Listen With Others

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Listener 4671 Ours by Xanthippe

Posted by gillwinchcombe on 14 Sep 2021

When I saw the title I half expected a French version of Winnie-the-Pooh. But the only bear of little brain on the scene was me. Some puzzles bring a smile to the solver’s face right from the start, and Ours did that for me. I hope Xanthippe had as much fun hunting for and selecting the homonyms/homophones as I did finding them.

I’ve discovered that WAIST ANCHORS are not braces as I might have thought but real anchors – who knew that ships had waists? Well, a lot of people possibly, but not me. And I’m delighted to have been introduced to the delectable SCISSIPARITY. Even more, I’m glad that your writers were not Listener setters but were relatively easy to find with Google. Thank you for introducing me to De la Mare’s atmospheric poem, though I think I’ll pass on James E Gunn’s book for now as I’m not a sci-fi addict.

I finally figured out the title (I think) – Ours as in “one of ours”. Ours was a lovely interlude in what has been at times a clamour of challenging crosswords. Thanks Xanthippe,

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Listener 4670 Consequence by Ferret

Posted by gillwinchcombe on 14 Sep 2021

Oh dear! I’ve fallen behind again in posting my comments. Apologies for the late arrival of this one.

Well, after some white-knuckle challenges of late it was good to find myself completing the grid within a couple of hours. I eventually spotted CORD and TIE and removed them (I was looking for diagonal “strings” attached to Pinocchio), but then I got stuck. Changing NOSE to NEB – assuming I’ve got it right – is one of those steps which are almost impossible to spot but which look a lot more obvious after the event. I reverse engineered it by pondering what HERESY could become; HEREBY stood out.

I wasn’t quite sure why RADIATION wasn’t RACIATION in the first place, except I guess that it disguised PINOCCHIO. My favourite clue was 18ac – French po(e/r)t’s finally written on collapse of euro – I liked the surface reading and the memories it evoked of a visit to France many moons ago.

I loved Ferret’s earlier puzzle “Moving Up and Down”, perhaps because the 3 tenors and funicular railways have more appeal than Pinocchio. And I look forward to Ferret’s next offering – Italian-themed again perhaps?

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Listener No 4673, Chessboard Carte Blanche: A Setter’s Blog by Hedgehog

Posted by Listen With Others on 12 Sep 2021

I always enjoy exploring number patterns and relationships and also challenging myself to set a puzzle with a new twist or idea. This pair of puzzles fulfilled both so was a pleasure to set.

The first puzzle, Chessboard, was a “normal” crossword and appeared in Crossnumbers Quarterly last year and involved squares and cubes. After I had set it, I thought whether there any more mileage in the chessboard idea as 8×8 is a very convenient size of grid.

A carte blanche crossword came to mind quickly but I spent some time thinking over the options. Time spent here can avoid wasting a lot of time later. A carte blanche involves a fair amount of cold solving but the jigsaw element is easier to do with 26 letters than with 10 numbers. I was not attempting to replicate a word carte blanche but wanted to make sure there was a challenge in both the cold solving and the jigsaw. To do a puzzle where the jigsaw element could start early would probably require some 8-digit answers and maybe some other 6 or longer entries that could be cold solved. This looked a bit daunting so I settled on a grid with shorter length entries with the expectation that solvers would be able to cold solve most but not all the clues. My first (and final) grid had 1 across starting in the second square and containing two unchecked cells as I wanted to make the jigsaw part more of a challenge and I was already planning that it would be a clue that could not be cold solved. The grid fill started with the Fibonacci number and the cube with 729+729=1458 as I felt it was important to give solvers a good start. My grid fill then followed the solution path until I had a few clues left that needed feedback from the grid. My final act was to put in the preamble that bars need not be entered as one of my pet hates is the unnecessary entry of bars in puzzles.

