Listen With Others

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Listeners 4677-4685 Round up

Posted by gillwinchcombe on 2 Jan 2022

Life has been hectic and I have fallen behind in my posting, which is a pity, because we’ve had some cracking puzzles recently. So this is an attempt to catch up now that most of the Christmas festivities are behind me.

Listener 4677 Variety Show by Enigmatist

I’ll start with Enigmatist’s brilliant Variety Show. I wrote to John Henderson “Fearsome indeed! I am exhausted” when I finally posted my depiction of the Spice Girls album after limping across the finishing line of this exceedingly challenging puzzle. It didn’t help that I’d spent most of the week walking Hadrian’s Wall, which was a walk in the park compared with scaling the heights of Variety Show and its near-intractable preamble. It was all the more surprising to see the subject matter emerge, though personally I welcomed a focus on modern female icons as a change from dead / mythological males (others may disagree of course). One thing I am sure of – Variety Show won’t be forgotten in a hurry!

Listener 4678 Bleak Expectations by Mira

Nor will Bleak Expectations which I think must qualify as the most evocative endgame of the year in its pictorial representation of the Goldfinger laser scene.

Mira (a new setter, Robert Whale) deliberately and very successfully led me up several garden paths, with the Dickens characters, the Steed/Avengers reference and even a nod to House MD which appears to draw on the iconic quote that was used in the hidden message. Brutus gets a mention too, so plenty of red herrings to distract. My favourite clue was 23ac EUPHROE (Skipping introductions, twist rope thru shaman’s block) because the transition from shaman to seaman was far from obvious – clever spot! And Bleak Expectations was great fun, and such a relief after Enigmatist’s fearsome Variety Show. Thanks Robert, it was well worth waiting for, and it may be your first solo effort but I hope it won’t be your last.

Listener Crossword 4679   Basic Fact by Opsimath

For those of us still suffering from PTSD after Enigmatist’s Variety Show and Mira’s spine-chilling depiction of the Bond laser scene, Basic Fact was a soothing balm. I’m only sorry that it was over so quickly; my chemistry training came in useful for once and I spotted the endgame after about 5 minutes, confirmed by the title. My favourite clue was 11dn, UNDERWATER (One in the provinces went missing from Keswick lake, submerged) – what a neat spot, playing on DER(WENT)WATER, elegantly rounded off by the wordplay for UN. Thanks Robert for a relaxing and enjoyable few hours, and I hope it encourages new solvers near and far to give it a go.

Listener Crossword 4680   Manhunt by Shark

Every now and again a truly innovative crossword bursts onto the scene, and for me, Manhunt is one such puzzle. Not even in the GCHQ Quiz Book have I seen the Wheatstone 2-needle telegraph code used – at least, not yet. Every step of solving this thematically rich puzzle was a sheer pleasure. Not only that, I learned about the pursuit and capture of Tawell – what a fascinating story. OK, it was a shame to disturb SALT HILL but I still think this puzzle deserves to be a strong contender for puzzle of the year. Thanks Shark, I love your original puzzles.

Listener Crossword 4681   1 41 6:10 by Colleague

I hope I wasn’t the only one scouring the OT for a 2-part book of at least 41 chapters! Fortunately, TIMOTHY leapt out at me once I reached 41ac. Four things appealed to me about 1 41 6:10

  1. The Biblical theme – it was a nice contrast to the Spice Girls and last week’s murderous exploits in Salt Hill. I really liked the way you illustrated “the root of all evil” though it would have been easy to miss the evils themselves which would have been a real shame. (And yes, technically it’s the love of money that’s to blame but hey ho.)
  2. The foreign currencies – these took me back to my coin collecting days
  3. The clues were mostly relatively easy, but there were some gems, like 28dn’s transition from DOLLYBIRD to $BIRD. Thanks for dotting the church references around to help.
  4. I loved the quirky entries like THEED and LULIBUBS.

I’m so glad you managed to find the currencies and the evils and make it all come together in this lovely puzzle.

Listener Crossword 4682   Round Table Man by Banjaluka

A dazzling debut from Alastair and Ron (‘Eck)! Thank you both for this theme-packed depiction of Larkin’s Arundel Tomb. Each one of its multilayers provided challenge and entertainment, with enough red herrings to keep even experienced solvers on their toes. I think you might be permitted a smile at the time that I (and I’m sure others) spent googling your delightfully represented “endless altered people” Lester, Laetitia, Fannie and Siegmund. Or hunting for a writer with a surname of 2,4 (or 4,2 or 3,3) letters. Not to mention chasing the wild geese in 5a (CAUGHT UP instead of BOUGHT UP) and 5d (WEND instead of BEND).

My favourite clues were 31a, which reads well both with and without the extra letter; 34a for v/indication; 36a for the Morse connection – very clever, and 38a for peri(s)cope – that was inspired!

Thanks for explaining where Banjaluka comes from. I’m sorry you never got to form the band but I hope you’ll continue to compose puzzles together.

Listener Crossword 4683   Diversions by Dysart

Diversions was a great workout thanks! Every stage was good fun, and the early ones were particularly challenging, from solving the clues, especially the jumbled down clues; anagramming LOWSATR to create not OWL RATS (I’m thinking some weird variation of a Chinese calendar at this point) but LAST ROW; anagramming the last row to find MOUNT OLYMPUS (not deducible from my anagram aids); identifying the letters to change to reveal the Olympians, and finally spotting the godly hints in the clues.

It was when I realised just how many godly identifiers Dysart had managed to include that my admiration for Diversions increased even further. I had no fewer than 3 favourite clues: 16ac ATLATL for its clever use of AT LAST; 8dn BEAU simply because of the ridiculously long time it took me to find the obvious answer, and 23dn for its smooth surface reading. I love the title too! From what I’ve seen of hisexcellent puzzles, the subject matter is erudite and interesting without being obscure. More please!

Listener Crossword 4684   Excess

Plenty here to allow Peter entry to Shirley’s oenophiles club! It’s good to see him back on the setters’ stage. Lovely clues – more challenging than some of his previous puzzles and all the better for it. Iac set a high standard, with a non-lavatorial definition of CAN and a new (to me) meaning for COG, and the rest followed. Hunting and correcting the misprinted definitions was fun, and I enjoyed discovering some new tipples – PURL, SANGAREE and MAHWA. I was just sorry it finished when it did – I would have loved another step. But the rubric made me smile, which is a rare and welcome achievement in a preamble. Many thanks Peter.

Listener Crossword 4685   To Good Friends by Little Hare

Little Hare’s bricolage provided a week-long gridfill challenge where our patient persistence was rewarded at every stage with a pdm or a smile. Then came the pleasure of the final reconstruction and the amusement of finding “dem dry bones”. A delightful puzzle thanks which hit the sweet spot between trivial and tortuous.

Adding to the enjoyment was discovering the bard’s epitaph and the critique of it by Alfred Corn who manages to eke out these 4 lines into a long but readable essay – something we were encouraged to do at school, and at which I failed miserably.

The clues were all delightful but 28ac (Slightly tipsily on vacation, Hyacinth lazily pens notes on game) stood out for its concealment of the Swedish town, and 5dn (You ran without the local for us in the country) for its trickiness in parsing – I wasn’t expecting to move the Y. Finding the quatrain line helped to solve the later down clues, and QAT was invaluable in teasing out the jumbled across answers. Although we live under 30 miles from Stratford, I’ve never looked closely at Shakespeare’s tomb; I shall remedy this on my next visit.

I’ll post comments on 4686 and 4687 tomorrow. My new year’s resolution is to try to keep up each week from now on. Thank you for reading.

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