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Posts Tagged ‘Elfman’

Listener No 4709: For a Song by Elfman

Posted by Dave Hennings on 20 May 2022

Elfman is not a regular setter, his last being four years ago with Hollywood tinsel (real and phoney) being its theme (no. 4489, Silent Movie). Three years before that, we had Elton John’s Rocket Man (no. 4350, Revelation of John). This week we had another song to unearth, courtesy of eight clues with answers entered in one of two thematic ways. Definitions of one set of entries were in the other set’s clues with the remaining definitions “appearing elsewhere”. Intriguing.

1ac Present time being short, part of space explorer is withdrawn (6) was the first clue I read, and pretty much the last one I sussed! [(TIM(e) + BUS)<] Luckily 5ac Type of irritant gas enveloping eyes affected pregnancies (5) came to the rescue [CS around EYES*] but needed to be entered thematically since it was too long for its 5-letter entry.

I seem to remember from previous Elfman puzzles that he comes up with a tricky set of clues, and so this proved. My favourite was 38ac Little woman with energy escaping opposite of cocky fellow (6) for JOHNNY [JO (from Little Women, I guess) + HENNY – E].

That said, I am at a loss as to the wordplay for JAR (becoming INNER, NEIN* for JA) at 4dn Rabble doesn’t have to fall over conflict (5).

And damn those “Numbers in brackets are the length of grid entries.” The simple clue at 10dn would indeed have been simple if it had been Actor Dan of Wicked (5) for FONDA. And as for missing out four lots of BANANAs in the first thematic set… well! Mind you, they did give some nice wordplay, with the definitions for the answers found in other clues, although that wasn’t really necessary to finish the puzzle.

  • 16ac Governor being obsessive and esoteric (4), extra word esoteric leaving BAN + ANAL + AND; definition Queensland found in the clue to 32dn
  • 40ac Temporarily transfer black solids in equal quantities (6, two words), extra word solids leaving SECOND + BAN + ANA; definition subordinate in 2dn
  • 8dn Choose a smoothed cinnabar after processing (8, two words), extra word smoothed leaving ELECT + (A CINNABAR)*; definition Pretty Things in 17ac
  • 30dn Crazy liberal found ballerina in bed (5, two words), extra word ballerina leaving BANANAS + L in PIT; definition ice cream treat in 42ac

I think it was looking at 5ac CYESES becoming CONES and 10dn FONDA becoming FONTEYN that finally nudged me in the right direction, although I thought it was simple reversals of the negatives, replacing the positives, rather than jumbles.

Of course, it didn’t take long for me to come up with a song involving yeses and bananas: Yes! We have no bananas. My first google brought up a lyrics site which gave the writers as Silver and Coon. Luckily, I read the Wiki entry and that gave them as Silver and Cohn. Seeing the VER diagonally put me on the right track to completing the endgame. ONLVER had to be restored to SILVER, followed by COHN. Both spellings of the second author can be traced in the bottom right. I went for COHN since SILVER COHN is symmetrical about the SW–NE axis of the grid.

Thanks for another fun puzzle, Elfman.

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Silent Movie by Elfman

Posted by shirleycurran on 11 May 2018

There was nothing too daunting about this preamble except having to fit tiny little numbers below those quotation word lengths so that we would be sure to get the right word in the manipulations that had to follow our solve – and write the 3,4,6 below the grid. I scanned the clues to check that Elfman hasn’t forfeited his right of entry to the Listener Setters’ Tippling Outfit and found a rather unsavoury ‘Half-hearted embrace swallowing a warm drink (6)’. We removed one of the Ds from CUDDLE and let the cudle swallow an A and got CAUDLE. What can I say but “Cheers, Elfman!”

We were up in the Yorkshire Dales and it was a beautiful evening outside so we were grateful for a speedy solve – and it was that with H?LL?WO?D almost at once telling us that the seventh word of the quotation was HOLLYWOOD and three extra words in the down clues stood out and hinted that the letters we had to choose in down clues to produce the first four words of the quotation were LIKE TITLE ACTORS. That had to be SILENT, didn’t it? We didn’t immediately understand that but that is so often the case with Listener crosswords so we moved on and solved.

