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Escape by Xanthippe

Posted by shirleycurran on 17 July 2020

Our first reaction was “What an original grid!” The preamble was original too, promising us riddles that we would need to solve to escape four rooms. We (U) began solving unsure whether those walls could be crossed by our symmetrical solution to the clues but it soon became clear, when BEER crossed one of them, that we could ignore them in our solve and pay attention to them when we were ultimately manoeuvering our way out of the rooms.

BEER? Yes indeed ‘Hoppy drink preferable – Tom’s not teetotal (4)’ gave us BETTER losing TT and producing an extra word ‘Tom’s’, so I need not worry about xanthippe’s retention of his admission ticket to the Listener Setter’s Oenophile Outfit, even if he feels BEER is preferable. Cheers, Xanthippe!

Xanthippe’s clues were all of that fair and generous kind and, as we had the good fortune to solve the four 12-letter ones early on, our grid fill was speedy. ‘Honour promise, don’t fire English weapon (12, three words)’ gave us the amusing KEEP ON (don’t fire) E SWORD.

Equally amusing and so clever was ‘Muddled how to make even 11? (5)’ The answer to that last clue that we solved had ro be ADDLE and we smiled when we realized that if we ADD LE, we convert EVEN to ELEVEN.

We are not very good at finding redundant words in clues. I think we solve too quickly without justifying every word, so that we had some rather incomplete riddles to solve and needed a supper break before we scanned our clues more carefully to get:





I could see that the answer to the last one was CROSSWORD – a self-referential comment on our barred cell grids that aren’t the kind that prisoners are kept in (well, yes, admitted, we do spend some frustrating, head-scratching hours trapped in the things but …) and that led us out of the grid at the bottom cell, so the U could go there (or does he become I or ME?) and that established his starting point in the room above and there he was, pointing us at TOMORROW.

From the start, the other Numpty had been saying “Tom Riddle, he’s in a work with Harry Potter” but I hadn’t taken it on board and CHAMBER OF SECRETS was the last solution to be entered after CANDLE had shown us where it ended. I am told these are familiar children’s riddles that appear on the Internet and of course, there they are. I should have asked a five-year old.

I drew U’s ‘complete’ path, crossing all the cell borders from his original position to his final external cell but was then left with. a nagging doubt. He has escaped, so I imagine we have to remove him from his original position – or have we?

Many thanks to Xanthippe for a different and entertaining puzzle.

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L4613: ‘Escape’ by Xanthippe

Posted by Encota on 17 July 2020

Lots of clues contained an extra word, which then needed to be suitably grouped together. This resulted in the following four phrases/riddles:

  • Always coming not arriving
  • Where Tom’s in work with Potter but clay never gets baked
  • Tall when young short when old
  • Barred cells here prisoners don’t enter

And the answers to these, TOMORROW, CHAMBER OF SECRETS, CANDLE and CROSSWORD spelt out the path that allowed the solver (U) to escape from the top NE quadrant and end up exiting the Southern door of the Escape Room complex.

A few of the extra words were quite tough to find but eventually they all dropped out. Thanks Xanthippe!


Tim /Encota

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Listener No 4613: Escape by Xanthippe

Posted by Dave Hennings on 17 July 2020

Xanthippe has had a fair few puzzles over the years, dating back to 1997 over at the Independent-that-was. Here we had Listener number 13 from him, last year’s being the one based on the Louis XIV chandelier episode from Only Fools and Horses, and good fun that was.

This week, an escape-the-room mystery faced us with riddles provided by extra words in some of the clues. At first glance, it appeared that each riddle would lead to the sticky-out cell added to each quadrant of the grid, but a second reading of the preamble indicated that there would be a single path starting somewhere and ending in one of the cells. None of that, however, would make any sense until the grid was done.

Solving started at a quick pace with OSSA, BEER, ICES, MARE and ANNA probably going in the top half of the grid. What would end up being 16ac Money for tribesmen with, we hear, set of beliefs (5) was a sneaky clue that I didn’t solve first time through, being CREDO sounding like CREE DOUGH, with being the extra word!

I also failed with the first 12-letter entry 17ac-to-be Potter cut pot plant in station, using middle of sickle for last plant (12, two words) (although it probably ended in (si)CK(le)), but a bit of time on 28ac Women who repay [young] fools holding very odd green earth (12) gave AVENGERESSES — ASSES around (V + GREEN* + E). Phew!

A few more acrosses got pencilled in, and with ODIC, BETCHA, GROWER, PROM and ADRY solved from the downs, the top half could start to be pieced together. Identifying the extra words in clues was sometimes a bit tricky with words like in, with, here and not lurking.

Eventually, everything was slotted together. My favourite clues were probably 5dn I’ll wager doctor [gets] the cab (6) with its straightforward anagram giving BETCHA, and 27dn Leaders from Kirkcaldy estate [don’t] expect lean Glaswegian tough (6) with its unlikely surface reading leading to KEELIE.

And so on to the riddles:

  • Where Tom’s in work with Potter but clay baked never gets
  • Always coming, not arriving
  • Tall when young, short when old
  • Barred cells here prisoners don’t enter

The last one was obviously CROSSWORD to be found in the SE quadrant, and working into the SW corner, we got CANDLE. On first reading, I guessed that the first riddle had a Harry Potter reference, but it took a few minutes to uncover CHAMBER OF SECRETS and then TOMORROW for riddle number 2. And wasn’t it Tom Riddle in one of the Harry Potter books?

