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Ripping Yarn by Nutmeg

Posted by shirleycurran on 5 April 2019

We smiled when we saw the setter was Nutmeg. She can be counted on to give the solver a fair chance and to provide some fine surface readings in well-set clues, though there was a bit of muttering about misprints. It is rare to find a crossword with a misprint in the definition part of every clue without some of them being mildly forced or rather clunky. And the habitual Listener setter’s dose of alcohol? Nutmeg abstained in a ladylike way, producing tea instead -‘In Darjeeling, perhaps an Indian might boil it (5)’ We used CHA round AN giving us CHANA or a ‘chick-pea’.

We had coffee, too. We smiled again when we back-solved from ROBUSTA to ‘What might make Americans rude? Trace of arrogance (7)’ Our Americans became Americano, ROBUST + A(rrogance). There was breakfast food too – an ‘Icelandic dish of cereal served up in Rekyavik for starters (5)’ but we decided that had to be dosh, and produced RYE< + IR, giving EYRIR. With total sobriety Nutmeg produced ‘Wild cerebration (well, it had to be ‘celebration’ didn’t it?) uses head, nothing more (5)’, giving us BEAN + O. Chambers tells us that’s a rowdy jollification, so ‘Cheers, Nutmeg!’

We were lucky in that the letters in place for those four words down the centre of the grid soon suggested A STITCH IN TIME, which made perfect sense with the title and the preamble and we already had a likely FEATHER and BLANKET potentially running round the perimeter. Fitting in CHAIN, SATIN, CROSS, RUNNING, STEM, ROPE and BACK stitches produced yet another smile. Is it sexist to suggest that this is a feminine topic? (Well, we had to do needlework at school while the boys constructed tables.)

However, we had a full grid before we understood what those strange extra letters were that were appearing round SADDLE, LAZY DAISY and BUTTONHOLE produced by the corrected misprints. What a lovely final touch. “Of course” said the other Numpty, “we have HOUR, ERA and PERIOD surrounding those stitches. Many thanks to Nutmeg for a challenging and entertaining solve.


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L4546: ‘Ripping Yarn’ by Nutmeg

Posted by Encota on 5 April 2019

2019-03-15 19.57.42 copy

Thanks first of all Nutmeg for a delightful puzzle.  It’s great to have a mix of puzzle difficulty in the Listener and the gentleness of this one was a welcome relief compared to some in recent months!  Easier – but not too easy.

I had the pleasure of meeting Nutmeg at an event in Manchester a year or two back and, like I said to her then, her puzzles are always a pleasure and, in my view, should be required study for anyone aiming to write “the perfect surface”.  If you don’t already, do look out for her regular publications in the Guardian, for example.

Two examples from ‘Ripping Yarn’ follow: ok, so the single misprint in each definition gives the setter an extra degree of freedom – but that extra wiggle-room was definitely made the most of in:

What might make Americans rude?  Trace of arrogance (7)

Where of course ‘Americans’ becomes the coffee ‘Americano’ and the answer is (ROBUST+A) ROBUSTA, a type of coffee.

Spooner’s to suggest protection for men facing enema (6, two words)

(yielding, in that, TIN HAT for protection against the enemy) …

… though I am still trying to recover from the mental images this surface initially conjured up 😉

I did experiment to see what other options there might be that satisfy the construct: ALengthOfTime around ATypeOfStitch.  I could only come up with:

“Stay In Tonight” or “Second kettles kettle” (no apostrophe), ”  Others involving the ‘screw’ stitch have naturally, for the sake of decency, been suppressed here 😉

Enough of my nonsense.  My thanks once again to Nutmeg!


Tim / Encota

PS I have very few claims to fame but singing in the rabble-of-a-school-assembly in the first ever episode of Michael Palin’s Ripping Yarns, called ‘My School’, is one of them.  Amazing what trains of thought every Listener crossword can set running …

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Listener No 4545: Polyfilla by Ifor

Posted by Dave Hennings on 29 March 2019

One of our more prolific setters greeted us this week and no doubt it would be quite tricky. His last was the puzzle that combined John Donne’s Holy Sonnets and single-letter chemical elements. This week, as with other Listener’s recently, an oddly shaped grid.

1ac and 5ac were quickly solved: AFEAR and GIMME. I liked Ifor’s definition of the latter: giveaway, not needing a hit. It is more realistically defined as an agreement between two golfers, neither of whom can putt very well! After those first two, my success with the acrosses was somewhat sporadic, made a tad difficult because each had an extra word that had to be removed before solving.

