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Listener 4728: Bream by Check

Posted by vaganslistener on 30 Sep 2022

Check’s first Listener, and what a beauty! (Not to mention being a Numpties’ Delight as the theme emerged…) I was pretty busy with professional duties to do with the death of our late and beloved Sovereign, and it provided a cheerful contrast to come home to after the sombre occasions.

The title didn’t at first give anything away, but the preamble was clear and concise so I started at 10a looking for the message from the missing letters.

That device was handled very well indeed. So 10a itself, “Rupture in fantasy land, losing leading duo to ale” (6) lead to HERNIA, parsing as NARNIA – NA + (M)ALE. Of course I liked and spotted 21a “Top scholar’s proem recalled aged book” (5) giving HOSEA from HO [(s)top] + S(cholar) + AE<; and 25d “Murphy’s word of regret on endless yarn” was fun once I’s stopped looking for potatoes and found OCH [changed to OOH later], as much Irish as Scottish, from O + (a)CH(e). Clues like this need careful construction and a dollop of imagination to both set and solve. The downside is that sometimes they do defeat me at least until I have gathered the missing letter, or crossing letters, and can spot the word and reverse engineer the parsing – but that’s part of the point of a crossword.

The note on grid entyry lengths and indication of blank cells will have flagged to old hands that some entries were shorter than the spaces allottted to them, but once that was accounted for (and realising that the extra letter when added made another real word) meant the solve was then a steady one. As MIX appeared at the beginning of the message, I started to think “recipe” (I do a lot of the cooking these days), and BARLEY was looking likely, so BEER was likely to be the product. Pattern searching the bottom line prodUVED BREATHALYSER as a “Nina” and gave the B of BEER, and for once the wordsearch for the further steps was easy as WORT was “decanted” and replaced by HOPS, GLUCOSE turned in ALCOHOL, and CARBON DIOXIDE filled in as the by-product.

The only clue that really bothered me was 19a “A duke escaping death secures antique to pl(a)y ruler” (8) where the answer was obviously EMPERISE – or was that EMPERIZE? I think the parsing was to remove D(uke) from DEMISE and wrap it round PER for “to”, but why does PER=TO, and why did the editor leave the A in at the beginning. I’ve probably missed something, but feel the DEMISE anyway is likely to be right and have stick with the S.

That left just the title to understand and anagramming as usual “fermenting” perhaps) we get AMBER, the traditional colour of Aussie ‘nectar’ or beer.

I see MARSALA was slipped in too for those who prefer the grape to the grain, so happiness all round as long as the bottom line is avoided… Thanks Check, and we look forward to more.

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Bream by Check

Posted by shirleycurran on 30 Sep 2022

Check seems to be a relatively new crossword setter. I find, in Dave Hennings’ crossword database, that he has compiled a pair of EVs (I wrote the hints on Big Dave’s site for one on ‘All You Need Is Love’) and an IQ. There is an ambitious pre-ramble here. It’s a lot harder for a compiler to omit a letter from each clue than it is to add one to the wordplay leading to the solutions. Of course, it’s harder for the solver too.

These were going to give us a message that would lead to ‘four steps in a process’ that we must ‘enter sequentially in the grid’ and then we were going to find and highlight the four-letter product and use a ‘by-product to fill the remaining blank cells’.

‘Bream’ suggested fish to us and it anagrammed to AMBER. “Maybe it’s something to do with gems”, I said, “Or ale – Amber is beer in Australia” said the other Numpty. That prompted me to check that we could admit Check to the Listener setters’ oenophile outfit and, of course his very first clue ‘Rupture in fantasy land, losing leading duo to ale (6)’ earned his place. We removed the first two letters of NARNIA and put the male ‘HE’ there to give us a HERNIA and an added M. Yes, a tough clue, and it went on like that!

The alcohol ‘went on’ too. ‘Wine runs accepted by the French (6)’ Gave us an extra I when we put ‘ruins’ MARS in front of A(ccepted) and the French LA giving us MARSALA. So at this early stage we had already raised our G and Ts to Check. Cheers, Check – see you at the bar somewhere in the south-west next March maybe!

The bottom half of the grid filled fairly quickly and we soon had the rather strange BREATHALYSERS as the only word that would fit that unclued bottom row. As the message emerged, I began to fear that Check was rather overdoing the booze. Our last clue in was LOADED! He surely was ‘under the table’ by this time. ‘Old Bill lies motivated under the table (6)’ We were not sure how we got the N needed for the message out of this after we had opted for O AD as the ‘old bill’ but by now we had four instructions: MIX IN MASHED BARLEY, DECANT WORT, ADD HOPS and FERMENT SUGAR.

We had a number of blank cells. Now we understood why ‘numbers in brackets are the lengths of grid entries’ – we had a completely empty top row and gaps on the bottom row. We also understood that we were brewing BEER which appeard as a diagonal at the bottom left. We put the CARBON DIOXIDE at 1 across creating new words, and completed our bottom row by mixing in the ‘mashed’ or jumbled BARLEY! Nice!

The other Numpty gave me a lecture about fermentation and brewing and prompted me to replace the sugar or GLUCOSE with ALCOHOL. He reminded me that we had been invited to smell the WORT during a visit to an Islay distillery and that we were being asked here to decant the WORT and add HOPS, so BELLWORT became BELLHOPS. What an impressive compilation, Check – absolutely swimming in alcohol! I suspect that a few solvers will be ‘under the table’.