Fine clues that produced a couple of smiles when we had removed ‘actors’ we had to ‘Organise porn yet measure of disorder results (7)’. ENTROPY said the other Numpty while I smiled at the surface reading. ‘Studied Siemens and Watt – extreme education (7)’ produced similar ambiguity with the physicist, this time, wondering about Watt as I responded SWOTTED.

I wonder how many other solvers completed the crossword, rooting out that rather obscure Oscar Levant quotation “Strip away the phony tinsel of Hollywood and you’ll find the real tinsel underneath” getting the word TINSEL (SILENT anagrammed) and realized that we were stripping the letters of TINSEL or SILENT from those four jumbly-looking clues that I have highlighted in yellow to return to the four full solutions: INSTRUMENT PANEL, LINE YOUR POCKETS, SELLING POINT and LITTLE MAGAZINES – and then wondered for a long head-scratching pause how we were extracting ‘STRIP AWAY THE PHONY OF’ from the nineteen across clues – and was that going to change anything?

Up to this point of our solve, we were saying ‘Bit easy, nothing special, just a straight-forward solve – but frustrating that we can’t see what that last twist is’ – then the penny dropped with a mighty old-fashioned clang and we saw that ‘with a number of liberties’ – yes, we are among the ‘some’, Scots for example, who would certainly concur with that – we were using letters that could be moved from at least one word in each clue because they were silent; the N of condemNed, for example. It was fun actually back-solving to find those nineteen letters (even if it was, perhaps, a weakness of the crossword that it could be solved with the solver never recognising that very clever and original endgame that certainly ramped up the quality of the crossword). Many thanks, Elfman.

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Mnemonic name – could fifth tongue damn autumn?*

Posted by Encota on 11 May 2018

aka ‘Silent Movie’ by Elfman.  A clever gimmick in the clues that’s very hard to spot.  Thanks Elfman!

A very long quotation was enumerated in the Preamble as (5,4,3,5,6,2,9,3,5,4,3,4,6,10) – crikey!

Could one guess, based purely on this, what the quote might be?  Hmmm.

For some reason, part of the clue at 34ac stood out as possible anagram fodder:

  How may all mini gazettes be presented? (9, two words)

… where the 9 referred to the grid entry.  Maybe it’s a jumble / anagram of ALL MINI GAZETTES?  This quickly became LITTLE MAGAZINES which, with the checked letters I already had made it almost certain that only its centre TLEMAGAZI apparently had to be entered.  But why?

Looking at the letters removed, LITTLEMAGAZINES; well they appear to be an anagram of SILENT (or LISTEN or ENLIST or …ah, TINSEL.  Now that could be relevant for TINSELTOWN??).  Not yet sure where the instruction is to remove them, though!  Perhaps I’ll worry about that later.

Soon to follow were the entries at 6d, 15d and 33ac:


OK, with the 6 removed letters in one being split 4,2 they aren’t quite central but the same idea seems to apply – a jumble of those 6 letters removed from the outside.  But why?  Still not sure!  Has SILENT ‘messed up’ in some way and then disappeared?  Maybe the Theme is the introduction of the ‘Talkies’ – after all the enumeration 3,4,6 required below the grid just might be The Jazz Singer, said to be the first talkie.

By this stage the thematic 11ac needed to fit H.LLYWO.D.  Now that might not be HOLLYWOOD, but I’m hard-pressed to come up with any alternative. WORDs for HILLY, perhaps?

From the Preamble I seem to now have:


Now what?  As the Title uses ‘Silent’ then we must assume the quote doesn’t.  So TINSEL is by far the most likely alternative.  So ask Auntie Google about ‘Tinsel in Hollywood’ quotes and fortunately this (and similar) very quickly appears:

“Strip away the phony tinsel of Hollywood and you’ll find the real tinsel underneath.” – Oscar Levant

So we have been told to strip away the phony (anagram indicator) TINSEL* from the four thematic clues to leave the real answer underneath; and we have THE REAL TINSEL as the Discovery to go under the Grid, so everything required for submission is now sorted.

But how many of us could get to this stage without (a) not at least have a decent stab at the letter selection process from the Across clues and (b) trying to understand the Title a little more.

I had written down early on during the solve, in the margin, ‘Silent letters in clues?’ but stupidly didn’t follow through with checking it.  Once I knew that I was looking for ‘STRIP AWAY THE PHONY … OF‘ in those 17 clues, I soon found:


OK, I can see now why the phrase ‘a number of liberties, some would say’ has been used in the Preamble, as several of these probably won’t quite work in your part of the world – for example, I can imagine some in Edinburgh or Blackpool spluttering into their cornflakes as I write 😉

And that would have been mighty hard to find without knowing what I was looking for!

Elfman’s Title: not sure.

  • Does it mean ‘Mov(i)e SILENT about?’
  • Is it simply a SILENT and MOVIE combo and I am looking too hard?

I still feel I am missing something!

And my Title, above?  Trivial for all fans of Mel Brooks’ and his main character in his 1976 classic, ‘Silent Movie’*.  Where, of course, the loosely related Pub Quiz question ought to be, “Do you know the answer to the most asked Pub Quiz question about Mel Brooks’ film Silent Movie?”*


Tim / Encota

* With Mel Brooks playing Mel Funn.  And the only spoken word in the whole film being ‘Non’.  But you knew that …

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Listener No 4499: Silent Movie by Elfman

Posted by Dave Hennings on 11 May 2018

Elfman’s last Listener, Revelation of John was nearly three years ago and I think it caused a few headaches. I managed successfully after some head-scratching, the John of the title being Elton John. Rocket Man was the theme with TEN, NINE, EIGHT… ONE appearing in the rows. I hoped that this week’s puzzle would have a slightly easier endgame, which revolved around a version (?) of a 14-word quotation.

It looked as though there was some generous unching, so I was optimistic for a reasonably quick finish. I started with the acrosses, but wasn’t getting very far after five minutes, so switched to the downs. After another five minutes, INSTRUMENT PANEL at 15 was straightforward… except it didn’t fit into the 9-letter grid entry!

A few clues later, and I had an extra clue word, title, and the unclued 11ac ended in WO•D so I guessed that we were dealing with Christopher Isherwood. 5dn PLAT soon put paid to that, but led to HOLLYWOOD being a far more likely entry, given the puzzle’s title.

A spate of entries and I eventually reached 34ac How may all mini gazettes be presented (9, two words) which looked as though it could be LITTLE MAGAZINES. And so it was, although I had never heard of that phrase before but Chambers defines it as “a small highbrow magazine”. It looked as though the four thematic answers had to loose the letters of SILENT from their outsides. Or so I thought!

The grid was eventually complete, although not reasonably quickly after all. But I just had to justify 17ac Support force losing two separately bringing up the rear for a former French leader (6). The answer was LEBRUN, but it took me an age to see that the UN wasn’t the support force or that two Is had to be ditched. It was, in fact, just LE(g) BRUN(t).

And so to the endgame. Five words of the quotation were given by “choosing one letter from each across clue”. Well, you couldn’t get more vague than that! OK, which letter was hinted at by the three extra words in the clue: like title actors. Unfortunately, it would be some time before their significance dawned on me.

I decided to resort to Google, and keyed in “Hollywood silent”. [That probably won’t help you! Ed] For half an hour I went round in circles. Eventually, Silent Movie really indicated an anagram, and I finally saw that it was the letters of TINSEL that had to be removed thematically: Strip away the phony tinsel of Hollywood and you’ll find the real tinsel underneath. Hurrah!

