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Posts Tagged ‘Aragon’

‘Clean-Up Operation’ by Aragon

Posted by Encota on 24 Feb 2017

Only a brief post this week as I have had to reconstruct this one from other notes 😦

I think this is the first of Aragon’s Listener puzzles I have ever attempted – and (for me, at least) it was hard!  Excellent!!  The endgame took much longer than the clue-solving.

After solving all the clues and spotting that DARK BROWN was one option for the clashing cell-based knight’s moves from bottom to top, I was pretty confident that I was looking to modify seven letters using AINOPTT.  The DOORSTEP was of course easy to find as the Workarea, but the perpetrator took me much longer [I even diverted for a while looking up the American footballer M.SHAWNE who, as he was nicknamed “Lights Out” (for knocking other players unconscious) might have been the cause of the doorstep mishap].  What would Merriman Shawne be doing on the doorstep, though?

Eventually I found POSTMAN, which made a lot more sense.  Deciding that the letter ‘I’ and ‘DOT’ clash could be combined into a pling(!) to ~resolve the 8th clash and I was sorted.  And this year I then decided to double-check that my highlighting was correct (as I have been guilty of a crayoning error in some recent puzzles) – and it seems to be!

Thanks to Aragon for a really tough puzzle!

Tim / Encota

P.S. And I get a week off from writing a Solver’s Blog next week 🙂

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Clean-up Operation by Aragon

Posted by shirleycurran on 24 Feb 2017

aragon-wet-paint-001What a daunting preamble.  I’m not sure where knight’s moves come in our list of Listener dislikes (somewhere amongst the Playfair Squares, jumbles, words jumping from clue to clue and so on – right down at the bottom) but there they were, together with clashes and some sort of a mess. Ah well, nothing to do but scan the clues to check that Aragon qualifies for his entry ticket to the annual Listener tipple (he’s the Editor of the whole shebang isn’t he so he has to be there). There isn’t a lot of evidence. ‘Kilgraston’s hea[R]d girl offers narcotic drink (4)’ gives us K + AVA, then Aragon descends to the level of second-rate tea, `Poor tea[L] rustic knocked back by local river (5)’ HOB< + EA = BOHEA. Well, cheers, anyway Aragon.

Solving isn’t quite as much of a struggle as we expected as these clues are fair and even generous. Who could fail to solve ‘Dancing girl excited male (4)’? Well, I could! ALME is such an obvious solution that we are left wondering whether Aragon is pulling a fast one and actually requiring a far more subtle answer. We spot one of the clues that is likely to lead a few careless solvers astray: ‘[I] hired out sets of three old desks (8)’ We decided this was LET + TERNS since Chambers tells us that those are ‘old’ desks, but we did wonder whether it was merely to add difficulty that led Aragon to opt for that word rather than LECTERNS (and would the editors have allowed an ordinary mortal like me to have the required extra letter as an independent word? Hmmm!)

We usually check answer lengths fairly early in our solve but this time it was only when 42 down seemed to have two extra letters that we did a speedy check, finding that that was the only solution-length anomaly. ‘Poet with books gets female star[E] (6)’ BARD + OT gave us BARDOT and we were finally beginning to see some of the endgame since clearly we had to enter her as BAR and a dot or full stop.

The clean-up instruction was appearing too. We were able to piece together ERASE ALL TRAIL CLASHES – and what to arrange to doorstep-1replace consecutive letters: DOWN TRAIL CLASHES. We had seven clashes in our grid and were told that we were looking for A ‘nine-letter trail of knight’s moves from the work area (8 cells) to the perpetrator (7 cells). The work area leapt out at us. A DOORSTEP was at the bottom of the grid and if we took the ‘across entries’ in the trail of clashes and moved in knight’s moves upwards, we were given the ‘tone’ for the work area which seemed to be a dingy DARK BROWN. (Indeed, for once the knight’s moves were a helpful gift and not the nightmare we feared). Does one really have a dark brown doorstep? Well the answer is apparently yes! (See photo.) I think that is Aragon’s doorstep. I wonder what he would do about the careless solvers who are likely to paint it yellow or pink.

postmans-mess-002Our instruction told us we had to rearrange DOWN TRAIL CLASHES (as well as erase them to operate the clean-up) and they gave us IPONATT. That is where the head scratching began. Who was the perpetrator of that mess that we had erased that led upwards from the doorstep. Our first Numpty red herring gave us CUMSHAW. Well, that’s a tip isn’t it, but not perhaps the sort of tip required here and Mr Cumshaw, whoever he may be, could hardly be a perpetrator. It was a while later that we spotted the POSTMAN.