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Listener 4727 Not Again! By Dysart

Posted by vaganslistener on 23 Sep 2022

Good: another puzzle from Andy Stewart. No, not the musician, but Dysart, who has set a long list of them in all the usual barred crossword outlets since 2006. His last Listener was 4683 last October which took us to Mount Olympus. Where will we be going this time?

I was very slow off the mark finding out, mainly because there was a lot else going on, but also because I was misled by the talk of symbols, and finding a PLING (!) in 21a/12d, started to think that (not again) it was a puzzle based on a maths equation.

Not so. Once I got some focus and concentrated on extricating the message from the extra words in the down clues (solving some and guessing others) I found that THAT’S BASIC SPELLING THAT EVERY WOMAN OUGHT TO KNOW, and Mr Google quickyl completed that telling us that A KISS CAN BE A COMMA A QUESTION MARK OR AN EXCLAMATION POINT, as explained by Mistinguett. So – COMMA, QUERY and PLING symmetrically disposed on the fifth row down, and probably three kisses (which turned out to be SMACK BUSS and PECK) similarly arranged in the bottom half of the grid (as they nearly were).

That speeded things up immensely and soon Roald DAHL (author of KISS KISS, to be entered below the grid) emerged as one unclued entry, and (with a bit more pondering) PLAY IT SAM as the other, referencing A KISS IS STILL A KISS, the second line of “As Time Goes By” which was what Sam played in Casablanca.

The wordplay-only clue was 1a INTEROSCULATE (“kiss” in a particular sense), and 44a “Elderly English suitor, clipped badly? Hurtfully!” contained the three symbols from row 5.

A “fruit salad” sort of theme, then, blending diverse examples of the theme into a tasy whole, with high quality clueing to back it up the rich thematic offering. Thanks Dysart, and I’m sure we’ll not be saying “Not again” when we see you next time.

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Not Again by Dysart

Posted by shirleycurran on 23 Sep 2022

What will Dysart be up to this time? His themes vary enormously. We’ve had a wonderful crossword (Magpie, that one) on the world’s rarest stamp, and one on the snake that came to D H Lawrence’s waterhole (Magpie too) as well as his last Listener on the Mount Olympus gods. ‘Not Again!’ is intriguing – but it certainly doesn’t refer to alcohol consumption. As usual I search the clues for evidence of that and only find the curiously repeated ‘porter’ in a couple of almost adjacent clues. Well, cheers, anyway, Dysart.

What we do find fairly quickly is the one clue that ‘consists of wordplay only’. ‘Dog briefly stopping to bury bone departed (13)’ leads us to put together CU[r] OS INTER and LATE, giving INTEROSCULATE. That’s rather a complicated word for KISS.

PLAY IT SAM appears down the left hand side of our grid (probably) and that would explain the title ‘Not Again!’ so we have a potential theme, that song from Casablanca:

You must remember this 
A kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh 
The fundamental things apply 
As time goes by 
And when two lovers woo 
They still say, “I love you”
On that you can rely 
No matter what the future brings 
As time goes by.

‘A kiss is just a kiss’. Roald Dahl’s Kiss Kiss used to be on our third-year reading list (the students revelled in some of those gruesome stories) so we see who the writer of the other unclued light is, and what to write below our grid and we are left with those clashing letters to sort out. TELECOM and LAMA give us COMMA (,); SALIQUE and HOARY give us QUERY (?); and TRIPLY and BOINGED give us PLING (!). Then we find three KISS words: POMACES and ASKING give SMACK; ABUSION and TASER give BUSS; and EPEES and OCKERS give PECK.

We have a quotation THAT’S BASIC SPELLING THAT EVERY WOMAN OUGHT TO KNOW. (Why ‘woman’ I wonder!) We need the Internet for this and find that Mistinguett said: “A kiss can be a comma, a question mark or an exclamation point. That’s basic spelling that every woman ought to know.” So there we have it.

We wonder whether we have to convert those three characters to Xs (yes – we spot ‘character’ in clue 31 ‘Simpsons character plugs face of islander (6) APU went into PAN to give PAPUAN) since, according to Minguett they can be kisses, but the preamble says that the quotation ‘explains why the three other symbols are different’ so we opt for three characters and three kisses. Thanks for the fun, Dysart!

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Listener 4726 Red Applause by Crash

Posted by gillwinchcombe on 16 Sep 2022

I was away (again) for most of the week when I’d normally be solving Red Applause, but I took it with me and made good inroads despite finding it to be pretty tough. The endgame nearly defeated me though – I needed my other half to identify the exact game, which he did – phew! As soon as I read about this famous game I understood the clever title. I then had a quandary – how do I depict white pieces on a white background? I coloured the corners of the squares not taken up by the circles, left the circles white, explained to JEG what I’d done, and crossed my fingers …

I have one question though. 6ac reads “Mob [Lob] runs after terrier fae Linicro” giving SKYER. Runs = R, terrier from Linicro = SKYE, and SKYER = LOB, so no problem. But in my book, or rather in Ben Aaronovitch’s excellent “Rivers of London” series, a fae is a fairy-like creature, and the BRB has frae as from. Am I missing something?

Red Applause is a cleverly-depicted puzzle, and a fine debut from what appears to be a new setter – well done Crash, wherever you are!

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