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An Exchange of Letters by Harribobs

Posted by shirleycurran on 13 April 2018

We appreciate a short preamble and Harribobs gave us one with very little to worry us: a word to highlight in the final grid that was the final word of a quotation that would appear when we had changed just one letter in each word that we entered (quite a challenge for a setter!) Fortunately we were also going to identify the source of the quotation by finding a misprint in every across clue and all the final words in our grid were going to be real words. That left us the down clues with no disturbing gimmick. We got down to solving.

Of course, I found the evidence that Harribobs retains his place in the Listener Setters’ Tippling Club and he gave us ‘Whisky and soda recipe is used in prank in Hull (7)’ We decided that the R (recipe) had to go into the whisky and soda STINGER to give us a STRINGER or a reinforcing plank in a ship’s hull, thus producing an L of our quotation’s source at the same time. That was all the alcohol there was in Harribobs’ compilation – but it was enough. Cheers Harribobs!

We solved steadily with some struggles. Does a WEE TEST really exist? I doubt it, but it made us smile and, of course, ‘In parts extremely soaked … (7)’ gave us the dialect form of ‘wettest’. LUREX had us struggling too though we were obviously looking for ‘Those who Etch (not Itch) wearing some light cloth (5)’ That U went in as our very last letter when we realized that the RE were ‘formerly the Royal Society of Etchers and Engravers’ (according to the Big Red Book) and that they were surrounded ny LUX (some light).

Fortunately it was that part of our grid that filled the fastest and we very soon had HENRY W LONGFELLOW. Of course I went to the ODQ to see if the letters we already had would give me that all-important quotation – but it was not to be (though I did find something about four and a half bees!) We needed a poem about K????OS and vainly searched for a Longfellow interest in KNOSSOS. Oh those Listener red herrings!

Happily, PISIFORM appeared and gave us an R misprint in the clue (caRpus, not caMpus) and that was all we needed to find KERAMOS and our quotation “All things must change to something new, something STRANGE”.

We had to be very systematic about changing one letter in each clue to the one provided by the quotation. I wonder how long it took Harribobs to create this grid with that device in it! There were pitfalls for the unwary; it would be so easy to put SNITS and TIRL in that bottom left-hand corner, thus changing two letters of SNAGS. I wonder if any solver did! Many thanks, Harribobs.

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Listener No 4495: An Exchange of Letters by Harribobs

Posted by Dave Hennings on 13 April 2018

Harribobs’s Listener puzzle from last year was all about the eight post-war German chancellors. It required PALAIS SCHAUMBURG to be written under the grid. I checked lots of things in the puzzle before sending it off to St Albans. Unfortunately the spelling of SCHAUMBURG wasn’t one of them. Somewhere along the line it got changed to SCHAUMBERG. Grrr!

I knew I was in for a reasonably tricky ride here, even though Harribobs is a relatively new setter with his first puzzle in 2015. Although I didn’t tackle it, Inquisitor 1526 Inner Turmoil caused a lot of debate over at 15², with clues under the headings Normal, Reversed, Cycled, Reversed and Cycled, Jumbled. Yikes.

Nothing too unusual here this week. All entries needed to have one letter changed before entry and all across clues needed one letter changing before solving (I think that’s a misprint to you and me). The new letters in the grid would spell out a quotation, and the new letters in the clues would give its source. Yikes!

Starting on the downs seemed logical… nothing but straightforward clueing here. Although I know precious little about cricket, I managed 3dn WILTS (with help from Google), followed by 4dn Particle with periodic arrangement in aminobutene (4) for MOTE (since it was unlikely to be A NUN). For some bizarre reason (OK, those who know me it’s because I’m going gaga), I wrote TAP WATERS in at 7dn instead of WATER TAPS.

As expected, progress was fairly slow — clashes frequently are, which is what they effectively were, and lots of them. Eventually the correct versions of misprints in the across clues gave Keramos, Henry W Longfellow. I thought the editors were having a pop at me by forcing me to reference both my mistakes from last year, although Sabre’s bees was actually based on a quotation from Longfellow’s Kavanagh.

Keramos seemed to be a somewhat lengthy poem, but I didn’t need to read all of it, although I did. It seemed to be about a potter and his art, although it was probably a metaphor for life and death or some such — over to you, Shirley.

