Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin

Posts Tagged ‘by Colleague’

How to —– by Colleague

Posted by shirleycurran on 1 Feb 2013

How to Hotel

How to Hotel

Just one trailing little red herring peering over the edge this week. We Numpties were expecting a real stinker after last week’s relatively gentle start to the Listener New Year and, instead, got one that was a pleasure to solve with an informative and satisfactory endgame that didn’t leave us raging and wondering all weekend. (And of course, Colleague shares the Listener compiler enjoyment of tippling with a rather over-loaded glass, ‘Balloon, eg: its contents succeeded carrying half a ton (5) [GAS + S(ucceeded) carrying L – half 100).

Clues were slotted in quickly though it is fortunate that the other Numpty had heard of KARNO – a ‘comedian with an army’ (‘Dubious RANK O(f)*). There were a few new words for us to drop into dinner conversation this week: SYSSITIA – a Spartan way of eating in public, (it is a good thing that we were given a generous anagram, ‘Silly ass, it is you to start with …’), BIDARKA, ‘Invite large floater to join a smaller northern one (7) (BID + ARK + A) and JAEGERS, ‘Huntsmen square behind doctor shunning plant fibres (7). We had no trouble with the definition but it took us a visit to Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable to work out that this was a reference to the original wool merchant who had a thing about plant fibres.

Ah yes, Brewer’s. Am I allowed a whinge? There are three copies on the shelf (two of them won years ago in lucky crossword draws) and although they make for very entertaining reads with arcane and esoteric knowledge, they were about as much use in the context of this crossword, even with that helpful hint in the preamble, as a chocolate teapot. I realize that an effective alphabetical index would be almost as long as the book itself but how else may we use it as a reference book? I challenge you to find the collective word for a group of antelopes or aardvarks in under five minutes! My conviction is that this was just a cynical move on the part of Colleague and the editors (even with that ‘received and understood, leading us to the definition under ROGER). Hooray for the Internet.

Whinge over. We had our full grid with a bit of doubt about TALA, MULE and LUTE (clever clues those!) We finally understood that ‘Apian sugar, thanks indeed (4)’ was a reference to the TALA of Samoan coinage, since Apia is the capital of Samoa. Chambers furnished us with the explanation that a LUTE is an ‘old stringed instrument shaped like half a pear’ (well, of course it is!) and we finally understood that our MULE was concealing cocaine and wasn’t some new form of Polyfilla (‘Use the other side in old wall for crack concealer? (4)’ MURE with L for R).

NOVEMBER, X-RAY, OSCAR, TANGO and ALPHA had been an early breakthough so we felt that we had confidently recognised the theme. The Internet (yes, Wikipedia, not Brewer’s) produced information about the shift in 1956 to what we now generally recognise as the radio code and a few minutes of searching produced those letters of NATO separating the old version from the new (NOVEMBER from NAN, ALPHA from ABLE, TANGO from TARE and OSCAR from OBOE) Finding the four that remained the same (CHARLIE, X-RAY, VICTOR and MIKE) took just a few more minutes – so why the Numpty red herring?

How to RADIO? How to SPELL? We were opting for that and I wonder how many solvers will! Somehow, though, it didn’t seem quite right and, after rule no. 1 for Listener solvers, ‘Read the preamble!’ there is rule no. 2 ‘If you have any doubt, it’s wrong. Think again!’ We thought again. ‘HOW’. Wasn’t that in the orginal alphabet? And what did it become? Aaaah.

Many thanks, Colleague. What a lovely compilation.

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Times Group, by Colleague – tough!

Posted by shirleycurran on 23 Jul 2010

How naïve can the numpties be? We had a completed grid after two hours of solving and were proudly thinking that, at last, we had become star solvers. “What an easy fill”, “That must be the easiest Listener ever!” etc. (Though we did admire the wonderfully direct cluing and, later, were able to appreciate how those key words were disguised with other meanings – KARA hidden in a swill of the usual alcohol, for example).

You have heard it all before. An hour later, two hours later, three hours later – we were back at the bottom of the class. A hefty snifter, sleep and a fresh look in the morning seemed to be the only hope.

We were looking for members of two groups, ‘in some cases as anagrams’. These had to have some sort of numerical indication, since the ‘product’ of the groups’ sizes ‘leads to a third group whose members are literally portrayed in the final grid’. It seemed to us that these groups were not going to be larger than three of a kind, since there had to be room for ‘literal’ representation of their product in the grid. (Note for the future – think of the ‘literal’ meaning of a sneaky word like ‘literal’ – of course, letters would do!)

We must have been unusually slow on the uptake; we had listed all the possible anagrams of every word in the grid in our hunt for tidy little groups of two or three and come up with biscuits (PARKIN and NACHO), Greek names (ACHILLES, TELAMON and THECLA) lifty words (RISE, LIFT, REAR HORSES) and, of course, the usual constitutional dose of Listener setters’ alcohol (ARAK, DRAPPIE and maybe a drop of GRAIN liquor).

Our Greek heroes provided the most satisfactory red herring since they seemed to be creating a PI symbol in the grid. Then light dawned! READING, RITING and RITHMETIC – the three Rs.

We weren’t home and dry yet. The obvious next move was further resort to Chambers Big Red Book and a trawl through the opening section of each letter chapter. We were sweltering in temperatures in the mid thirties by this time and the pages must have grown sticky as, on my first run through I found the three Fs and the 15 Os but completely skipped the five Ks.

We had commented on the excess of Sikh words in the grid and even argued about our KESH solution – “Why have you put that? Where’s the definition? (King afraid for some without navy. Big shock?) “Well, it’s K for King, then (N)ESH which is dialect in the north for peelie-wally or rad, and kesh is that mass of uncut hair worn by Sikhs – a shock – it’s obvious!” But it took a second, more careful hunt through Chambers to provide the 5Ks and alert us to the fact that we had KIRPAN and KARA as anagrams, when I had been thinking we had PARKIN with a wee DRAPPIE of ARAK!

Three fives are fifteen (that far even I – the Listenernumericaliphobe can go) and perhaps that explains the title, TIMES GROUP. We had already spotted fifteen Os but were we honestly going to find fifteen of St Bridget’s meditations in some form in the grid? We hit lucky, at that point, and resorted to simply counting the letter Os in the grid, and, of course, there were thirteen (that letter/literal thing!) Two more Os were slotted into those isolated squares (putting paid to another fantasy – the word ORDERED had seemed to fill those slots rather neatly, as had KELLY – we had hunted for NED, connected with TATTS, the EATAGE and the REARHORSES – Oh dear!).

I have listed about a tenth of our peregrinations – not mentioned the hunt for three-legged things to go with praying mantes and Manx symbols, the words with double consonants etc.  Are we the only floundering solvers who explore these absurd avenues?

Of course, we still had to find the thematic word of the third group and vaguely wondered whether ‘fifteen’ was lurking somewhere but (will I regret this boast next week?) we are becoming better at finding the word or words to highlight. The obvious horizontal, vertical, diagonal and circular hunt immediately produced MEDITATION. Nice!

I thought this one was superbly set and dastardly difficult. Many thanks to Colleague!

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »