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L4605: ‘Times Listener’ by Artix

Posted by Encota on 22 May 2020

I finished filling out the grid with it being almost certain that the missing words were SPRING, SUMMER, AUTUMN and WINTER, given that they all successfully created new words.  But – at that stage of solving – why?

I went to bed on the Friday night mulling it over.  Fortunately, early on Saturday morning I spotted the three TURNs in the grid and all became clear.  A bit of Googling of the song Turn! Turn! Turn! and its source of Ecclesiastes appeared.  I could then double check the twenty words from the material to be certain how the six entries that abutted (rather than crossed) the empty rectangles were treated – and all was sorted.

Apologies for the OTT nature of the bars in the above image. Roughly half of my errors in thematics over the years seem to be from missing out bars that should be there, so I was determined not to be caught out this time. I wonder if I have still stuffed it up!?

Thanks once again to Artix for a tough and very enjoyable puzzle!

Cheers all,

Tim / Encota

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Times Listener by Artix

Posted by shirleycurran on 22 May 2020

Carte blanche (well, almost) and we are told that the bar pattern, that we must show, will be asymmetric. Well, at least the clues are in entry order and have word lengths, and oh what joy, there’s no misprint or missing or added letter device! I raise my glass to that. ‘Glass’ did I say? I fear at first that Artix isn’t providing many glasses when the fourth clue tells us ‘Kind judge to refrain. from excess (8)’ We opt for MODE + RATE. But then, almost in TT despair towards the end of his clues, I find ‘Does Bury cover its centre with bars? (6)’ We put INNS all round the centre of (b)UR(y) producing INURNS. We’d better head for the centre of Bury! (Artix is a fellow northerner – he must know something about Bury that I don’t) Cheers, Artix!

There’s a lot of pre-ramble, and, at this stage it doesn’t give us much help except to tell us that each entry, at first, will either include an empty cell or a word from the song that we are going to discover, and from its original source. I have just run through all our solved clue with a highlighter and found those 26 words. What a feat of construction Artix, especially as those words were so well incorporated that we had completely filled our grid and the dotted area without spotting the words of a very familiar song.

We solve for a long time and have a putative top half of the grid before the other Numpty retires to turn on the oven and refill his glass and I spot TRACHEOTOMY. We’ve already decided that HOME MOVE must be the two adjacent entry at 1d so my grid fill is confirmed and underway.

There were some delightful clues. I love the way our Yorkshire river, the OUSE is crossword setters’ fodder and here it is again, ‘Back waters from Yorkshire to Stoke up anew (8)’ We add REAR to our river to get REAROUSE. ‘Interject when three Greek characters lose you finally (6, two words)’ has us attempting to make ‘Butt in’ convert to three Greek letters, but of course it’s CHI + PI + N[u] = CHIP IN. What a fab-u-lous clue and how beautifully the ‘lose’ of ‘a time to lose’ is hidden in there.

With the grid almost complete, we are delighted to find that all those partial words (yes, even MANGA, ERSE and REDESIGN) can adopt another letter and still be dictionary words, and the four seasons immediately appear. I was rather Numpty-ish at this stage and maybe misled by the title Times Listener, and wondered whether we were hunting for Bob Dylan’s ‘The Times They Are a Changin’, but no, I finally saw that TURN appeared three times in my grid  and everything fell into place  – we were with The Byrds (though I had to head-scratch to see how ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’ could make 15 cells. Did Artix really have to give himself that demanding final touch of the exclamation marks, still maintaining real words or phrases?

Ecclesiastes! Oh how well I know Chapter3. Our very erudite headmaster in Kirkby Lonsdale thought we were a pack of country bumpkins (we probably were) and gave us a daily dose of classical music (which instilled into me a love that has never died) but when he thought we were too stroppy, or had forgotten to turn off lights or clear up the empty milk bottles, gave us an imposition. The whole form would have to copy out Ecclesiastes Book 3. We didn’t love that – but I suppose it has helped with an Artix crossword over half a century later (thank you Boss!) and many thanks to Artix for a truly enjoyable and masterly compilation.

