Listen With Others

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Listener 4663 Blurred Lines by Skylark

Posted by gillwinchcombe on 21 Jul 2021

I love it when the Listener jolts me out of my comfort zone and enriches my life with new nuggets of learning, and Skylark certainly did this with Blurred Lines. Jazz isn’t my favourite genre, and puzzles which rely on finding the right score to translate into a means of filling or modifying the grid fill me with a certain amount of trepidation! I was right to be cautious – the message was tricky to parse, to say the least, and Garner did not show up in the usual lists of “born during 1921”. I was waylaid by “BY THE RED SEA” which proved to be a red herring, and only got there after a nudge about the date.

I’m very glad, given my lack of musical expertise, that Skylark helpfully set the notes in their appropriate places in the grid. Thank you Skylark for widening my horizons and introducing me to Erroll Garner. I loved only having to write up the thematic cells and am so glad I persevered with the endgame. Thank you!

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Listener 4662 Hungry by Android

Posted by gillwinchcombe on 21 Jul 2021

Exquisite! Hungry is a beautifully constructed puzzle, tricky but not frustratingly so, which kept up my interest throughout. Congratulations on producing such a superb crossword, especially as it is your first!

All the clues were elegantly constructed, so it’s hard to choose a favourite but I was impressed by the way you clued DUO DEN UM in 9dn “Two haunt ER where fool [food] meets with bile”. And 44ac “Tesla goes after crazed travel industry” made me smile with sympathy, given the chaos the tour operators are facing. Crazed of course meant something different which added to the enjoyment of solving it.

Thank you for introducing me to (or reminding me of) The Raven in such a rewarding manner; you deserve all the credit that I’m sure has come your way. Good title too!

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Listener 4661 One Across by Lionheart

Posted by gillwinchcombe on 21 Jul 2021

I have got rather behind so this is the first of 4 blogs from me. I didn’t recognise Lionheart but I enjoyed this fine, educational puzzle.

I solved most of the clues, correctly identified the changed words, wondered why “rot” in 1dn wasn’t “red” – and still didn’t get the theme! Once I did, the rest of the gridfill fell into place and the hunt for the cousins german was on! Fortunately Googling “famous cousins” revealed the names – I would never have found them without recourse to the web, but that’s true of most endgames. Turning the highlighted grid on its side I get the resemblance of a family tree – hope I haven’t missed something more significant.

My favourite clues were 27ac, for its lovely surface reading; 6dn for its clever Alt key, and 30dn for its hidden German word. 18ac really fooled me with kind becoming kin, and in 31dn I wanted Brigadoon to become Rigadoon. When I posted One Across I still couldn’t parse 33dn DRAT, Shoot at the b(l)ack spotted for WPBSA tournament (4) but sport isn’t really my thing. I assume the title refers to the family tree relationship.

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Listener No 4665: Nostimous by Sabre

Posted by Dave Hennings on 16 Jul 2021

Last year’s Sabre puzzle was based on Goya’s two old men eating soup and, unlike many of his puzzles, didn’t involve encoding or decoding or jumbling anything. This week, back to normal with jumbling and coding and I suspected that it was going to be a toughie. The six unclued across entries had been encoded using a simple one-to-one substitution cypher. (Obviously the editors and Sabre have a different definition of ‘simple’ than I do!)

CRIA and CONGERIES got slotted in quickly. 21ac Those with convictions are shortly in prison — too bad (12) OPINIONATORS came next and I confess that I cheated with the anagram here [(A + IN PRISON TOO)*], but heigh-ho! I was also happy to get the OED word out of the way at 33 The old defend eel dish concocted by bishop (8) with BESHIELD [B + (EEL DISH)*] (no cheating there).

One down entry in each column had a letter omitted and the other was to be entered jumbled. Nothing was straightforward here, and it wasn’t surprising that the downs were tough with only two quick puny entries going in with RUG* and ASH*.

As I said, progress was slow, not least because… well, you probably know if you’re reading this. For me, 18dn was the give-away with Discontinued pound coin originally etched with sort of barcode (8) giving BROAD[PI]ECE [(E(tched) + BARCODE)*] and telling us that the letter to be omitted was a Greek letter. Thanks, Sabre.

That reveal came over an hour into the solve for me since no amount of playing with the letters of EBARCODE• helped! Even knowing that, finishing off the grid took an age helped (?) of course by the jumbling of the other answers in each column. One of the last to be resolved was 1dn Group of advisers, half in a taxi (5) which I had in my mind was CABAL, entered as BACAL or LACAB but the wordplay didn’t really work. Checking the preamble, I realised I hadn’t got the abbreviation yet and I eventually squeezed out NACAB [(i)N + A + CAB], that well-known National Association of Citizens’ Advice Bureaux!