Anyway, a short way in I came to “[Turn, turn, my wheel!] All things must change / To something new, to something strange;” and that hit the nail on the head. In fact, the quotation was needed to resolve some of the ambiguities since not all the changes to words resulted from clashes. For example 14ac SPOT could change to SPAT, SPET or SPIT.

Before sending my solution off to JEG, I spent almost as long checking my solution as I had filling the grid (well, not quite). Even so, it is always possible that some gremlin got in the works. Let’s hope not. I’m pretty sure I highlighted STRANGE!

All in all, a fairly tough day at the office. Thanks, Harribobs.
 

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Overseas Outing by Chalicea

Posted by shirleycurran on 8 April 2018

‘Overseas Outing’ began for me with a real overseas outing. We were with Irish friends at Kilkee on the Atlantic coast, enjoying Irish hospitality and celebrating the other Numpty’s acquisition of his Irish passport which, as the son of an Irishman, he has the right to. It’s his personal reaction to Brexit. We Europeans wish to stay that way! Enough of that.

We were all happily working our way through Shackleton’s Listener and one of the Irish ladies said, “You should set one on Ireland. You could have St Patrick chasing all the snakes into the sea. That is, of course, the myth that explains why there are no snakes in Ireland”. (Actually, she explained, there are slow worms that were probably introduced into the beautiful Burren area. It was the fact that after the last ice age, Ireland split off from the European mass earlier than the rest of Great Britain and the snakes that recolonised arrived too late to get to Ireland that means that there are no other snakes.)

My early grid attempts, Ireland Mark 1, Ireland Mark 2 and so on, were on symmetrical grids with relatively Ximenean unching (to please the purists who are sure to grumble about that double unch the LANGAHA seems to have swallowed, for example) but I soon realized that symmetry had to be thrown to the winds and a bit of licence allowed, making Donegal rather bulky and square. Ireland is not conveniently symmetrical and there are those jagged bits in the north-east and down by the Skelligs – there are no two-letter snakes to fill those. My first test-solver suggested that I should simply  ask for an irregular grid with those six marked off cells absent, and the first editor didn’t like them much either, but the second editor preferred to have sea almost all round Ireland (as did I).

Saint_Patrick_Catholic_Church_(Junction_City,_Ohio)_-_stained_glass,_Saint_Patrick_-_detail.jpg (2388×2991)Saint Patrick went in next (well, obviously he had to, he could hardly chase out all the snakes if he wasn’t there!) then came the snakes. The key issue here was having them removed leaving only real words. I was already disobeying symmetry and unching rules and my word count was dropping below the required 5.5 mean that is the rule for the Listener. so things were not looking good and real words before and after the expulsion of the snakes were a must.

Then, of course came the message that had to be somehow thematic (that was what Roddy Forman used to advise us). In this case, I was now working with the title ‘Removal’ and it was ‘removed’ letters that spelled out those three instructions. So what happened to the removal?

The test-solvers (thank you to them as always) liked it and suggested some clue tweaks. They found it ‘on the easy side’ – but mine usually are and some solvers are happy for a breather, I know. When I saw that St Patrick’s day, March 17th, 2018 was on a Saturday, I submitted it with some trepidation as a date-related crossword. At that point, it was most unlikely that the Listener setters’ dinner would be on that date – that was arranged later.

Overseas Outing

Some time later, both editors solved the puzzle in an embarrassingly short time and the Paris dinner had now been arranged and was unusually early, falling on St Patrick’s day. One editor entertainingly suggested that a more imaginative title might be thought up, that would, perhaps, be a red herring related to the fact that so many Listener people would be enjoying their overseas outing to Paris, courtesy of Sylvie Vanston, on the day the puzzle appeared in The Times. “Outing” has, of course, in Chambers, that meaning “ejection” so ‘Overseas Outing’ it became and I hope all the participants thoroughly enjoyed the overseas outing – and this one.

There had to be a Numpty illustration but, as usual in such questions, we were at odds. (He’s the one who sent the Poat hare off on his hols when I was intent on burying him.) I was all for just having St Patrick drive them into the sea but the other Numpty has a soft spot for them. We have some beautiful natrix natrix (the ring-necked grass snake) in the ponds and they are superb swimmers but he is convinced they wouldn’t manage the long swim to the nearest islands (that’s Jura in the background where the west coast has an astonishing number of snakes). So a raft it was for their Overseas Outing.

