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L4591: '1834' by ArEs

Posted by Encota on 14 February 2020

I’m sensing some chemistry this week!

I heard faint rumours that the Title might be chemical Atomic Numbers concatenated. But hold on a moment …

1+8+9+9, a tribute to the HOFF, David Hasselhoff, whose birthday falls exactly 5 months and 22 days after this puzzle’s publication date. Surely that must be fate, it simply can’t be coincidence.

Tim / Encota

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Listener No 4591: 1899 by Ares

Posted by Dave Hennings on 14 February 2020

The first new setter of 2020 this week with what looked like a date-related theme. Shows what I know! During a conversation with a popular setter at the quarterly Listener gathering, I was told that one look at the title/author told him everything. Poor solvers like me had to unravel the puzzle for a couple of hours before the theme was revealed.

A few days after I had sent my solution to St Albans, I was talking to a guy in my local pub. We had nicknamed him the Hapless Hare who was a bit like the Rueful Rabbit in Victor Mollo’s bridge books, a character who was always stumbling across the correct solution without really knowing why. I had only recently learnt that he was also a Listener solver and I asked him how he had got on with this puzzle from Ares.

“A bit of a doddle,” he said. “It was obvious fairly early on that some squares needed to hold two letters, and everything meshed together nicely.”

“But didn’t you uncover the thematic name spelt out by the initial letters of extra words in fifteen clues?” I asked.

“Oh,” he replied. “I wondered why a few clues were a bit odd. Unfortunately, as I was underlining what I thought were some relevant words in the preamble, my biro got a bit leaky and splurged some ink over it. Half the words became illegible. Serves me right for buying the cheap ones.”

“So you didn’t spot the ambiguity in the centre left of the grid where UNEASINESS/CHUBBINESS/UNDOCKS could be entered in one of two ways with either NE in a square or alternatively IN and UN?”

“’Fraid not,” he said. “With all that leakage, I was running low on ink, so I put everything in to use as little as possible. I also entered the second of the letters in the double squares in lower case, again to conserve ink, especially with the Ns and Rs. I didn’t think the checker would mark me wrong for that.”

And so, without identifying Dmitri Mendeleev and realising that all the double letters, and indeed all the single letters, had to be symbols for the chemical elements and entered thematically, he got home scot-free. He wouldn’t even have had to google the Ts double in a couple of squares which is Tennessine (atomic number 117) and not yet in Chambers.

Better luck next time in trapping the Hare, Ares!

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1899 by Ares

Posted by shirleycurran on 14 February 2020

Ares seems to be a new setter pseudonym and we muse about it. It anagrams to RASE, SEAR, ERAS and the Spanish word SERA doesn’t it? Later on, we muse that it is a combination of elements 18 (Argon) and 99 (Einsteinium). One friend commented to me that the pseudonym and title clicked immediately for him (and that it was a good thing that he or she didn’t entitle the puzzle 1834) but it took us the solving of several clues and the finding of DMITRI to produce the p.d.m. No, not Shostakovich, but MENDELEEV. From then on, the other Numpty completed the solving of the clues, while I tried to make the solutions mesh, putting some double letters in as their elements.

This didn’t prove to be as easy as I initially suspected – why? Well, I naively assumed that Ares was using the original Mendeleev table which I printed and scanned for Ra, La, and Es. But it was not to be. At last, the other Numpty opened Chambers on the Chemical Elements page and my task became easier – easier, yes, but how was I going to combine the Ts of INSISTs and SiReNSUITs. I struggled for a while before checking with my friend Wiki whether there was a new element whose symbol was Ts. Tennessine (element 117) he tells me, is the second heaviest element known. It fits three times into my grid and all is well.

And the alcohol? Wiki tells me that it is a popular myth that Mendeleev invented vodka but Ares has been indulging, anyway. I find ‘They wait on board ship to provide three pints(ish) in buoys. Not socially acceptable’. I have to work backwards from the CABIN BOYS who appear as my solution, to find that a CAB is an ancient Hebrew measure of ‘about three pints’ and that is IN BUOYS from which we remove the U (not socially acceptable). So cheers, Ares!

Most of Ares’ clues were more gentle than that and it was a sppedy and enjoyable solve for us, “Thank you, Ares.”  But I shall have to try my new words out this week: KIKUMON, IBIBIO, SCRAUCH, FASCIAL and YINCE. The family who are coming over to ski this week will suspect that I have been dabbling in a new language.

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Listener No 4590, Bros: A Setter’s Blog by Vismut

Posted by Listen With Others on 9 February 2020

A lifelong fan of Gerald Durrell and his books, I have Fillets of Plaice on my bookshelf. Chapter One describes how, when sitting on a beach in Corfu with a large bottle of retsina, Gerald discussed with his brother Lawrence what to call his compilation of stories. Lawrence who had recently published his own compilation of letters called Spirit of Place suggested Fillets of Plaice.

I was immediately struck by the fact that the titles and first names of these books and brothers in combination had the same number of letters and tried, unsuccessfully to begin with, to make this work for me and the puzzle. As a setter of these puzzles you find yourself counting the number of letters in words all the time. You may be reading a book (4), a paper (5), a menu (4) or watching the television (10), whatever it is you’re counting the letters.

A number of attempts later and with advice from more experienced setters like Chalicea (8) and Mr E (3, two words) and after several weeks the puzzle was ready to go. Further amendments from the Listener editors gave it some polish. Many thanks for the help everyone.

Meanwhile back to the Durrells. What a family this was and what a magical world Gerald Durrell conjures up in his writing. If you haven’t read any of his books other than My Family and Other Animals you’ve missed a treat

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L4590: Bros by Vismut

Posted by Encota on 7 February 2020

Those like me who know more about The Durrells from the TV show of the same name might have found this fairly straightforward. [I did visit Gerald’s Zoo on Jersey back in the 1970s too – way ahead of its time!]

Lawrence, the poet and his younger brother Gerry (Gerald) the trainee zoo-keeper, with Keeley Hawes thrown in for good measure … Anyway, where was I?

The leading diagonal initially contained SURNAME and the eleven letters from the Down clues spelt out A FAMILY NAME. With the final name needing to be ?UR???? it could only be these guys!

It turns out that their writing cited both contain “PLACE”: FILLETS OF PLAICE (by) GERALD and, from LAWRENCE, SPIRIT OF PLACE. Both 21 letters, which all fits neatly.

It might have just been me? I initially spelt the soup on the top line as BORSCHT. However, when this needed TECTONICS at 8d to begin with an S, I was temporarily worried: would the puzzle have unannounced clashes?? If yes, it’ll be much harder than first envisaged!

Luckily, with the help of the BRB, I realised I had BORTSCH as a possible spelling too, so quickly fixed that!

The misprints were fun to find, with some nice deception or, at least, options. In 36a’s:

Sparing less food, treated muscle injury (6)

.. the answer looked near certain to be SPRAIN, with the G being dropped from SPARIN(g) before jumbling. I incorrectly guessed that ‘food’ in the clue was a misprint for ‘foot’, which I thought might constitute a last_letter_indicator, even in an Across clue. However, when it came to using letters to spell out hidden the authors and titles above, this provided only gobbledygook. I then spotted the much better alternative of ‘food’ changing to ‘good’, hence indicating that the G was to be dropped and all was well.

A fun and gentle puzzle – my thanks go to Vismut.


Tim / Encota

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