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‘His’ by Nebuchadnezzar

Posted by Encota on 1 December 2017

Firstly, thanks to Nebuchadnezzar for a very cleverly constructed puzzle.

In solving, it helped me to spot ‘DUDENEY’ quite early on at 1 down as, like many other Listener solvers, I suspect, knew a fair bit about him (and Sam LOYD) through the years of articles from Martin Gardner.  I wasn’t immediately sure if 1d’s DUDENEY was one of the two clues that didn’t have a definition or was some sort of all-in-one – but that became clear later.

There were a couple of points where I wondered initially if something was wrong in the puzzle but, of course, it was, as often is the case for me, a PICNIC* moment.  The first was 11d’s:

  Trim spruce amidst northern mist (4)

With SMIR being hidden backwards in tRIMSpruce, then it appeared that northern was a ‘reversed upwards’ indicator but with the associated double duty problem in the clue (since SMIR needed also to be defined as a ‘northern mist’, I believe.  Eventually, when I could see that ‘amidst’ was the word to be removed, it became clear that this was actually SMIR(k).  Very, very sneaky – I loved it!!

Talking of K’s (as we nearly were!) the second was the mention of the letter K in the Preamble.  Surely SNAKE could easily have been SNARE or similar, I first thought, so that there could be a clash in the right place for the top-right Dot.  What a simple thing to fix, I thought.  But no, PICNIC still applied, and the cleverly hidden ‘THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX’ of course needed one character to stand alone, and K it was.  [Excellent re-use of the ‘TH’ in the shape as well – a superb construction!]

I was briefly caught out by LECH and LETCH in 42a, too.  The latter was not in one of my versions of the Dictionary, so I initially thought this must be a clue with a missing T.   Again, my error – all became clear once I could see what the indicated letters needed to spell out.

I still haven’t quite worked out the Title.  I first wondered if the H of Henry and the S of Sam had any relevance?  Then I wondered if it was about the ownership of the puzzles, as I had read that Loyd had published some of Dudeney’s without his permission.  Perhaps it’s that?  Not sure!

Great fun – thanks again!

Tim / Encota

*Problem In Chair, Not In Crossword


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His by Nebuchadnezzar – Thinking outside the box

Posted by shirleycurran on 1 December 2017

Not a long pre-ramble but one that caused us some trepidation as we read that there were extra words (yes, I called that a setter’s cop out last week but it was used in an original way to get pairs of letters this week), clashes (ugh!), and one or two omitted letters in 16 clues that were to lead to a closed outline. What’s more, there were two clues with wordplay only. Yes, those are what gave us our pdm after several hours of solving.

I believe I have seen Nebuchadnezzar, glass in hand, at a Magpie event – he’s an established compiler there (Magpie plug – six Listener-style crosswords available each month and a lively editorial with a mass of crossword related comments) but this seems to be his first Listener crossword, and what a debut! Does he get his admission to the bar at the next Listener setters’ dinner in Paris? Resoundingly “Yes”. ‘Dipso, drunken pest? (6)’ was his first alcoholic clue and that gave us PSOCID with an extra C emerging from the wordplay. “City’s dropping prohibition from us (3)” gave us URBAN dropping BAN and an extra O in the wordplay, so that we entered OUR.

An entertaining clue ‘Camp bed, beer or [blonde] afterwards, displayed heartlessly (4)’ produced that extra word giving us two letters (RA) of the message and we heartlessly used LA(G)ER and LA(T)ER to enter LAER. Not satisfied with the blonde and the beer, our drunken dipso pest concluded his alcoholic references with ‘Pub stop — Queen entering place of debauchery (8)’ HO = stop and ER enters STY producing HOSTELRY with yet another of those extra letters, L. See you at the Paris hostelry Nebuchadnezzar? Santé!

We solved slowly and steadily and it eventually became evident that a square or box was being created by those omitted letters and they were spelling something about COLUMBUS. Wikipedia was, as usual, a great help here and led us to something I should have seen far earlier as I had a puzzle published on this very theme on the crossword centre’s message board not quite five years ago. My ‘Thinking outside the box‘ was a far simpler puzzle just called Beyond the Pale. We needed a further prompt to finally produce the penny-drop-moment we Numpties needed. Clue 1d clearly spelled DUDENEY: ‘Admirable fellow’ = DUDE and ‘the old’ =YE, ‘mathematician at last’ =N both returned (with a fine reference to the mathematician of the theme) – so there it was. LOYD seemed to be the inevitable accompaniment, as the other clue consisting of wordplay only at 31d but we needed a long scribble on a sheet of paper to justify that (‘encyclopaedia’* – ‘piece’*, ‘about’ = C  and ‘a number’ A N. Yes, we muttered imprecations at Nebuchadnezzar at this point!)

However, all was now clear. Our theme was the nine dots puzzle. We still had some improbable words appearing in our grid at 13d and 14d, 24ac and 36 ac but those were going to incorporate the clashes that had to become the dots of the puzzle. How cleverly that message was concealed. We scribbled out the ‘omitted wordplay’ letters and, sure enough, there it was. REPLACE WITH DOTS/ CONNECT WITH FOUR STRAIGHT LINES WITHOUT LIFTING PEN.

Of course, drawing the box was no problem but, at first, it seemed to us that there were four possibilities for the solution to the nine dots puzzle. Ah, no. Nebuchadnezzar was far too cunning for that. (Nudge, nudge, remember to read and obey every word of the preamble!) ‘with a unique solution guided by the original contents of the affected cells’.  We found THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX in those clashes and a well-placed I and T in the grid margins. Brilliant! How very clever! Of course that was a problem for the setter and I went back to my own use of the theme and found a more simple way of resolving it.

Ah, the Poat hares. Nebuchadnezzar may be a new Listener setter but of course they were there, if, as usual, somewhat jumbled. I was a bit worried about that clue ‘Fleeces hot (supermodel) overcome by a French hauteur (7)’ but decided it wasn’t a case of mis-spelling or stripping the coat from the animals. (It gave us UN AIRS around H(ot) = UNHAIRS).  My vote this week went to the little creature ‘thinking outside the box’ and gambolling on the bottom line of the grid.


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Listener No 4476: His by Nebuchadnezzar

Posted by Dave Hennings on 1 December 2017

A new Listener setter this week, although he does have a couple of C-grade Magpies to his name. I didn’t (and still don’t) know whether this pseudonym is taken from one of the kings of Babylon in days BC, or a 15-litre bottle of champagne.

An intriguing method of revealing the message this week — an extra word with the letters either side of it spelling out two instructions. Some clashes and all occurrences of the letter K (!) needed special treatent according to one, and a unique solution to the puzzle would be indicated by the second. 16 other clues had wordplay omitting one or two letters, the missing letters giving a related phrase.

I started off fairly well, with 6ac ABSEIL and 10 UNTENABLENESS, the latter Indefensibility of exotic dancer Anne’s new blue set (13) helped by the ABLE and NESS standing out in ANNE’S N BLUE SET (oh, and the UN- too). All this meant that I reckoned to be finished within the hour.

Famous last words, of course, since the extra words (which were only in 30 clues) seemed cunningly hidden. Moreover the missing wordplay letters weren’t easy to identify either. I suppose the most tricky was 17 Effective failing condition, too, after shift — back by six! (4) where the exclamation mark was truly warranted — TOO shifted back in the alphabet by 6 to give NI[S]I.

And then there was 14dn Once true life account [filmed] in river holds Universal certificate (9) for INDUBIOUS — BIO in INDUS containing U. I wasn’t helped by thinking that the life account would be BIOG, but finally Mrs B helped with that although it still needed an age to identify the Indus.

All in all, a tough solve, certainly in excess of four hours. [Nearer five, I suspect. Ed.] I hoped the endgame would be slightly easier without too much grid-staring. Of course, the two wordplay-only cues, DUDENEY and LOYD, the two puzzle-smiths at 1dn and 31dn, didn’t hold out much hope for that. The two instructions spelt out Replace with dots for the clashes and the letter K (just one), and Connect with four straight lines without lifting pen.

The EGG OF COLUMBUS was the way in for me, although my first googling indicated that it was a way of standing an egg upright on its smaller end. Eventually, the way of connecting the nine dots without lifting the pen off the paper revealed itself and all was sorted.

I found this a truly enjoyable, taxing and satisfying puzzle. Many thanks, Nebuchadnezzar.

(PS Still don’t get the title!)

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Listener No 4475, Follow the Directions: A Setter’s Blog by Artix

Posted by Listen With Others on 29 November 2017

I think the Daily Mail may have been responsible. Yes, seriously. I was on a ‘plane home from somewhere and asked for a newspaper and was given a 3-day-old copy of the Mail. Old news is no news and so I quickly moved on to the Puzzles page. Amongst a wide selection, I found a simple dissection problem of a square into two heptagons…which pointed in opposite directions.

The cruciverbalist’s brain rarely switches off and I thought this must have potential. Vague prepscholic memories of Westward Ho! somehow came to mind; I’d read it some 40 years ago but couldn’t really remember much of the plot. Uncle Wiki helped fill in the gaps and produced the basis for the puzzle.

I really liked the idea of one arrow carrying Amyas Leigh westward and then him returning homewards with his new-found Indian sweetheart. And so it began.

I’ve checked my files and there were six grid attempts before the final version emerged; and, with each new grid, I seemed to be able to incorporate more and more of the key elements of the story, and also offer some help to the solver as to the shapes required.

I had thought about a clue device but, perhaps a little wickedly, there was something inside me which wanted to have the endgame all come after the grid had been completed. To compensate (in a way), maybe I could include vaguely thematic surface readings in some of the clues? Or perhaps even a direct hint to the theme (or at least the location of the story)?

I usually draft a version of the preamble before embarking on the clues. And then come back to it — normally several times to get the wording right — as the process progresses.

Then testing (thank you to both of you), some clue and preamble modifications, and then sending off to the Editors, acknowledgement, then the long wait. (It’s not really such a long wait but it always seems like it is.) Murmurs of a positive response at one get-together, then confirmation that I was getting near to the top of the pile.

As ever, there was some “tweaking” required and a few of the more outrageously Artixesque ideas had to be toned down or were just flat rejected. In every case, I am sure the final version was fairer, if perhaps not so innovative. Of course, there was a little bit of the habitual to-ing and fro-ing, gentle arm-twisting to keep the surface readings sound, even mild persuasion to accept my originals.

Quite genuinely, I thank them for their input and their patience and their tolerance. I am also flattered by the positive response that the puzzle has received from the majority of those who have commented. It’s always most encouraging. Thanks.

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Follow the Directions by Artix

Posted by shirleycurran on 24 November 2017

Artix’s crosswords are usually very challenging – none of the ‘Stripey horse (5)’ clues for him, but this week’s clues were not desperately difficult and we soon had a complete grid. It was not the grid fill so much as the wealth of material that was hidden in that apparently innocuous little 12 x 12 grid that was exciting.

Of course I started with that check that he retains his entry ticket to the Listener Setters’ Topers Outfit, though I didn’t really need to check, as, since we are members of the Rasputin setters trio, we are usually at the same table at the setters’ dinner and share our taste for the fine reds. I had to read a long way down his clues before I reached ‘Sensational bit of aroma overlooked by winemaker (4)’ A confession here, this clue gave us a slight advantage – Artix lives on the south side of Lake Geneva and we can see his dwelling place from our north side and what is the local red wine? Gamay, so we removed just the bit of Aroma from that and had GAMY = sensational.

‘Making tea in bar, we’re all but rejected (6)’ (and so we should be!) We turned round PUB and WE’R(e) and got BREW UP. More alcohol to come: ‘Strict limits for women lapping left over Scotch up (6)’ That was entertainingly deceptive as we had to reverse the limits of WomeN around (lapping) ARRO, also reversed, giving NARROW. So “Cheers, Artix. A Paris!”

It wasn’t the grid fill so much as what followed that had the Artix touch. The other Numpty confirmed that there was only one ‘heptagonal’ shape that would leave pieces that could be reassembled to form a second heptagonal shape that was a reflection of the first, and that that was an arrow. Therefore, we had an arrow shape, heading west that encompassed the hero, and, sure enough, there we found, heading west, AMYAS LEIGH. First pdm. The theme  was Westward Ho (second pdm – the title said ‘Follow the Directions’ – we were indeed doing that but so was he – going WESTWARD HO) We had to check with Auntie Google and she told us that his first love was ROSE SALTERNE (4,8). Cutting that initial arrow from the grid did indeed ‘break her up’ but not so evilly as the Inquisition in the novel who burnt her at the stake!

We fiddled with those left over pieces to create the second, reflected arrow and found, to our delight, that ARROWHEADS now appeared in our grid, crossed by WESTWARD HO. Fortunately, I was using an eraser pen as Amyas Leigh’s second love, AYACANORA was in our re-constructed grid, but with a U that needed to be adjusted with love (O) to give her correct name. What’s more, like Rochester in Jane Eyre, Charles Kingsley’s s hero is blinded at the end of the novel. It must be some quirky form of romanticism that thinks that the heroine will be blissfully happy with a blind husband. However, we had to obey instructions and remove him  ‘as on his journey he has become unsighted’.

Truly an astonishing construction and great fun. Congratulations to Artix!

The golden Poat HARES? I wouldn’t expect to see many of them off the Caribbean coasts of Venezuela even though Amyas Leigh was apparently seeking gold there but, sure enough, there was a veritable chain of the beasts, with yet another becoming ‘unsighted (well, decapitated!) when we blinded Amyas Leigh.

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