Another read of the preamble, and we were told that the solver (U) had to follow the path, and above the T of TOMORROW was the U which then had to move to the extra cell at the bottom of the SE corner, leaving the other three extra cells empty. It would have been nice if one of the definitions of You in Chambers was “the twenty-first letter of the alphabet” as the preamble could then have said “solver (you)”!

Great fun. Thanks, Xanthippe.
PS A riddle I was reminded of this week: How does a deaf woman indicate to a hardware store worker that she wishes to buy a hammer?

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Listener No 4612, Family Man: A Setter’s Blog by Duck

Posted by Listen With Others on 12 July 2020

When I go on a long holiday I often take a long book. Having heard about Buddenbrooks from an evening-class tutor when we were studying The Brothers Karamazov (which incidentally I had earlier read in Canada on a long holiday in 1976) I decided to take Thomas Mann’s novel with me on our Rhine cruise in 2019 — I was not disappointed.

I thought of a clue for Buddenbrooks to use in a crossword (one of those ‘obscurities’ to wind bloggers up) but then decided that I could spread that clue out in the clues of a Listener-type puzzle and hide the book and the author in the grid at the same time (highlighting is so important these days!). Originally I added an additional complication for answers intersecting the author’ s name, but it didn’t seem to work all that well with my initial test solver so I ditched it. I was aware that the vetters would find the puzzle on the easy side, but hoped that elegance of clueing would carry me through.

This old-fashioned Duck isn’t totally a Dead Duck just yet. He is still an occasional Listener solver but finds many modern Listeners too hard or too complex to be bothered with — especially as he spends so much time setting other puzzles. Duck can only hope that this entry-level Listener will have given a modicum amount of satisfaction to some. Doubtless the succeeding Listener puzzles will be much more satisfactory for the many wolves.

Happy solving!

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Family Man by Duck

Posted by shirleycurran on 10 July 2020

Dave’s Crossword Database tells me that this is Duck’s 24th Listener puzzle and that he has been setting them since 1989. What an achievement! We download the puzzle and there are delighted comments when we see a preamble that is not quite four lines long and read that EVERY clue leads to the answer with an extra letter that is not entered in the grid – not just ‘some of the clues’. No silly gimmicks – just an honest puzzle where we are going to be given a clue – doubtless a cryptic one – and have to find a two-word name associated with the answer that is split over two sites. Intriguing!

We can expect elegance and accuracy of cluing as Duck produced his invaluable Crossword Manual way back in 1986. It has now run to its fifth edition. I read it from cover to cover when I was starting to set crosswords and can (and do) thoroughly recommend it to anyone who is keen to begin compiling or simply to learn about unching, ninas or crossword grammar, for example.

Our grid fills steadily. The nearest I can get to alcohol is 37ac. “Dude,” I scoffed, “religion for the masses?” (6). “That has to be OPIATE”, we both said, “religion is the opiate of the masses.” But we had to back-solve to find our extra letter. “The dude must be a FOP, since ‘I scoffed’ gives I ATE”, we decide, so we have an F.

It was the clue produced by those letters that began to appear first: AFTER HINT OF SPRING LIFE STUDY ……… However, that was too subtle for us and we had to hunt for the two-word name. THOMAS M..N had to be THOMAS MANN and he loomed into sight after exactly an hour of solving but we had to finish our grid-fill to complete the clue. We struggled over the very last letter of FLOWERS IN A BOO?  We were sure it would be BOOK (well, it could have been a BOOT in the German or English sense, I suppose, but that didn’t seem likely – flowers in a boot or a boat?) Eventually, we understood that the top two honours were Ace and King and, with ANC turning up, that gave us the K and one of the two abbreviations we had been warned of – CNAA (Council for National Academic Awards) with D Theol. at 14d as the other.

I studied Death in Venice and The Magic Mountain at University so confidently looked for a clue that would lead to some aspect of those two well-known works, or maybe Doctor Faustus, but found myself desperately grid-staring. Buddenbrooks indeed! I wonder what prompted Duck to opt for that one. I hope he will tell us. Of course, having seen the novel’s name in two sites in the grid, we could back-solve to the clue: BUD gives us a ‘hint of spring life’; DEN is the ‘study’ and the ‘flowers’ produce an R…S (Rivers) in a BOOK

Well, Wikipedia showed me how ignorant I am and explained the amusingly relevant title ‘Family Man’:

Buddenbrooks [ˈbʊdn̩ˌbʁoːks] is a 1901 novel by Thomas Mann, chronicling the decline of a wealthy north German merchant family over the course of four generations, incidentally portraying the manner of life and mores of the Hanseatic bourgeoisie in the years from 1835 to 1877. Mann drew deeply from the history of his own family, the Mann family of Lübeck, and their milieu.

It was Mann’s first novel, published when he was twenty-six years old. With the publication of the second edition in 1903, Buddenbrooks became a major literary success. Its English translation by Helen Tracy Lowe-Porter was published in 1924. The work led to a Nobel Prize in Literature for Mann in 1929; although the Nobel award generally recognises an author’s body of work, the Swedish Academy‘s citation for Mann identified “his great novel Buddenbrooks” as the principal reason for his prize.[1]

Thank you, Duck, for our Friday challenge and for educating me about a Nobel-Prize-winning novel!


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