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Posts Tagged ‘Chalicea’

Listener No 4676: Back to the Future by Chalicea

Posted by Dave Hennings on 1 Oct 2021

Time again for a puzzle from the prolific Chalicea. Her last (no. 4601, The Name of the Game) had Brunel’s London to Bristol flat-as-a-billiard-table GWR line as its theme. Not a long preamble this week [Just wait till next week. Ed.] and just fifteen extra words to be discarded from clues before solving.

Not unexpectedly, this was a quick solve, well under the hour. [Just wait till next week! Ed.] Even the endgame was relatively straightforward, although I can see that it might have taken some solvers a bit longer than my two minutes. I think that I was lucky to look in the bottom row and immediately saw NODNOL and, given that we had a hero lurking, I got there straight away.

I guess I was lucky not to think that we might have a Dickens theme, but even the requirement to read the extra words “initially” would, I hope, have enabled me to see what was going on quickly. This especially since their true first letters — saved ti doc leek raw d’oh siri part snot nori pan snug rebut two tin — made absolutely no sense, but reversably gave saveD ti doc leek raW d’oh siri part snot nori pan snug rebut two tin.

All this led to the old rhyme — “Turn again, Whittington” three times Lord Mayor of London with NIAGA in rows 1, 3 and 5 of the grid. Of course, he was more respectfully know as Sir Richard Whittington and had a cat called Tiddles. [? Ed.]

“But wait!” I hear you shout, “What about Chalicea’s penchant in her solving hat for pointing out other setters‘ predilection for alcohol in grid or clues?” With only the puny PERNOD in the bottom row, you may think that she was being comparatively righteous. Sorry to disappoint, but a bit of research uncovered the 15th century Book of Drinking Songs by Gerrard & Turner. It reveals that the original verse began “Tope a gin, Whittington.” Later, that became “Top up agin” and finally “Turn again”.

Nice try, Chalicea!

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L4645 ‘Fire Alarms’ by Chen

Posted by Encota on 28 Feb 2021

LWO co-blogger Chalicea (Shirley Curran) and I had been musing over creating a joint Listener for several years.  So we were delighted to see ‘Fire Alarms’ finally in print!

As is often the case with thematic crosswords, at least for me, much of the total time is spent choosing a theme.  In my view the ideal themes are those where what has to be adjusted in the puzzle or its endgame has significant thematic relevance.  I had been thinking about some possibilities – perhaps just after a visit to a nearby decommissioned Suffolk airbase, just inland from Bawdsey Manor where much of the WW2 work was done on radar, where friends are working on restoring some interesting aircraft (but that’s another story) – and the idea of deploying CHAFF as part of an endgame to protect military aircraft from detection by enemy radar was born.

So what, in this context, is CHAFF?  In more recent times much use is made of the term ’stealth aircraft’.  In the design of these, much is done to reduce the amount of radar waves reflected from the aircraft back to enemy radar receivers, so making them less detectable.  Surfaces at ‘odd’ angles, energy absorbing layers and more are used to minimise the amount of wave energy returned to the radar.  Now imagine trying to do the opposite – to maximise the power reflected back.  Ignoring why for a moment, what might you do?  Some answers include using a substance that conducts electricity well and making items of a length that maximises reflections – typically half of the wavelength of the signal used by the radar.  In its simplest form CHAFF is huge numbers of such strips deployed from a moving aircraft, so that any radar trying to detect those aircraft gets many more reflections from those strips than from the aircraft themselves, so making the aircraft far harder to spot – i.e. the difficulty of separating the wheat (the aircraft) from the CHAFF (the… umm … chaff).  Of course those reflections are from places in the sky where there aren’t aircraft, so giving the aircraft themselves significant protection.

Now who might I approach to co-author a puzzle about CHAFF, invented by a certain Joan Curran?  Let me think for a moment …

… so, one moment later, I proposed the idea to her daughter-in-law and off we flew.