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Listener No 4494: Overseas Outing by Chalicea

Posted by Dave Hennings on 6 April 2018

Chalicea’s last Listener was a mere 36 weeks ago and concerned the Owl and the Pussycat and their lack of a ring, represented in the puzzle by the lack of any letter O. Here, as if to remind us, the title had that letter prominently placed — twice!

The grid looked as though it had been constructed by the Beer, Lager Or Alcoholic Tipple Squad! It had no symmetry, had six blank cells completely barred off and one entry across the bottom with a double-unch.

Time to see if any alcohol was hidden in the clues. Well, 20ac Valets put beer into containers (6) CLEANS (extra w/p letter A) was very lacklustre, but 32/35ac was slightly more robust Container for wine, vintage from French vineyard etc … (5) … besides what’s bottled by feeble losers (4) for CRUET (extra w/p letter C) and ELSE (extra w/p letter O).

Just three alcoholic clues?! Well, even a teetotaller could see that there was more lurking. Indeed, eight of them (9ac, 13ac, 22ac, 24ac, 2dn, 5dn, 25dn, 30dn) contained all the letters of that 8-letter beverage most commonly associated with Ireland: GUINNESS. And the day of the puzzle was 17th March, Saint Patrick’s Day. Too much of a coincidence, methinks.

On with the puzzle, then. A swathe of across solutions quickly got slotted into the grid. Despite there being no 1ac, 1dn Dreadful pests … (4) for SEPS (extra w/p letter T) and 2dn … turning up in Taiwan, topless (4) for NAIA (extra letter W) were obligingly straightforward, and it seemed that it wasn’t alcohol but serpents that may be missing from the grid, especially if 1ac itself were to be SNAKES…

… which it was, and a flurry of activity enabled the grid to be completed in double-quick time. The extra wordplay letters spelt out Erase one across. Colour twenty one. Complete six.. As well as the seven entries which were snakes, BOA and ASP were also lurking in the grid and needed to be erased. That left 21 SEA to be coloured in the 40 cells now empty within the grid which would represent a map of Ireland, and 6dn to be completed to give SAINT PATRICK.

Legend has it that St P. chased the snakes into the sea after they attacked him during a 40-day fast atop a hill — sounds a bit vindictive to me. Of course, every schoolboy knows that wasn’t the case and that there haven’t been any snakes in Ireland since the Ice Age, about 10,000 years ago.

Be that as it may, I was left with one gnawing question: what colour to use for the sea? Blue would be normal, but green is the colour most commonly associated with Ireland. Obviously, then, cyan should be used and I managed to find exactly the right shade for that. I know that JEG is a stickler for colouring to be exactly that required by the setter. [Don’t believe him. Ed.]

All done in about an hour. Thanks, Chalicea.
 

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‘Overseas Outing’ by Chalicea

Posted by Encota on 6 April 2018

What surprised me initially was Chalicea returning to a theme of a previous Listener of hers from 2014 (See Listener 4311 in Dave H’s superb database, xwdb.info, if you don’t believe me!) – surely she could come up with something original?  And then the geographical errors – ALSACE running down near the Western side of the final map in Column 2, for example??  But let me start nearer the beginning:

This is how one might approach this puzzle from Chalicea* …

  1. Guess that it is going to be a map
  2. Look at the Title – ‘Overseas Outing’ – and note that the puzzle coincides with that event enjoyed by Listener Setters and Solvers that is the Annual Listener Dinner
  3. Realise that said 2018 Dinner is held outside of the UK – in Paris – in the weekend of the Puzzle’s publication
  4. Conclude that it must be a map of France**
  5. Check that some of the adjacent countries line up – as demonstrated in the picture below: ES short for Espana, DE for Deutschland, etc.  [I’ve left out all other letters in the puzzle for clarity]

I puzzled for a while why it had PARS and not PARIS at the centre.  I then realised it was the péripherique-centred pun: ‘I’ had to visit (Paris) too – and all became clear.

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 09.27.30 copy

And there was a nice touch down in Chalicea-land in the South East of France under the Jura mountains – half of the largest CERN ring on the French-Swiss border, with of course only two of the letters being visible on the French side and the rest of the ring in Switzerland.

Easy, eh?

Cheers,

Tim / Encota

* If one was an idiot, that is.

** OK, so it was a map but more like this one of Ireland …

SCAN0444 copy

A clever puzzle, with a very nice, unambiguous and visual endgame.  Thank you!

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