We had just one hint. When we erased the clashes, we were left with real words, except for one – BOHE – so that had to be where we were going to do some letter replacement using those down clash letters IPONATT.  BOTE seemed a likely ‘real word’, ALME could become ALOE, CHEWED could become CHEWET – and slowly we teased out the obvious message “WET PAINT ON DOORSTEP!” So we have a fine little story.img019

The POSTMAN paddled that paint all the way across the grid and now we have erased his mess and cleaned it all up and are putting up that warning sign, and yes, of course the I of TEPID combined with the BARDOT dot to give a warning exclamation mark, leaving us real words there too, ‘missing the point in one cell’. Nice one Aragon!

Ah the HARE – of course this week he was going to be just as elusive as ever but playing the game and performing knight’s moves – not just one, but a total of three! Time we got rid of him – I’ve included a vicious looking rabid dog to perform the task.hare-performing-knights-moves-001

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Listener No 4436: Clean-up Operation by Aragon

Posted by Dave Hennings on 24 Feb 2017

2015’s Aragon puzzle was the one about Nancy Mitford and her sisters. Before that, we had Henry VIII and his wives. This week’s preamble smacked of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs with a domestic job, a warning and a perpetrator. Only time would tell if my early suspicions would bear fruit. [No they won’t. Ed]

The slightly worrying aspect of the puzzle for me was the reference to knight’s moves in the preamble — not my favourite puzzle feature. Luckily, the trail was only nine letters long and would mostly be revealed by seven clashes.

listener-4436-second-effortThis was a week for a quick run through all the clues in order. I was lucky with 1ac Deputy Officer Commanding in Highlander’s tall hat (5), being OC in LUM, even though I’d never considered a LOCUM as a deputy, more just a stand-in. Next came 16 PAWK and 18 Go nude at revels? Not in Roman’s habit (8) for UNTOGAED, which the preamble tells us Chambers doesn’t have… nor any other dictionary I tried! Still, Chambers does prefix its list with “Some words formed with the prefix un-” (my italics), so I guess almost anything goes. Here, the answer was fairly obvious.

I liked the misleading clue at 23ac Faraway call from Stratford area of London (4), where the answer looked like SOHO, but needed a check in C to see that the second meaning had Stratford referring to Shakespeare. However, a fairly shabby ten across clues solved, followed by even fewer downs. I was confused when I got to 42dn which was clued as (6), even though it only had four cells in the grid. A reread of the preamble indicated that this might be the one further clash that needed to be resolved symbolically. (Unfortunately, it was much later in the solve that BARDOT came to my aid.)

Half an hour in, and less than twenty solved. Still, the top of the grid was looking pretty good with five entries dropping down from the top row. Mind you, I couldn’t really understand working in 3dn C-shaped bit, working? (6) for C-HEWED.

The grid was finished in about 1¾ hours, more quickly than I had expected after my first run through. So now it was time to reread the preamble and see what was still left to be done. For a start, there were the letters dropped before solving. First we had to Erase all trail clashes and then arrange the Down trail clashes and use them to replace consecutive letters in one column.

The seven clashes made it fairly easy to home in on the DOORSTEP in the bottom row, and only a minute or so later, the POSTMAN running (walking) in a SW–NE direction. The clashes themselves, with across letters on top, were:


If I had worked my way up the grid, DARK BROWN would have probably stood out more, but it didn’t take long to see that. The D and N were provided by the Doorstep and postmaN, respectively. The remaining letters were IPONATT which needed rearranging — POINT AT, TO PAINT, NOT A TIP? Or indeed, just a jumble?

Our help with the second part of the message was given by the preamble — “…all entries in the final grid may be read as real words or names.” With the clashes erased, I had BOHE in row 11 and NAAS in column 10. I thought neither were real words until I checked Google for place-names. I had, in fact, come across NAAS before, a town in Ireland, but had forgotten it. That left BOHE that needed to be changed in some way.

I think I was helped with having tried to resolve 3dn and seen chewet underneath chew. With INWEAVE unlikely to become a different word, the letter matching its replacement proved to be its N, and WET PAINT ON soon appeared in column 3. Finally, Brigitte BARDOT came to the rescue with the clash resolved symbolically: with the DOT clashing with the I of TEPID, we had an exclamation mark!

Thus the full warning was spelt out as WET PAINT ON DOORSTEP!

listener-4436-entryOne last read of the preamble and I would be done. Well, everything was sorted… except “across entries set the tone for the work area.” The work area was the doorstep, and the across clashes had given DARK BROWN. Did that mean that my usual light coloured highlighting needed to be interrupted by a darker colour? I mused on it for a few minutes and decided that it did. After all, preambles don’t normally indulge in idle chitchat! Although most doorsteps are a darker colour to hide footprints and mud, I personally think Aragon should have coloured it DARK GREEN.

I found this a really enjoyable and amusing puzzle, with a novel theme which was ingeniously implemented. Thanks, Aragon.

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Shorthand Crosses by Aragon

Posted by shirleycurran on 7 Aug 2015

Mitfords 001What a preamble! I almost threw my hands up in despair as we were told that we had two different ‘classes’ of clue and that some of them led to a ‘thematically reduced’ grid entry. Then there was a poet’s name and an essayist whose family the poet wrote about. We had to use a couplet of his verse to adjust our grid and highlight names that would then appear. Of course, the prompt was there in that word ‘classes’ but I was too numb from reading all of that to jump to the obvious conclusion.

Looking back, I realize that the first two lines of that preamble were a work of genius: what a superb explanation of the status quo with ‘…divide (unequally) into two classes. Class I … the (more common) Class II. There’s the hoi polloi putting the plebs where they belong!

But that smile came later. Nothing to be done. Take a deep breath and begin solving. A very sober set of clues – not a trace of alcohol, but a few more hints. There’s a ‘Nationalist politician’ (as an afterthought, could that have been Oswald Mosley?) a nanny, quite a lot of profit, gold, silver and capital. It’s the simple clue ‘Gold that we own’ (2) that gives us the way into the crossword. That has to be O[U]R with the U ‘thematically’ removed. A couple more clues like that: ‘More fetching reflecting a bit of stretching’ suggests C[U]TER, and ‘N. African dish informally for salad vegetable’ suggests CO[U]SCO[U]S and we realize that one ‘class of clues’ is going to lead to words with missing Us. Could we be in the world of U and non-U and wasn’t that notion popularised by Nancy Mitford?

Now that rather cryptic instruction makes sense: ‘Solvers must follow the thematic features of the Class 1 clues to read the name of an essay that explains the difference between the classes, and its author’. As the other Numpty continues to solve, I rather laboriously attempt to highlight all the ‘u’s in the clues (missing half a dozen on the first read through) then marvelling at Aragon’s brilliance in fitting four into the clue ‘Pursuing horse tire us out: hairy (7)’ (H + TIRE US* = HIRSUTE) and slowly teasing out what followed the thematic features – the subsequent letters – to get ‘The English Aristocracy: Nancy Mitford’.

Great: so now we know which are our ‘class II’ clues – the ones with no ‘u’s in them. And it seems that those are the ones that are going to have ‘u’s removed from their solutions too. A brief smile at the words ‘more common’ applied to the rest of us who were not of that self-indulgent pack of pretentious, pampered, toffee-nosed socialites, and we begin to hunt for clues that have two ‘u’s removed from them. Yes, we have B[U]ST[U]PS, A[U]G[U]STA, DISC[U]RS[U]S, D[U]MD[U]M, [U]LM[U]S, NA[U]R[U], [U]S[U]RESSES and CO[U]SCO[U]S. The first letters conveniently (and so cleverly) spell out Betjeman (who else? He was a passionate admirer of one of them wasn’t he and proposed to Pamela twice – why on earth did she choose Mosley!) Much though I loathe the whole shemozzle surrounding the Mitford lot, I have to admire what Aragon is doing with the U and non-U concept.

Of course Google provides me with the verse and, sure enough, we are at once able to cryptically apply the words of the first couplet. (I am glad I didn’t have to do anything with the next couplet – I haven’t a clue what it means! I hope someone will tell me what Cavalcades and Maskelyns are – cigarettes? Horses?)

“The Mitford girls, the Mitford girls/ I love them for their sins/ The young ones all like ‘Cavalcade’/ The old like ‘Maskelyns’/ Sophistication blessed dame/ Sure they have heard thy call/ Yes, even gentle Pamela/ Most rural of them all.”

We had already seen JESSICA, UNITY, PAMELA, DEBORAH and DIANA almost appearing in the grid and now that we replace THEIR SINS with I LOVE THEM, three of the names appear. There’s a head scratch before we recognize that there is another ‘for’ in that couplet and that we have D GIRLS in our grid, so, replacing D GIRLS with THE MIT resolves the other two anomalies and gives us JESSICA and UNITY. Of course they were all related to NANCY, the authoress, so she doesn’t need to appear – and we have our fifteen changed letters. This is fabulous compiling.

Until I heard that there was a flawed grid printed in the Times, this seemed to be a rather splendid example of a Listener crossword, though we did have one slight doubt. ‘Barney, when Britains evenings are lighter, meeting Penny (4)’ seems to me to be ambiguous. Chambers defines both BUST-UP and DUST-UP as a quarrel or brawl (thus a barney) and DST (just like BST) can be defined by ‘when Britain’s evenings are lighter’. Obviously, the compiler and editors have put that Britains in italics to prompt us towards the BST version but I am willing to bet that a number of solvers will go for the DST option and if they are marked wrong (or if the BST crowd are) I am sure there will be a real barney.

Great stuff, anyway. Many thanks, Aragon.

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