Representing short metal Aluminium strips as AL (fully capitalised here to avoid confusion with Is) gave us much scope to design clues with words with and without ALs in them.  It seemed fun to design clues where the definition gave the answer and the wordplay the letters without those ALs, such as in 14d’s Stale beer (7, two words). Here the wordplay ‘Stale’ encouraged the solver to PEE (oh dear.  BRB2), whereas the beer was P[AL]E [AL]E (which had much the same effect).

Our logic for the thematic part went as follows: 1) Initially the four famous WW2 bombers, the Handley Page HALIFAX, the Avro LANCASTER, the Short STIRLING and the Vickers WELLINGTON are made clearly visible by the reflected radar waves, highlighting them in the sky. 2) Then they deploy CHAFF and suddenly lots of small AL(uminium) strips are floating about in the air.  These are then equally highlighted by the radar’s waves, resulting in a very confused final image for the radar operator.

In summary, four loaded bombers traversed the grid and, using ECHO of RADAR WAVES were highly visible. Solvers were informed that CHAFF was DEPLOYED (the Al – aluminium – strips that confused enemy radar) and were instructed to SHADE ADDED AL GREY. With the four aircraft and the 14 examples of AL in the grid, this required the shading of 55 letters (grey, for the convenience of solvers, though silver in reality).

At one stage we considered asking solvers to highlight every AL in the grid, whether reversed or diagonally placed, or…  However, this ended up a bit too confused even for us.  I did also quietly propose that we use ICANN, the Internet naming and numbering corporation in place of ICENI in the endgame to allow CURRAN to appear in the final grid but I was overruled by the modesty of (Joan’s son) Charles and Shirley. 

We worked as a real team on this and it was a delight – co-developing and refining the grid, with Shirley demonstrating, as ever, her superb skills in this area, plus jointly working on the clues.  We used a shared online spreadsheet (if you are thinking of co-creation of a puzzle and haven’t tried it then I can’t recommend this highly enough) for the clue development, keeping track of changes etc.  An excellent setter helped us with a test-solve and we were ready to submit.

A fabulous feat of engineering which can’t get enough ‘airplay’, in my mind.  If you are interested in reading more then you may find this link interesting:

Tim / Encota

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The Name of the Game by Chalicea

Posted by shirleycurran on 26 Apr 2020

I think people hear more than enough of the Numpties on these pages and don’t normally write a setter’s blog but so much has come to me from friends (and the many who were friends until they put the three billiard balls outside the bounds of the ISAMBARD KINGDOM BRUNEL billiard table, this committing a foul in the game of billiards, and wrecking their all-correct Listener records – if they still had them after mangling lower-case Greek letters in Opsimath’s the week before) that I thought I should write a few words of apology.

My original grid was carte blanche because it required no bars until a final set to be drawn around IKB’s name, thus delineating the thematic item. One of my problems, as a setter, is producing too many words and editorial tweaks pointed out that there was no need for the bars as a solver would realize that his three coloured blls had to be on the table – so words cut, as they were very cleverly by the second editor, producing succinct and better peamble and clues – we do owe those editors so much – but he had over-estimated the nous of the solver and the floor was littered with balls – so sorry!

Masses of praise has come over the ether, or whatever it is, for my knowledge of billiards, (actually I am rubbish at snooker which is the nearest I ever got and I know next to nothing about the game but the Internet is great isn’t it?) but It was Shark who did the last test-solve of my puzzle and he had a billiard champion in his family, and is also an astonishingly able test-solver. The warm comments about what was good about the puzzle should really go to him. My speciality is the Brunel bit – he is one of our heroes and I have been astonished by the number of solver and setter friends who tell me that they live within a mile, say, of the Great Western Railway and didn’t know it was Brunel’s billiard table. If he had played his game (billiards?) a little better we would have his wide gauge everywhere.

So many thanks to testers, our superb editors and dear John Green (no, not to Tim and Dave – fellow bloggers – what’s all that about alcohol!).


