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L4683: ‘Diversions’ by Dysart

Posted by Encota on 19 Nov 2021

What might DIVERSIONS be hinting at? Aha! Various (‘DIVERS’) + IO (crosswordy moon word) + N-S. The puzzle is clearly about the various attempts to explore the Moon – both North and South.

In across rows I can find:

  • ZOND in Row 9. Zond 4 thru 8 were testflights for the Soviet Moonshot
  • TESS appears in Row 1, disguised as the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS)
  • EBB, part of NASA’s Gravity Recovery & Interior Laboratory, that impacted the moon in 2011 is on Row 2
  • LADEE NASA’s 2013 craft is on Row 3
  • LUNA on Row 4
  • APOLLO of course on Row 5
  • ARTEMIS, the NASA 2007 ORBITER (see Row 11)
  • ISEE, which had several lunar flybys on its way to comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner

I am sure I must have missed some. I’ve read elsewhere that this might be something about Olympians but clearly those solvers have missed Dysart’s subtle misdirection. Errm … maybe 😉

Cheers all,

Tim / Encota

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Listener No 4683: Diversions by Dysart

Posted by Dave Hennings on 19 Nov 2021

Last year’s Dysart puzzle focused on the somewhat gory Roald Dahl story about a wife who kills her philandering husband with a frozen leg of lamb and then later feeds the cooked joint to his police mates. This week, all down clues were to be jumbled before entry (oh, great!) with one of their answers leading to some endgame antics.

Across clues and entries were normal, so an obvious place to begin. Three clues got me off to a flying start: 1 German is regularly supplied with directions to make implant (5) gave INSET [IST around N and E], 5 Festival fruits, last of crops going west (6) for EASTER [EATERS with (crop)S moved back] and 11 Bosses in the underworld shifting ecstasy (5) for HEADS [HADES with E moved]. Unfortunately, 13 Hot roll sandwiches before spicy dish (5) put BALTI in my head instead of what would turn out to be BHUNA [BUN around H + A].

Quite a few clues got slotted in on first pass through, and I was happy that 1dn Islam’s chief uncertainty under King Henry (6) for KHALIF started off the downs, although further progress proved more than tricky. By the time I had tackled all the downs, only a handful could be pencilled in. However, this enabled a few more acrosses to find their way into the grid, revealing the circled phrase to be LOW STAR and some sort of astronomical theme seemed to be at play. If only!

Not for the first time, I note how having a choice of three of four letters in a cell enabled a crossing entry to be sussed much more easily than you’d think. Thus, inch by inch the grid was filled, including a favourite clue 28 Deal with over 80 beer bottles (7, two words) for SORT OUT [STOUT around (O + R); R being medieval Roman numeral although it actually has a bar on top].

Despite being a favourite clue, it took me some time to identify it as the down answer that needed “applying” to the circled letters. Eventually, I realised that we weren’t dealing with an astronomical LOW STAR but a grid-oriented LAST ROW! A simple unravelling of N LUPOUS TOMMY proved not simple, but I was determined to work it out without use of help from Tea. After 15 minutes (OK, I could have used the time for some online shopping!), MOUNT OLYMPUS popped out.

My first thought was that the associated references would appear downwards, perhaps using the unchecked cells. Reaching for Brewer, I found a list of the twelve Greek Dii Majores: ZEUS, APOLLON, ARES, HERMES, POSEIDON, HEPHAESTUS, HERA, DEMETER, ARTEMIS, ATHENE, APHRODITE and HESTIA. Wiki has a slightly different list, including DIONYSUS. I suppose that meant that we had Di (gods) versions.

It was superb to discover that they didn’t appear vertically but across the grid as one by one the letters in each across entry got changed. Top-notch construction. Thanks, Dysart.

