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Listener Crossword 4709 For a Song by Elfman

Posted by gillwinchcombe on 25 May 2022

For a while I thought it would be “Yes we have no idea”! For a Song proved to be the toughie of the season, and a couple of passes through the clues yielded only a couple of answers.

Fortunately CYESES (5a Type of irritant gas enveloping eyes affected pregnancies) was one of them. But then it wouldn’t fit. More answers slowly came to me and it became clear that CONES was the entry. Thank goodness it was in English and I could recognise the YES/NO device – take the opposite, and reverse it. This was confirmed by NYET and misled me into thinking all the negatives were reversed. Life proved not to be that straightforward!

I was confused by 40ac “Temporarily transfer black [solids] in equal quantities” (6, two words)”. SECOND was clearly the entry, and fitted the definition, but the wordplay made no sense, even once I’d removed solids, and it was only one word, not two.

It was then a massive leap to find the second set of answers, having missed the nudges of Queensland in 32dn, “Queensland WWII soldier sweet, not deceased”, and SPLIT for 30dn, “Crazy liberal found ballerina in bed” – how can I split SPLIT into two words, I wondered? The light dawned eventually, and 40ac SECOND BANANA now worked perfectly, though BAN instead of B for black was a bit sneaky!

The final hurdle was the online mis-spelling of Cohn’s name, but once that was resolved I could enjoy the satisfaction of having reached what I hope is a satisfactory conclusion to a fine puzzle.

Thanks Elfman for this original and challenging crossword,  

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Listener No. 4709: For a Song by Elfman

Posted by vaganslistener on 21 May 2022

“Elfman” is the pseudonym of long-established stateside setter and solver Leon Marzillier, whom I enjoyed meeting in the Zoom fringe at the Listener dinner this year. The LA Times (via Google) tells me that in 2005 he organised the National Puzzlers’ League Convention and was quoted as saying that “People will hang around, sometimes until 2, 3, 4 in the morning playing games. Some of them look like zombies come Sunday.”  Let’s hope 4709 doesn’t keep me up that late. (Spoiler: it did prove pretty tough, but good fun all the same and I’d finished by Saturday coffee time.)

I couldn’t guess an appropriate song title (which is clearly the key to the puzzle) so started to work from top down, and the grid started to fill nicely, but every so often the answer seemed to bear little relation to the clue. Those will be the thematic ones then – so I ploughed on waiting until one of them betrayed a bit more.

10d gave a solution FONDA but an entry FONTEYN and I started to suspect a stage theme (directors and actors appear elsewhere), and/or some tops-and-tails swapping. Both were red herrings. Ah well.

The breakthrough didn’t come until 30d with entry SPLIT from answer BANANA SPLIT. Now what songs did I know with bananas in them. Despite feeling my age, I wasn’t around when Silver and Cohn’s comedy song “Yes! We have no Bananas” burst onto the scene in 1923, but I do remember it being sung was a child, and this was starting to look like a theme. 30d also had “ballerina” in it which must be the definition for FONTEYN so “Type 2” clues are based on just the second part of the song title – no bananas.

Here began the Great Missing Banana Hunt which eventually produced 16a (BANANA)LAND [Queensland], 40a SECOND (BANANA) [subordinate] and 8d ELECTRIC (BANANA) [a Pretty Things album]. The SPLIT was of course an ice cream treat.

But what about the Type 1 clues? Logic demanded that they relate to the first part of the title, so – putting in the song title in place of “For” in the puzzle title, “For a Yes we have No”. And sure enough the DA in FONDA is replaced by NYET (though anagrammed – “bananas” of course), and in the end I also found PLAYED/PLANED, CYESES/ CONES and JAR/INNER.

It was a fun theme and actually fun to solve too despite the awkwardnesses, and bonus points for giving us a yellow banana to draw (though the Velvet Underground would have been a good theme too: note to those less familiar with them – they have a yellow banana on an album cover…).

