Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin

Posts Tagged ‘Agricola’

In Transit by Agricola

Posted by shirleycurran on 14 Sep 2018

We have just been to the James Cook exhibition in the British Library and before we even read the preamble of Agricola’s crossword, we had made a guess at the theme – ‘In Transit’ indeed! As we read the preamble about a journey led by A (Captain James Cook) on B (HMS Endeavour) and two cells where groups of letters must be replaced by symbols (Venus and the SUN) we smiled delightedly. We saw Banks, Transit, South to Cape! and Maori people in the early clues and we were convinced. Before even starting to solve, we were expecting to find maybe Whitby, New Zealand and Tahiti somehow in the grid.

Of course I read through the clues to check that Agricola had included a fair dash of alcohol (hopefully some limes too, to combat the scurvy) and I got as far as 5d before finding that appropriate ration of rum that Cook would have distributed to his crew. ‘Real rum I sense (6, two words)’. Sadly the rum was just an anagram indicator for IN ESSE but it will suffice. Cheers, Agricola.

But it wasn’t all smiles. Playfair code-squares come just above jumbles and ‘not real words’ in my list of odious tricks and there it was, filling as much space in the pre-ramble as the genuine instructions. We immediately decided the code phrase had to be HMS ENDAVOUR (omitting the repeated E) and clearly that is not in Chambers or any reputable dictionary, so we were being given the encoding of a couple of clues that we still had to solve (LAYING and UNTRUE). The first four and last four letters of A must be JA ME….CO OK and, intriguingly, encoding that gave us KD SN FV AP. We could even back solve to produce LAYING and UNTRUE, so, for once, the Playfair was a touch less odious.

Ah, but of course there was still a crossword to solve and we had to find those stages on the journey. Yorkshire is very proud of their Whitby man and he and his ship were being included by way of the Playfair. Could Whitby and Tahiti somehow be squeezing into the grid. The clues were generous with those two 15-letter clues yielding quickly, ‘South to Cape! (repeated cry), Banks at first interjected, reasonable for a scientific venture (15)’ We put SO + C then IO IO round B(anks) + LOGICAL giving SOCIOBIOLOGICAL. 44ac was even more generous, ‘Black boxes first held grocer’s nuts (15)’ FIRST HELD GROCERS* giving FLIGHT RECORDERS.

Of course PARVENUS produced VENUS, and TSUNAMIS and SUNFAST gave us the SUN (which was going to stay in its cell while VENUS transited it) and I know that those observations took place in Tahiti in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. I had a bit of a problem with the geography of the grid and had to look up a map of Cook’s journey to understand why UK, Cape of Good HOPE, New Zealand and Cape HORN were appearing where they did in Agricola’s grid but I then realized that it was a fair depiction of that journey as long as I sailed from right to left.  Nice one, thank you,  Agricola.

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

‘In Transit’ by Agricola

Posted by Encota on 14 Sep 2018

SCAN0517 copy

This week’s puzzle was all about Captain Cook’s trip to Tahiti (and beyond), ostensibly to observe the transit of Venus (i.e. Venus crossing the face of the Sun, from the observer’s point of view) in 1769.  1 across set the scene:

“South to Cape!” (repeated cry), Banks at first interjected, reasonable for a scientific venture (15)

The puzzle included two Capes – HOPE and HORN – which were both rounded to the South on the voyage.  Though for me Banks immediately makes me think of the author Iain (M) Banks, this Banks was Joseph Banks, who was on board HMS ENDEAVOUR, along with Captain JAMES COOK & Co.  Thus this clue worked well as an intro to the puzzle and a clue that parsed as So.+C+IO+B+IO+LOGICAL – at least that was my interpretation!

Some other niceties:

I always like ‘group of’ as used in 20d, when the ‘of’ appears to pretend to be a linkword but one working in the direction disliked by editors (almost) everywhere.  You know the forms: ‘Definition of Wordplay’ is fine, ‘Wordplay of Definition’ is not.  But in 20d’s
Go too far with group of one dominating (7)
it can be confusing until, like in G8, you realise that ‘group of’ can be replaced with the letter G.  So the clue structure here is Wordplay Definition, with no linkwords, parsed as OVERDO (go too far) + G (group of).