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Diversions by Dysart

Posted by shirleycurran on 19 Nov 2021

Just over five lines of preamble but one of our less-loved words is there on the first line, ‘jumbled’ (well, at least it isn’t ‘Playfair’ or the numerical crossword that must be coming in three weeks’ time). Dysart is an old hand so I don’t really need to check that he retains his place in the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Elite but I check anyway and am slightly shocked to see ‘Deal with over 80 beer bottles (7, two words)’ We decide that the beer has to be STOUT and that O R is bottled by it, producing SORT OUT. We realise at once that that must be the down clue that is telling us what to do with the circled letters and, before long, the circled letters are telling us LOW STAR.

We have to sort that out to reveal a ‘thematic location’ and we already suspect that we are going to find it by sorting out the LAST ROW. Of course there are those 80 bottles of stout to get through. It is not surprising that Dysart is soon spilling wine and the last clue tells us, ‘Clean up after spilling most of wine (4)’. There’s more wine, of course, when we have completed our grid as DIONYSUS (that’s BACCHUS, the God of wine isn’t’ it? appears in our grid. Glasses raised: Cheers, Dysart!

The letters in that last row NLUPOUSTOMMY obligingly lead to MOUNT OLYMPUS. We are grateful for that huge hint, as, once we had the thematic location, we could guess how we were going to change one letter in each of the across clues to create a rather lofty Mount Olympus. It was entertaining to find gods and goddesses in those twelve rows in ascending order of size: ZEUS and HERA at the summit of course.

When we hunted, we found gods, goddesses, messenger, a lightning rod and other potential hints in the clues and, of course, we now understood why the down clues had to be jumbled to allow all those Olympians to get into the grid. Crafty compiling. Many thanks, Dysart.

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Listener No 4682, Round Table Man: A Setters’ Blog by Banjaluka

Posted by Listen With Others on 14 Nov 2021

Round Table Man started out as a germ of an idea about 2 years ago. I had read the Larkin poem An Arundel Tomb and it struck me how it would be ideal as a theme for a crossword. At first the only idea I had was that the final completed grid would have a heart highlighted to symbolise its famous final line, “What will survive of us is love.” Prior to Round Table Man, I had never set a Listener crossword before and so had little idea of how to go about turning a promising idea into a Listener quality puzzle. I tried to form a grid that brought in some of the elements of the poem, but I never could get it to the point where I was satisfied with the outcome.

I am a keen but inconsistent solver – I will try one or two Listeners a month and probably finish just over half of them. I first came across the Listener crossword around 10 years ago, when I was asked to test solve a Listener by a new setter. That puzzle ended up as Listener 4182 Breach of Contract by Ron (now setting under ‘Eck).’Eck is an old friend, and we had a long history of enjoying crosswords together. We had often sat in a café/pub solving the Araucaria prize puzzle in the Guardian on a Saturday, and over the years he has slowly dragged me towards solving the tougher Listener and Magpie style puzzles.

When the pandemic locked us all down at home, ‘Eck suggested it might be fun to jointly set a puzzle. We tossed a few new ideas around, but nothing seemed to spark any excitement. I thought that maybe that the idea I had had rattling around for a few years might come into being if I had help from a more experienced setter.

An Arundel Tomb is a rich source of thematic material that could be incorporated. With an end point of a heart decided on, it was a question of what else should appear in the grid and how could we slowly let the solver in on the theme. It seemed right to have ‘The Earl’ and the ‘Countess’ to be lying side by side, as described in the poem. We discovered that while Larkin describes “It meets his left-hand gauntlet, still / Clasped empty in the other”, the actual tomb in Chichester Cathedral has his right-hand gauntlet clasped empty. We chose to not worry too much about which way round they lay, taking our cue from Larkin’s “error” and ended up placing the countess on the left of the grid and the earl on the right.

It was then a case of finding how much of the “little dogs”, “Latin names”, “endless altered people”, etc from the poem we could fit in and still describe the required heart at the end. Very quickly, ‘Eck came up with a grid that miraculously included all the elements you see in the final grid. It took a few iterations of trying various names that could be jumbled without their last letter, as well as finding recognisably Latin names to go around the base.