As for the downs — well. Lots of 3-letter answers, plus a lot more 6-letter answers that could be split into 3-letter words. Each had a number in brackets that dictated which clue(s) each 3-letter word thematically contributed. Moreover, the letters either side of each extra word would spell out two messages: an instruction that had to be applied to the unclued 8dn, plus a clarification of what that entailed.

It became fairly clear to me that all these little words would somehow anagram to the entries they contributed to. However, I confess it took the messages from the across clues to fully spell it out. I saw Cyril lurking there, followed closely by Russ, but it took Dolly’s discovery for everything to fall into place. The down entries would be like those Russian dolls that fitted inside each other with one word inside another inside a third and, in two cases, inside a fourth.

Finally the two messages were Enter Russian doll and Cyrillic capitals. My Russian is a bit rusty, so I needed Google to reveal how MATRESHKA needed to be modified for the Russian equivalent. I think it was MAPЁшKA, although I’m not 100% certain if the dotdot over the E is mandatory or not. I must also confess that I’m flummoxed by the clue to 21ac Whoop [unlikely] approval and take time after flight to Medina; it obviously referred to HIJRAH but I couldn’t see what knocked the HIJ off.

All in all, good fun as usual, so thanks to Ifor. Great title, too. Apparently, the world record is 51 dolls!

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Polyfilla by Ifor

Posted by shirleycurran on 29 March 2019

Yet another rather unusual grid, We read through the preamble with no undue concern and noted the ‘Iforish’ device of extra words in across clues producing letters that would lead to two messages, one telling us what to enter at 8dn and the other telling us what entering that would entail. I scanned the grid for a sprinkling of alcohol and didn’t find much – in fact only a BAR in ‘Support for women without needing right to be promoted’.  We had to promote the R in that clue leading to BRA so it was a rather reluctant ‘Cheers, Ifor’ until the clue ten further down ‘Lots of fluid from burst blisters after removing skin’ led to an anagram of (b)lister(s) and LITRES. Hearty cheers, Ifor!

Solving as many across clues as possible was clearly the way to go and the three-letter ones went in fairly quickly, followed by WARLORD, GIMME, AFEAR and TABARDS. HEADSHEETS had to be the answer to ‘Bows change these in pursuit of titles’, (HEADS+ SHEETS*) and we were helpfully told that this had to be 10 letters long and tentatively placed the SH in the centre of the answer.

We were producing a message (well, the beginnings of two messages) ENTER RUSSIAN ????  and CYRILLIC CAPI ????, and what was even more helpful, TEA and Chambers gave us suggestions for those long down clues, WITHEREDNESS, AGALACTIA, FIREBRAND, AMOURETTE, REREDORSE and DISFEATURING.

I am sure Ifor didn’t expect us to solve those small clues in reverse but that was, in fact, in many cases the way we did it. 10d, for example, offered us MAHSIR or
MOHAIR and we could see that AHS must be the entry to the first of the downs, nested in MIR – penny drop moment!NESTED! Suddenly it all made sense. We had LAC, nested in GAT, nested in AIA. DISFEATURING was made up of EAT, in FUR, in SIN nested in DIG. Nesting dolls! Surely we each received a set of nesting dolls as a present when we were small.

Of course the unusual shape of the grid now made sense – there was our Babushka!

So SPA went into INN, CAN into ARE, HEM into TIS, ASH into PED, and BAN into LIT and our grid was complete, except that we had to. ENTER RUSSIAN DOLL in CYRILLIC CAPITALS. We had a putative MATRYOSHKA down the centre of our grid and knew we had to be careful after that KOHb of some years ago so carefully checked our capitals with the Russian neighbour and opted for MATPEWKA – or a version of that.

Very ingenious. Thank you Ifor.

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L4545: ‘Polyfilla’ by Ifor

Posted by Encota on 29 March 2019

Yo! Yo! Yo! Yo! Yo! Yo! Yo! Yo! Yo! Yo! (i.e. repeat IO / many times).  Firstly, a must for (whether closet or not) Sesame Street fans everywhere:

So what character do you get from Unicode (1025 dec), I hear you cry?  BTW, I almost suffered with diaeresis at the weekend – but I think that counts as oversharing …

On the way to the York- based Listener dinner the week before this puzzle appeared (aside: thank you Jane & John!), my wife and I stopped for a night in Lincoln, where we visited the Matryoshka Russian Doll shop
Luckily I didn’t get started on a Listener Russian doll-based idea as, when this puzzle appeared the week after, Ifor clearly had the idea before me.  Phew …

I suspect at least one person is going to be kicking themselves for putting an E rather than an Ë character.  I think it’s something like (though my capital ‘SH’ isn’t very good!)



But maybe I’ve got it entirely wrong…


Tim / Encota

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