For the record I think the solving chains of the thematic clues went like this:





Several clues had wordplay that took me a long time to work out, but that’s par for the course. My favourite though was: 31a “Little woman with energy escaping opposite of cocky fellow” where JO is the “little woman” (double sense) with HENNY (omitting E(nergy)) instead of COCKY, the whole thing meaning JOHNNY or “fellow”.

Many thanks to Elfman for an entertaining puzzle, that didn’t send me too bananas after all.

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Listener No 4709: For a Song by Elfman

Posted by Dave Hennings on 20 May 2022

Elfman is not a regular setter, his last being four years ago with Hollywood tinsel (real and phoney) being its theme (no. 4489, Silent Movie). Three years before that, we had Elton John’s Rocket Man (no. 4350, Revelation of John). This week we had another song to unearth, courtesy of eight clues with answers entered in one of two thematic ways. Definitions of one set of entries were in the other set’s clues with the remaining definitions “appearing elsewhere”. Intriguing.

1ac Present time being short, part of space explorer is withdrawn (6) was the first clue I read, and pretty much the last one I sussed! [(TIM(e) + BUS)<] Luckily 5ac Type of irritant gas enveloping eyes affected pregnancies (5) came to the rescue [CS around EYES*] but needed to be entered thematically since it was too long for its 5-letter entry.

I seem to remember from previous Elfman puzzles that he comes up with a tricky set of clues, and so this proved. My favourite was 38ac Little woman with energy escaping opposite of cocky fellow (6) for JOHNNY [JO (from Little Women, I guess) + HENNY – E].

That said, I am at a loss as to the wordplay for JAR (becoming INNER, NEIN* for JA) at 4dn Rabble doesn’t have to fall over conflict (5).

And damn those “Numbers in brackets are the length of grid entries.” The simple clue at 10dn would indeed have been simple if it had been Actor Dan of Wicked (5) for FONDA. And as for missing out four lots of BANANAs in the first thematic set… well! Mind you, they did give some nice wordplay, with the definitions for the answers found in other clues, although that wasn’t really necessary to finish the puzzle.

  • 16ac Governor being obsessive and esoteric (4), extra word esoteric leaving BAN + ANAL + AND; definition Queensland found in the clue to 32dn
  • 40ac Temporarily transfer black solids in equal quantities (6, two words), extra word solids leaving SECOND + BAN + ANA; definition subordinate in 2dn
  • 8dn Choose a smoothed cinnabar after processing (8, two words), extra word smoothed leaving ELECT + (A CINNABAR)*; definition Pretty Things in 17ac
  • 30dn Crazy liberal found ballerina in bed (5, two words), extra word ballerina leaving BANANAS + L in PIT; definition ice cream treat in 42ac

I think it was looking at 5ac CYESES becoming CONES and 10dn FONDA becoming FONTEYN that finally nudged me in the right direction, although I thought it was simple reversals of the negatives, replacing the positives, rather than jumbles.

Of course, it didn’t take long for me to come up with a song involving yeses and bananas: Yes! We have no bananas. My first google brought up a lyrics site which gave the writers as Silver and Coon. Luckily, I read the Wiki entry and that gave them as Silver and Cohn. Seeing the VER diagonally put me on the right track to completing the endgame. ONLVER had to be restored to SILVER, followed by COHN. Both spellings of the second author can be traced in the bottom right. I went for COHN since SILVER COHN is symmetrical about the SW–NE axis of the grid.

Thanks for another fun puzzle, Elfman.

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For a Song by Elfman

Posted by shirleycurran on 20 May 2022

We have been expecting a tough puzzle for a while and, for us, this was it. The preamble instructed us to do a number of different things. We needed to spot a song title (its name would substitute ‘a song’ in the title) that was clearly going to be the key as that was to tell us how four normally-clued answers were to be treated before entry. Their definitions (the adjusted answers) were ‘inserted anywhere’ in the clues. Another four answers were to have a different treatment and would give us wordplay only in the clues. ‘Definitions of the second set’s answers appear elsewhere’. My, oh my!