And clue 2d’s ‘of’?  It is, of course ‘à‘, as in Thomas à Becket.  Supported by the lack of any requirement for the accent to be used in crosswords.  The clue was:
Marine officer in charge east of Norway (5)
It looks to be the adjectival meaning of OCEAN, i.e. Marine, but at first sight the charade-based wordplay doesn’t seem to deliver all the correct letters.  Until you parse it as OC+E+À+N, that is!

I noticed that the 8th row of the completed grid did contain VA?N.  Might Agricola be going for the Ford Transit Van* pun, with Venus (the symbol) ending up ‘in’ the VAN as VA(Venus_symbol=♀)N?  That would be ‘In Transit, as the Title suggests, wouldn’t it?  I did spend a few moments wondering if the movement of Venus around the Sun might end in this cell.

However, the F wouldn’t appear in the right place in the Playfair-encoded 13d, so a simple ‘horizontal’ transit must be what Agricola requires!

I think.

Cheers all,

Tim / Encota

*Aside: is it only me that, whenever seeing Van, is reminded of the R4 comedian Arthur Smith’s version of Kipling’s ‘If”?  Um, yes, probably!

IF, By Arthur Smith 
If you can roll along at a decent pace 
And you find that your rear 
Contains lots of space 
If you have windows at the front 
Yet none at the side 
And offer a smooth unflashy ride 
If you have a red and white flag 
On your bonnet 
And can never imagine doing a ton 
Then yours is the road and everything on it 
And, which is more, you’ll be a van, my son.

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Listener No 4480: The Code Duello by Agricola

Posted by Dave Hennings on 29 Dec 2017

A new setter this week, and one of everybody’s favourite features, the Playfair Code. On closer inspection, it’s actually Playfair Codes, so double the pleasure for our money.

In fact, I know that it’s not everybody’s favourite, but I’ve grown to have a certain respect for them and don’t normally find them too daunting. Whether this week’s offering will be forgiving, only time would tell.

On much closer inspection, the clues to be encoded were only clued by the extra wordplay letters in the clues. Not only that, they were long entries, 12 letters at 1ac and 10 letters at 10dn.

A speedy zip through the clues, and the grid was filled. This gave us the two clues: I rode unsteadily in sewing machine, said g’day on Buddhist mountain. I wasn’t too sure whether the break in thte clues was at machine/said or machines/aid, although the former seemed more likely. Also, I wasn’t sure if the clues were in the order of 1ac then 10dn or the other way.

SINGER was the sewing machine and BERG was the mountain, and those two elements enabled the answers to be swiftly scribbled in my notes: SCHROEDINGER and HEISENBERG.

The two Playfair codes were polished off in extra quick time: PARTICLE and WAVE.

OK, so that’s how it should have been solved!!

Unfortunately, every step of the way took me a considerable amount of time. Each one which I have described as “speedy”, “swift” or “quick” seemed to take an age. The analysis of the two clues was particularly slow, having got into into my head that it was (I RODE)* in a sewing machine (which I really didn’t expect to be the Singer — ®), and I wondered if there was a holy Buddhist mountain that I’d not heard of.

In the end, the clues were parsed as CH (I, dialect) RODE* in SINGER, and HEISEN (sounds like hi Zen) BERG (mountain).

And, of course, the Playfairs weren’t really straightforward, since SCHOEDINGER could encode to NBQEQLMDOFHE or OHGSRWCKMHGY and HESENBERG to either QHTUCQDBAH or GBNOBMWBYM. It was certainly a way to make Playfair code-squares move from being tricky to diabolical, but I eventually got PARTICLE and WAVE. The latter was the harder since, unusually, most of the square was made up of letters not in the code-word. We were also helped by CAT, not BAT, being revealed by the coded 10dn.

All in all, a real challenge for a puzzle near the year-end. Thanks for the duel, Agricola.

