Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin

Archive for the ‘Solving Blogs’ Category

Polo by Apt

Posted by shirleycurran on 21 July 2017

Solving the weekly Listener puzzle becomes something of an OCD doesn’t it? We were on an AutoReiseZug (one of those wonderful trains where you load your car then sleep happily as the train covers about five hundred miles and deposits you and the car at your destination). A friend kindly sent me the puzzle but I was unable to print it so we drew our grid and wrote out all the clues (on the back of this month’s Magpie – it was useful for that even if it contains a rather daunting D numerical puzzle by Ned and a Shark E) then solved on the mini table of the couchette until late into the night.

A friend commented that he has often gone to similar lengths. His wife watched him with amusement as he wrote the crossword out longhand in the Atacama desert then went to great lengths to find a post office only to earn the mildly sardonic comment from Mr Green, some months later, that he had gone to great lengths to post a wrong solution.

But wouldn’t it be just our luck to have such a complex and different grid to hand-draw! A polo ‘the mint with the hole’ indeed. Of course, as I read out and the other Numpty wrote out the clues, we had spotted that Apt justified his membership of the Listener setters’ oenophile outfit with ‘Drank just over half of alcohol getting wasted (4)’ (ALCO* giving COLA and producing an A misprint for ‘drink’) Cheers, Apt, see you at the bar!

The grid filled steadily with Mrs Bradford’s help and a few doubts. YORICK had to be the answer to the last across clue, ‘In play he’d tested City, in command during second half (6)’ with YORK circling IC, but we needed to correct a misprint that must be in ‘tested’. ‘Rested’? I know Hamlet better than any other play  and that seemed to be a very weak solution to the conundrum as that skull had been in the ground for some 25 years “And smelled so? Pah!” but it took me ages to realize that the corrected word was ‘jested’. Of course, we didn’t need to know since we were, rather unusually, spelling that name out with the incorrect letters.

Our misprints spelled out HOFSTADTER’S LAW and the other Numpty had heard of that but, in any case, it was appearing around the perimeter of the grid as “IT WILL TAKE LONGER THAN YOU THINK EVEN IF YOU TAKE INTO ACCOUNT THAT … it will take longer than you think – we didn’t even need to check that the unchecked letters had spelled out TATTY THRIFT HOVEL but now that we have arrived at our destination I have been able to check that Hofstadter’s sequel was ‘I am a strange loop’, and a strange loop it was indeed. Thanks to Apt for an entertaining evening’s solve.

The hares? We are in northern Germany and I rather expected to find a Hase in four letters in a straight line but the Hase was frolicking with a rather jumbled hare,  with another couple looking on from above.

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Loop* by Apt

Posted by Encota on 21 July 2017

When I noticed that ‘Polo’, the Title of this delightful puzzle, could define itself using ‘I am a strange loop’, then I thought to myself, “Now that is Apt”

Many Listener solvers will be very familiar with the startlingly original book subtitled The Eternal Golden Braid (EGB) by Douglas Hofstadter from the 1970s (?) which intertwined thinking on Escher, Gödel and Bach with mathematics, Artificial Intelligence, music, philosophy, Lewis Carroll and much more besides.  It’s not a quick read but well worth the effort.  His follow-up book in 2007/08 was: “I am a strange loop”.  And they’re full of loopy things, contradictions and items that merely seem to be contradictions…


[The ‘fridge door wall’ at the Eden Project, Cornwall, UK]

So if the Theme is based on Hofstadter and his ‘loops’, then how strange would an Escher, Gödel, Bach based-loop need to look?  This strange, perhaps?

2017-07-02 22.43.58 copy

Coincidence, or merely seems to be coincidence?  You decide…

One of my favourite themes, very well executed.
Finally, looping all the way back to the start, I’d very much like to thank the Setter:
now that is Apt.