We worried about the balance of taking advantage of the poem and overdoing it. Reading Larkin’s poem again, I see even more lines or elements that on a different day could also have formed part of the crossword: “…their faces blurred…”, “…time has transfigured them into Untruth.”

Writing the clues was the fun bit. ‘Eck and I have different styles, but I found in the end we complemented one another quite well. I always wanted to give a variety of difficulty of clues. As someone who struggles with the harder puzzles, I always like there to be something solvable at a first pass so everyone can enter something in the grid to start them off. ‘Eck loves adding more and more layers of complexity. By sharing and collaborating, I hope we found a nice balance to the puzzle. We started by taking half the clues for a first run through and then we just went back and forth over WhatsApp, debating and improving one another’s clues for several weeks. We enjoyed sowing various red herrings in the puzzle. We had references to the Wizard of Oz in the clues and in the grid, as well as ‘Eck’s sneaky use of novel as the signal to anagram the puzzle’s title. We hoped these might have distracted people temporarily from finding the correct subject matter.

We were both genuinely pleased with the final effort and were happy that both our helpful test solvers as well as the Listener vetters seemed happy enough with the construction and did not want to change the basic premise. We had two major challenges come back. One was around length – the preamble was long given the number of extra elements we were including (clashes, extra letters, extra words etc) and we were pushing the overall maximum space limit. The vetters rewrote some of the longer clues and pared back a number of others. This was done very skilfully and both ‘Eck and I liked the edit. The second challenge from the vetters was removing some of the more risqué clue surfaces that were in our original version. These were also fair. The original clue for 23d should never appear in print!

A number of people have asked where the name Banjaluka comes from. When we were (a lot) younger, ‘Eck and I were looking at a large map of Europe and thought that Bosnia & Herzegovina’s second city would make a great name for a rock band. We decided then and there that one day we would form such a band. Sadly neither of us have learned to play any instruments, but when we needed a combined setter’s name this felt like the only appropriate choice.

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Listener No 4682: Round Table Man by Banjaluka

Posted by Dave Hennings on 12 Nov 2021

Another new setter this week, although it’s not giving anything away to say that as I solved this puzzle I suspected we had a seasoned setter in a new guise. Some clashes to identify this week, plus some clues with extra words plus a lot of clues with extra letters plus two messages.

This was certainly a tricky solve for me. The extra words in clues hinting at thematic material were certainly diverse, if not bizarre. Little dogs and a couple of hands and some unusual first names: Lester, Fannie, Siegmund and Laetitia. Anyway, it all came together slowly but surely with some fun clues along the way. I could list a lot more, but these were probably my favourites:

14acGarland’s stories end for Wizard and Em (6)ANADEM (which ended up contributing to two clashes)
31acHow could bishop put on scanty bra? (4)could changes to cold; BRRR [RR in BR(a)]
22dnChambers’ excuses for names not appearing in back of tome provided among faults (7)extra word Chambers’; ESSOINS [(tom)E + SO in SINS] and reference to the original 13th edition of Chambers which dropped its list of Some first names

The remaining extra words gave Latin names which I thought referred to the unusual names mentioned above but that would prove wrong.

The extra letters in clues gave End of four verses; novel title and those clues’ last letters instructed us to Shade area bound by theme red. Well that didn’t really help with identifying which Larkin poem was our theme. In the finished grid, COUNTESS and THE EARL in columns 3 and 11 came to the rescue with Google revealing An Arundel Tomb. Wiki gave us a nice photograph of this with the countess and earl hand-in-hand and the two dogs at their feet.

The last lines of the four verses which we needed were:

  • The little dogs under their feet — PEKE & PUG in row 9
  • His hand withdrawn, holding her hand — two hands overlapping in the top centre
  • The Latin names around the base — TITUS & NERO (the latter over two lines)
  • The endless altered people came — jumbles of FANNI(e), LAETITI(a) (top left) & SIEGMUN(d), LESTE(r) (top right)

Finally, a lot of colouring in produced a large heart to represent “What will survive of us is love.”

Fine grid and clues and great fun. Thanks, Banjaluka.

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