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L4564 ‘There and Back’ by Stick Insect

Posted by Encota on 9 August 2019

Picture the scene.  You are catching up on those episodes of Killing Eve that you’ve been meaning to watch and hear all their talk about ‘The Twelve’.  Who can they be?  Then you pick up this week’s Listener crossword and – perhaps – all is revealed.

Given it was 50 years on this 20th July, it would have been a missed opportunity if The Listener hadn’t featured a Moon Landing Puzzle.

This one was delightful in that it included all Twelve U.S. astronauts to have walked on the Moon’s surface – in order of touching its surface, I think.  ARMSTRONG and ALDRIN were gently hidden on Rows 1 and 2, right through to CERNAN and SCHMITT on Rows 11 & 12.

My favourite clue was (before and after one letter was deleted):

Aptness of Bill Sikes’ girl following pro(f)’s contrary church rule (11)

… for CONCERNANCY, with its split of definition and wordplay in the middle of Bill Sikes – very neat!

Tim / Encota


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Listener No 4564: There and Back by Stick Insect

Posted by Dave Hennings on 9 August 2019

Stick Insect’s last puzzle was two years ago and had a theme courtesy of a maxim from Plato’s Protagoras: “That man is the measure of all things”. I seem to remember that a bit of googling (or duckduckgoin) was required for it. This week, we had a theme that positively shouted itself out. From the title and the requirement to highlight twelve surnames, we were dealing with the fiftieth anniversary of the first moon landing in 1969.

I have to admit that only nine of them rang a bell with me, and I tried to fill the grid without getting help from the them. However, I couldn’t avoid ARMSTRONG and ALDRIN in rows 1 and 2 giving me such help.

The grid construction for this puzzle was excellent, as was the thematic nature of the clues — half one way, half the other. And then there was the icing on the cake: the order in which the astronauts set foot on the moon was the order in which they appeared from top to bottom in the grid, culminating with CERNAN and SCHMITT. What is (sort of) interesting is that, although Schmitt was the last man to step onto the Moon, Cernan was the last one to leave it.

For those who needed extra help with the theme, the extra letters in the clues to be removed before solving gave We came in peace for all mankind which appeared on plaques attached to the Lunar Modules which were left on the Moon. Finally “ONE GIANT LEAP” went beneath the grid.

It took this anniversary to make me realise how incredible it was to achieve the feat of “… landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth”. I can imagine that a few people must have commented “What did he just say?!” In the end, the Apollo program required about 400,000 people and nearly $300 billion in today’s money. Sadly, some of the test astronauts died before Apollo XI succeeded.

Thanks for the puzzle, SI.

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There and Back by Stick Insect

Posted by shirleycurran on 9 August 2019

We thought we were so clever when we guessed that this was going to be about Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings – “There and Back” with twelve dwarves’ names to highlight in the completed grid – Oin, Gloin, Nori, Dori, Bifur etc. but when ALDRIN appeared between that obscure word QAWWAL and DRINK, we had to have a speedy rethink and realized that we had already entered ARMSTRONG as part of mARM [S] TRON and Galley. A very different there and back.

DRINK! Ah yes, ‘Male’s one day at racecourse gave us an extra M that we were looking for in WE CAME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND, AND LEFT US WITH ‘Ale’s D + RINK. I was relieved as my initial run through the clues had produced ‘menu item’, ‘Try water’ and ‘Spirit’ but no convincing proof that Stick Insect retains his admission ticket to the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Elite. But there it was: “Cheers, Stick Insect!”

Yes, the clues were generous and we needed to check only a few of our solutions. Romansch is spoken not a long way from where we live but the spelling RUMONSCH was new on us. ‘Odd boy with school dialect’ gave us an extra O so that we had RUM = odd, ON = by and SCH = school, giving us the ‘dialect’.

We had to check CHELLEAN too. ‘Revolutionary left Nepal confused once regarding early culture’. We needed to extract the P from the material leaving us with CHE L + NEAL*. We hadn’t heard of a QAWWAL religious singer but, of course, Stick Insect carefully spelled out what we needed and at that point, we were able to consult Wiki’s list of astronauts and fill our gaps.

How impressive that Stick Insect managed to produce the jumbled letters of ONE GIANT LEAP from those twelve names. Even more impressive that he was able to construct a 52-word grid with 26 words heading backwards, to fit all that material in and give the 26-word message that the first moon-landers gave to any stray outer-space dwellers. Nice, thank you.

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Odd One Out by Sabre

Posted by shirleycurran on 2 August 2019

We are travelling in northern Germany with three and six-year-old grandchildren so it is with a lack of crossword resources and some trepidation that I download the Listener and, of course I find Sabre. What fearsome gimmick will he have in store for us? Jumbled knight’s moves to be converted using a Caesar cipher? Well, not quite but there are five words in the clues to be decoded before solving, and we have to find that code using just those five words, as five solutions have also been encoded – one of them the ‘Odd One Out’ of the title.

Solving begins and races ahead – that’s rather disturbing, as with such a gentle grid fill, Sabre must have a real shocker of an end game in store. Of course Sabre speedily confirms his position in the Oenophile outfit with a tasty SEKT appearing. ‘Start off imbibing Cambodia wine (4)’ “Cambodia is K, isn’t it?” I ask the other Numpty and we enter SET around K. Just five clues further on we find ‘Medals for a dill wine(11)’. By the time we get to that clue there is only one 11-letter wine that will fit into our grid and we enter SCUPPERNONG. We can explain the PER = for and NONG = dill but how do we convert the medals into SCUP? Clearly that must be one of our encoded words. It takes a while to work out that a SCUP is also a PORGIE – but at least we have six letters of our substitution code.

MODEMS gives us less of a problem since FOPPERY must be the solution of ‘Frequency modulation of modems is folly (7)’ The OPPERY has to be ‘modulated’ and the only word it anagrams to is PYROPE – just three more letters of our code (we had P,R and E already). To define WARMAN, we convert FIDDLED to WARRIOR – and so it goes. But what can we with that ‘buy’ at the end of ‘Colleagues in the army secure good buy (7)’? WINGERS fits our grid but how can ‘buy’ become ERS (WIN + G + ERS)? We can’t turn BUY into vetch but we decide we can turn it into UMS = ERS.

When we have a reasonable number of letters of our substitution code, what can we do to find words that we have entered that will decode to give us five words of a kind? BACON looks to be a likely candidate but I decide I have to complete a further grid with the decoded words to see what emerges. I wonder, at this stage what the poor solver who has only his newspaper copy of the puzzle can do.

There’s rather a lot of wind that emerges and four hurricanes are evident but I waste some time attempting to find a CADRON or a GECAN in some obscure language before opting for the most obvious word, a wind instrument, the OBOE.

Thank you, Sabre, that was a tough challenge.

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L4563 ‘Odd One Out’ by Sabre

Posted by Encota on 2 August 2019

What did we do before the existence of VLOOKUP in Excel?  Another of those ‘First World’ problems, I hear you say.

For those who don’t regularly use it, imagine having a built-in lookup table that can be used to automagically update the rest of your spreadsheet.

So, if after realising the answer to the disguised clue

Frequency modulation of modems is folly (7)

must be FOPPERY, and you (rightly) assume that Sabre has disguised an anagram of OPPERY* as modems, and that ‘modems’ should really have read ‘pyrope’, then …

… simply add M alongside P in a Lookup table, D alongside R etc. and have Excel do the heavy-lifting for you.  A bit like this:

L4563 Sabre example 2

I always love it when I see Sabre’s name at the top of a puzzle, as it means we are in for a treat.  And sometimes they appear to have been much harder than this one – he has let us off lightly, I think!  Some of his trademark encoding, which must have been fun to create!  No knight’s moves this week, though!

Anyway, back to the plot.   There were five clues with one word (such as MODEMS<->PYROPE, above) encoded.  How are we going to spot those?

After a few checkers were in place, then the clue

Medals for a dill wine (11)

looked almost certainly to be SCUPPERNONG, a wine.  I can see PER for ‘for a’, and NONG for ‘dill’ (an idiot), but how does SCUP derive from Medals?  Looking up SCUP in the BRB shows it to be a fish, the porgy.  And an alternative spelling for that is PORGIE.  We already have M<->P and D<->R and E<->O and S<->E, so this looks right.  We now have letters for MODESA and L in our lookup table.

18d’s Dye unevenly, in play, half of shirts (6) looks like the answer must be KAMELA, so the letters -ELA must come from ‘half of shirts’, thus SHIRTS must be the encode version of a word beginning ELA-.  Our list so far tells us the word must be ELA..E, so we now have two more letters, R&T to add to our list.

The fourth encoded word was hiding in

Fiddled with an arresting power (6)

This looked like wordplay for ARM in {W AN}, i.e. WARMAN, so how does the definition come from FIDDLED?  Previous decoded letters give us .ARRIOR, and WARRIOR it is.

Finally of the five, 22d’s Colleagues in the army secure good buy (7) was clearly going to be WINGERS.  I could see WIN+G(ood) in the wordplay, but how did ‘buy’ become ERS?  The BRB yielded that definition for ERS – the bitter vetch, which the dictionary helpfully tells you is a ‘vetch’, which isn’t hugely enlightening.  Er, so how does this work? Um, got it!  So BUY<->UMS – sneaky!

So chuck them all in one’s lookup table – or the pencil-and-paper equivalent, either is fine! – and attempt the second half of the Preamble, i.e. which of the Answers/Entries might successfully decode to other English words.  There were several blanks to fill in but a consistent set soon allowed the words TORNADO, TYPHOON, BAGUIO, CYCLONE and OBOE to be found.  All connected by Wind, and one a clear Odd One Out.  I wrote OBOE below the puzzle.

A bit like this (note the VLOOKUP syntax in the function field, for those of us that need reminding) …

L4563 Sabre example 1

I did like finding that, at one stage of solving, one five-letter word appeared like it might decode to BACON – I had BACO- in place, I think.  Googling Bacon and Wind, I found ‘History of the Winds‘ by Sir Francis Bacon, which diverted me for a bit!


Tim / Encota

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