PS No animals were harmed in the making of the animation!


Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Heisenberg’s Hog aka ‘The Code Duello’ by Agricola

Posted by Encota on 29 Dec 2017

There are those that react to the word ‘Playfair’ in a Listener puzzle – and not in a good way!  Luckily, not me …

So it’s all about a duel, eh?  The gaps at Clues 1 and 10 are of lengths 12 and 10 letters respectively, so what could be simpler?  Read through any pages you can find covering Famous Duels and there are just bound to be a pair of duellists that match those lengths.

[2 hours reading later, I move on to reading about fictional duels …]

Hold on a moment, what’s this from the TV Series Blackadder?  WELLINGTON (Stephen Fry) duelling the PRINCE REGENT (Hugh Laurie) – they are (10) and (12).  Aha, it’s a another bit of Fry & Laurie …

[An hour later, having searched for possible code words that create the correct Playfair cipher text … and finding none …]

With my LOI providing the G of G’DAY below, I now have deciphered the wordplay for 10d to (probably) read:


and, at long last, think, “HI ZEN BERG”, i.e. ‘sounds like’ Heisenberg.

And all the Quantum Mechanical hints I’d been managing to miss – Planck’s constant, ‘uncertainty’ in the Preamble, ‘Copenhagen interpretation’ – suddenly become clear.  WAVE-PARTICLE duality – they are bound to be the two Codewords required; SCHROEDINGER (or similar spellings) and HEISENBERG  as the two thematic names.  Check that I haven’t made an error in my pencilled out squares by using Sympathy crossword software’s Gimmick feature (That’s ‘andy ‘arry) to confirm the encodings.  They all match up – and I’m almost done.

All that leaves is the Preamble’s mention of the appearance of a thematic animal.  Well, using one associated with Schroedinger would be far too obvious, so what else is hiding there?  Aah – found it, see grid below.  Clearly we all know the Cat associated with Schroedinger but have you heard of the lesser known (Errr…significantly lesser known!: Ed.] Heisenberg’s Hog?  The grid confirms this is the one to choose, through the other words defining such a creature: HOG DOES OVER-EAT.  The mysterious female Hares make a Yuletide appearance, as DOES, at 30 ac too.


If you’re not aware Heisenberg’s (Xmas) Hog was originally defined to explain the following fact*: ‘The more certain you are as to where the Xmas Roast is (the HOG, of Heisenberg’s Hog fame) the less certain you’ll know how quickly it’ll be eaten (i.e. how long it will last).  Developed from Planck’s earlier work – as an aside, his constant is actually h for hog (not hilfsgrosse, or the like).  And for experimental proof, I’ve seen its corollary in action over the past couple of days over Xmas: ‘The less certain I am as to where the chocolates in the family tin of Cadbury’s Roses are, then the more certain I am that they’ll go faster‘.  Now that explains the empty tin …

A Happy Thingummy & A Merry Doobrey-flip to all – or was it the other way round?

Tim / Encota

*Using the word ‘fact’ in the sense of something that rhymes with ‘rowlocks’.

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

The Code Duello by Agricola

Posted by shirleycurran on 29 Dec 2017

Oh no, not Playfair! We read the preamble and things only got worse. Somehow, we were to use wordplay that was going to emerge from extra letters in the wordplay of the clues to discover two thematic characters who were probably in some way going to duel. One apparently would have twelve letters to his name and the other ten. Their names were going to somehow suggest the code words and we had to use a different code word for 1 and 10. A thematic animal was going to appear that would resolve any ‘uncertainty’. (Good word, that! We have books about Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle, and Schroedinger’s Cat and the hint was there, but, of course, we didn’t spot it as we started solving).

Yes, I read through the clues, as, even if, as seems to be the case, Agricola is a new Listener setter, I needed to justify his membership of the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Outfit. I didn’t need to read far: ‘Please bring booze: Earl scrapped cockfight (3)’. Hmmm – I’m not sure that surface reading told me much but we decided it had to be BYO (bring your own) and E, so a BYE had to be some sort of scrapped cockfight and the Big Red Book confirmed that.

So what kind of booze was it? I skipped a couple of clues where we had ‘Yankee chases tea wrapped in gold seal (5)’ Yes, Agricola was getting into his stride now; that had a fine surface reading and was nicely deceptive, as the seal turned out to be an OTARY and not a cuppa that the Yankee was chasing (Y after T[E]A OR). Then ‘Tropical island mostly holds off site fouler (7)’ We worked backwards to NA[U]R(U) with SITE* to get NASTIER and now we had realized that those double clues were each giving us two words with only the first letter changing so TASTIER was the solution to the spumante clue, ‘Nicer bird drinking spumante (7)’ Ah the inevitable crosswordese spumante! It was a TER[N] drinking it but I think we can say cheers Agricola! Be careful not to overdo the alcohol though! Towards the end of the clues, ‘Mouths muddled exclamations, half-cut (5)’ (exclam)ATIO[N]S* giving OSTIA sounds  as though all that alcohol didn’t go down too well. Maybe you’ll be at the setters’ dinner in Paris in March drinking something of better quality – see you there!

We solved steadily, some fairly compact and amusing clues and a couple I moaned about, ‘Trials without charity for eczema sufferers (4)’. The other Numpty was muttering at me ‘Look up that eczema charity on the Internet’ but it was a while before we found NES which, with W/O produced WOES and an extra N, and we guessed at KRONE (which was confirmed later by the Playfair encoding) but still don’t understand the clue ‘Earlier paper about Copenhagen interpretation of Bible cut just after betting game (5) Twelve words to produce five letters? Hmmm. (The other Numpty tells me that clue is thematic, in that the Copenhagen interpretation was part of an argument about the foundations of wave particle duality and that ultimately, it doesn’t seem to matter, as they are the same).

Enough muttering! After a couple of hours we had two sets of wordplay: I RODE UNSTEADILY IN SEWING MACHINE and SAID G’DAY ON BUDDHIST MOUNTAIN (yes, it could have been ‘IN’ as we still hadn’t sussed the KRONE clue).  Sewing machine? Well I have a lovely little Husqvarna, but that has too many letters and Elna has too few. Must be SINGER. SCHROEDINGER has a fine anagram of I RODE in it but that doesn’t quite work. There’s an extra I and that CH to justify. Oh, clever Agricola! Chambers tells us that CH is an obsolete dialect form of ‘ich’ or I.

By this time, the other Numpty was downstairs watching the snooker but he’s the physicist and when I shouted down “It’s HI ZEN BERG – a “heard” clue giving HEISENBERG”, he nonchalantly shouted back “Then the key words are PARTICLE and WAVE”, and, of course, they were, as was demonstrated by the Braingle Playfair solver minutes later. Quinapalus does the same. It is amazing, I think (and I have no qualms about using such resources even if I admire those who work out the Playfair for themselves). Entering just two pairs of letters gives that string of possible key words and, of course WAVE and PARTICLE are there.

The Internet tells me that the particle belongs to Heisenberg and the wave to Schroedinger, who was a wave-mechanics man, but there is supposed to be a thematic animal appearing to resolve any ambiguity and, of course, when I select the right set I find, not a hare (Schroedinger’s hare? No, Schroedinger’s bat? I wonder how many solvers will enter that!) There’s his CAT to highlight. Nice! I love the way the Playfair game was thematic. What a fine debut, thank you, Agricola.

Randy Hare

The Poat hare? A fellow solver sent me an amusing email before even beginning to solve. ‘Bet you a glass of wine in Paris that the duelling pair are the Tortoise and the Hare.’ (Nice idea but he lost didn’t he!) But is it really fair to hide the hare in the clues? ‘One local hare among game lacking purity (12)’ and what self-respecting hare would be among that gone-off venison or whatever? Of course the game was CHESS surrounding [H]ASTEN giving us UNCHASTENESS. However, it was the cheeky little fellow climbing up the grid towards all those DOES that had appeared in the endgame who caught my fancy.

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »