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Listener 4753 19 Down by Hedge-Sparrow

Posted by gillwinchcombe on 27 Mar 2023

How delightful – a Listener whose theme is a double-action pedal harp. Ten out of 10 for originality! Thanks too to Hedge-sparrow for reminding us that there is more to Ravel than Boléro. I’ve now enjoyed listening to his (Ravel’s not Rob’s) Introduction and Allegro for Harp, Flute, Clarinet and String Quartet.

Like the Introduction and Allegro, 19 Down started gently enough, then got a bit more feisty as we grappled with the double act clues. I thought they melded together pretty smoothly on the whole, especially 1,38 down “Drunk, carelessly relaxed politician exits exotic Asian chariot, one led by horse” giving SLUED and ARABA. I enjoy learning new words, and SLUED was definitely new to me. ARABA rang a bell, though I’d long forgotten what it was.

Overall 19 Down gave me an enjoyable workout and an endgame which didn’t require too much teasing out, though I did have to look at some pictures of double-action pedal harps to make sure I had the strings going in the right direction.

I also observed that Hedge-sparrow’s harp points the same way as the Guinness harp, rather than the harp used as the emblem for Ireland (I understand from a tour of the brewery in Dublin a few years ago that this was a deliberated decision by Guinness). The Guinness harp’s strings seem to be at a very peculiar angle though! Mine are vertical, which I’m glad to see is in harmony with those of Shirley and Vagans.


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Listener 4753: 19 Down by Hedgesparrow

Posted by vaganslistener on 24 Mar 2023

THEe first puzzle I blogged on was 4701 so it seems I am now starting my second year. Poor readers. Do let me know when it is time to retire (again)…

It’s certainly not Hedgesparrow’s time to retire as this was a pitch-perfect puzzle for the Dinner weekend: an interesting theme, nice graphics, and not too hard to do during the hangover.

I couldn’t resist trying to find the extra words before tackling the clues themselves, and the double entry from them in fact meant that that wasn’t too difficult, so I had the messages and theme and a good idea of what the graphic would be before I tackled the grid proper.

At that point 11d was a (no doubt intentional) life-saver: an easy and unambiguous clue that could be inked in straight away. Building on that, and watching out for where the expected words of the graphic were forming, meant that the rest of the fill was quite quick as well, and the way the strings were handled was very neat. Fitting in so much thematic material led to a few less usual word choices (MAHE, ARIF – once I realised it wasn’t RAFI, also an Arabic name, ESRC and the wonderful SOSNOWIEC for instance) but it was worth it. The clueing was all fair and above board with the double action nicely lined up. I’m glad I don’t have to go on tour on with a monster, and try to avoid wearing lavender accessories with my CLERICALS, but both brought a smile.

Come again soon, Hedgesparrow!

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19 Down by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by shirleycurran on 24 Mar 2023

It is the eve of the Listener Setters’ annual dinner when we download this and, as we like to solve on Friday evening, we are starting just before midnight after one of the lively pre-dinner events (after meeting in the Bar of the Bristol Mercure Grand hotel, the early birds wandered down to the Stable for more food and alcohol) Ah yes, birds – that is often a Hedge-sparrow theme – but does he maintain his place in the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Elite? I scan the clues: some lovely surface readings here and the alcohol flows!

‘Chief ingredient: vile, frightful inferior gin I put in roulade (4)’. We have to find two solutions divided by an extra word whose first and last letters will spell out ‘a thematic work and most of its participants’. We opt for BASE as the ‘chief ingedient’ and RUIN as that inferior gin, with ‘frightful’ giving us an FR. Hmmm! Not impressed by the inferior gin, Hedge-sparrow. Nor is he as we now find ‘Drunk, carelessly relaxed politician exits exotic Asian chariot, one led by horse (5)’ We take MP out of ‘slumped’ and get SLUED together with ARABA and get extra letters EC from ‘exotic’. Oh dear, now we read ‘Warrant regrettably served on earl, noble drunk reduced to confusion protecting aged brood (7)’ ‘served’ and the E of ‘earl’ anagram to DESERVE and we are left with PIE-EYED and the NE of ‘noble’ adding to our message.

‘Drunk’ on ‘inferior gin’, ‘slued’ and ‘pie-eyed’ and he hasn’t finished! Now it’s ‘rotgut’ that we extract from ‘Cry about slice of birthday cake that’s soaked in liquor – rotgut – cut into cubes (except the top) and frosted (4)’ That has to be BABA and (d)ICED with the ‘rotgut’ giving us RT. It is a rather muted ‘Cheers, Hedge-sparrow – on all that frightful alcohol!

However, we have a message: INTRODUCTION AND ALLEGRO, FLUTE, CLARINET, STRING QUARTET and Wiki tells us that is a work by RAVEL (So often we learn something from the Listener crosswords we solve!)

