Listen With Others

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Listener No 4719, What’s My Line?: A Setter’s Blog by Hawk

Posted by Listen With Others on 31 Jul 2022

I don’t remember where I first read about the Bézier curve, but it rang bells as an ideal construction for a crossword. All that was needed was some logic for the lines, and linking identical cells seemed to be appropriate. I had the option of using horizontal and vertical locations, but figured I could hide the theme better if I used a diagonal. It also resulted in a more pleasing curve.

I needed to avoid any duplicate letters in each location, and also had to accommodate clashes. I started with the bottom row, which forced the letters along the diagonal, then tackled each clash in turn, which drove most of the bar locations. I was lucky to find the 11-letter words, as these helped boost the average entry length.

I tried to make the clues moderately challenging, as there were many over-checked entries, particularly in the NW corner, where there were no clashes. My favourite was  4 Down, Having uncovered nostrils, restored lung harmony (11), as it gave a good surface reading for a real stinker of a word. This clue made it past the vetters unscathed, but some were amended, largely for concision.

I’ve seen feedback from solvers who thought it was unnecessary to include the computer applications. I’m generally not a fan of additional twiddles myself, but I was keen to add something here to highlight the curve’s practical significance. If you’ve ever appreciated the beauty of car body shapes, or indeed anything manufactured during the computer era, then thanks are in no small part due to Pierre Bézier, who helped develop the automated design and manufacturing tools and techniques during his 40 years working for Renault. He was not the first to discover this curve, however. He independently created an algorithm first devised by Paul de Casteljau, who worked at Citroën. Bézier died in 1999 at the age of 89, and de Casteljau died in March 2022, at 91 years.

To me, the Listener Crossword is all about revealing a theme of interest. Without its practical applications, the Bézier curve, like many other topics in pure mathematics, would be little more than a pretty abstraction.

Both vetters mentioned that the construction reminded them of string art from the 1970s. Although aware of the toy, I hadn’t really considered this in the context of the puzzle, and in retrospect, I could have hinted at it somewhere. One vetter also remarked that all those lines might make it difficult for the marker to check the letters underneath. I hope everyone left their letters legible, otherwise I’ll have to change my setter name to Mud.

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Listener 4719: What’s My Line by Hawk

Posted by vaganslistener on 30 Jul 2022

Uh- oh… We’ve met Hawk before and he’s one of those brainy maths types. Will his puzzle catch me out as I have my third and last go at solving on holiday, with just an iPhone and newspaper beside me? 

The preamble gives little away this time, although drawing lines, lots of lines, suggests we are in the field of maths and more specifically geometrical construction. And there’s something to do with computing in there too if “application” means what I think it does.

So it’s a dive into the solving, looking for misprints (which eventually point to the bottom row and the diagonal up right from it), but especially for the clashes which are going to give us a name, that should open up the theme.

Luckily for me I solved quite a few clues in the top right quadrant early on, and had B and E pretty quickly. I’ve played around with computer graphics, pulling handles on lines to make curves, and although the full maths is beyond me I remembered it was something to do with tangents and a chap called Bezier. I went looking for the Z…

After that it was smooth sailing, with some lovely witty and elegant clues (38a was a winner in my eyes of course turning the primate (Desmond) Tutu into the rather different sort of primate TITI; and 13d with Gill and Prudence was good too, and taught me a new meaning of “woman”), but I was glad to realise I could be home in time to get out some coloured pencils for the final submission. 

So thanks to Hawk, and back to normal transmission next time.

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Listener No 4719: What’s My Line? by Hawk

Posted by Dave Hennings on 29 Jul 2022

Only one previous puzzle from Hawk, and that was early last year with Forrest Gump and his box of chocolates. This week, a lot of misprints and a few clashes to contend with. The last bit, “In two clues the definition refers to the answer (entered normally) with an added application of the construction” caused a frown which I hoped would be easy to resolve.

All in all the clues were fairly straightforward although a few required some dissembling. 41ac Maid’s note replacing priest’s last letter (5) had me wondering how (pries)T fitted in with the maid before realising that BONNE was BONZE with N for Z. And 1dn had Stop making old Moravian search arcade (7) where OBOE had SCUR for O with arcade becoming arcane. 13dn Gill and Prudence diminished English side of Britannia (11) derived from POLIC(y) + E + WOMAN, with gill being a policewoman as well as a female ferret.

One clue brought a smile, if only because of its quirky surface reading: 37ac Irish mobs typically concealed shed from Spanish lady (4) [mobs for moss; HIDALGA – HID]. And 34dn Rude to leave banknote with orangey hue (5) [Rude for Rule to give TENNE(r)] brought back memories of you-know-who across the Pond! My favourite clue though was 4dn Having uncovered nostrils, restored lung harmony (11) [GYMNORHINAL (not LUNG but LING HARMONY)*].