Tim / Encota

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Listener No 4457: Polo by Apt

Posted by Dave Hennings on 21 July 2017

A new setter this week with a puzzle about a sport of which I know nothing… except its played with horses and a polo stick. Here we had mostly normal clues, with just fourteen containing a misprint in the definition; the name of an observation would be given by the incorrect letters. (It puzzled my why the editors felt that incorrect had to be in italics… we’re big boys and girls! [Are you? See later. Ed.])

Anyway, the first clue 7ac Work with extremely eminent ladies? (6) made me realise that Apt has the same sense of humour as I do, and TOILET got slotted in. The only clue that held me up a bit in the north-west corner was 2dn where WIS about PER gave the blades WIPERS.

After that, the north-east corner came together quickly, together with an equally amusing clue at 5dn: Brush behind ears when waiting (8) with ears as a misprint for cars to give TAILBACK.

I wondered if there was going to be a particularly humorous clue in each quadrant. I wasn’t disappointed. Short composition that’s heard to go “dah-dah-dah”? (7) gave MORCEAU at 24dn (sounds like Morse O — — —), and Commons Kew redeveloped lack borders of elderflower (6) at 34dn gave CLARKE (reference to Ken Clarke, MP).

The grid was completed fairly quickly: about two hours, I think. The fourteen misprints revealed Howstadter’s Law! Hmmm… looks like that should be Hofstadter’s Law, and a quick check of 16ac showed that I’d noted the correct W of worth, rather than the incorrect F of forth. [Told you. Ed.]

I’m afraid that it needed some googling to find the appropriate quotation since the Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Quotations isn’t in my library. “It always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.” This needed to be entered around the grid as “It will take longer than you think, even when you take into account that it will take longer than you think.

(One of my pet hates on a golf course that I’ve not played before is when someone says of a hole “It plays longer than you think.” To which I would like to reply “How long do you think I think it plays, then?” Normally, I just say “Thanks.”)

Back to Apt, and further investigation reveals that Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid, which provides the original quotation, was followed by I Am a Strange Loop where, according to Wiki, Hofstadter “demonstrates how the properties of self-referential systems, demonstrated most famously in Gödel’s incompleteness theorems, can be used to describe the unique properties of minds.” For me, it just explained the title and the shape of the perimeter of the grid!

So many thanks to Apt for an enjoyable puzzle. If anyone has a spare copy of the ODSQ, I’d be happy to relieve them of it… sounds like fun.

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Listener No 4456: Shady Characters by Malva

Posted by Dave Hennings on 14 July 2017

This was Malva’s second Listener, the first being of an avian theme. However, he’s a sneaky blighter since he used to be Dipper, whose garden featured in his crosswords under that pseudonym. It has to be said that I am not an expert on flora or fauna, so fingers were crossed on this one.

As it turned out, filling the grid was straightforward. The extra wordplay letters led to distinct jumbles of words which indicated how some answers needed to be entered. Those in clues 2–7 were llyeow and were followed by bule. It looked as though we were dealing with colours. The full set was Yellow, Blue, Tan, Sand, Butter, Green, Red, Ruby.

Some of them were hardly colours of the rainbow, but that helped with the endgame. Examining the entries in the grid, and remembering Malva’s new hobbyhorse, SHANK, PIPER and TIT stood out like a sore thumb and were obviously to be prefixed by one of the ‘colours’. SHANK could have either RED or GREEN as its colour, but START could only be RED (I think).

So out came the coloured crayons which haven’t seen the light of day for some time. (I now do highlighting in Paint before printing the grid for my entry.) Although, butter, sand and yellow are pretty much the same in my book, I still tried to make them slightly different. [I think you failed. Ed.] I know JEG is fairly lenient when it comes to that sort of thing. I did wonder whether highlighting the cells in each word, with letters the same as elsewhere in the grid would be allowed. Probably… but I didn’t want to risk it.

The birds were, in grid order:


That just left the first and last letters of the extra words in the remaining clues: PropagandA, CompatiblE, HollywooD, AttacK, OmnivorE, No-onE, PondeR, LasheD, RenaissancE. These could be rearranged into two 9-letter words to give a bird that needed to be entered below the grid thematically in only 15 letters.