Of course my first read through the clues included a hunt for Elfman’s admission to the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Outfit and he didn’t exactly shine. All I found was ‘red’, ‘Discover daughter leaving red meat (6)’. (Some sort of vegan clue?) We took the D(aughter) out of RED VEAL and found REVEAL. Well, a rather muted ‘Cheers! Elfman.

Lots of odd things were happening in our grid before we had a hint of what was going on. We had INNER, PLANED, CONES, ELECTRIC and probably SPLIT that didn’t correspond at all to their wordplay and a few inexplicable words appearing in clues ‘Ice cream treat’, ‘subordinate to success’, ‘ballerina’, ‘smoothed’.

I imagine the p.d.m. for most solvers was spotting that the clue to ‘Actor Dan of Wicked (7)’ gave an anagram of DAN OF = the actor FONDA, whilst the solution appeared to be the ballerina FONTEYN, and, of course ‘ballerina’ appeared as an extra word in the ‘SPLIT’ clue. So DA (Russian for ‘Yes’), became TEYN an anagram, or ‘bananas’ NYET, and, of course a BANANA SPLIT is an ‘Ice cream treat’. Now we understood the CONES in 5ac, where the clue had said CYESES. A simple YES had become an inverted NO.

So ‘For YES, we have NO (anagrammed = bananas)’ (change YES to a jumbled NO) as the substituted title and BANANAs were going to be missing from three other clues (we have no bananas). Those were not easy to find. Pretty Things in clue 17 produced ELECTRIC BANANA and clue 8 defined that with an extra ‘smoothed’. ‘Choose a cinnabar after processing (8, two words)’ = ELECT + A CINNABAR*.

Tea told us that SECOND BANANA is a ‘subordinate to success’ and BANANA LAND is Queensland so we had our four missing bananas but still had to find two more ‘yeses’ becoming anagrammed ‘no’. Scots AYE and NAE seemed a likely candidate in 11ac where PLAYED had become PLANED with that mystrious ‘smoothed’ in clue 8d now making sense as it defined the new word.

We were left with INNER to explain. ‘Esoteric in the ‘BANANA LAND’ clue defined ‘inner’ but somehow we had to work out how we could find a foreign version of YES, with its NO jumbled. This was the toughest of the lot! It had to be JA becoming NEIN* so the wordplay led to JAR becoming INNER and that clue to JAR? ‘Rabble doesn’t have to fall over conflict (5)’ Rabble = JABBER and that ‘doesn’t have ‘EBB’ = to fall (over, or reversed)and JAR = conflict (not WAR as we had suspected.)

There was one thing more to do. We needed the Internet to tell us that Frank SILVER and Irving COHN wrote ‘Yes, We Have No Bananas‘ and we had to find their surnames in an appropriate shape (clearly a banana) in the grid, adjust one of them thematically, creating two new words, and highlight both names. ELOINS and LAND provided the words to treat with ON (NO*) becoming SI and SILVER and COHN obligingly appeared in banana shape on a diagonal – where else? What a stunning compilation!

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Listener Crossword 4708   Diamond by Karla

Posted by gillwinchcombe on 16 May 2022

Musical Listeners aren’t normally, I confess, my favourite crosswords! Diamond was enjoyable thanks to the small number of possible keys for “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and its relatively painless emergence as the theme. The identity of the “symbols” dawned on me next morning – helped by STAR and MUSIC – and I was heartily relieved to spot “I wonder” as the two-word phrase. When I wrote the notes outside the grid alongside the rows, it all made sense and I was able to colour in the crochets and minims. (I just hope it is the notes that were required, rather than the stars.)

I was also relieved to solve 4dn “Doctor is parking in Oval buildings” (PAVILIONS) – a clever anagram that sent me down the ELLIPSOID route for a long time (P in IS etc). I had to reverse engineer 8dn “Italian essentially ignored Malaysian lord” (TUAN) – Tuscan was the last thought on my mind.

I love variety in puzzles, and gently musical Listeners are all part of the Listener’s rich tapestry. Great in small numbers!

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