Listen With Others

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Square Deal? by Tiburon

Posted by shirleycurran on 10 January 2020

Tiburon! We greet that with a smile as we are accustomed to having clues tweaked by the Listener editor so can be pretty sure that his will be beyond reproach, but then the second half of the relatively lengthy pre-ramble has us taking a deep breath. We are being instructed to dissect our completed grid into pieces and to rearrange them with complicated details about what unclued letters must be matched. It’s likely to be Christmassy isn’t it? Reindeer or something? Trees have been done before, I find a Christmas tree by Rasputin (who he?) on Dave Hennings’ Crossword database, among others, but it could be that or a snowflake or a Christmas animal? There was a lovely snowflake to be cut out some years ago. We begin to solve.

I search rather despairingly for an appropriate dash of Christmas spirits to confirm that Tiburon retains his Listener Oenophile entry ticket to the dinner. Well, the Stratford event wouldn’t be the same without him would it? However, it seems to be a rather dry crossword – until, that is, we solved 15ac ‘Raised distress signal up the pole (5)’

By the time we got to that clue, we had understood about putting two letters into one cell and using the diagonal line in the correct direction so that ELUSORY and SOUSED could both be read in the right order (and by an astonishing stroke of luck, I had them all facing the right way to aid my cutting up of the grid).

SOUSED is ‘up the pole’, Chambers tells me and that is extremely sozzled. What can I say? Cheers, Tiburon!

We don’t find this solve easy at all and have been solving for a couple of hours before we read the preamble properly and understand about the double letters, so that we can make ARBITRATOR intersect with SPEAR with the A and R sharing a cell, VIBRATO intersect with AMENTA with the AT of one becoming the TA of the other and so on. We know that we have to find nine of these and struggle in the south-west corner to find our ninth, even though the clue to ANTSY is generous, ‘Excited tourists on vaction in New York (4)’ giving us NY around T(ourist)S with an unclued A. I had been attempting to make that ‘monitor’ an IGUANA rather than the VARAN he turned out to be.

We should have seen far sooner that the corrected misprints were instructing us to TANGRAM something. Well, I chop the grid along the lines indicated by the diagonal marks, then, with a cry of delight, fit them altogether and realise that one of our editors has, at last, after a couple of years, located the elusive Poat hare. What a Christmas treat.

Then disillusion sets in as the remaining corrected misprints spell O TANNENBAUM. That isn’t a hare is it? My small grandson was singing that with his school choir a couple of weeks ago when we were with them in California (he’s in a German/English International School). He was drowned out by the four-year-old’s rendering of ‘Let It Go’ from the Disney Frozen but I suppose we have to move with the times).

Back to the cutting and gluing.

A moment of trepidation. How do we tangram a Christmas tree? Of course, I have recourse to my old friend Wiki who shows me one example – and, though I am not sure that we have found all the correct unclued letters, that instruction about the three Es tells me which way up to put the tub so that the soil doesn’t spill all over the presents (and a rather disconsolate hare who thought he was the star of the show).

A rather higgledy-piggledy MERRY CHRISTMAS appears and I highlight it.

Delightfu! Many thanks to Tiburon.


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Listener No 4586: Square Deal? by Tiburon

Posted by Dave Hennings on 10 January 2020

On checking the records, I couldn’t believe that Tiburon’s previous Listener was back in 2011. That had Aristotle maintaining everything had a beginning, a middle and an end, whereas Philip Larkin’s view of a novel was that it had a beginning, a muddle and an end.

I doubted whether the puzzle would have anything to do with what first flashed through my mind. That was a childhood memory of a well-known washing powder being know as Square Deal Surf. Upon reading the preamble, I was dismayed to see that more scissor work would be required in the endgame. It didn’t seem that any artistic drawing would be required (although who knows what the misprints in eighteen clues would spell out).

Suffice it to say that no such message was revealed, but instead Tangram and O Tannenbaum. On the way, there were some entertaining clues. Heaven knows how he decided on 30dn Teak (4×2 size) and the like reared in old Thailand (5) for OCTET with teak being the misprint for team. For some reason, 6dn appealed to me: Composition of bonks: Noises Off (6) for OSSEIN (bonks for bones).