It didn’t take too long to spot that the clashes changed to become BEZIER, he of the famous curves. Chambers has them used in car body design from when Bézier worked for Renault in the 1960s. Wiki has them also used in “animation user interface design” and hence we could (eventually) suss the two clues mentioned in the preamble: 19ac Lord in ecstasy round companion (3) and 39ac Report of trench mortar, possibly a weight on newsman’s shoulder (4). They led, respectively, to CADDIE and MINICAM where CAD (computer-aided design) and CAM (computer-aided manufacturing) were the thematic applications.

The endgame then required us to draw lines along the locations spelt out by the corrected misprints: Twelfth row and SW NE diagonal. Connecting the paired letters then gave us what a Bézier curve looks like.

Thanks for a fun puzzle, Hawk.

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What’s My Line by Hawk

Posted by shirleycurran on 29 Jul 2022

The preamble suggested a ladder to me – two straight lines with ten more joining paired letters along these locations – but that was maybe just a little too simple for Hawk. We were to find 22 misprints (anywhere in the clue) identifying locations, as well as a series of clashes – and we weren’t told how many of those – and there was a final requirement to spot ‘an added application of the construction’ in something that would apparently be extra in two clues. Well, I’m up a ladder picking greengages now and then at the moment but this is clearly more complicated than that.

It didn’t take long for Hawk to confirm that he retains the entry ticket for the Listener setters’ oenophile elite. ‘Fancies whisky short after retiring at all’ gave us EVER reversed and RY(e) – the ‘whisky short’. Then he was onto Bacardi, ‘Ignore laughter when ordering Bacardi in foreign lingo’. It was Daughter (D) we had to ignore when we put Bacardi in order, and that gave us ARABIC and a corrected misprint. (He might just have issues if he tries to order his Bacardi in some Arabic countries!) ‘Ejecting regulars, sell pub, as not solvent’. We took the regulars of (s)E(l)L(p)U(b)A(s)N(o)T to give us the solvent ELUANT. He still hadn’t finished! ‘Serve defunct bar to brace a Zambezi dam. Now that was interesting, as our grid allowed KARIBA or ZARIBA and the K of Kariba clashed with the S of ‘tSetse’. It looked as though one of those clashes was going to produce a Z spelling TZETSE and ZARIBA as real words in our final grid. (Cheers, Hawk!)

Soon we had more clashes appearing in a curve shape: (BOTCH/ DRONED) suggesting I, (POLICEWOMAN/ BONNE) suggesting E and (HANGED/ READIES) suggesting R, so a name ending in ZIER – it had to be BEZIER. The corrected misprints were giving us TWELFTH ROW/ SW NE DIAGONAL so my simple ladder had to become a Bezier curve.

We were left with those tough clues in the north-west corner to complete and ten lines to draw. What an achievement for Hawk, not only to have produced those real words from the clashes, but also to have managed to get those ten letters along the twelfth row and the diagonal pairing up.

Finished? No, not quite. I went to bed worrying about that ‘added application of the construction’ and also trying to understand two clues we hadn’t sussed. ‘Lord in ecstasy round companion’ and ‘Report of trench mortar, possibly a weight on newsman’s shoulder’. They had given us DIE and MINI. Oh how sneaky! The CADDIE is the round companion and the newsman carries a MINICAM, so we had CAD CAM as extra elements and Chambers tells us about that. (I also have a rather clever great-nephew doing his doctorate in it at Durham Uni – should have spotted it!)

Many thanks, Hawk. Tough clues, we thought but a beautiful end game.

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Listener No 4718, Linked: A Setter’s Blog by Vismut

Posted by Listen With Others on 24 Jul 2022

Once again I have to thank day time TV for the inspiration for a puzzle. “Haven’t you got anything better to do?” I hear you ask. The answer to this is “yes” so it is lucky that I have a very ancient Mum and a not quite so ancient husband who take note of these things when they see it on Bargain Hunt, The Antiques Road Trip, Flog It or some such. I have a very long list to work from now.

The grid design for this one was pretty straight forward once I saw that key words had two consecutive letters in common, so thank you to the crossword compiler Gods for that.

I could see from my draft grid that it might be possible to get the correct number of answers to start and end with the same letter and link the clues in line with the theme to give “Mary Macarthur” and after a bit of juggling the grid was finished to my liking.

I then amused myself and hopefully you by linking the remaining clues in the same way to form “there is no message here”. Little things eh?

After a few weeks writing the clues, (a couple a day you understand, not solidly sitting at my computer. In fact I usually think up clues when I can’t go to sleep instead of counting sheep and it works! I’m soon snoring away. The bonus is that sometimes I even wake up with a half decent clue) the puzzle went off to be tested and for this one it was Hedge-sparrow and Dysart. Valuable input from these two before the puzzle was submitted. My thanks.

There was the Women Chainmakers Festival the weekend this puzzle was published which you can find out about here if you want to go next year: Women Chainmakers

Mary Macarthur was an amazing person setting a great example to all of us by fighting for some very basic human rights. You can find out more about her here: Mary Macarthur

I hope you enjoyed the puzzle and my thanks to the puzzle editors too who always give my puzzles a bit of polish for which I am very grateful.


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