‘Introduction and Allegro for Harp, Flute, Clarinet and String Quartet (French: Introduction et allegro pour harpe, flûte, clarinette et quatuor) is a chamber work by Maurice Ravel. It is a short piece, typically lasting between ten and eleven minutes in performance. It was commissioned in 1905 by the Érard harp manufacturers to showcase their instruments, and has been described as a miniature harp concerto. The premiere was in Paris on 22 February 1907.’

We have DOUBLE ACT as 19 Down and are told that we have to include those letters in a loop of 29 cells. We know that we are looking for a HARP and RAVEL (and an ‘article’) and there it is! What an achievement to have the strings linking the CDEFGABC! It was 2 a.m. by now on Listener Dinner Day and I almost forgot to look for the thematic item’s inventor ERARD.

What a lovely compilation. Thank you, Hedge-sparrow.

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Listener 4752 A Few Far Between by Nutmeg

Posted by gillwinchcombe on 23 Mar 2023

Thanks to Nutmeg for this enjoyable, educational puzzle. I hadn’t realised so many of the objects in the asteroid belt had names.

Several clues stood out for me

  • 1ac      ACCIPITER: Hawk caught and beheaded songbird in maple tree – what a smooth surface reading
  • 8 dn    RAKER: Profligate gambler’s term for croupier, perhaps– sneaky use of profligate gambler
  • 9dn     TETRIS: Baselessly, head teacher raised game – I had TENNIS and PELOTA (not sure why now) at first
  • 13dn   TEETER On reflection forward virtually weightless rock – this took me ages, such a clever clue

13dn held me up but the end game took me even longer. I was looking for an O but ASTEROID gave me M. It wasn’t until I spotted ASTEROID BELT on the diagonal and calculated the values of VESTA that I could prove I had the right letter. “Lies on” rather than “lies within” in the rubric would have helped I think. Lovely puzzle!

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Listener 4752: A Few (Asteroids) Far Between by Nutmeg

Posted by vaganslistener on 17 Mar 2023

A strange title… I wanted to pencil in “and” before “far”, so why wasn’t it there? I tried Googling the phrase as it stood but that got me nowhere. When the theme turned out to be THE ASTEROID BELT (arrowed: top left to bottom right) the drift of it made sense as (contra those exciting Sci-Fi films) the average distance between them is about a million kilometres, but I am awaiting further elucidation as it may well be more subtle than that.

Since the clashes were the only “gimmick” the plan was to dive in and find them. Pencilling lines along the entries where the stated word-length was longer than the entry (thankyou for that Nutmeg!) gave an indication of where some where going to be, and seeing that 1a was amongst that set of entries, the top left was the place to make a start. “Hawk caught and beheaded songbird in maple tree (9)” sent me scurrying to Bradford’s to look at the longish list of words for hawk and falcon etc, with one of those likely to be the definition, with the wordplay being a word for a songbird without its leading letter inside one for a maple tree. ACCIPTER and ACER, with (P)IPIT in the middle met the bill nicely. 

Then on to the down crossing with 1a, with 5d marked as thematic. “Only provider of coating for former magistrate (8)” propelled me to Bradford’s again to look at the equally long list of magistrates, and JUSTICER made up of JUST (“only”) + ICER “providing of coating”. Nutmeg can be relied on for neat and interesting clueing, which often uses a turn of phrase rather than a simple dictionary definition, which makes the clues classy and rather more difficult than I making them sound.

Anyway, looking at where the two words met we had JU starting 5d and PITER ending 1a, so JUPITER it was. (Incidentally another classy feature was that the emerging words were always built from the fragments without anagramming. Nice.) So – heavenly bodies, Greek gods, or some other more abstruse set? HERA emerging from HERoes and AHORSE in 11d made me think it was gods and goddesses, and the full set proved to be JUPITER, HEBE, HERA, IRIS, IDA, VESTA, DORIS, CERES, METIS, EUROPA, EROS and MARS. As the list grew the divinities idea started to look awkward – what a strange selection – so I turned to heavenly bodies. At first the presence of both planets and minor bodies threw me, until I remembered that THE ASTEROID BELT lay between JUPITER (at the top in the grid and MARS at the bottom. The asteroids hardly have a fixed pattern so as far as I can see the arrangement of the grid is perhaps better described as “representative” than “approximate”.

The only one of the asteroids to lie on the diagonal was VESTA. 22+5+19+20+1 = 67 =2 6+26+15, with O as the 15th letter in the alphabet replacing all the heavenly bodies, and the puzzle was complete.

The hardest part of the solving for me was in fact keeping my head clear as to whether I was looking for the letters to make up an entry, or the letters to make up the asteroid. Often the key to entry was deciding on the correct element of the clue that was the definition (so “battle” in 31a or “on the continent” in 32d), which the clueing style often disguised well. The only one that proved resistant to parsing was 13d “On reflection, forward virtually weightless rock (6)” where TEETER “rock” is surely the answer required by the crossing letters but the wordplay eludes me.

Many thanks indeed to Nutmeg for another fine puzzle.

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