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‘Whoppers’ by Nutmeg

Posted by Encota on 26 May 2017

First of all, thank you Nutmeg for a surprisingly hard, for me at least, puzzle.  I think it’s largely down to not knowing how many letters the Answer is going to contain that always seems to slow me down, as I’ve mentioned here before.

I soon got to wondering how long a list of such words Nutmeg had to play with when creating this grid?  In the spirit of the Entries associated with the ‘normal’ clues in this puzzle, the best I quickly could come up with was:

‘Detangle metallised fibrillar velveret’

i.e. all such Entries were formed by placing a fish inside the initial Answer to the normal clue.  A good example been the first such clue at 4ac:

 Keep close to edge, showing strength (9)

…being FORTE formed as FORT E.  Simply add a fish (here TUNA) and FORTUNATE appears.

My LOI was

Hard Left briefly softens (7)

The checked letters pointed strongly towards the Answer being RETS, as did the definition of ‘softens’ but for some reason it took me ages to recognise ‘Left’ as a reversal indicator, such that RETS was formed as STER(n).  Add a fish (GAR) to form GARRETS.

There were 12 such clues. All others each provided an extra letter, which in order spelt out:  ARE FISHERMEN ALL LIARS OR DO ONLY LIARS (FISH)?  (William Sherwood Fox).  So FISH was not only missing from the phrase but also from the Answers and so needed adding to form the Entries.  At least that’s how I read it!

The Title seems very straightforward this week, though I may be missing something.  I was tempted to add a comment referring to, “The one I caught was this big” but (a) wasn’t sure it would work so well without a vlog and (b) couldn’t reach the keyboard whilst doing so…

And finally, this puzzle clearly links back to a theme from 2016 – after all, surely no-one could claim it’s coincidence that CHAR can be found in ‘the SearCH ARea’…


Tim / Encota

P.S. I was delighted to receive my first ever Listener win of the latest ChambersRevised 13th Edition’ Dictionary during the past month, for Handyman’s April Fool ‘Spaghetti Tree’ re-creation.  Like others, I have been writing ‘Chambers (2016) is the preferred dictionary’, or similar, in my Preambles over the last few months without actually owning a copy, so it is very useful to be sure that I had received the right one!  I suspect I’m not the only one to be confused by this being called the ‘Revised 13th’ and dated 2014 even though it was first printed in 2016.  If I understand it correctly it is labelled 2014 because its word content = those of the 13th edition plus the infamous ‘missing words’ list, neither of which are new in their own right.  [That’s the list that includes the ‘abbot of unreason’, amongst others, if you’re asking.]

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Whoppers by Nutmeg

Posted by shirleycurran on 26 May 2017

We always enjoy solving Nutmeg’s crosswords, so downloaded this one with a smile. That smile became a little strained when we read that some answers had to have ‘something’ added before entry in the grid, and that the remaining clues contained an extra letter  that had to be removed before solving. We mused for a while about what the whoppers were going to be and opted for the obvious LIARS, suspecting that we might be looking for something of Nutmeg’s style like her lovely ‘Twelve Days of Christmas’, or a puzzle where ‘the more Pooh looked the more Piglet wasn’t there’. There’s a Hilaire Belloc poem about Matilda who told lies and was finally burned but it isn’t ‘short’. Nothing to do but solve.

Ah, yes, of course I had to confirm Nutmeg’s continued membership of the Elite Listener Setters’ Tippling set-up and of course she qualified with ‘Madeira’s base Catholic cu[l]ts in a row (7)’. The clue gave us SERCIAL (C in SERIAL) but we needed the Big Red Book to tell us that sercial is a Riesling-like grape used to make the driest Madeira. Barmen appeared later on when we had started filling our grid with fish and the clue ‘Troops initially withheld assent (6)’ gave us (A)MEN to which we added the BAR. Membership confirmed. Cheers, Nutmeg!

Solving went very slowly at first. As always, we found the clues beautifully set and smiled at a few. ‘It might have been pure b[l]ack antelope on eland’s tail (4)’ gave us another word that needed the BRB to tell us that ‘pure’ could be DUNG, so a GNU was reversed on the tail of the elanD. Nice! We were beginning to make sense of the extra letters and had confirmed that the penultimate word of our short verse was LIARS when that lovely H coming out of ‘W[h]inged gave us FLEW (with a homophone for ‘flu’) and gave us enough letters to realize that FISHERMEN were our liars. ARE FISHERMEN ALL LIARS OR DO ONLY LIARS FISH? Now that we knew that FISH was the missing final word, our grid fill speeded up enormously. We understood why a clue that led to PORTAL was entered as PORTRAYAL and PIKESTAFF had to complete the clue that led to STAFF (Singular river workers = S TAFF).

Upset hare

We almost worked backwards since CHAR, COD, ID and LING were sure to be there, and, of course, they were, together with TUNA in FORTUNATE, GAR in GARRETS, EEL in FREELANCE, PARR in SPARROW and ROACH in BROACHED. Great fun, thank you, Nutmeg!