When I submitted the puzzle, I was reasonably happy except that the “crossword” element of the puzzle only came in when solving the last few clues. This was noted by Roger but he was happy to publish it with a few improvements to my preamble. One or two solvers also commented on this but I was pleased that so many enjoyed the puzzle. I’d like to thanks all the solvers that took the time to comment.

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Chessboard Carte Blanche by Hedgehog

Posted by shirleycurran on 10 Sep 2021

Our reaction to seeing ‘Carte Blanche’ in Hedgehog’s title was disbelief but that was modified when we read that ‘all cells of one colour contain even digits and all cells of the other colour contain odd digits’. The fact that it was not exactly ‘blanche’ but a checkerboard was, in fact, tremendously helpful, as we were soon to find out and rendered this (yes, I admit it) a pleasure to solve.

Of course I didn’t really expect Hedgehog, in a Listener numerical puzzle, to retain his entry ticket to the Listener Oenophile Elite’s line-up at the bar but I checked his text and found one ‘prime’. Chambers tells me that ‘prime’ is ‘To bring into activity or working order by a preliminary charge (eg people by giving them liquor)’. Hmmm! We were told ‘Bars need not be entered’ but he didn’t say that we ‘must not’ enter those bars, so there’s hope for Hedgehog. Cheers!

Where to start? We were delighted to find that the odd/even or even/odd restriction vastly reduced the primes, squares and cubes available and offered us just two potential Fibonacci numbers and only one cube (clue C) could be added to one of those to give even/odd so we were away with answers c, C, H and Y. And the solve continued like that with only a couple of hitches when one Numpty fat-fingered the calculator and when we went up a blind alley by opting for the wrong answer of two (43 instead of 67) for little e.

Filling a carte blanche is always my task (the setter of the Numpty pair) and sussing that A was 5494 (a multiple of 41 and 67) confirmed that evens had to go into white cells since Q (47) had to be the first down solution (symmetry dictated that). Filling the grid was fun as our solutions intersected and any remaining doubts (like N, where we still had three possibilities for Q x square) were resolved as digits went into the grid.

If all the numericals were like this one – not requiring spread sheets and complicated calculations, but simply lists of primes etc. – I might stop dreading them. Many thanks to Hedgehog.

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Listener No 4672, Form..ation: A Setter’s Blog by Mr E

Posted by Listen With Others on 5 Sep 2021

I first thought of the line “The [conson]ants go marching” many years ago; no memory of how I came to it.  For a long time I was considering a parade route in the grid, going back and forth row by row; but that never led to anything that felt worth doing.  Then finally the idea of five sets of four consonants occurred to me; putting such sets in rows or columns did not seem likely to work, but diagonally – they fit nicely into a 12 x 12 grid, and I went to work.

I like to use only 36 entries in a 12×12, and this conveniently was just enough to accommodate the line and the CONSON.

I thought it would be easiest to fill such a grid if as many as possible of the 20 consonant cells were unchecked.  I believe I found an old Mephisto grid that had 10 of the 20 unchecked, and with some modification I got it up to 12.  It was still more difficult to fill than most of my previous puzzle grids – I don’t do programming, I use Word Matcher and go word by word.

Nothing special to say about the clueing — I took my usual time and eventually got to where I felt good about it.  The editors needed a few changes as usual.

My original title as submitted was “Boom!”; I also considered something like “Rainy Day Activity”.  The actual title “Form..ation” was a creation of the editors, who felt that a possible hint that ants were involved [formication] would be good.  I did not realize that solvers might be unfamiliar with the song!  It seems like every time I have wondered in the past if UK solvers would be familiar with some American idea, there has been no problem.  My knowledge of the song must be from childhood — and I see references to it on the internet mentioning the 1950’s and as far back as 1946.  Certainly before the more recent animated versions which some of you found on the net.

I have received the batch of comments sent by solvers – Thank you all!  

That’s about it.

Mr E (Mark Oshin [Portland OR USA])

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