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Posts Tagged ‘Elgin’

Listener No 4638: Head-start Clues by Elgin

Posted by Dave Hennings on 8 Jan 2021

It really doesn’t seem nearly three years since Elgin’s last Listener. That was the fabulous puzzle about the Ealing Comedy film The Ladykillers with the railway signal dropping down on Alec Guiness’s head. Whatever this week’s theme, I knew we’d be in for a treat. Not only that, it would probably be tough. My spy tells me that all of Elgin’s puzzles over at Magpie have been grade D… apart from one which was an E!

No great clueing mischief this week, just six cells with clashes, a couple of ‘head-start clues’ which helped some hunters, and a handful of unclued entries.

Tackling the acrosses proved less than fruitful with only a [insert quite a low number here] solved on first pass through. Luckily the downs were more forthcoming and fleshed out the top of the grid more than I was expecting. Unfortunately, I hadn’t come across any clashes. That was hardly surprising, given that I only had six non-clashes.

Gradually, the top of the grid was nearly done and 1 6 looked like it would be FISHER KING. I knew that he had Arthurian connections but I decided that it was too early to start consulting any reference material like Wiki or Brewer’s or the two books I have.

As suspected, the clues were tough, with one or two being really quite devious. My favourites included 15ac Settles comfortably and starts to eat naughty cakes containing a drop of cream (9) for ENSCONCES [E(ats) N(aughty) + SCONES around C(ream)]. This struck a nerve since these lockdowns seem to have got me eating and drinking too much! 5ac She flies in part where earth and fire erupt (3) was an unusual double-hidden — (whe)RE E(arth) and (fi)RE E(rupt).

Before the grid was finished, I had identified GAWAIN, LANCELOT and PERCEVAL as three of the knights. Luckily BORS was revealed by all the crossing entries as I’d not heard of him. Unluckily, I made a right pig’s ear of 14dn by entering him as PERC-I-VAL which made 30ac impossible as I..I.! I also had a brain freeze with 16dn Second out of three sets upset some players (8) which seemed to be (THREE SETS – S)* but was in fact (SET + SET + SET – S)*.

Eventually though, the grid was complete and on to the endgame. What a treat that was.

Starting from the p in row 1, there for all to see was SIR GALAHAD jumping in knight’s moves (ie thematically) with the fifth and eighth letters filling out the isolated squares. Perceval was featured in the writing of Chrétien de Troyes with his name being spelt out by the letters a to p in the grid. The head-start clues led to BLOOD and GRAIL being cryptic references to de Troyes book on Perceval where “a loathly lady enters the court and admonishes Perceval for failing to ask his host whom the grail served and why the lance bled, as the appropriate question would have healed the wounded king.” At least I think it was just a cryptic reference. These were especially sneaky since they were 5-letter answers for 6-letter entries.

So these entries were BR…E and .L..ES and had to be filled with the unused letters from the clashes to give two items negotiated by a more modern hunter. Well those letters were ENOAIS and no amount of squeezing would fit those letters in the grid. One solver has coined GWIT for Guess What I’m Thinking. For me, this was WTF (pardon my language)!

The only more modern hunter I could think of was Indiana Jones, one of whose films was The Last Crusade. A bit of research on that film revealed three obstacles he overcame, including a BRIDGE and BLADES. Well they fitted, but where did the IRGLAS come from?

Don’t ask me when I came across the solution. I think it was after rereading the preamble for the umpteenth time and seeing if there was another “lettered top-row cell”. Indeed, starting from letter f in the top row, we had INDIANA JONES, again going in knight’s moves but this time right to left, through the isolated squares up to the p square in the top.

A bit of GRAIL highlighting finished this phenomenal puzzle. Very many thanks, Elgin.

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Listener No 4487: Doing a Sort by Elgin

Posted by Dave Hennings on 16 Feb 2018

It had been nearly six years since Elgin’s last puzzle. That was based on Kipling’s The Ballad of East and West, and before that, Wallace and Gromit’s The Wrong Trousers. I remember this last one as being a lot of fun (with it’s Batman and Robin red herring), and hoped we were in for some more with this one.

Down answers had to lose a character and have the remainder jumbled before some more anagrams had to be made from the letters in the squares marked with * and + symbols. I decided that the acrosses were a good place to start.

With 11 ENTERATE and 12 AUNTIE going in fairly quickly, I was up and running. Mind you, I wasn’t really sure of the wordplay for 12 Relative acceleration on horse that is dropping second (6) since I couldn’t see where the S for second worked; it turned out to be A + MOUNTIE – MO. A smattering of other entries around the grid led me to give the downs a go.

I started noting the likely letters to be dropped alongside each clue as solved. However, with the grid over half full, I wondered if it was more appropriate to note them above or below each column. Although the unching of the down entries was fairly generous, exactly what letters needed to be jumbled wasn’t particularly straightforward.

All in all, there were tough clues, especially the acrosses, since they weren’t directly cross-checked. 24ac and 47ac took some analysis for me. 24 Fallibility when information is organised in emergency without them (7) was EMERGENCY – EM (them) with RAN (organised) replacing GEN (information) to give ERRANCY. 47 Shift temperature in excess: the answer? (8) was an &lit. clue with the T (temperature) in OVER (excess) THE A (answer) shifted right to give OVERHEAT.