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Listener No 4601: The Name of the Game by Chalicea

Posted by Dave Hennings on 24 Apr 2020

It has only been nine months since Chalicea’s last Listener with its Brucie Boy and Bannockburn theme. This week we had a carte blanche with a final grid that was almost 180° symmetric. I’m not sure I’ve seen that spelt out in a preamble before.

Nine clues had to have a word removed before solving with a message given by the initial letters of the word either side. In the final grid, an area bounded by a name would need shading — in the conventional colour, and not too much I hoped — together with three items.

As you may know, Chalicea is a member of the Gin Worshipping Ring but tries not to reveal that in her clues. However, she frequently, and sub-consciously, introduces alcohol to her entries. Here, every one had a shot or two (or more) of GIN & TONIC. Some were quite blatant, such as KINGDOM and OVERBOOOKING. One was just neat gin — GLEEMAIDEN. Shame on you, Chalicea.

Back to the puzzle, and we had a fairly straightforward solve, although the link between the extra clue words didn’t jump out at me: red, Jenny, cannon, eccentric, nurse, white, kiss, pills, yellow. However, the two entries that made the grid slightly unsymmetrical (9dn and 25dn) were LONDON and BRISTOL.

A bit of googling was still required to find out how BILLIARD TABLE linked the two. At first, I wondered whether Brunel and his engineers used Maidenhead Bridge as a large snooker hall before the tracks were laid. Sadly not! Because the track was so straight and level from Paddington to Swindon and beyond, it was referred to as Brunel’s Billiard Table.

ISAMBARD KINGDOM BRUNEL could be found in the grid marking out a billiard table with letters O for the White, Red and Yellow balls. Lucky for Chalicea, a yellow ball is now used rather than a white ball marked with a black spot. Who knows how that could have been an extra word in the clues! Lots of green shading was required at the end, not any of the bizarre greys, blues, oranges and reds that I saw in Google images.

Another gentle puzzle, thanks Chalicea.

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L4560: Midsummer by Chalicea

Posted by Encota on 12 Jul 2019

The title reminded me that my puzzle featuring Nick Bottom the weaver featured in this same Midsummer slot last year – at least I think it was last year!  And 1ac’s clue reinforced the Shakespearean play link:

Destroys reputation of essentially naive Bottom chasing donkey after donkey (12)

Knowing Chalicea of course, these hints to a Dream on a Midsummer’s Night were more likely to be red herrings than not – and so it proved!  In the case of this clue it parsed as ASS+ASS+(na)I(ve)+NATES, defined as ‘Destroys reputation of’.  A great start to a puzzle!


I was educated during the period when knowing dates was seen to count as knowledge.  So knowing that Bannockburn was fought in 1314 came quickly to my mind, even if I was much harder pushed to know who actually fought who, and why, and who won!  And I hadn’t known the Midsummer link – it was fought on 23 and 24 June, it transpires.

So I did check what was at clues 13 & 14 – The Battle of MinnockBumbag.  Hmm.  No, that doesn’t sound quite right.

The hidden letters in some clues spelt out WHERE DID BRUCE WIN, so that answered one of my questions above.  The answer, included twice in the grid on the diagonals, spells out AT BANNOCKBURN.  My suspicion is that the details of Bannockburn feature more highly in history lessons in Scottish schools rather than English ones – but what do I know!

Unclued 39d was after solving checking clues, looking like B.UE.   And colouring all but the diagonals in Blue, as the Preamble demanded,  ended up with the Scottish flag (the saltire, or saltier) – very neat!

There appeared to be a Nina, or rather a NINA, in Row 6 – intriguing.

And as for Chalicea’s clue at 10d:

Floppy genitals, and away they dangle (7)

Fortunately the answer was AIGLETS, things that dangle, an anagram of GE(n)ITALS after the ‘N’ (and) was deleted.  Very funny 🙂

Cheers all,

Tim / Encota


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