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L4538: ‘Joint Conditions’ by Awinger

Posted by Encota on 8 February 2019

“Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s … Awinger?!”

2019-01-19 14.28.12 copy

So … if you set off looking for a suitable jumble of all 50 U.S. state abbreviations – AL, AK, AZ, AR etc. – to be used on this puzzle’s missing state’s Midnight News sponsored by Minnesota Manganese (aka MN-MN-MN-Mn), when would you cut your losses?  This is when I did …

“Kindly sack mad Kamikaze democrats which vow to thwart savvy Donald J Trump in invoicing Mexican Wall fantasy”
[100 characters]

I strongly suspect you can do better.

Back to the puzzle:

I soon added the coastlines and the USA’s two land borders using the DCLX provided and thought I was close to finishing.  However, choosing precisely which 54 cells Awinger had in mind was a little of a challenge – I finally opted for giving Texas a bit more coastline and Mexico reaching the sea to its east (rather than extending the Pacific coastline up alongside Canada, as that gave Alaska some sea to its east which seemed wrong!).  Also the positioning of MN for Minnesota wasn’t obvious, but on my map it looked better placed just to the east of the divide between the Dakotas, where it meets all the criteria without straying into Canada.

A really enjoyable puzzle with some fun North American hints in the clues along the way!


Tim / Encota


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Listener No 4538: Joint Conditions by Awinger

Posted by Dave Hennings on 8 February 2019

Three weeks in, and we have the first new setter of the year. He sounds sporty, so I hoped that that was as far as the football association (grin) [Groan. Ed.] went. A fair-sized grid, 18×11 greeted us, consequently with a fair-sized set of clues (64). Moreover, 54 cells would need shading, bounded by 35 cell edges, and with DCLX to appear in the finished grid, I wondered if this was the mathematical puzzle in disguise.

Clue-wise, there were some clashes. Congratulations to those of you who immediately synonymised the title as United States and assumed that there would be an awful lot of them. I suspect that most of us had to wait until INLAND crossed with HAJ to give New Jersey.

Once the theme was revealed, the possible two-letter abbreviations certainly helped me with some of the clues. It certainly helped me with EXULS (courtesy of Texas) and MEDIATIZE (from Arizona). All in all, everything came together nicely. My only real gripe was 52ac Rice maybe from old Queen (King absent) (6) for ANNEKA — she hasn’t been on TV for ages. I do so sympathise with overseas solvers and those under about 30.

All the way through, I suspected that DC would be the missing item, even though I know that it isn’t a state. Sadly, it was Minnesota that got booted out of the main grid and had to be written in scruchy-up style. I did try and check this grid about a dozen times, and even now wonder if I made a silly mistake.

As I put AK into the top left corner of the grid, I wondered what Arkansas was doing so far out of place! Still, if it can be pronounced so oddly, anything was possible. Of course, it was Alaska that went there, but it made me wonder if having the states in approximately their correct positions was an unwritten requirement. What if someone put MN near Texas with NM up by the Great Lakes? Or, less bizarrely, got Alabama swapped with Louisiana? Certainly not me!

Finally, we had to replace four letters with DCLX and do a bit, of shading — well, quite a lot actually. The four “framing items” thus became CANADA, MEXICO, ATLANTIC and PACIFIC. The first letters of clues to across answers beginning with S gave Sea blue. Some nice touches to finish with.

An impressive grid, Awinger, and an enjoyable puzzle.

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Listener No 4537, Rollerball: A Setter’s Blog by The Ace of Hearts

Posted by Listen With Others on 3 February 2019

I got the idea for this crossword while looking up four-wheeled carriages for a previous Listener crossword (The Evolution of East Perry) and discovered a wonderful definition for a wagon was “A movable piece of furniture with shelves”. So I (or rather Qxw) created a circular grid with 35 (seven letter) radials. I chose 7 letters radials as I thought it would give me better selection of words to choose from while also including the letters latent gimmick. The idea was to fill the perimeter ring with types of wagon to form a defensive ring, cryptically indicating a definition of CORRAL with the latent letters giving the other 35 letter (an enclosure to drive hunted animals into) definition. The grid fill didn’t take half as long as I thought it would as the Qxw programme is quite powerful (and I am becoming more familiar with it) and it only needed a bit of jockeying around with perimeter wagons to make it all fit.

And so to the clues. I put a lot of time into these and left them, then re-checked them a couple of times for errors, accuracy and fairness until everything was to my satisfaction. However, from previous experience I knew that this would not be enough, but this time I had enlisted the help of a checker (Shirley Curran AKA Chalicea) and was about to send it to her when I suddenly realised that grid (with 7-letter radials) was probably too large to fit the space allowed by the The Times for the puzzle. Because of the amount of time I put into it I sent it anyway, more in hope that expectation.