What on earth, or rather what at sea was a poor jumbled little HARE doing in all that watery stuff! Of course, he was there, but somewhat upset by all the fishy business, down in the right hand bottom corner.

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Listener No 4449: Whoppers by Nutmeg

Posted by Dave Hennings on 26 May 2017

Nutmeg’s previous Listener had entries which started together but then diverged left and right… bifurcating, to you and me. Before that, we had some drawing and colouring in to represent Sherlock Holmes stories.

I have never met Nutmeg, but she always manages to make life slightly difficult for me and her puzzles are never a quick solve. This week, we had to find out what needed adding to a number of answers before entry in the grid. Clues to the other entries had an extra letter that needed to be removed before solving, with them revealing a short verse extract.

14ac IRMA and 15 STARE went in fairly quickly, followed by BARED which needed three letters adding to make its 8-letter grid entry. Another half-dozen were then slotted in, culminating in SURCOAT at 32ac.

The downs were just as tricky with all those extra letters. However, 26dn ORD intersected with the C of SURCOAT, and ORCHARD seemed the likely entry. It seemed likely that we were dealing with either tea, housemaids or fish. I dismissed the first two on the basis that the puzzle’s title would be Brewery or Knees-up. So fish it was, and confirmed when I got FORTE/FORTUNATE in the top row and PIKESTAFF across the middle.

That enabled the north-west quadrant to be finished, and after that the grid came together nicely. Mind you, it wasn’t particularly quick, as I had expected — just short of two hours from beginning to end. The short verse was from Silken Lines and Silver Hooks by William Sherwood Fox:

We ask a simple question
And that is all we wish:
Are fishermen all liars?
Or do only liars fish?


All in all, a typically fun workout from Nutmeg, although I’d have preferred 37ac to be AUDI rather than ALDI!

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Get Me Out of Here! by Nemo

Posted by shirleycurran on 19 May 2017

I have to admit that when I saw Nemo’s grid and read his preamble that told us that 38 answers were to follow ‘a path of contiguous, not barred-off cells from its number to one of the dots, without revisiting any cell along its path’ my initial reaction was ‘Get Me Out of Here!’ Of course, we were instantly thinking of clown fish and the children’s favourite Nemo. Was this a new setter or an old hand masquerading under a new pseudonym? The quality of the clue-writing certainly suggested the second. Surely some old hand wasn’t going to have a little clown fish tipped down a toilet and making its way to the sea along windy paths. Nothing to do but to get down to solving.

Well, there was, of course, that important check of whether Nemo will be invited into the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Outfit and he left us with little doubt. C4 ‘Ingredient of pick-me up is mountain plant (3)’ was a starter, producing only one possible word, MEU, which the Big Red Book confirmed to be a plant. ‘Drunken curate spilling a bottle of Dom? (5)’ gave us CURATE less A* and we got our CRUET which the BRB told us was ‘a vessel for wine or water for religious ceremonies’. ‘Reasons for leaving fizz there in Italy (4)’ brought in that fizzy white stuff that seems to be so popular in the UK, PROSECCO, with the PROS or ‘reasons for’ leaving just the ECCO. (What a superb clue!) Nemo might have left the fizzy in Italy but he continued with ‘Drink at Ed’s pub a series of rounds (5)’ – another lovely surface reading that gave us CHA+IN. There was more – ‘Knock back energy drink after I am shut up (5)’ E RUM after IM giving IMMURE, and then ‘Dad returned after imbibing one for Wally? (8)’. That one kept us head-scratching for a while at the end of our solve before yielding PA + LATER< around I to give PARIETAL which means ‘of a wall’. More clever cluing! Well, cheers, Nemo, little doubt about your place at the bar at the next setters’ dinner!

Of course, Nemo hadn’t finished with his alcoholic theme but THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO and its gory details were a long way ahead of us at this stage as we attempted to initially complete the rows then take those winding paths through them. I have inserted that neat little innocuous diagram at the head of my blog but how little it represents the reality of Tipp-ex and highlighters that kept us going up to dinner, via the first G & T and way beyond until almost midnight. No, this was not easy. The problem was that we needed to have all the rows in place to render the winding paths easier to establish and several of those affected the ones around them.

All went  fairly well until we reached the northwest corner. We had already used the R with a dot, for LEAGUER but we needed it if COAL-PORTER was to finish at an R, we couldn’t take the singer miner (how I liked that play on Cole Porter’s name!) to the top of the grid, since PLATEAU already went up there. I have read on the Answerbank, this morning, that other solvers immediately spotted the author and theme. How much easier it would have been if we had done that – but it was not to be.

We had finally moved OUTRED and LEAGUER and had a full grid (though had to back solve to find ROQUELAURE which was fully checked) with every solution in place before we found EDGAR ALLAN POE. Of course with the two Latin phrases staring us in the face, and …TILLADO appearing heading down to cell 6, the endgame was a gift, and I felt that we had earned one after that hard work. Of course I reread the evil

Jugged HSREA

little story and found a number of familiar words in there: ROQUELAURE, CRYPT, MOTLEY, and CHAIN to name a few, and, of course, a number of clues were thematic, ‘Primarily nitre accumulates to a great extent around inner chamber’, ‘…I am shut up’ and those words IMMURE and PARIETAL. In addition to the superb cluing, this puzzle was delightfully thematic with even a grid like the wall the insane MONTRESOR constructs so laboriously at the end of the story. Welcome to Nemo with this masterful debut and many thanks.

Ah yes, the HARES. they were there, of course, but in a rather confused bunch of HSREA up there at the top left hand corner of Montresor’s wall. They must have been (like me) desperately attempting to follow winding paths, afraid to find themselves jugged in a cask of amontillado.

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Listener No 4448: Get Me Out of Here! by Nemo

Posted by Dave Hennings on 19 May 2017

The first thing that struck me about this week’s puzzle was the size and shape of the grid… 192 squares of it, presumably representing a wall. What’s more, there were 31 squares which were completely barred off. The second thing I noticed was that the setter was Nemo. Well, he may not be a Nobody, but he certainly seemed to be a Newbie.

A reading of the preamble disclosed that, while the Rows were entered normally from left to right, the answers to Path clues were entered snake-like from starting square to one of the squares with a dot in the top right corner. When all the answers had been entered, we would be able to trace out a title and fill in the 31 barred off squares. I just hoped that I’d be able to unravel it all.

Of course, my first guess was that the wall was the one in Shakespeare’s play within a play: Pyramus and Thisbe from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The last time that was used in a Listener was way back in 2003 with Obiter’s Hole in the Wall, so it was due another outing. The trouble this week was that there seemed to be 31 holes in the wall!

Starting with the Row clues, I was gratified to find that, at first sight, they were relatively straightforward with the three Row A clues quickly solved. Sadly, at second sight, Rows B and C revealed only two each, Row D none, and Row E one. This was going to be one tough newbie!

I started on the Path clues and finished my first pass through all of them in about an hour and a quarter with just over twenty solved. However, none of them could be entered with more than one or two letters. What was worse was that they weren’t helping much with my unsolved Row clues.

After that, it was slow progress, but gradually letters were teased out and into the grid. At the end of four hours, split over two sessions, the grid was looking much healthier. There were still some gaps around the middle, with one or two clues being particularly recalcitrant. Even 2 Cooler? This croaker may end up there (4) which was (almost) obviously ICER took an age to work out its American ‘kill’ relevance. Also 13 Rattly breath of spirit with short time to go (4), which I had a (less than convinced) feeling was ROAR, ended up as RALE (MORALE – MO).

With most of the right half of the diagram complete, I thought I’d have a go at identifying the title. Working back from square 6, ODALLI enabled me to suss AMONTILLADO which took me into the top half of the grid. There, THE in Row 2 (from the top) and OF in Row 5 led to my first guess The Mask of Amontillado, the follow-up to The Count of Monte Cristo.

OK, unlikely, but CASK was soon spotted. I still needed Google to reveal the intriguing story of Poe’s The Cask of Amontillado centred around the incarceration of (un)Fortunato by Montresor. This enabled the left, right and central isolated cells to be completed: MONTRESOR, FORTUNATO and EDGAR ALLEN POE. A bit more reading of the Wiki article revealed the phrases necessary for the top and bottom rows: “[Nemo] ME IMPUNE LACESSIT” (“No one attacks me with impunity”) and “IN PACE REQUIESCAT!” (“May he rest in peace!”)

All in all, this one took over 4½ hours to get to this stage, but I still had some entries that didn’t quite fit into the grid. I therefore spent another 90 minutes with another copy, refilling the grid and tracing the entries to make sure that all the black dots were accounted for and finally being happy.

On the clue front, my favourites were 10, with its reference to Hillary Clinton’s daughter CHELSEA, and 18 Songwriter said he’d handle stuff of mine (10) for COAL-PORTER! I have to say that my least favourite clue (and the one I solved last) was 33 Dad returned after imbibing one for Wally? (8) for PARIETAL (PA + LATER< containing I) — in my view, this required not only the question mark, but also some exclamations!!!!!! (yes, six would do it).

As I transposed the grid from my working copy to the one for submission, I got to the middle line. Now, how do you spell Poe's first names? Well, that was close, it's ALLAN not ALLEN.

I have to say that I, probably along with others, had a sneaky feeling that this was an existing setter masquerading under a different pseudonym. If not, this was an excellent debut. Not only was the theme beautifully devised, but the clues were on the tricky side of tricky. Thanks, Nemo, and I look forward to number two.

And apologies for no animation this week — just the thought of it gave me a headache!

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