It then took me at least another thirty minutes to see that the letters which spelt out “strip away the phony… of” were provided by the silent letters in the across clues. Some, like the “r” of “utter” struck me as a bit odd, hence, I guess, the preamble’s “(with a number of liberties, some would say)”.

I found this puzzle really good fun… in hindsight. Everything came together in a nicely thematic way. Thanks, Elfman.

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Revelations of John by Elfman

Posted by shirleycurran on 3 Jul 2015

I usually write my blog on the Saturday morning after the appearance of the crossword but I am a day late today. Why? Because Rocket Man by Elfman2Elfman’s Revelations of John was not revealing anything much until very late yesterday and a blog seemed rather premature, even if we had had a speedy grid fill (about sixty minutes) on Friday. Yes, that is a whinge as I hate spending about ten times as long grid-staring as we spent grid-filling and, on this occasion, feel that we needed more than a rather tenuous link of Elton John to take us from what we originally found in the grid to what we had to highlight. But perhaps we missed something?

The first thing I missed was Elfman’s application for renewed membership of the Listener Setters Tipsy Club; a run through his clues produced quite a bit of drug use, corruption and sex, starting with ‘Perhaps a valentine from girl, Elfman’s (7)’ MISS + I’VE, then ‘Conflicts reflected when withholding a kiss (4)’ (a)GONS<

Next came ‘A small amount of cocaine found in unruly patient (8)’ PATIENT + C(ocaine)*, then BETEL, ‘Stupid lecturer’s stimulating stuff (5) BETE + L,  and ‘Sexual intercourse involving strain no longer was appropriate (8)’ (was it ever Elfman?) BED round FITTE = BEFITTED, and finally Elfman had recourse to SLUTS – ‘Who’ll exhibit sexual desires, leading with the heart (5)’ A bit risque but what a fine clue! LUSTS with the S(heart) leading. Alcohol? Not a drop!

I had my moan earlier so must say, here, what a pleasure it was to be entering the solutions to clues in the grid with none of those tedious gimmicks of extra letters, misprints, missing letters and so on, that are such bread and butter to setters. That, of course, led to the speedy grid fill.

We were, however, given a fiddly task now. ‘For answers not starting with one of the vowels in the puzzle’s title, the nth character in the clue (using a broad definition of character) (my italics) must be found, where n is the answer’s initial letter converted to a number (A = 1, B = 2 etc).’ How broad a definition? I am sure I was not the only solver to include the punctuation but ignore the spaces as we did this calculation during our solve – producing gobbledygook.

A second run through, (prompted by the other Numpty’s explanation that a space is a character in printing and thus including the spaces) produced USE HIGHLIGHTED CELLS ON OTHER CLUES. Great, except that we had now begun our grid-stare and hadn’t a clue what to highlight. I even read right through Revelations, before putting this aside in frustration and taking a long, refreshing walk to see a North Yorkshire isolated colony of red squirrels that has survived the squirrel pox imported with the greys). Then back to grid staring.

Of course, that hint about the axis had to be understood and applied. I thought there were four potential axes of symmetry – horizontal, vertical and two diagonals. We might have seen TEN, NINE, EIGHT and so on far sooner had there been a symmetrical word spread out on the top line leading us to the vertical one. In our hunt, we spotted ELTON, but he is a living person and the crossword was not likely to be centered round him.

Rocket ManOf course, when we ultimately closed in on LAUNCHPAD and those numbers, we were able to apply them to the ten remaining clues and got ROCKET MAN. It took the Internet to educate me about that. I remembered only his rather moving singing of ‘Candle in the Wind‘ at the funeral of Princess Diana. He was revealed in the grid so that must be the ‘Revelation of John’ (or did he sing something about ‘Revelation’ too? Not my field of expertise).

I suppose a Rocket Man takes off from a LAUNCHPAD and, anyway, ELTON was not an entry but a lucky  find and a prompt in the grid, so we count our 39 cells, highlight them and LAUNCHPAD and sigh with relief and thanks to Elfman for a longer than usual challenge.


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