Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin

Listener No 4611: 24 Across by Merlin

Posted by Dave Hennings on 3 July 2020

Oh dear, it was Merlin week again! It had been a long time since his last puzzle back in 2012. That was based on Euler and the Königsberg bridge (No 4209, City Crossing Tour) and, according to my annual stats for that year, was a fail — despite ages on the endgame. A few years before that in 2006, I vividly remember how ye Olde Treasure Hunt, based on Sherlock Holmes and The Musgrave Ritual, also caused me grief. I hoped for better luck [This is the Listener! Ed.] this week.

There were clashes in 14 cells, which, “along with one other (to be determined)” needed to be left blank. I hoped that it wouldn’t need too much determination. The rest of the preamble sounded quite tricky with lines to be drawn, two 15-letter phrases being revealed and a question and answer relating to one of the phrases, the other of which needed to go under the grid. Lawks!

1ac was a nice start What goes in Fort? Group of soldiers, English not American (6), with Fort being a misprint for Ford. Unfortunately, PETROL had to wait to be solved before being entered. Luckily, 7ac Change chemical firm in matter of law (5) came to the rescue with firm for form.

A few more across clues came through in the first pass, but the downs started well with ETTIN, THECLA (solved that somewhere else the day before!), ADEEM, CLERIC, TYPICAL and WENS. All those enable OTHER-WORLDLY to be slotted in at 12ac and I was getting happier.

My favourite clues were 6dn Attack Attach island cut off from state (7) for CONNECT [CONNECTICUT – I – CUT] and of course Ecstasy taken by bleary Ringo ruined his maths’ mates’ number (12, two words) [E in (BLEARY RINGO)*] giving ELEANOR RIGBY. The trickiest for me was the thematic 24ac Wallop barrel not used for full round (4) where I kept trying to add a B or BL somewhere before realising that BARREL ROLL – BARREL was the ROLL I was looking for.

On to the endgame, and the Q&A spelt by the corrected misprints was Does eight down give hint to theme? Reverse. Thanks for that, Merlin!

So could I make anything of the ten lines somehow in four groups? “No” was the answer to that question, partly due to that pesky letter that wasn’t a clash. So I took to googling ‘Eleanor Rigby’, et voilà, it was a song from the film Yellow Submarine. Identifying that in the clashes enabled CHICKEN SANDWICH to pop out from the unused clashes.

Thus we had YELLOW = CHICKEN and SUBMARINE = SANDWICH. The shape that came from those phrases was FILM, which referred to both the movie and the plastic wrapping. Discarding the answer that was 8dn related, I wrote the food item in the space under the grid. Personally, I think the corrected misprints should have given Does twenty-four across give hint to theme? Yes.

What a lot came together neatly, and hopefully I got home error-free. Thanks, Merlin.

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

Listener No 4610, Tale of the Unexpected: A Setter’s Blog by Lath

Posted by Listen With Others on 28 June 2020

I must say in opening that the whole setting experience has been a real eye-opener to the way the puzzles are “born and raised”. I am so impressed with the meticulous process that leads to the publication and of course to the standards set by the editorial team. The Listener is definitely in safe hands.

I am relatively new to The Listener Crossword, having been introduced to it about three years ago by my new neighbour. He is a long standing fan and just loves the weekly ritual that goes with collecting and solving the puzzle in its entirety. (No outstanding parsing queries are allowed – Quite right I say!) Once I was on board, I became well and truly hooked. It is now an integral part of my weekend and sometimes of course well beyond Sunday evening.

I have never submitted a puzzle in the past to any paper or magazine. Undaunted and thanks to the guidance on the Listener website, I decided to test a few ideas out to try to achieve a puzzle of the right level of complexity, difficulty and enjoyment for the solvers. Eventually, I kept coming back to the clue swapping element as my starting point. I liked the potential hurdle that a number of swaps would present to the solver. It was on Derby Day last year as I was watching the race result being flashed up that the idea of the starting price (40/1 in the case of my puzzle) as the end result of the clue swaps focussed my mind. A big race event was now a potential theme. As it happened, the Derby gave me all the thematic elements that I was looking for.

A bit of research led me to the 2017 race and the long odds that the winner had as its starting price. The name, Wings Of Eagles, (having 13 letters) gave the option of inclusion in the grid. One of the diagonals seemed the natural home for it so that was the start of building the grid. I was mindful of the fact that someone may have already produced a Derby-based puzzle. [No 4244, At Spes Non Fracta by Chalicea about Emily Davison.] That theme was a whole lot more serious than mine so I think there is a reasonable distinction in the topic at its heart. As the grid was being built, I thought of inserting a basic shape of the course along with a phrase that would lead the solver to draw it into the completed grid. Some fiddling around led to the phrase DERBY ONE MILE AND FOUR FURLONGS intersecting neatly with WINGS OF EAGLES on the reverse diagonal. The framework of the puzzle was now in place.

>From there it was a case of completing the words in the grid and developing the clues. The idea of using the first letters of the 10 clues to provide EPSOM DOWNS came later. The original plan was to have the solver to write the whole result below the grid on completion i.e. 18 Wings of Eagles (40/1) Aidan O’Brien (Padraig Beggy) 2017. However, the space restrictions within the page put paid to that. We nagged to retain all of these thematic elements by altering the preamble and by using the vehicle of the dummy clue. It worked nicely I think to produce the trainer and jockey from the letters of the clue, with the horse’s start number being the clue number.

A lot of help and guidance from the editorial team then followed and the green light eventually led to the final puzzle appearing in print.

I wasn’t aware of the provision of feedback and statistics that I was to receive following the publication and submissions by solvers. That too has been fascinating and really underlines the Listener’s enduring appeal to so many followers. It has been a lot of fun to be a part of. I hope my next offering will also hit the spot!

Posted in Setting Blogs | 1 Comment »

L4610: ‘Tale of the Unexpected’ by Lath

Posted by Encota on 26 June 2020

Some tough clues and a non-trivial endgame – thanks Lath!

Kindly we were provided with a clear pointer upwards on the leading diagonal, which spelt out WINGS OF EAGLES. Thus finding out more about this famous event was just one Google search away.

Finding the EPSOM DOWNS course on the grid was still quite tough – for me at least! DERBY was fairly easy to spot. I vaguely recalled Tattenham Corner as a place from my childhood … but couldn’t find it here. Aside: was it really built purely for the racecourse? Luckily I then spotted FURLONG and could join up the pieces to form DERBY ONE MILE AND FOUR FURLONGS.

I was a little unsure which N to pick from Column 7 at the centre of taNNin. I watched a re-run of the race on Youtube and noted there were no sharper turns at that point on the racecourse so opted for the straighter one. Though I may well be missing something!

Thanks again to Lath for a tricky yet enjoyable puzzle!


Tim / Encota

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

Listener No 4610: Tale of the Unexpected by Lath

Posted by Dave Hennings on 26 June 2020

A new setter greeted us this week, although part of me wondered if it might be a collaboration. An interesting device here in that five pairs of clues needed swapping with their first letters and their clue numbers leading to the location of a notable event which needed to be drawn in the grid. Moreover there was a dummy clue which would give two important men, presumably related to the event.

Clueing was relatively gentle, with acrosses 7 DISMAL, 16 BRED, 17 LEFTY and 19 NARIAL being slotted in quickly. Quite a few more went in on the first pass although I was aware that there could be some swapping involved. In fact, unless 9dn was DEBTS, either BRED or LEFTY would need moving — or 9dn SEBAT!

About half the acrosses were in before I started on the downs. Again, some went in quickly with 2 HEEHAW, 3 RULER, 4 IRMA and 5 KEEL leading the way. The FOGDOGS, SEGGARS and ROLFERs were new to me and 18dn was the dummy clue since Badge pair go in Derby again (4) did not lead to the unchecked YAWN. Soon the grid was finished and time for the endgame.

The clue swapping involved 1ac↔40ac, 12ac↔45ac, 17ac↔20dn, 21ac↔44ac and 13dn↔35dn. The initial letters of these gave D E P N S S O M W O. My first attempt at unjumbling them gave POW DOMNESS followed by PEMNS WOODS. As so often the case, it just jumped out at me — EPSOM DOWNS. I would have been mortified if I hadn’t got this since I was born and raised in Epsom.