All that was left was to cut the grid up into tangrammatic pieces and stick them together in the shape of a Christmas Tree. Not too difficult given the lining up of cells containing double letters.

There was a small trap waiting for any careless solvers. Did 28dn Gold changing hands in spite of king? (5), with the misprint being spite for suite, lead to AULIC or AURIC? In fact, with the misprint being in the definition, this could only be AULIC. [Hastily retrieves rubber to correct some sloppy solving!]

Not for the first time this year, I felt sorry for JEG with a lot of the submitted grids being almost illegible.

Thanks for some fine entertainment, Tiburon. It all came out nicely in the wash.

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L4586: Square Deal? by Tiburon

Posted by Encota on 10 January 2020

A delightful unambiguous construction with clever use of double letters in cells. At this time of year, one can only sing: “O tanne-gram, o tannen-graum, …” etc

I liked the Title’s hint at shape and a type of tree, too.

The Marker has my every sympathy with this one!!


Tim / Encota

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Listener No 4585, In this World of Sin…: A Setter’s Blog by Pointer

Posted by Listen With Others on 5 January 2020

A reminder to solvers of how many like to think of this time year: But in this world of sin, Where meek souls will receive him still. The dear Christ enters in. And here, in the puzzle, Christ — abbreviated to X — enters the grid in the bottom row to form ILEX ET HEDERA (The Holly and the Ivy).

As a possible theme, I’ve had this idea in my mind for many years. It came to me, as most ideas do, as a result of engaging in an activity and applying a crossword twist to my interpretation of what I was seeing. So, when reading the words of the carol (not singing the words, I might add, for long ago I gave up the notion of my being able to sing), I was struck by the way extracts of the chorus could be seen as “wordplay” for clues.

The rising of the sun
The running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing in the choir

The first suggested a reversal, the third an anagram, the last one a hidden word; the third wasn’t so obvious but could surely represent a charade, couldn’t it? That was the start of it.

I often wonder how different setters get their spark at the beginning of the setting process. Do you remember the wonderful puzzle Check This Out, by Charybdis (No. 4268)? The theme was set around the phrase “unexpected item in the bagging area” and (wow!) drew in a Raymond Chandler quote to do with a tarantula on a slice of angel food. I thought, Yes, Chris was standing in a queue at the till in Sainsbury’s, probably bored and wondering, maybe subconsciously, what his next puzzle could be about.

Then there was 24 Across by Pilcrow (No. 4198). Did Pilcrow’s spark for this puzzle come whilst he was reading about or watching Premier League football and incidentally started to investigate how the name Arsene Wenger could be transformed into the words Arsenal Manager? I myself am an avid football fan, and sometimes can’t help myself playing in my mind with the names of the footballers and the teams appearing on my tv screen. Recently, during a match (Spurs v West Ham) I spotted a name on the shirt of one player which was an anagram of that on the shirt of another! (Any ideas, who the players were?) The best coincidence I can think of was when Collins John was signed by Fulham in 2004. In the previous year Fulham had on their books an international by the name of John Collins.

Once I had decided on a Holly/Ivy theme, there were decisions to be made about how to represent the two key lines “Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown.” I needed a lot of trees restricted by wood. The best way I found of building a frame to show the “wood” part was to dig out a Chambers’ definition. A surprise came when I saw amongst my list of trees the word ANTIAR; the link with tiara was my eureka moment. How this sort of thing happens is just a mystery to me. The setting process then became one of fitting together the trees, making sure that the antiar was placed above the holly and selecting an appropriate description of wood to surround them all. Easy-peasy!

Hope all Listener solvers and setters have a restful and enjoyable time over the festive period, whether or not their dear Christ enters in.

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In this World of Sin … by Pointer

Posted by shirleycurran on 3 January 2020

I wonder if I am the only solver whose first read through a lengthy pre-ramble produced nothing but total mystification. (The other Numpty did a count and found 300 words of preamble and 160 of clues – is this a record? We did once have a Listener where there were no down clues but are we due for one with a whole page of preamble and no clues? – The answer is ‘Yes’: It’s the second competition crossword in the December Crossword’ magazine q.v. we find InCUrL by MPOBO which has neither clues nor preamble.)