This turned out to be a long solving process, but eventually the grid, apart from most of the top and bottom rows, was finished.

The squares marked with + gave TIOLETTRODHTES and would give an instruction (2,4,3,5). THE looked like the 3-letter word and, having toyed with — and dismissed — TS ELIOT and his TOILET, I tried TITLE and was rewarded with TO SORT THE TITLE. The jumble of DOING A SORT was, unfortunately, not immediately apparent.

The squares marked with * gave CEMEYGANIDANOL, and I was again lucky to see COMEDY as a possibility there. AN EALING COMEDY was soon revealed. The two best known are The Lavender Hill Mob and The Ladykillers. The latter promptly got slotted into the grid.

With that in place, I revisited the down answers to see what letters needed to be dropped. Hey Presto! Courtney and Harvey went along the top of the grid, being dropped from the first word in each column. They were two of the ‘villains’ from the film. Two others were Robinson and Lawson which were dropped from the second down entries in each column. The only one left was MARCUS, played by Alec Guinness, and there he was in the middle of the grid.

I often find that a bit of rough doodling of letters to be unjumbled works a treat. Here I stumbled across GADOOSTRIN and GOODS TRAIN jumped out at me. The two words could go at the beginning and end of the bottom row with GO and IN two of the squares to give SARGO and CAROTIN as the down entries.

And there was still more. “A final thematic adjustment must be made, leaving some cells empty (no two in the same row or column)…”. If MARCUS dropped into the goods train, those letters were all from the same row. I flummoxed around for a bit, probably getting on for an hour on and off. Eventually I spotted the SIGNAL running diagonally above Marcus. In the film, this dropped into the stop position thereby hitting Marcus on the head and causing him to fall into the goods train below. Spotting the signal took me nearly an hour — penance for having been fairly quick with the anagrams.

What a fantastic puzzle, and even better than Wallace and Gromit! A sheer joy to solve. Thanks, Elgin, and please don’t leave it so long till next time.

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‘Doing A Sort’ by Elgin

Posted by Encota on 16 Feb 2018

What a brilliant puzzle.   If this isn’t a strong contender for 2018 Puzzle Of The Year then there’s no justice!  Remarkable!!

[surreal mode on]

However, my logic might have gone something like this …

By complete chance I saw the comedy writer Graham Linehan’s excellent adaptation of some old Ealing comedy only last Autumn – you may remember it – I think it was called THE LADYKILLERS or something?  Perhaps it came to a town near you too?

So, because of this, I had Graham Linehan in my mind.  Early on in the solve I was looking for a relevant phrase with letters pattern (2,6,6).  I had, at that stage, the letters ON C.AG.Y I.LAND already from the cells marked with a * and suddenly it all became clear: this was ON CRAGGY ISLAND, an obvious hint to the excellent FATHER TED, co-written by Graham (of IT Crowd etc. fame).  Surely The Listener isn’t going to get a bit edgy and quote the endlessly swearing Father Jack?

If that’s the case (again, surely not?) then the two word phrase at 1ac may well be FOUR-LETTER WORD?  Let me check if that’ll create real words with the down clues:

  • First letter F?  Well 1d as .ESTAS could readily become FESTAS
  • Second letter O?  That’s unchecked, so put it in.  O
  • Third letter U? At 2d we have .TEN so, yes, UTEN. All on track
  • Check one more random one e.g. 9d. .ISEN gives RISEN.  Excellent

I’ll leave the rest as an exercise for the reader, as they say in all the best text-books.

But if this unlikely theme is right, then there’d be some of Father Jack quoted in the Grid, wouldn’t there?  Again, surely not – we are talking about The Listener here, after all.  Recalling (some of) what he used to say from his armchair – some of which is unprintable – there it is, in black and white, on Rows 5 & 6!  “ARSE. ARSE”

Of course perhaps I’m mistaken with all this?  I must be, surely?  Double check using the letters in cells marked with a + sign: TIOLETSTRODTEH.  Oh, goodness: “…OR TED’S HOT TITLE”.  And I thought I’d been joking – it really is Father Ted!

And so below is my final Grid to prove it.  The Preamble seemed to say, in some long-winded way, kill off all unrequired characters, so this must be the result:

2018-01-29 13.22.32


Cheers all,

Tim / Encota

[surreal mode off]

P.S. You’ll have to read the blogs from Shirley and Dave to get more of what was really going on.  Having the full quintet featuring in the grid was excellent, as was the falling signal knocking Professor MARCUS onto the GOODS TRAIN.  As an aside, I can only find 1d, assuming it is an alternative plural for TESTA, in the Quinapalus machine.  Everywhere else appears to have TESTAE, though I don’t doubt that usage will have ‘created’ the alternative TESTAS plural somewhere.  Or I am missing something (more than likely)!  Best puzzle of the year so far for me – and haven’t we have had some good ones already!

