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Posts Tagged ‘Chen’

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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Listener No 4645: Fire Alarms by Chen

Posted by Dave Hennings on 26 Feb 2021

Another new setter this week, and without being racist he/she/they sound Chinese. Some interesting jiggery-pokery on the clue-solving front by the look of it: four normal clues leading to thematic answers, but extra letters (also thematic) needing to be added to the wordplay for eleven others, with the remaining clues needing the good old extra wordplay letter not being entered.

The across clues didn’t allow me to get many entries in the grid, although LACILY, UPCURRENTS, NAOS and ELSE gave a few that should help when it came to the down clues. DAMPENED, WELLINGTON (normal clue therefore thematic — footwear?), MOSAIC and IDEALS (needing AL to be added — metallic footwear?) finished off the acrosses.

The downs were another matter and were slotted in almost as quickly as I could read the clues. 1dn Breed of sheep we’d seen in Kent? (9) SW[AL]ED[AL]E confirmed the AL theme as did 12dn Possesses SW Asian currency (7) for H[AL][AL]AS and 14dn Stale beer (7, two words) for P[AL]E [AL]E.

All that gave me seven of the eleven AL clues, but I still only had one of the normal thematic ones in the grid. However, another sweep through the remaining clues gave HALIFAX at 5ac International entering half cut in Maine’s provincial capital (7 which had nothing to do with Maine, USA but Halifax, Nova Scotia (I in HALF + AX), plus LANCASTER and STIRLING. So the theme had something to do with WWII bombers.

Looking at the clock, I saw that only 50 minutes had been required to fill the grid. My favourite clue was probably 37dn Expressions of repugnance gushing, “In, out, shake it all about” (4) for UGHS — (GUSHIN[G] – IN)*.

The speed of finishing and many of the clues reminded me of one of my fellow bloggers here at LWO, who sets under the name of Chal…. Hold on a mo… she could be the first two letters CH of our setter today! And the suspicious side of me (which is quite large) wondered if our other resident blogger could provide the EN if this was indeed a collaboration. Of course, it could be a collaboration between Charybdis and Enigmatist!

Meanwhile, the extra wordplay letters gave Chaff deployed. Shade added AL grey. Together with the bombers, this pointed the way to those things ejected from aircraft to confuse enemy radar. Well that tied in with the unclued entries RADAR ECHO WAVES. And the signature in the preamble presumably referred to a radar signature. A bit of googling was required.

Wikidom has a whole article on Chaff which describes how the idea of giving false echoes had been suggested a couple of years before the war. However, the idea of using aluminium strips had been developed by… well, what do you know?… one Joan Curran in 1942. Now I may be talking tosh here but it all seems too coincidental! And what a shame that ‘upcurrents’ isn’t spelt with an A.

So, whoever you are, thanks Chen. I’m expecting a setters’ blog on Sunday.

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Fire Alarms by Chen

Posted by shirleycurran on 26 Feb 2021

Chen? A new setter? He (or she) sounds like a revolutionary (CHE + N) – New too by the look of the grid. How on earth did he/ she/ they sneak a couple of 2 unches in 5 and a couple of 2 unches in 7 past the editors? Unforgivable!

We’ll have to see if he/ she/ they can redeem himself and qualify for the Listener setters’ elite oenophile outfit, and we get only as far as the second clue before finding ‘International half-cut in Maine’s provincial capital (7)’ We put I into HALF AX and get HALIFAX, then Chambers tells us that ‘half cut’ means ‘drunk’! Hmmm – not a promising start Chen!

He sneaks off to an ‘Eastern inn, Korea’s first hotel with air-conditioning gadget (4)’ That has to be K(orea) H + [F]AN so the drinking continues in a KHAN, and towards the middle of the down clues we find Stale beer (7, two words)’. By this time, we’ve realized that AL is going into solutions to produce the entries so we add it twice to that ‘stale’ (= urine or PEE) amd get PALE ALE.

Frankly Chen, with the drunkenness, urine and the preference for stale beer, things are not looking good! Maybe things will improve as the grid fills.

Before long we have four old planes heading east across the grid, HALIFAX, LANCASTER, STIRLING and WELLINGTON and we guess that they are heading for Germany – no doubt for the Bier Fests and planning to return with drunken passengers importing lashings of foreign beer (Ed. Are you sure they would be using those old crates and not Easyjet, say?)

Then it becomes a matter for serious concern as we fill our grid and find that it is absolutely swimming in ALE. Bottles and bottles of the stuff. There’s a hint of sobriety when we find , ‘Rail about Dutch baking compound (4)’ SO[R]A around D giving us that lone SODA but a COURTESAN intercepts that one.

But now Chen, with yet more ‘gushing’ (alcohol we suppose) produces perhaps his own reaction to his compilation, ‘Expressions of repugnance gushing, “In, out, shake it all about” (4)’ We remove IN (‘in out’) and a G for his message from extra letters and are left with an anagram of UGHS.

Frankly, Chen, we are appalled by your dreadfully drunken compilation and this just won’t do. Admission denied. You’d better clean up your act and apply next year in a more sober state.

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