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Listener No 4607: Times Listener by Artix

Posted by Dave Hennings on 22 May 2020

When I’m faced with an Artix puzzle, I suspect that it’s going to be a tough day. Eighteen months ago we had John Donne and His Mistress Going to Bed with Left and Right hands swapping in the grid to reveal words from the poem.

This week’s preamble did not make me think “this is going to be a not-tough day”. For a start it was a carte blanche with an asymmetric bar pattern. Luckily clues were given in the usual order. I say carte blanche, but in fact there were four 6-cell areas symmetrically placed, one in each of the four quadrants. Unfortunately, these areas were doomed to be jumped by some of the crossing entries.

Non-jumping entries had a word from both a song and its source material. These didn’t have to be removed before solving, but hopefully could be narrowed down since we were told they were all nouns or verbs from the works.

And I can’t have been the only one to wonder if Artix and/or the editors had been on the sauce given the end of the preamble: “…but doesn’t have the first down answer, to be entered as two adjacent entries.” Time to solve some clues and hope that the requirement to highlight the repetitious part of the song’s title (after changing three cells to symbols) would be easy to spot.

APORT, ACER and EVENED came first, followed by ATIVAN, CHIP IN and TIGE. A bit of relief set in as the solving seemed to be progressing well. Sadly UREA was the only other across clue I solved on first pass. The downs also started off well with REDESIGN and AGEN. The next was a nice &lit Cole’s first acting run with Waterman at the centre: Minder (5) giving CARER (C(ole) + A + R + (Wat)ER(man)). Thus having RAC possibly in the top row, I had a peak back at the first across clue Pain GP (sort of) reverses in test operation (11) , and TRACHEOTOMY seemed a likely operation, although it took some time to resolve that as (ACHE + MOTO<) in TRY with its sneaky reference to MotoGP!

A few more downs completed a quick (?) run through. I had assumed that some entries would include a letter from the dotted area, and it took me some time to realise that all entries which crossed a dotted area made the jump. It also looked as though new words would be formed with those jumped letters added. Thus APORT could change to APPORT, AGEN -> AGENT, CARER -> CAREER and amazingly TRACHEOTOMY could change to TRACHEOSTOMY.

And so, as the grid neared completion, it became obvious that the four dotted areas would become the four seasons WINTER, AUTUMN, SPRING, SUMMER. [I know the seasons. Ed.]

As well as the clue referring to the TV series Minder, I enjoyed the clue News agency’s about to move on? About time, they say! (8) for UTTERERS (REUTERS with RE moved forward around T). And that bizarre first down clue Reduced capacity of Israel to provoke domestic upheaval (8, two words) for HOME MOVE (HOME(r) + MOVE) which led to HOME MOVIE once WINTER intervened. As expected from Artix some laugh-out-loud clueing.

A quick check in my ODQ under season eventually led me to The Bible and Ecclesiastes and that had 12 letters so I guessed I was on the right track: “To everything there is a season…”. From there I’m afraid the internet had to come to the rescue to reveal Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There is a Season) written by Pete Seeger and later recorded by The Byrds.

And just to make life difficult for himself, Artix had included twenty things that it was time for in his clues: Love, refrain, born, War, kill, lose, embrace, gather, laugh, die, weep, peace, heal, plant, dance, Stones, build, hate, break, cast.

Three exclamation marks and a bit of highlighting later and the grid was almost complete. Unusually, we were asked to include bars, how many being given at the start of each row and column. The only slight hiccup this could cause was MODERATER/ACER instead of MODERATE/RACER as it’s spelt MODERATOR.

I’m guessing that solvers fell into five groups:

  • those who read the preamble and knew of the tie-in between the song and Ecclesiastes;
  • those who got the seasons and immediately thought of the song;
  • those who saw the three TURNs in columns 1, 7 and 10;
  • those who used their ODQ and the internet;
  • those who couldn’t see what the hell was going on!

Great fun thanks, Artix.

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Tour de Force by Kea

Posted by shirleycurran on 15 May 2020

Well, if it is by Kea, it is sure to be a tour de force. Isn’t he competing with Shackleton and Elgin as the holder of the most Ascot Gold Cup wins? (I think Kea has the lead in his Kea role and alter ego.) It is a clear preamble (not a pre-ramble this time!) I know that Kea, in his editorial role, is currently in a mode of trimming and polishing setters’ clues (to put it bluntly, removing the verbosity) in a search for greater succinctness  so he obviously mustn’t offend himself, and we find a mere 40 clues with 3, 4 and 5 words in some of them.

