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Posts Tagged ‘Brock’

Kew Knowledge by Brock

Posted by shirleycurran on 18 Sep 2020

Strange title! Kew Knowledge: are we going to be informed about exotic flower species? We are going to find seven thematiclly affected answers  and extra letters in the wordplay of all the other answers. I skim the clues (looking, of course, for that inevitable Listener setter alcohol) and find some fine surface readings with messengers discarding clothes, ‘With no sign of hesitation, messengers dicarded clothes (5)’ – I discard the ER from COURRIERS and get COURS with an extra I. Then there is the rather surprising ‘Result of unclothed aunty occupying beach? (6)’ We put (a)UNT(y) into SAN[D] and with that extra D find SUNTAN.

Alcohol? It’s a pretty poor showing, though Brock is clearly suffering from the after effects: ‘Stupor broken by am coffee (5)’ MOCCA goes in there. It has to be that ‘fine’ cycling round lake ‘Collapsed during cycling, fine going around lake (5)’ that caused the stupor (we opted for an ELFIN butterfly). Well, cheers, Brock – you can do worse than having a stupor after an excess of fine cognac!

Our first suggestion of the theme comes when we find ‘Head of academy leaving annoyed queer dean (5)’. We are all familiar with Spooner’s apocryphal toast to the ‘Queer old dean’. We remove A(cademy) from ‘annoyed*’ and find DOYEN with an extra N.

FLUTTER BYES soon emerges so we begin to understand that Brock, too, is playing at being Spooner and providing us either with Spoonerised versions of the answer (like ‘mocca’ for COMMA and ‘gnu Joe’ for JUNO ‘One resembling Buffalo  Soldier in Alabama is tense leaving Confederacy (4)’ – we remove T from JUNTO) or Spoonerisms in the wording of the definition, ‘One’s marked with spite what’s scuppered Real Madrid (10, two words)’. Real Madrid anagrammed to RED ADMIRAL and we back-solved to decide that this was ‘one marked with white spots’. (I had to find the butterfly book to confirm that!)

So ‘Done guarding war ..’ became ‘One guarding door’ for a GATEKEEPER and we completed our seven butterflies with ELFIN (the poor thing ‘fell in’ or collapsed), a ‘key pock’, that became a PEACOCK and one with an ‘underwing band’ – a ‘wondering band’ – the HAIR STREAK. (My book tells me that ‘This species gets its name from the W-shaped mark formed by the white streak on the underside of the hind wing).

By this time we had found the thematically posed question: ‘DO HIDE ON THIS DAY IN NINETEEN THIRTY?’ and who died had to be W A SPOONER and, sure enough, there was his name in the grid, to be highlighted.

It wasn’t until I had completed the solve that I looked up New College and found that there was actually a Spooner connection. I learned that Spooner was the first non-Wykehamist to become an undergraduate at New College. Nicely thematic, as was the entire grid. Many thanks, Brock.

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L4622: ‘Kew Knowledge’ by Brock

Posted by Encota on 18 Sep 2020

Thanks first of all to Brock for an entertaining puzzle! With hindsight I should have realised what was going on from the title. How many years was he at New College, Oxford? In the role of Dean, amongst several others – hence Dean’s appearance in both 15a and 6d.

The puzzle was of course a tribute to The Rev. William Archibald Spooner, who died on 29 August 1930.

The most challenging bit for me was interpreting the clues that had “been affected thematically, one way or another”. In practice we had these seven in the clues where a type of butterfly was the answer:

  • PEACOCK. The clue started ‘Principal pitting …’. To be parsed as KEY POCK, and hence PEACOCK in Spooner’s world. One down, six to go …
  • HAIRSTREAK. This began ‘Wondering band identifies one …’. Read that as UNDER WING BAND IDENTIFIES ONE and the reference to the white band on the hairstreak’s under-wing is sorted.
  • COMMA. The Spoonerism here was clued by ‘…coffee’. I could only assume that MOCHA with its consonant sounds swapped becomes COMMA, though I may have missed something!
  • GATEKEEPER. This starts ‘Done guarding …’. I can’t get that one yet! Ah, it’s ‘DONE GUARDING WAR’ -> ONE GUARDING DOOR. I never get those 3+ word ones!
  • JUNO. Seems to be Spoonerised (is that a word?) using ‘ONE RESEMBLING BUFFALO SOLDIER IN ALABAMA…’ I’m going with “GNU JOE” for JUNO, as I can see there’s a Dione Juno butterfly, which I hadn’t heard of.
  • ELFIN. That’s one of the easier ones: ‘Collapsed during …’ becomes FELL IN, and hence ELFIN
  • And that great anagram for RED ADMIRAL (Real Madrid) appears in 8d. Here ‘One’s marked with spite what’s …’ soon reveals its WHITE SPOTS and we are all done.


Tim / Encota

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Listener No 4622: Kew Knowledge by Brock

Posted by Dave Hennings on 18 Sep 2020

OK, how long since Brock’s last Listener? Less than six months by my reckoning since No 4597, Bunch of Fives with its starfish grid and piscine theme. That probably means that we were looking at a last-minute date-related theme this week. [Smart arse. Ed.]

The preamble tells us that seven answers are, thematically speaking, 21 3. That didn’t help much since both were unclued. Definitions in these clues were thematically affected, one way or another. Remaining clues had an extra letter in the wordplay and would spell out a thematically posed question. It sounded as though we were going to be stymied until we got the theme!

The clues were a mixture of straightforward and tricky with the seven thematically affected answers generally being tricky. 9ac Hardly long-lived, half-blinded king at Hastings losing life ultimately? (10) was probably the most fun, leading to ONE-YEAR-OLD (ONE-EYE + (H)AROLD – (lif)E).

With most of the top-left and bottom-right complete, it looked as though 21 3 was FLUTTER BYES. Moreover, 1dn looked like COMMA which was a butterfly, so I was on the right track. Mind you, its clue looked odd, Stupor broken by am coffee (5) until you realised than “‘m” was a variant of “am” and we had M in COMA leading to… well, not a type of coffee that was certain. MOCHA, however, was and we seemed to be dealing with Spoonerisms. (If I’d looked at the title again, I’d have been certain.)

Eventually, all came good with the thematic clues which were either spoonerisms of the entry or had a spoonerism in the definition:

19ac Principal pitting gym associate against Rick (7)
34ac Wondering band identifies one task re working on hard tune (10)
Underwing band identifies one → HAIRSTREAK
1dn Stupor broken by am coffee (5)
8dn One’s marked with spite what’s scuppered Real Madrid (10, two words)
One’s marked with white spots → RED ADMIRAL
11dn Done guarding war fortress with gun, always circling (10)
One guarding door → GATEKEEPER
22dn One resembling Buffalo Soldier in Alabama is tense leaving Confederacy (4)
25dn Collapsed during cycling, fine going around lake (5)

The one that caused me most grief (don’t laugh!) was GNU JOE — I’m so use to pronouncing it à la Flanders and Swann, “I’m a g-nu”, especially since it’s not a word that crops up often in casual conversation! My favourite was probably the “wondering band” that became “underwing band”.

And so the extra letters in the wordplay of most clues told us who needed highlighting: Do hide on this day in nineteen thirty needing to be thematically adjusted to ask Who died on this day in thirteen ninety?. Well, not quite!

W(illiam) A(rchibald) SPOONER (1844–1930) was there in column 9. I wondered whether the REV at the beginning of 24ac was also originally meant to be highlighted. He was, of course, a fellow at New College, Oxford.

Thanks for some good entertainment, Brock.

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Listener No 4597: Bunch of Fives by Brock

Posted by Dave Hennings on 27 Mar 2020

Only the third Listener puzzle from Brock, and eight years since the last with its Biblical misprint theme. What faced us this week was one of those grids that is almost impossible to describe in words although “lots of little pentagonal cells scrunched together in a roughly hexagonal shape” would probably do. The central cell was unchecked but needed completing in the endgame.

The answers, all clued, included five thematically-related sets of five. The preamble then proceeded to describe how the initial letters of clues would spell out an instruction, and the fifth letter of the fifth word would enable an ambiguity to be resolved. I always worry about the need to resolve ambiguities, especially if I complete a grid without stumbling across one.

The first set of five that I spotted were the stars, although I got some of them mixed up with asteroids, the next set I spotted. The stars were VEGA, SIRIUS, ARCTURUS, ALPHA CENTAURI and CANOPUS. I particularly liked the clue to number 4, True chaplain and a converted near neighbour? (13, two words) even though it was a straightforward anagram. The asteroids were CERES, VESTA, IRIS, EROS and PALLAS although the third and fifth were new to me.

So we had an astronomical theme, didn’t we? Well, no! The fish put paid to that with HADDOCK, PLAICE, SKATE, COD and HUSS.

All in all, my favourite clue, albeit quite complex wordplay was 58-47 Espresso? Head waiter, initially confounded, brings it in with milk (5) for WHITE — (E(spresso) H(ead) W(aiter))* around IT. The last one in, and not just because it was down the bottom of the grid, was 63-56 I amplify microwaves, keeping magnetic flux density lower (6) for IMBASE — I + MASE around B.

Finally, the other sets could be seen, with BLACK, ASOV, CASPIAN, WHITE and BALTIC Seas plus RING, INDEX, LITTLE, MIDDLE fingers and THUMB.

A bit of Google search finally uncovered what was going on. Asteroidea is the class of echinoderms, the starfishes which in turn led to sea stars, five fingers and, why not, fish fingers.

The initial letters of the clues taken in the correct order gave Centre and twenty-five others for the cells that needed to be highlighted. Fifth letters of fifth words in this clues, in a different order, gave Choose the rightmost S option. So, once the central P was inserted, all the PISCESes in the grid had to be highlighted to represent a starfish, with the S in the south-east corner being the rightmost one.

I must admit that I got a bit lost with all the sets floating around,, but I’m sure the published solution will make all clear, and probably more succinctly than I could manage it.

Good fun, thanks Brock.


Here’s hoping good health to all LWO readers and non-readers alike.

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L4597: 'Bunch of Fives' by Brock

Posted by Encota on 27 Mar 2020

Feels like the puzzle of the year to me, so far at least!

I was only recently introduced to the term OP: it arose in a novel written for an online puzzle hunt that I and several others of the Listener community recently took part in. I suspect that clarifies that my playing of video-games peaked a long while ago. I understand OP to mean OverPowered, where a player or card etc is almost too strong in a certain situation. Of course my children laughed at me for not knowing!

On a related train of thought I recall, somewhat with awe, when the computer virus Stuxnet was first analysed. It had utilised four previously unknown or unaddressed vulnerabilities (so-called zero day attacks, for those that love the jargon). Stick with me!

So how many new (zero day?) features were concurrently involved in this puzzle? There was the hiding of five each of Seas, Stars, Fish, Asteroids & Digits/Fingers. There was the hidden message based on first letters of those 25 clues [CENTRE AND TWENTY FIVE OTHERS], asking for the centre and 25 others to highlighted. There was the re-use of Asteroids / asteroidae as those minor planets and the ‘family’ of Starfish. There was the use of fish – well, PISCES – to create each ‘arm’ of the central starfish. And, for me, the pièce de resistance, the fifth letter of the fifth word in those 25 clues to spell out another message, purely to remove an ambiguity as to which S one should pick for the SE arm of the Starfish. [CHOOSE THE RIGHTMOST’S OPTION] If that feature ain’t OP, then I don’t understand the term!

The letter to be added at the centre? “I’ll have a P please Bob.” Sorry, I meant Brock. A Blockbuster of a construction. Delightful!! Fabulous!!


Tim / Encota

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