier.

ARENA placed itself naturally in the centre of the grid and we were happy enough to see that an E, the abbreviation for Earth, was where it should be, to show our own location and now Chambers obligingly, under Zodiac, gave us twelve tiny symbols that replaced the words we had squeezed into the cells.

A stunning compilation, Aedites. A lot of work must have gone into finding the words that would make this work and keeping the grid symmetrical!

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L4644: ‘Symbols’ by Aedites

Posted by Encota on 19 Feb 2021

“Sir, I’ve a circuitous question / poser re. a lion, scales, a crab rising, … . Is it para-magic or guru crap?” *

My thanks to Aedites for the toughest puzzle of 2021 so far!  Very enjoyable, especially trying to make sense of the endgame.  There will be some who guessed this way, way, way faster than me! It’s the first one in 2021 that took until Sunday to sort finally.

I had cold-solved all but five of the clues, I think it was, before I could make even a guess at what was going on.  With hindsight I can see that I had managed to slow myself down in two places:

  1. For the clue, “Go round castle with licence for development (8)”, where the answer was actually ENCIRCLE, I had bizarrely convinced myself that it parsed as R in GO + W(ith) + ABLE, somehow telling myself that GROWABLE meant ‘for development’.  This convinced me for ages that the answer for ENCORES had to begin with one of G or H;
  2. For the clue, “Pre-Union title to injure anybody in ancient Rome”, where I should have more quickly found MAR+QUIS, I could only think that ‘Pre-Union title’ referred to an ‘unmarried name’, so was trying to shoehorn a word beginning with MISS or similar in for far too long!  And so it took me into overtime to find the Q necessary for forming part of AQUARIUS! And I am still faintly wondering which ‘Pre-Union’ the BRB has in mind.

Once one of the ‘signs/houses’ were found, then it was fairly straightforward to complete the grid, especially with that 90 degree symmetry so kindly offered.  One area of doubt remaining was whether one was supposed to position oneself in one’s own star-sign (a nice idea but too hard to mark!) or view this all from E=Earth in the centre.  I opted for the latter.  The other was in the precise choice of symbol to be used.  With them now standardised as Unicode symbols on computers, it seemed reasonable to assume that these are now the ‘usual’ symbols.  What the solver should have used before now I am much less certain!  Though I think, given the minor variations, it would be hard to mark either sort wrong.

Cheers & stay safe,

Tim / Encota

*And if you have a better anagram for the 12 signs used: LIBRA, VIRGO, LEO, CANCER, GEMINI, TAURUS, ARIES, PISCES, AQUARIUS, CAPRICORN, SAGITTARIUS, SCORPIO – then I’d love to hear about it!

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Listener No 4643: Systematic by Dave

Posted by Dave Hennings on 12 Feb 2021

This week I could have sworn that we had a new setter, Dave (not me I hasten to add). However, checking at the Crossword Database and the Listener Crossword websites, I find that he (I guess) has had three previous Listeners but the last was way back in 2003, and the one before that was a mathematical.

This week’s preamble indicated that I was destined to be confused, probably quite often, during the solving process. Apart from twelve thematic clues which would need to be adjusted before entry, some would need a letter replacing, some a letter added and some a letter removed. Taken together, these rogue letters would spell out a title and its author. The fact that it seemed totally random as to which clue type each clue belonged struck me as strange and the likely cause of my confusion.

I sort of went off the rails straightaway with 1ac Genuinely following leads for foray’s combat (5) which looked like FECHT from ECHT after F(oray) with leads becoming lead. Except the Scottishness of the word wasn’t indicated — tsk, tsk. Of course, it turned out that it was foray becoming Moray!

To say that solving was slow would be a bit of an understatement, and my first pass through the clues had only a dozen slotted in. A likely contender for one of the twelve clues needing adjustment was 8dn Welders cannot transform toy (8, two words) which looked like it should be an anagram of welder’s cannot. I won’t deny cheating here, especially since the setter was going to pick and choose what type of clue each non-thematic clue used. Having doodled the letters for a few minutes, anagram solver (Tea) came to the rescue to give NEWTON’S CRADLE.

That gave 12ac Waited about sporting church garment (10, two words) ending in ODIC•, and LIBERTY BODICE looked possible — except for the parsing. However, could that be another anagram together with CE or CH? Here the doodling came good and WATTEAU BODICE (which I can’t say I’d heard of) was the answer, and WATT and NEWTON gave the game away.

I recently came across an old Independent Weekend crossword (No 329 Eponymous by Buff) where the theme was scientists who had given their name to scientific units, eg Celsius, Henry and Hertz. That seemed to be what was going on here. Well, almost. Here the unit had to be replaced by its abbreviation. My favourites were FANFARADES, CANDELABRAS and SCAMPERED becoming FANFES, CDBRAS and SCAD respectively. The wayward letters from the clues gave Measure for Measure, Shakespeare.

A nice theme. Thanks, Dave (not me I hasten to add).

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Systematic by Dave

Posted by shirleycurran on 12 Feb 2021

We haven’t solved a crossword by Dave before. Looking at Dave Hennings’ database, I see that he hasn’t set one for quite some time, so we really don’t know what to expect. The Numpties are bickering at once. He is convinced that we have to draw three pretty coloured strips alongside our clues and separately record those that add a letter, those that lose one and those that change one (and Oh my, is he grumbling about all three devices being permitted in a single crossword!) I, on the basis that these letters are going to spell out only a title and its author, am happy with my single line, so that I can set to at once, scanning the clues to see whether this ‘setter of yore’ qualified for the Oenophile Elite before I was even solving Listener crosswords.
I find a ‘crush’ in ‘Virgin admits love, offering short plant for a crush (10)’ and we later work out that that clue gives us a MOLE (shortened to MOL) in MOLENDINARY (MARY around O and LENDIN[g]) but I have to read to the very end of the clues before I find ‘Elder rani arranged unlimited beer (5)’ We drop an R and anagram ANI with the[b]EE[r], giving AINEE. And it isn’t just unlimited beer, ‘Cult’s liquor to be produced endlessly (4)’ By the time we solve that clue, we are short of an E on SHAKESPEARE, so we decide it has to be Celt’s liquor and we remove the last letter of BREED to give us BREE. With unlimited beer and Celt’s liquor produced endlessly (no doubt a quality malt) Dave clearly earns his ticket. Cheers!
And yes, ‘he who is always right’ wasn’t this time, and we haven’t solved for long before my single line of extra letters gives a fairly convincing SHAKESPEARE and enough letters alongside the across clues to suggest MEASURE FOR MEASURE. Now we understand why we couldn’t fit STINGRAY, IRRADIANT, SCAMPERED and EMOLUMENT into the available spaces. However, we still have to find several measures that we can reduce to their short forms.
We slowly tease out GRAY, WATT, VOLT, MOLE, FARAD, TONNE, CANDELA, NEWTON, LUMEN, AMPERE, RADIAN and SECOND, Actually, we initially opt for ARE in 1d with FANFARES becoming FANFAS but ARE isn’t an IS abbreviation and we can’t suss the wordplay of ‘Always making piano loud, piper with horns shows off musical flourishes (6)’. Of course, two Ps have to become F so we have Pan Parades becoming FANFARADES and surprisingly, there is the word in Chambers, defined as ‘musical flourishes’. I’m not surprised that it has taken Dave eighteen years to find all those words that could slyly incorporate a measure. Engineering this grid must have been quite a challenge. Thank you, Dave.

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Listener No 4642, Music Box: A Setter’s Blog by tnap

Posted by Listen With Others on 7 Feb 2021

I guess the normal setter’s blog would go about explaining how the theme emerged and how the setter cunningly compiled the elements of the theme into the grid and clues. Unfortunately, this blog is more of an apology.

I produced Music Box nearly 3 years ago in a burst of creative energy that included my previous Listener submission as well (Triumvirate; No 4599). But such is the pipeline of Listeners these days that it has taken this long firstly to get submitted and then to get published. As a result, I have virtually no memory of ever producing it (hopefully the result of a busy life rather than dementia), and my notes (no pun intended) from the time have long gone. Of course I should have thought about the Listen With Others setter’s blog back then, but I prevaricated and never got round to writing anything.

It was actually quite a shock to receive Roger’s e-mail last Saturday (yes, I got one week’s notice of publication), and it took me nearly 2 hours to re-solve my own crossword to check the proof! And that was with knowing the theme and hence the discarded letters. So I’m guessing that Music Box is going to be on the hard side even by Listener standards. So good luck to all those who embark on that journey.

The vetters enquired about the provenance of the tune that I used. There are a great many musical versions and variations of the ‘Ring-a-ring o’ Roses’ tune. Again, my memory is cloudy, but I do recall using Wikipedia. Looking at it now, I can see that there is a version called ‘Marlborough’ which looks like the basis for my version. However, for the purposes of the crossword, it clearly needed to be transposed to C (no sharps or flats); have syncopation removed; and have additional notes added so that it scanned with the usual lyrics (eg as in Brewer’s). I must also have modified the final cadence slightly to make it more familiar (to me at least). Whilst there is therefore no authoritative source for my version of the tune, I hope that wouldn’t have been too much of an issue: the nursery rhyme is so well-known, and the letters C, B, A and G are exclusively used for the ‘pegs’.

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