(Some years ago, I commented to an editor that I thought that 12 words should be the maximum tolerated in a clue and he responded with horror that we should be aiming at an average of 6 – and Kea has allowed himself a 13-word clue for UBUNTU but maybe that should be used in one of those ‘clue-writing’ competitions to see whether a shorter clue is conceivable – probably not.) Most of these were models of brevity.

‘Occupier sustained colonist (6)’ gave us TEN(uto) + ANT = TENANT

‘Diana glimpsed in hallucinations (6)’ gave us (Hal)LUCINA(tions)

‘Bouncer gets bar back (4)’ Returned RAIL to get LIAR.

Oh yes, of course I checked Kea’s grid and clues carefully to see whether he retains his admission ticket to the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Outfit and have to announce the very sad news that that last clue was a paltry attempt and it looks as though the editor has to go. The ‘bouncer’ may have been removing drunkards from the bar but Kea’s RAIL reversed is a poor apology and LIAR has no claim at all. Sorry, Kea!

But what a stunning compilation. We laboured long and hard to solve these tough clues and, with a number still missing (RAMEAU, VOXELS, SQUIRR, RAVENS, PUTELI, ZENANA) could make a putative grid fill but were unsure of the order of the letters in the outer circles. TURN LOOSE had to fill that first circle, but we had completed our solve before I realized that those eight letters are part of the ETAOIN SHRDLU (most commonly used letters that figured in a Listener crossword a few years ago and, of course all get you a single SCRABBLE point).

Happily, CENTRIFUGE appeared and RABBLE (possibly) a little further round that circle five. I went to bed still musing, well after midnight – but doesn’t the mind do surprising things (or is it the obsessive setting and solving of crosswords that fills a lot of these lockdown days?) “SCRABBLE”, I annonced at 6 a.m. and the other Numpty turned over in bed and went back to sleep. The rest was easy as TEA helped me to produce USING SCRABBLE VALUES FOR MASS – and all that was left to do was to complete my last few words making sure that, for example, the Z of ZENANA was flung by centrifugal force, to the outside of the circle. Yes, I’ve been reproached for making abusive comments about ‘Aren’t I clever?’ setters insisting on using pangrams in their creations, but clearly must concede this time – and we were warned (helpfully) in the preamble.

Don’t get me onto centrifugal force! I spent three tough years training as a ski instructor a long time ago and the oral exam required quite a lot of understanding of the physics of ski turns, which, to my astonishment, was somehow explained as deploying centripetal force – I didn’t understand it but just learned it off by heart. But it was good here to remember that Z gets you a 10, X an 8, F a 4 (?) Yes, of course the values are different if you are playing with a French or a German set as we do here, and you even get different quantities of each letter as Z is easy to use in French, for example.

Be careful with Kea! He condemned a lot of us to ignominious depths with his TABU/TAPU some years ago – so I initially coloured one example of each letter of the alphabet pink (Was that because we might have put NOELLE as our girl rather than JOELLE?) Then I checked that I had three radials with no letters moved (green) 7 with two letters moved (yellow in my grid) and 26 with just one letter going outwards.

Where was the potential ambiguity? Ah, could we have been tempted to put ONAGAR for ONARAG, or ONAFLL for ONALLF? However did Kea do it? Brilliant!

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Listener No 4604: Tour de Force by Kea

Posted by Dave Hennings on 15 May 2020

The annual outing for Kea, following a mathematical last year (Have Fun It’s Wordy) and before that the celebration of Listener no. 4500. This week we had a circular grid with none, one or two letters of each 6-letter entry moving outwards while the others retained their order.

Not really much to say about this except how enjoyable it was and wonder how tricky it was to construct. [See blog on Sunday. Ed.] The message revealed by ring 5 would tell us what was going on and for quite a long time I thought it was going to be celebrating the Century of something. In the end, it was something far more entertaining with the grid representing a Centrifuge using Scrabble[®] values for mass. Thus the letters moving outwards were the “heavier” letters from the game.

A Tour de Force in every way. Thanks, Kea.

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