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L4566: ‘Dream On’ by Agricola

Posted by Encota on 23 August 2019

It didn’t take too long to find TOWER and WALL placed symmetrically in the top and bottom rows, nor to find the (river) ALPH in columns down the centre.  But now what?


The River Alph sounds like Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Kubla Khan?  Or perhaps Xanadu by the 1970’s Canadian rock band Rush, which was my first introduction to the poem (am I the only one?).  Unfortunately I don’t think the latter mentioned Coleridge’s “incense-bearing trees”, otherwise I may have got this endgame much faster.

I could see LASERWORT in the r.h. column and knew that was something.  And BALSAM in the l.h. column.  After that I really wasn’t sure what I was doing.  Eventually, with much help from the BRB, I pieced together LASERWORT, SPRUCE, BALSAM, BOSWELLIA, SANTAL & CISTUS.  That makes 42 characters but two are shared, needing only 40 cells to be highlighted.  Thank goodness!

The extra words in clues were very well hidden – at least that’s what I found.  It was almost after the event that I nailed down all of COLE-RIDGE’s IMAGINATION BLOSSOMING; SPECIALISED MONGOLIAN HORTICULTURE INSPIRING SAMUEL.  And I am still uncertain where the first hint stops and the second one starts!

And there’s still one clue that I may have got wrong:

28ac’s Area above French city in Assyria (4)

I had ?SUR in the grid.  It looked like it might parse as A+SUR.  Is this an alternative spelling of ASSUR?  Or should I have included two letters in one cell?  I await the solution with interest!




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Dream On by Agricola

Posted by shirleycurran on 23 August 2019

We downloaded a puzzle with a fine, clear and short preamble. That word ‘collinearly’ was a new one on me. I wondered, initially, if it was something to do with railways in collieries but decided to wait and see what the endgame produced to confirm it. I didn’t wait to see whether Agricola retains his Oenophile place in the Listener Setters’ outfit. A rather crude ‘Check over soak’s stool in Maine (7)’ gave us TAB + O + RET and suggested there was some alcohol about, and it turned out to be quality stuff – malt, ‘Mongolian malt extracts to scatter about (5)’. We turned over STROW to give us WORTS, which the BRB tells me are ‘malt extracts unfermented or in the process of fermentation’. I think we can drink to that, ‘Cheers, Agricola!”

‘Mongolian’ seemed to be one of the extra words that we needed to locate in order to find which solutions contained ‘collinearly’ the items we ultimately needed to highlight. They were an odd set but we selected COLE RIDGES IMAGINATION BLOSSOMING THUS SPECIALISED MONGOLIAN HORTICULTURE INSPIRING SAMUEL.

I kick myself that we had found WALL and TOWER each appearing twice symmetrically before we spotted ALPH, the sacred river, winding its way between them, and put together SAMUEL COLE RIDGE (what happened to his TAYLOR?) Our gridfill was speedy and we knew that we were in Xanadu with Kubla Khan, but we spent a few fruitless minutes hunting for caverns, a pleasure dome and a sunless sea – but it was not to be.

“CISTUS” said the other Numpty, “Isn’t that an incense-bearing tree?” We were off on a tree hunt, happily prompted by those clues with the extra words but I was still tempted to include LIANE, or even LING or DAHLIA. The forty-letter constraint finally led me to see whether there was a tree called BOSWELLIA – happily there is, so I highlighted it with BALSAM, SANTAL, LASERWORT and, to my surprise, SPRUCE. I learn something from every Listener that we solve. Thank you, Agricola.

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Listener No 4565: Folio by Nebuchadnezzar

Posted by Dave Hennings on 16 August 2019

Nebuchadnezzar’s first Listener was nearly two years ago and was based on the Dudeney/Lloyd nine dots puzzle which was great fun. This week, zigzagging answers in a grid that had left-right mirror symmetry and an endgame that seemed to indicate more drawing!

Fitting all the entries in was very enjoyable and basically involved working from the top down. I wondered at first whether “… zigzags either left or right and down” included, for example, left–down–right–down–left, but plumped for it only meaning an entry could go left or right but not both.

Progress was fairly slow, but I got there in the end via some fun clues. These included 11 Satyrs reviewed drinks menu, wanting case (6) for SILENI ((w)INELIS(t)<) and 20 Appropriate cover of toaster catches fire (7) for TROUSER (ROUSE in T(oaste)R). I was somewhat suspicious of Nebuchadnezzar’s sense of humour with 20 Getting intimate, vocalise with others? (6) for COSING!

I’ll confess at this point that I was miles into the solve before I realised that the grid was 12×13 rather than standard 12×12. As a result, my nine cells omitted by wordplay which were “symmetric in a diagonal axis” were constantly moving!

On to the endgame, and I was faced with adjacent segments of 3, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2, 3, 1 and 5 cells being the full text of a work. This seemed totally confusing until two of the four empty cells in the bottom row could be completed to give CUMMINGS. I thought it a shame that Neb couldn’t fix the bottom left corner to give EE rather than TE. Except of course he did… but not just yet!

All I had to do now was find the relevant poem, and the symbolic brackets in rows 1 and 6 were obviously relevant. I’m afraid that I couldn’t see what it was, but a carefully crafted google revealed the poem to be (rejigged): “l (a leaf falls) oneliness”. With SOLIDUET changed to SOLITUDE at the bottom of column 1, EE was complete.

All that was left now was some drawing. As far as I’m concerned, 2019 will go down as the Year of Listener Drawing. This time, it was a leaf drawn through the letters omitted from the wordplay.