Well, it didn’t take long to realise that the colour had to be three letters, and I soon had the PEA-DARKEN ELDERCHOP. Except that wasn’t in Chambers! Perhaps the ALE-DARNED HOP-PECKER. Nope! [Tim will undoubtedly have some others. Ed.] In the end, it was the RED-NECKED PHALAROPE who got slotted in.

Thanks for more avian shenanigans, Malva.

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

‘Shady Characters’ by Malva

Posted by Encota on 14 July 2017

Do I recall correctly that the last Malva Listener was the MINSMERE one?  Clearly in the weekend where Radiohead* are playing their fourth ever Glastonbury live set, we’ll need to be transported from the Suffolk coast to the depths of Somerset, i.e. there must be a Radiohead-based clue hiding in here somewhere.  Ah, yes, there it is, 15 down – with the track ‘Dollars and cents’ from their fifth album, Amnesiac (2001):

  Dollars and cents adult invested in baking equipment (4)

Mr O’Brien (one of R’s guitarists) and his sour dough bread-making project get a mention in this same clue, too.  [What??? Ed.]

Back to reality: …what is going on in 12 across?

  Men abandoning magic to practise crystal-gazing (4)

This was one of the clues where the wordplay indicates the answer with an extra letter.  My first parsing was perhaps ‘original’, by which I mean wrong:  ‘MM’ for Men (it seemed to work in Chambers, just about) being removed from a word for ‘magic’, namely SCRUMMY (in the ‘delightful’ sense), leaving SCRUY.  Remove one letter, U, leaving SCRY, which was definitely the definition.  But this led to a jumble of LLYUOW being required at the end!  Once I later knew it had to be LLYEOW, i.e. YELLOW*, then eventually I spotted S(or)C[E]RY, with OR for ‘men’.  Phew, I’d made hard work of that one…

The remaining challenges came at the end – which words to colour as which, and which to leave alone.  With there being a REDSHANK and a GREENSHANK to choose from, luckily there was one other place to put RED, in REDSTART and nowhere else for GREEN, so that one was sorted.  But what about a possible BLUE-EYE at 9d?  This didn’t look promising, as its intersection with (TAN)AGER at 7a meant that one character would have to have two different colours.  For its defence though, BLUE TIT was the only two-word (two word?) bird involved – was that relevant, somehow?  A careful re-read of the Preamble seemed to suggest No, so BLUE TIT it was.  And a BUTTERBUMP as a bittern was a new word for me, too.

That left whether to write the letters in the appropriate colour or to highlight them.  Well, there’s no mention of highlight anywhere, so it appears to be that the letters should be written in the appropriate colour.  And the title, ‘shady characters’ seems to back this up.  Some, however, especially a yellow HAMMER – and even more so a butter BUMP – aren’t going to show up too well, so it may need a bit of gentle background shading simply to make it readable.

2017-06-24 19.01.52

However, I’d rather No Surprises: I wonder where I could check that that is OK: Computer?
[Radiohead cracker joke mode off]

Finally, thanks to Mrs. Encota for colour advice and use of her appropriate colour
pencils 🙂  Words that sounded like ColourSoft and InkTense (?) and ..and …. kept appearing, along with the ‘what particular shade of Tan were you after?’ questions.  I think I got away with nodding ‘wisely’.


Tim / Encota

*One of those that Ian Hislop on Have I Got News For You might call “a modern beat combo”.  And if all goes to plan (given I’m writing this on 24th June & scheduling it for reading after 14th July) I will have seen Radiohead live again in Manchester last week!  Does anyone else remember that Douglas Adams piece in the H2G2 series where he talks about the biggest problem with ‘time travel’ not being the engineering but actually the need for new verb tenses, e.g. for describing what you did in the future last week?  I’m getting déjà vu feelings from the future about it right now…

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »