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Listener No 4587: Of Course by Malva

Posted by Dave Hennings on 17 January 2020

Malva is the ornithological version of Dipper the Gardener, his previous puzzle with its migrating birds appearing less than a year ago in March. Here we had the answers and the clues being altered thematically, half one way and half another.

Cutting a long story short [Pun intended? Ed.], the thematic adjustents consisted of losing the last two or three letters of words. This seemed a bit vague to me, but assumed that all would be made clear later.

My favourite clue, due its novelty, was 7dn 4/13 + 2/3 + 3/4 + 1/6 is example of sum[ach] (4) for RHUS. I wondered if Malva thought this would be accepted by the vetters — or was it their clue?! And thank goodness he didn’t use this technique in his clue for BANDOLEONS! I also liked some of the thematic adjustments, like pass[age], fun[gal] and aster[oid].

Reaching the endgame, I must confess that the link between the title and the missing letters didn’t jump to mind. After all, losing two or three letters is not quite the same as scoring fewer shots, golf being a game where fewer is better! It needed me to find ALCATRAS in column 4 of the grid with its definition in Chambers telling me it was “a name applied to several large water birds, such as the pelican, gannet, frigate bird and albatross”. Kerching! And there in row 10 was ERNE the Eagle.

I have only ever seen one person at my golf club get an albatross, a rare feat indeed: as we left the green of a par 5, a ball rolled up and into the hole — from 220 yards away. One lucky teenager!

Slotting the SARDINE under the grid finished the puzzle. Thanks for the entertainment, Malva. I’d have been mortified if I hadn’t got there.

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Of Course by Malva

Posted by shirleycurran on 17 January 2020

“Malva” we said – does that mean birds? (Or birdies? But we didn’t think of a golf course ‘Of Course’ at this stage – that came after rather a lot of head scratching when we had a full grid, a sardine and a couple of large birds attacking it at almost midnight.)

I didn’t really need to confirm Malva’s right of.admission to the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Outfit as I believe he earned that earlier this year. However, I did my customary hunt and there was ‘port’, ‘Lett succeeded hiding in part of harem in port (6)’. By this time we had understood that we were removing two or three letters from the solution or from a word in the clue. We opted for LETT(er) in ODA, giving ODESSA. Not much port there. A more convincing quantity of GINS was upturned in ‘Count fish traps backwards (4)’. We decided it was a COUNT(ry) fish, a SNIG. A rather muted “Cheers, Malva”. Clearly there might have been a few EAGLES and ALBATROSSES but no hole-in-one, when Malva would have had to buy a round for everyone in the clubhouse but we’ll settle for the port and gins.

Filling the grid became easier as we progressed and long words like NYSTATIN, HEPATICA and SPATTERDASH and BANDOLEONS were offered to us by TEA or Crossword compiler using the letters we had, but it was the short words like HAFT, FIAT, SORRA and TETRA that proved to be the most difficult, since we didn’t have the reassurance of word length provided. Still, we soon had AR, IDE and NS as the alterations for the three italicised clues and those jumbled to a SARDINE.

That creature  might not be happy to see either of the ‘examples of a strand in the theme’. We could see a potential CAT, an ERNE and an ALCATRAS in the grid but it took us a long time to suss that two of those were an eagle and an albatross – so the penny dropped – they were what were clipping off the tails of the poor sardines, or being two or three below par ‘of course’.

An interesting new device, Malva. I must remember next time a grid is giving me trouble – just choose a few long words and chop the ends off when I get to a bar. Many thanks for the last Listener crossword of the year.

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L4587: 'Of Course' by Malva

Posted by Encota on 17 January 2020

A neat puzzle with an infuriating endgame!

I had a bout of thickness, where I had no idea what the Title was referring to. So I visited the Nineteenth Hole for inspiration …

After too long, it turned out I was on a golf course. That achieving two or three under being called an Eagle and an Albatross I did know. Spotting them in the forms highlighted above – in particular ALCATRAS – was much, much harder!

Finding the additions in the clues was fun,
e.g 35d. Prune aster to wrap in waxed cloth (4)

With a couple of crossing letters and the definition ‘to wrap in waxed cloth’ it was clear that the answer was almost certainly CERE. But why?

Realising that ‘aster’ was actually ‘3 under’ and should have been reading ‘asteroid‘ made it clear. The clue really read: Prune asteroid to wrap in waxed cloth (4)

So, start with CERES, prune off the S and we’re sorted. Good fun!


Tim / Encota

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Square Deal? by Tiburon

Posted by shirleycurran on 10 January 2020

Tiburon! We greet that with a smile as we are accustomed to having clues tweaked by the Listener editor so can be pretty sure that his will be beyond reproach, but then the second half of the relatively lengthy pre-ramble has us taking a deep breath. We are being instructed to dissect our completed grid into pieces and to rearrange them with complicated details about what unclued letters must be matched. It’s likely to be Christmassy isn’t it? Reindeer or something? Trees have been done before, I find a Christmas tree by Rasputin (who he?) on Dave Hennings’ Crossword database, among others, but it could be that or a snowflake or a Christmas animal? There was a lovely snowflake to be cut out some years ago. We begin to solve.

I search rather despairingly for an appropriate dash of Christmas spirits to confirm that Tiburon retains his Listener Oenophile entry ticket to the dinner. Well, the Stratford event wouldn’t be the same without him would it? However, it seems to be a rather dry crossword – until, that is, we solved 15ac ‘Raised distress signal up the pole (5)’

By the time we got to that clue, we had understood about putting two letters into one cell and using the diagonal line in the correct direction so that ELUSORY and SOUSED could both be read in the right order (and by an astonishing stroke of luck, I had them all facing the right way to aid my cutting up of the grid).

SOUSED is ‘up the pole’, Chambers tells me and that is extremely sozzled. What can I say? Cheers, Tiburon!

We don’t find this solve easy at all and have been solving for a couple of hours before we read the preamble properly and understand about the double letters, so that we can make ARBITRATOR intersect with SPEAR with the A and R sharing a cell, VIBRATO intersect with AMENTA with the AT of one becoming the TA of the other and so on. We know that we have to find nine of these and struggle in the south-west corner to find our ninth, even though the clue to ANTSY is generous, ‘Excited tourists on vaction in New York (4)’ giving us NY around T(ourist)S with an unclued A. I had been attempting to make that ‘monitor’ an IGUANA rather than the VARAN he turned out to be.

We should have seen far sooner that the corrected misprints were instructing us to TANGRAM something. Well, I chop the grid along the lines indicated by the diagonal marks, then, with a cry of delight, fit them altogether and realise that one of our editors has, at last, after a couple of years, located the elusive Poat hare. What a Christmas treat.

Then disillusion sets in as the remaining corrected misprints spell O TANNENBAUM. That isn’t a hare is it? My small grandson was singing that with his school choir a couple of weeks ago when we were with them in California (he’s in a German/English International School). He was drowned out by the four-year-old’s rendering of ‘Let It Go’ from the Disney Frozen but I suppose we have to move with the times).

Back to the cutting and gluing.

A moment of trepidation. How do we tangram a Christmas tree? Of course, I have recourse to my old friend Wiki who shows me one example – and, though I am not sure that we have found all the correct unclued letters, that instruction about the three Es tells me which way up to put the tub so that the soil doesn’t spill all over the presents (and a rather disconsolate hare who thought he was the star of the show).

A rather higgledy-piggledy MERRY CHRISTMAS appears and I highlight it.

Delightfu! Many thanks to Tiburon.


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Listener No 4586: Square Deal? by Tiburon

Posted by Dave Hennings on 10 January 2020

On checking the records, I couldn’t believe that Tiburon’s previous Listener was back in 2011. That had Aristotle maintaining everything had a beginning, a middle and an end, whereas Philip Larkin’s view of a novel was that it had a beginning, a muddle and an end.

I doubted whether the puzzle would have anything to do with what first flashed through my mind. That was a childhood memory of a well-known washing powder being know as Square Deal Surf. Upon reading the preamble, I was dismayed to see that more scissor work would be required in the endgame. It didn’t seem that any artistic drawing would be required (although who knows what the misprints in eighteen clues would spell out).

Suffice it to say that no such message was revealed, but instead Tangram and O Tannenbaum. On the way, there were some entertaining clues. Heaven knows how he decided on 30dn Teak (4×2 size) and the like reared in old Thailand (5) for OCTET with teak being the misprint for team. For some reason, 6dn appealed to me: Composition of bonks: Noises Off (6) for OSSEIN (bonks for bones).

All that was left was to cut the grid up into tangrammatic pieces and stick them together in the shape of a Christmas Tree. Not too difficult given the lining up of cells containing double letters.

There was a small trap waiting for any careless solvers. Did 28dn Gold changing hands in spite of king? (5), with the misprint being spite for suite, lead to AULIC or AURIC? In fact, with the misprint being in the definition, this could only be AULIC. [Hastily retrieves rubber to correct some sloppy solving!]

Not for the first time this year, I felt sorry for JEG with a lot of the submitted grids being almost illegible.

Thanks for some fine entertainment, Tiburon. It all came out nicely in the wash.

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