Favourite clue was 2dn Cowboy band of yesteryear — all seats sold before end of April (4) — [MU]SRO + (apri)L with its sneaky definition. Close second was 17dn Restoration produces proper silver jacket for Elvis (8) — PROP + AG + E(lvi)S.

So, time for the simple one-to-one cipher. The way in was ‘obviously’ 20 which encoded was C.Z..R.R.R.R with each unknown letter being one of several options. The fact that we had Greek letters in the down answers meant that we were dealing with something Greek. …..A.A.A.A or …..E.E.E.E looked more likely than Is, Os or Us. At first I tried old Greeks like Archimedes and Thessalonian but nothing ended with that pattern at the end.

Now whether Sabre and the editors expected me to get the theme from that without cheating, I don’t know, but after half an hour of searching various references for Greek things/people/places, I was none the wiser. Rather than reach for Tea (which I had used for OPINIONATORS above) I thought I’d try Chambers and started thumbing through looking for Greek things. Well, I could have done, but instead used my Chambers app to do the donkey work looking for entries containing ‘Greek’, and was losing hope when TARAMASALATA cropped up: “a Greek dish, a pink creamy paste made of grey mullet or smoked cod’s roe with olive oil and garlic.” Not much different from using Tea I guess by trying ‘*1.1.1.1’.

So Greek dishes they were, and a great relief then to finish with KEFTEDES, AVGOLEMONO, SPANAKOPITA (always reminds me of Wan‘s Up to Ten Items? from 2016), TARAMASALATA, SOUVLAKIA and MEZE (only three of which I’d heard of). I have to say that this puzzle would have been impossible for me without a great deal of help. Of course, if I’d only keyed the title Nostimous into Google Translate, Greek→English, I’d have found it was ‘delicious’ in Greek, well ‘νόστιμο’ anyway.

Got there in the end. Thanks, Sabre.

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Nostimous by Sabre

Posted by shirleycurran on 16 Jul 2021

We see ‘Sabre’ and take a deep breath – this looks like being a long evening. The preamble almost has us gasping for air; not just six unclued solutions, five of which almost cross the grid, but one answer in each column with a letter missing and the other jumbled – that hated word. What will Sabre have in store for us next? Encoded knights’ moves?

We pour a stiff drink and I scan the clues to check that Sabre is still among the Listener Setter Oenophile Elite. He begins with just a ‘small drop’, ‘Made out type of blood in small drop (3)’. We put O into the medical abbreviation GT. and get GOT.

Soon he’s with ‘Group of advisers, half in a taxi (5)’. We wonder what sort of ‘half’ they are drinking and we initially guess at CABAL but have to rethink later when our decoding to SPINAKOPITA doesn’t work and we realize that that is the abbreviation N = half ‘in’ + A CAB, to give NICAB, jumbled to BACAN (since, like the ARDAS, symmetrically opposite, the two As have to go into the unchecked cells).

We colour-coded the jumbled answers blue and the encoded ones copper.

Ah, it’s some kind of spirit; ‘Regal ruling king used to stop monkey spirit (9)’. When we got to the spirit, we had realized that the omitted letters were Greek and we put CHI into the monkey MONA and spirit ZING ‘stopped’ by R, the king, to produce MONARCHIZING.

‘Tent made from skin of gnu, right? (3)’. Tent is, of course rich red Spanish wine – we used the G(n)U of the gnu, and R = right to give us GUR but it had to be jumbled since ACROSS THE TABLE at 16d in the same column, had THETA in it. No wonder Sabre was becoming rather fuddled or jumbled by this stage – we certainly were and the drinking went on even AFTER HOURS (we took RHO from that one) ‘A paper introduces European section following office closure (7, two words)‘. We added together A + FT + EUR + S.

There was one last jar, ‘Lead jar(5)’. By the time we reached that we had only one more Greek letter to find and it had to be Phi – after all, Phi and Sabre set together as Phibre. We opted for GRA[PHI]TE and entered GRATE for the jar. What can I say? Cheers, Sabre!

We had just a few gaps in our grid and it was time to face the decoding. We suspected that all those R’s were going to decode to Es and came up with PAPAVERACEAE, but couldn’t see much poppy thematic material – is Nostimus some exotic flower? No TARAMASALATA made more sense in view of those twelve Greek letters and we went for that and slowly teased out KEFTEDES, SPINAKOPITA, AVGOLEMONO, SOUVLAKIA and last of all MEZE.

Covid has cancelled our last two visits to our Greek family in Athens and trips to their local eatery where most of these are provided so we have to thank Sabre for a mental feast (and maybe raise a glass of Assyrtiko).

Ah, the title? I claim to speak some Greek but must slap my own hand as I tried to decode and encode then redecode and re-encode Nostimous before thinking Greek. “νοστιμό” – delicious!

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