Shortly after that I got the report from Shirley (who did a comprehensive review of the puzzle, Thanks Shirley) pointing out some errors that I made in the clueing, but also adding that I should also clue some of the words in the fifth ring to make things fairer for the solver. She did also say that this would use up more valuable space and because of that the puzzle might be rejected by the Listener vetters. I sent it off anyway; again more in hope that expectation.

Some time later I got The Times vetters’ (Roger and Shane) reports and neither of them mentioned that it wouldn’t fit into the paper (though I noticed that the paper’s edition of the puzzle, did not have ANY spare space at all and COMPLETELY filled an A4 sheet when printed), so it must have been a tight fit. The vetters did modify a few clues, but not nearly as many as my previous submissions (thanks again, Shirley) and changed the title from “Old Black Pen” referring to a pen (Corral) for cattle (Black being an old name for a type of cattle) to “Rollerball” also a type of pen but with circular intonation. They also asterisked the letters of CORRAL to make the solution unique as some solvers might justifiably put in LAAGER, RAT-PIT or KEDDAH, eventually getting the puzzle over the line.

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Listener No 4537: Rollerball by The Ace of Hearts

Posted by Dave Hennings on 1 February 2019

This week we had TAoH’s third Listener following on from the fifth wheel last year and the Blarney Stone the year before. Here we had a circular grid, not that it should have been a surprise since the previous two were as well. (Confession is good for the soul — circulars aren’t my favourite.)

However, there was a lot going on, so it looked as though it would be interesting. Indeed it was. Most radials would go inwards, but seven (thanks for the info) would go outwards. Unfortunately, they all needed to lose a letter before entry and these letters would spell out a definition.

The perimeter and Ring 5 were clued by wordplay only, but TaoH was kind in making most of them very straightforward. Although I quickly slotted CAISSON, GONDOLA and TELEGA into the perimeter, I failed to see what they might have in common. The first two had a watery connection and the last was a Russian wagon. A quick check in the BRB showed that they were all types of wagon.

Fiddling around with the Radial clues took a fair amount of time, even though some were helpful. Sometime later and I had a few of the letters in Ring 5 such that I could solve its outstanding clues. Thus the definition was A MOVABLE PIECE OF FURNITURE WITH SHELVES. More failure to understand on my part, and it was some time before I looked up wagon in Chambers.

The remaining two perimeter wagons were DEMOCRAT and KIBITKA. The latter was clued as Bit into chocolate bar, almost losing tip of tooth, leading to BIT in KITKA(t) – T. KitKat in the UK was originally made by Rowntree’s. That company was bought out by Nestlé which subsequently closed it. Typical!! In the USA it is made under licence by Reese, a division of the Hershey Company — so heaven knows what it tastes like!

Finally, we had the letters dropped from the Radials giving An enclosure to drive hunted animals into and CORRAL soon went into the centre of the grid.

Thanks for an entertaining puzzle, Ace. (Confession number 2 — I hate westerns.)

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L4537: ‘Rollerball’ by the Ace of Hearts

Posted by Encota on 1 February 2019

It was the first – that I can remember – of  ‘that‘ cinema-trailer-voice:
In the not too distant future, wars will no longer exist.
But there will be … ROLLERBALL

OK, so I’m showing my age, listening as a kid to early commercial radio in the UK.  But how might all that have any relevance to this week’s puzzle?

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I almost got caught out by Radial 24:

  • Decorates circle in umbelliferous plants (8)

Initially there seemed to be too many of said plants from which to choose.  However, given it appeared to need six letters and be a plural, then ANISES seemed a good bet.  This is where I nearly went astray.  I imagined ‘decorates’ to be ANODISES with one letter missing for the Grid Entry.  But the gaps made it look like AODISES was to be the entry, so I put that in.  It was only when double-checking the defining phrase of AN ENCLOSURE TO DRIVE HUNTED ANIMALS INTO, that I realised that it was the D that needed to be missing.  And only then did I realise that the word defined by ‘decorates’ was ADONISES, with the D missing in the entry.  That was a close shave, especially so early in 2019!

As someone who hasn’t been solving thematics for long, and there not being that many circular thematics amongst those, I did wonder initially if a solver could assume that ring-based answers are to be entered clockwise unless stated otherwise?  I began by assuming not, so may have been unnecessarily complicating things.  Luckily a few checked cells showed that – in this case at least – these were to be entered clockwise, so things got rolling again.

I particularly liked the very first clue:

  • Bit into chocolate bar, almost losing tip of tooth (7)

… which I parsed as BIT inside KI(t)KA(t), with a separate instruction to delete each of the  Ts – very neat!

And the Title?  ROLLER=Wagon plus BALL=Circle, with the film title bluff.  Maybe?

Tim / Encota

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