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Listener No 4666: Octet by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by Dave Hennings on 23 Jul 2021

Most of Hedge-sparrow’s puzzles have had a floral or faunal theme. Last year’s, however, was quarky so I wasn’t sure what to expect here. There was no hint in the preamble but the clueing technique had two adjacent letters being dropped in some clues and eight others containing a misprint, the corrections giving a thematic word.

Although 1ac Big bloomers in government projection following cuts (12) got me nowhere (it would eventually be G + LOBE + F + LOWERS), most of the clues were very forgiving yet solid, and the grid was finished in just under the hour. There were a lot of entertaining clues, including 10ac Bogs trapping black and grey wolves (5) [LOOS around B] and 23ac Defunct orbiting body — innards of Telstar reassembled by the French (8) for SATELLES [(T)ELSTA(r)* + LES]. 42ac had humour in spades, Liverpudlians, maybe, regularly amused? Yes sirree — delirious (12) for MERSEYSIDERS [((a)M(u)S(e)D + YES SIRREE)*], but 14ac brought me down to earth with a bang with Brexit rapidly destroying pound: that’s the price that must be paid (3) requiring Brexit to lose the Br such that exit rapidly = FLEE [- L = FEE].

The correction to misprints spelt titmouse and the dropped letters gave British Isles. Thus we were indeed in faunal country, more specifically avian. The definition of titmouse in Chambers begins “a tit…”, so I guessed we were looking for varieties thereof, and that turned out to be a little bit tricky but good fun.

Hats off to Hedge-sparrow for a very clever grid construction with most of the cell replacements that revealed the types of tit requiring what I can only describe as double-crossing changes! By this I mean that LOBOS/BOARDED had the O changed to E to give LOBES/BEARDED. Likewise, SPACIER/WALLOW became SPICIER/WILLOW and DEMEANE/CREATED became DEMESNE/CRESTED.

Very satisfying. Thanks, H-s.

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Octet by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by shirleycurran on 23 Jul 2021

After our long struggle last week, it was a relief to see Hedge-sparrow at the head of this crossword. “Aha, birds” we said. “How does he manage to keep producing crosswords on the same theme?”

Of course, as usual, he included a fine sprinkling of alcohol in his clues, no problem retaining his Listener Setters’ Elite Oenophile Outfit entry ticket. ‘After scrubbing chamberpot, Pointer hides port inside (8)’ A bit of a shame to store that port in a scrubbed chamberpot, but we removed the PO from POINTER giving INTER and hid the RIO (that old chestnut of ports for compilers) inside to give INTERIOR.

Then it was barrels, ‘Export barrels before English city goes short (5)’ We put the B before a shortened version of LEEDs, giving us BLEED which suggested that we were going to extort, rather than export the barrels. We already had a T when girasol gave us a sTone with inner glow (misprint for shone) and an I when ‘Some prisoners had escaped tents (6)’ A ‘hidden’ clue giving us SHADES or tInts (sounds rather like the TINTO – the red wine we can buy here!) TITS looked like our likely birds.

‘Hot drink – unlimited rum (3)’ sounded as if he was mixing rum wth the barrels of malt and the port, but we removed the limits from TODDY and got ODD = rum. What a drunken orgy – and which compiler can resist the Italian wine? ‘Italian wind blasting harbours (4)’ It had to be ASTI harboured by blASTIng. It also gave us another misprint. It was Italian winE. Cheers, Hedge-sparrow!

By now, we had the remaining letters of TITMOUSE and pairs of removed letters had spelled out the ‘thematic context’; BR IT IS HI SL ES. With a full grid, all that remained to do was to change eight letters in the grid and find an octet of birds – the ones we see every day nesting in our birdboxes and mobbing the bird table in winter. (The grandchildren have given me a ‘Bird Buddy’ as a birthday present – still to come as it is in the project stage but apparently it has a widget in it that photographs the visiting bird and tells my iphone what it is. I fear mine will say’blue-tit/ coal-tit/ long-tailed tit/ great-tit/ more of the same’ – but they were a lovely theme. Thank you Hedge-sparrow.

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Listener 4665 Nostimous by Sabre

Posted by gillwinchcombe on 21 Jul 2021

Oh Sabre, how you tantalise us by whetting our appetites with such mouth-watering Hellenic treats when we are stuck in Old Blighty! Once again you have provided us with a well-crafted and intensely demanding challenge. For me it hinged on two pdms – one Google’s, one mine.  Nostimous was intractable (Taverna might have been kinder to those of us without a classical education) until Google translate helpfully suggested Greek. That led to the realisation that the “letters” to be removed were not singletons but the names of Greek letters. Progress became possible!

Possible but with some rather oblique definitions and a several bear-traps. My mind struggled to get past SHOWADDYWADDY leading to WADDY for 2dn’s band of yesteryear and cowboy respectively – I guess that just dates me! I also wanted 4dn to be ACING (AC-IN-G) for Eliminating, but it lacked the extra letter of course.

The mark of a superlative puzzle is the sense of bereavement felt upon its completion and this one certainly provides that. Thanks Sabre!


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Listener 4664 Dream Match by Aver

Posted by gillwinchcombe on 21 Jul 2021

For me, Dream Match was an appetising ham sandwich: a succulent grid fill, a meaty challenge to parse the message, and a tasty endgame to complete a very satisfying experience.

My mind was set on resolving the clashes to make 2 new real words, so it took time for the penny to drop that they all produced the letter O- later on, I saw why! I liked the unambiguous finish and applaud Aver for the construction, given all the constraints.

Thank you too Aver for enlightening me about Nine Men’s Morris and its appearance in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As I said about last week’s puzzle, one of the delights about the Listener crossword is learning something new in hitherto unchartered territory (there is plenty of scope for that in my case).

After following the link in Dave’s blog, I see that James won the Radix Auditorum Jug for the best newcomer. So good to have you on the scene James, and we look forward to your next puzzle!

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Listener 4663 Blurred Lines by Skylark

Posted by gillwinchcombe on 21 Jul 2021

I love it when the Listener jolts me out of my comfort zone and enriches my life with new nuggets of learning, and Skylark certainly did this with Blurred Lines. Jazz isn’t my favourite genre, and puzzles which rely on finding the right score to translate into a means of filling or modifying the grid fill me with a certain amount of trepidation! I was right to be cautious – the message was tricky to parse, to say the least, and Garner did not show up in the usual lists of “born during 1921”. I was waylaid by “BY THE RED SEA” which proved to be a red herring, and only got there after a nudge about the date.

I’m very glad, given my lack of musical expertise, that Skylark helpfully set the notes in their appropriate places in the grid. Thank you Skylark for widening my horizons and introducing me to Erroll Garner. I loved only having to write up the thematic cells and am so glad I persevered with the endgame. Thank you!

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