It didn’t need a giant leap to guess we were in Derby territory, especially since, pre-pandemic, it took place early in June. Drawing the shape of the Derby course started at the end of row 3 and continued left, down and right in the grid to spell out DERBY, ONE MILE AND FOUR FURLONGS (what’s a few yards among friends). There were a few detours that could be made, especially around the ONE. I assume all would have been marked OK.

Now we had to decipher the clue numbers: 18 was the dummy clue, 40 1 the swap with the greatest difference and 20 17 the one one with the smallest. My first guess was that we were looking at the 1840 running of the Derby when Little Wonder came through to win his only race. Sadly the horse wasn’t findable in the grid, at least not by me. However, WINGS OF EAGLES was to be found sneakily hiding in the SE–NW diagonal. That was horse number 18 who won the 2017 running of the race at 40/1. Finally, unjumbling the dummy clue at 18dn (Badge pair go in Derby again) gave the jockey PADRAIG BEGGY and trainer AIDAN O’BRIEN.

An interesting trip into the world of horse racing — at least it wasn’t Cheltenham! Thanks, Lath.

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , | 5 Comments »

Tale of the Unexpected by Lath

Posted by shirleycurran on 26 June 2020

A new setter? We weren’t too daunted by the preamble, though yet again it looked as though there was some elementary numerical work to do in the endgame. We began solving at once and a fine set of clues with very clear definitions which tallied exactly with Chambers’ definitions appeared. I like that! I liked Lath’s numerous alcohol references too. There’s no doubt that he earned his place in the Listener  Setters’ Oenophile Elite. ‘Possibly local fruit’s not in (7)’ prompted us to think of our local fruit which tends to be grapes, and isn’t anywhere near ‘in’ yet, but we had to remove IN from AUBERGINE giving us our local, which is, in effect, a rather splendid Auberge with first classs wines.

Soon afterwards we found ‘Shrub-like draught to drink (I’m dubious) (6)’ Well, I’d be dubious about drinking a shrub-like draught – better stick to the crosswords favourites, RED and ASTI, but we parsed that as DOSE ‘drinking’ or containing UM, giving DUMOSE = ‘Shrub-like’.

Fortunately there was a ‘Shelf with wine angled in a certain way (8)’ (on its side gathering dust with maturity, I hope, as we decided this was RED on the LEDGE = LEDGERED). Then we had a reverse hidden clue – one that wouldn’t go into the light we had for it, as LEFTY seemed to be fitting into that space at 20d, and LEFTY had to be the solution to  clue 17 (Pink length of yarn wrapping feet (5)) ‘What Newquay only bottles up is drink (5)’ Chambers tells me that NOYAU is brandy flavoured with bitter almonds or peach kernels. Sounds as if Newquay is this week’s Listener destination. Well, cheers, Lath!

The clues that had to be swapped quickly fell. We exchanged DARFUR and SHREIK, CARDIO and OEUVRE, VIGILS and USNEAS and GISARME and ISATINE and our grid was full. TEA unjumbled the initial letters of the relevant clues and gave me EPSOM DOWNS so I feared the ‘Unexpected’ of the title was going to be the suffragette Emily Davison throwing herself under Anmer, the King’s horse (yes, that was the theme of my own very first Listener crossword many years ago) but no, this was a far happier event.

18 was clearly the ‘dummy clue’. ‘Badge pair go in Derby again (4)’ certainly didn’t win ‘Clue of the year’ for its total lack of surface sense and it clearly didn’t lead to the solution YAWN that had appeared all by itself, but I had to do the elementary maths to discover what two names we were looking for, 18 40-1 2017 emerged and, of course Wiki provided the rest, telling us that WINGS OF EAGLES, horse no 18, an absolute outsider, won the 2017 Derby for Aidan O’Brien with Padraig Beggy in the saddle.

There was the horse, tearing up the non-dominant diagonal and FURLONGS had galloped out at us some time before, but we still had to find some semblance of the Epsom race course in 27 contiguous cells.  We were indeed faced with a poser there, as I imagine most solvers were. Which N of TANNIN? Neither gives the gentle curve of the course and I can imagine the fury of solvers who bet on the wrong horse (Don’t you mean letter? Ed.).

But this was beautifully set and great fun. Many thanks, Lath.


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