Bingo! Except not! A final read of the preamble before putting my entry in its envelope and I saw what I had forgotten — the entire grid had to be written in LOWER CASE. I don’t know whether JEG would have accepted a post-it note attachment asking him to treat the grid as such, but I felt confident that he wouldn’t. And so, the entire grid — leaf and all — had to be redone.

Thanks for some good entertainment, Nebuchadnezzar.

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L4565: ‘Folio’ by Nebuchadnezzar

Posted by Encota on 16 August 2019

Phew!  Was that the hardest of 2019 to date?  I think so!  Mine ended up looking like:

SCAN0623 copy

Initial challenges:

  • Deciding what the Preamble’s ‘zigzags either left or right and down‘ means!  Are these diagonally zigzagging entries?  i.e. should I be understanding it as ‘either left and down (at the same time) or right and down (at the same time).  And do all zigs and zags have to be the same length?  Normally Yes, I think!  However, using this technique then there appeared to be no way to fit eg 44, 49 or 50 into the Grid.  For example, how would 44’s CORDON fit when there are only four rows to play with?
  • Some tough and very clever clues!  For example,
       Alight from vessel, getting into Jag briefly (7)
    Once my train of thought got into DISBARK/ DEBARK territory it took me ages to get out again.  BURNING as URN in BING(e) only became clearer as I scanned my partially filled grid for possible Entry placements.  That sort of ‘Alight’, of course.  I also spent a long while trying to shoehorn either TED for ‘TV priest’ or FED for ‘given support’ into clue 2.  It was only after I had scoured the dictionary to find BRACKET FUNGUS at clue 22 that I began to see what was going on.
  • Deciding what the ‘two symbols’ bit in the Preamble was actually talking about – this was tricky in its own right
  • Completing the grid at all!  For some reason 4 and 5 were my last two solved and without them there were four options for 3’s ACCITE and 6’s PELLET to be entered.  I only finally sorted this by identifying all possible last letters for clue 4 and searching through all possible two-word Answers.  Thank goodness it began with A for AS LEVEL – if it’d had been SANTA FE then I might still have been looking days later!  SACCADE then dropped out for clue 5 – I have no idea why I made that one such hard work.
  • Deciding how to interpret “Grouped with the symbols, like the thematic work, the unclued letters specify how to submit the entire grid.” from the Preamble.
  • Deciding whether to put a central vein along the leaf.  It seems like it must be valid either with or without – though I am possibly missing something!

Red herrings along the way:

  • ‘efal’ downwards in Column 2, ‘hidden’ in brackets.  Is this the word that needs three letters interchanging?  That’d make LEAF downwards and that’s kind of relevant?  Isn’t it?  Except it destroys numerous words and the poem itself – and it isn’t a word (mere detail, I know) so that cannot be right!  Therefore ignore …
  • N(CSAT)INA in Row3.  Perhaps the ‘hidden 4-letter word’ is NINA and three out of four of CSAT need swapping?  TOSING works but the others???  Also ignore …

Nice hints:

  • The mirror imaging allowed me to find around four of the Clue’s Answers.
  • The Preamble says fill two of the empty cells on the bottom line to find the author, eecummings.  But I seem to have three gaps, as my bottom row reads T.E.CUMM.N.S  – does it have to read t.eecummings in Row 13?
  • The instruction would surely never damage the poem in the completed grid?
  • It cannot sensibly move the nine letters that spell out LOWER CASE around the leaf’s edge

A great spot from our setter, in a poem about loneliness, that the last four lines of the poem’s first letters begin SOLI.  Was this semi-SOLITUDE intentional on the part of eecummings, does anyone know?  There seems to be a lot of critique of his work online but much of it seems spurious at best.

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Folio by Nebuchadnezzar

Posted by shirleycurran on 16 August 2019

I have memories of Nebuchadnezzar’s last spectacular crossword which was a tough one to solve so I open this with some trepidation. I am expecting a fair splashing of alcohol to confirm his membership of the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Elite – and there is: ‘Satyrs reviewed drinks menu, wanting case (6)’ gives us (w)INE LIS(t)< (SILENI), and with that wine list to hand, he chooses a vintage, ‘French vintage and its vessel? (5)’ CRU + ET. Here is someone with taste – none of that ASTI that appears in so many crosswords. “Cheers, Nebuchadnezzar!”

What a long pre-ramble. “Almost as long as the clues!” someone commented to me, and it had so many ‘stages’ in it that it was somewhat disconcerting. I should have spotted what the ‘work’ was straight away wth that division into segments 3 2 2 2 3 1 and 5 cells, but must admit that our grid was almost complete and we had T E CUMM N S on the bottom row before the penny (Ed. Don’t you mean ‘leaf’?) dropped.









Yes, I admit that the title had led me to expect something from a Shakespeare Folio, even though ‘the full text of a work’ was rather a give-away (and the e e cummings poem is yet another that I have studied with students).

It took us a while to catch on to the fact that the use of left-right mirror symmetry in the grid was the key to entering solutions. ‘Every answer zig-zags either left or right and down’ led to attempts to enter letters diagonally – which got us nowhere at all, and we had cold-solved all but about ten of the clues before a real grid fill began.

There was some very subtle cluing there too but fortunately, once a solution was entered at one side of the grid, it was possible to find a skeleton of the matching solution on the other side. Grid almost full with T E CUMM N S on the bottom row and four more instructions to obey. Clearly we can give cummings his I and G, and if we assume that DUET at the left has to ‘interchange three letters’ it can create SOLITUDE (which I believe is the theme of his poem) and give him his e.

We have the nine letters of LOWER CASE appearing (or not appearing – omitted by wordplay) in sixteen clues – that was the difficult bit of the solve. I have to draw a falling leaf through those letters, and, of course, submit my entire grid in lower case. What a spectacular compilation! Many thanks to Nebuchadnezzar.

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