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Posts Tagged ‘by Brock’

Aversions by Brock – not AV!

Posted by shirleycurran on 2 December 2011

There is a theme the numpties have been expecting for a while. We know it is the 400th anniversary of the AV. Could this Aversions by Brock have anything to do with that? We were rather bemused by the first three lines of the preamble which warned us that we would find an extra word in asterisked clues. That word was going to define the entry at that place in the grid.

That entry was a ‘misprinted form of the answer to one of the other asterisked clues’.  As usual, with Listener preambles, that bit didn’t make much sense until later in our solve (in fact until we got to the VINEGAR and the CAMELS. There was something familiar about those in the context of bibles! More later).

So we solved with unmitigated pleasure. I really enjoy Friday evening when it sees a regular grid fill with all four corners of the grid slowly becoming populated and no horrible ‘we can go no further’ moments.

We worked on the misprint clues first; I am sure everybody did. That device (as a certain editor commented to me when I had a go at it) is rather transparent unless used by an absolute expert. Of course, it is a fine way into the solution if a couple of misprints are so obvious that the solver has a place to start. ‘…used to fake furniture’ (26ac) was one of those – Make furniture, obviously. Right next to that we had a Cultic invocation. That had to be Celtic. Vive la resistance could only be viva (the oral examination), and when we managed to tease a J out of the clue ‘Lift restriction on robbers in exercise with gun waving around (5) (jobbers), we had our JAMES which confirmed our suspicion that the KING JAMES BIBLE was our theme.

BREWERS PHRASE AND FABLE was rather more subtly concealed with that nicely ambiguous use of Perth in the clue ‘I am in Perth, Oz, in grief, left abandoned by relative (4)’ Oz, in brief in the Scottish Perth is, of course unce (uncle with L(eft) abandoned). This was one example of Brock’s superb cluing that we really enjoyed. Another was that magic clue ‘Second month as fifth (4)’ S(econd) M(onth) + ut – giving us SMUT (filth).

The next step was challenging. We had to find those extra words in eleven clues. In habitual numpty fashion, we worked backwards from the clues. GRANDMOTHER gave us NAN, WIFE gave us DUTCH, VINEGAR gave ENERGY (with a bit of Chambers help) and the light dawned! Wasn’t there a ‘Vinegar Bible’ so named because of a misprint? CAMELS went into one of those early bibles in the place of DAMSELS too. So we had understood that these were not the usual one letter misprints of Listener clues, but the real thing, hilariously created by the early typesetters.

We found GRANDMOTHER/FATHER, WIFE/LIFE, IDLE/IDOL (I shouldn’t think the shepherds were too happy about being called idle!), CEASE/CAUSE, STING/STRING, CAMELS/DAMSELS (could be somewhat scatological!), AFTER/AGAINST, DISCHARGE/CHARGE, VINEGAR/VINEYARD, EAR/HEAR and LIONS/LOINS.

Of course we were back where we started. The initial letters of the extra words were NDUDRFRUEOH. ‘FOUR HUNDRED’, the age of the thematic subject, the King James Bible, to be written as numerals below the grid.

‘The correct order of the letters was to be determined by the grid.’

What did that mean? There was something else to do to set our minds at rest. We had to find out how that correct order was determined. I couldn’t see it but had no doubt about the FOUR HUNDRED since this crossword was timed to coincide with that anniversary. I had mailed my solution to Mr Green before a friend explained to me how this was done.


We weren’t home and dry yet either. We had a complete grid and were fairly confident that it was correct (note the ‘fairly’!). We even had the eleven misprints, but, in order to completely solve Brock’s crossword, we needed to work backwards and relate those to the wordplay of the relevant asterisked clues. Some, like ‘The old man to a more distant point, right away (6)’ (Farther losing R to give FATHER) were easy but we struggled for a few. What’s more, Brock had obliged us to solve an extra 11 clues in order to appreciate the humour of his crossword.

I can hear the diehards moaning that there wasn’t much point in solving these final clues, but solving the listener isn’t just about submitting a correct grid to Mr Green is it? You have to learn about Klein bottles, origami, graphs on tori and the like, haven’t you? Well, we have to!

Many thanks to Brock. This was highly entertaining.

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Not a Black and White Decision, by Brock

Posted by shirleycurran on 12 November 2010

Two years of Listener solving (or attempting to solve Listener crosswords) are behind us and we have the good feeling that we are making progress and can be fairly confident that we will reach a solution of some kind. We sometimes have strokes of luck, too, like instantly spotting that anagram ‘Rip up stalks and cobble where animals used to be kept’ at 1 across. STABLE BLOCKS. With the rest of the crossword divided into two halves, this was clearly going to be significant, and when we moved down to 20ac and found clues that gave us HORSES and HOUSES, we didn’t hesitate for long. Obviously, the horses were going to belong with the stables. Here, perhaps, was a theme.

We confidently worked our way through the rest of the grid, thoroughly enjoying some of the fine clues, for example, that well disguised ‘high explosive’ in 7ac. (‘In the morning with island cut off, HE – leading to AMATOL).

A complete grid and six clashes! I wonder how many other solvers were as naive as we were – automatically breezily slotting in the words where they fitted best to be brought to a standstill by that dearth of clashes.

How generous of Brock to have added that giveaway sentence, ‘Solvers finding they have almost completed the grid with fewer clashes should consider what might have coloured their decisions in these areas’.

The light dawned – or I thought it had, when I switched round some of my words in rows 7,8 and 9, the rows that clearly contained the clashes. SOWFF and ELDEST went left and REENS and BEDSIT moved right. I counted my clashes and ‘Eureka’, 18! It looked as though all that was left to do was find something to do with horses, houses and colours that would occupy 28 cells. Sure enough, there was a putative ‘GREEN FIELD SITE’ and ‘BROWN FIELD SITE’. Elated, I decided to check it in the morning and went to sleep to dream of happy horses. 

Saturday morning and gloom descended. With the grid as it was, I had my 18 clashes but an inexplicable F in my ‘green sield site’ and I had two exceptions to the rule that was imposed of selecting the across letter from a clash in one side and the down letter in its partner. I wonder how many other solvers reached this cul-de-sac. Clearly more rethinking was required. The obvious answer was to shift the entire bottom half of the crossword over – and, of course, it worked.

I thought the construction of this crossword was brilliant and I am still attempting to get my mind round the complexity of setting it so that solvers were led astray and had to rethink, possibly twice, to reach the required solution – and the astonishing way those pairs of clashing letters echoed the pairs on the other side of the grid. Superb, thank you Brock.

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