What we did gather was that each clue consisted of at least three parts – two prompts to words and a contained jumble of those two solutions, with a potential fourth word or phrase hidden in four of the down clues too. To egg the Christmas pudding a little more richly, the answers were going to be entered starting anywhere in their row or column, and possibly reaching the edge of the grid and continuing at the start of the same row or column in a carte blanche grid. The fun continued with a decagon to be drawn and loops round ‘nine words of a kind’, with something to highlight (for the cherry on the pudding).

We have already been defeated by a Pointer puzzle in the Magpie this month (It’s Magpie renewal time – highly recommended if you would like six more Listener-style puzzles each month) and we wondered whether this Christmas treat (a little early) was the editors’ response to eliminate an excess of ‘all correct’ solvers (if any are left after the last few toughies).

Well, I checked through the clues anyway to confirm that Pointer retains his place among the Listener setter oenophiles with this his sixth Listener crossword. He left me with little doubt with his first clue ‘Given greater power, gastropub opposed usual kind of noodles (8,4)’ We teased SOUPED UP and SOBA out of that. ‘Food scrapers evaluated a redesigned vessel for liquid (7,3)’ gave us RADULAE and VAT. With a whole vatful, Pointer clearly retains his entry right but it was in the later shenanigans of the crossword that he removed any doubt when we looked up ‘wood’ In Chambers and found that it is ‘The cask or barrel for storage of wine etc.’ What with vat, cask and barrel, it sounds as though Pointer intends to treat us all. Cheers!

We struggled on, slowly extracting likely words from the clues then seeing if we could find them concealed with a jumble of some other likely answer in the clue. Our Numpty delight was absolute when our own keynote clue (Stripey horse (5)) appeared in a slightly more advanced version as ‘African animals seize rats as boar trembles a bit (6,4)’ Yes, the ZEBRAS were obviously there, producing the Z, but it took us a while to work out that the bit was IOTA with the ‘rats’ as the extra word. Of course it was ‘The rising of the sun’ RATS< (but the realisation of that came later) I wondered whether we would even see the hare (he’s holidaying in the San Francisco Bay area now and popped out and posed for us when we were walking there last week!)

‘Girl guides they allow sixty in total (5,6)’ gave us TESSA and WHOLLY and suggested that our song might be The Holly and the Ivy (but how to fit that into twelve cells?) Of course, it was a different holly that finally appeared when we changed the D of radulae to an X and found ILEX ET HEDERA. Our potential extra words now made sense. GROAN* was ‘The playing of the merry organ’, ECHO was ‘Sweet singing in thE CHOir’ and the one that really produced a smile was FREE REIN, ‘The running of the deer’.

I should have attempted the gridfill sooner. We had a mere six clues to solve when I finally put my mind to it. The other Numpty had disappeared to complete dinner preparations and he is the solver – my role is usually the grid and endgames. It all fitted in surprisingly easily once I worked out that the first row had to be PEDUPSOBASOU (because of the placing of the Us) and potential solutions for the ones we hadn’t solved now emerged (TERATA and WAH-WAH for example). Full grid – now what?

Trees were the nine words of a kind round which we drew loops. We selected ANTIAR, LEMON, HOLLY, ACER, SAL, BAY, ASH, TAWA and RATA noticing two potential RATAs, and avoiding the red herring of PAN, that so clearly is begging to be looped. I read long and hard to find that PAN is only the leaf of the Betel which is a vine, not a tree. Yes, Chambers claims that ‘holly’ is a shrub but the carol claims that ‘Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown’. ‘Bears the crown’ – pdm. We see the TIARA and highlight the HOLLY bearing it, wondering whether that justifies the ‘two key lines of the carol’ – yes, I suppose it is the tree within Pointer’s decagonal definition of WOOD that ‘bears the crown’. How very clever! Many thanks to Pointer.


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