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Doing a Sort by Elgin

Posted by shirleycurran on 16 Feb 2018

Which naive Numpty said ‘It’s still the start of the year, we are sure to get some easy puzzles.’ we’ve had Schadenfreude, Lavatch, Miss Terry and now Elgin. I eat my words. We downloaded with some misgivings as, yet again, we were travelling with minimal solving resources (that always seems to happen when there is a difficult puzzle. We tend to set off now saying ‘There is likely to be an a carte blanche alphabetical jumbled jigsaw with the theme identified by Playfair this Friday’). Of course, we began by attempting to anagram the title and got a surprising ‘Goods train’ and forgot about it at once, as ‘Elgin isn’t going to be writing a crossword about a goods train is he?’

No need to check for the eligibility to the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Outfit for Elgin was there? Dave Hennings’ Crossword Data Base tells me that he has been setting Listener Crosswords since 1998. But I did check and initially found a very modest ‘Drink in lounge occasionally (3)’ prompting me to read alternate letters to produce ONE. I imagine that Elgin must be Scottish and that must have been a very effective ONE because we later found ‘A Scot found drunk in the outskirts of Coolgardie?’ (7, two words) Chambers defines COT CASE  ‘a person who is drunk and incapable (esp ); a person who is too ill to get out of bed (chiefly NZ)’ so we have a lovely &lit. clue here with C(oolgardi)E surrounding the drunken or anagrammed A SCOT and giving the Aussie indicator too. Well cheers, Elgin. Hope to see you at the bar in Paris.

We were puzzled at first by the indication in the preamble that ‘each’ down entry had characters to drop since it seemed to us that some had lights that were long enough for the letter count. “Read the preamble, Numpty!” Initially 1ac and 48 are unfilled! of course, that said it all and our solve speeded up enormously when we realized that those down words, without the top and bottom rows were too long for the spaces. But what a struggle we had, using TEA to decipher the strings of letters to produce words we barely knew like ALIDADE and ARSENIATE and eventually enough of the + letters  (TIOLETSTRDD n/t/o w/e H) to unjumble to DO SORT THE TITLE! Oh dear, we did that before we began our solve and I dismissed that GOODS TRAIN, which we were now told had to partially fill 48. Strange, because, down there we had words that seemed to say LAWSON ROBINSON. COURTNEY and HARVEY were potential fillers of 1ac. Mystified! So where do I go? Google, of course and Auntie Google gives me an Ealing Comedy, The Ladykillers. We backsolve those asterisked letters and, of course, find AN EALING COMEDY.

Professor MARCUS has obligingly appeared in the centre of our grid and if we drop him to his death in a GOODS TRAIN we can fill our bottom row by doubling up the first and last letters to give SARGO and CAROTIN as down clues.  This is spectacular compiling, and, as in the plot, we are eliminating LAWSON and ROBINSON.  When we do the same to COURTNEY and HARVEY by putting the title, THE LADYKILLERS in their place, all seems to be well (almost) but Elgin has a wonderful final touch. ‘A final thematic adjustment must be made, leaving some cells empty (no two in the same row or column)’ I must leave it to Dave’s fabulous graphics as he is sure to have a diagonal signal coming down and knocking MARCUS down into the train and leaving only real words except for those two rows.

This is superb setting. I am reminded of one of the earliest Listeners I ever solved where Samuel had pennies dropping in his ‘Playtime’.

Amazing! Many thanks to Elgin.


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A Change of Clothing, by Elgin (A tasty Wensleydale sandwich?)

Posted by shirleycurran on 22 Oct 2010

Elgin is new to the numpty team but we chuckled at the preamble and immediately suspected that the item of clothing might be TROUSERS. As usual, the south-east corner filled first, but some rather peculiar things happened and gloom descended. BAGMAN, PEPAINT, RABIN, GAMP, DENIALS, CURES, EYES and ESLOIN intersected well with GEARE, RANCES, PAREO and NISSEN but we were left with that peculiar GAAMIUYL that didn’t have much to do with EMMENTAL. Could that be one of the ‘false trails’ whose answers were not to be answered in the grid?

We moved north and similar problems occurred, as we were left with STE?BEN. I remember linguistics classes where we were told that STERBEN was an Anglo-Saxon source of ‘to starve’, which, in the North, is what you can do with cold or hunger – but it isn’t in Chambers. Ah, the Biographical Dictionary produces STEUBEN – another new word I shall have to include in trivial chat this week! We already have NISSEN and ERNEST and now, as we move into the north-west corner we find another proper noun, GUJRAT. Again our big red book doesn’t come to our rescue, as it has GUJARAT and we don’t have the O.E.D. We risk it and JOKER appears as a likely villain. So we begin to suspect that our remaining obscure lights are probably RIDDLER and PENGUIN. Are we in BATMAN and ROBIN country? There is a problem if we are, as we have to opt for a single villain in our highlighting – which of the three ‘usual suspects’?

A complete grid, with one more proper noun REUTER and the head-scratching begins. We hadn’t found our remaining three cheeses (LIMBURG, GOUDA and STILTON) which would have pointed us towards LEGS. Nevertheless, with the PENGUIN as a possible villain and WALLACE appearing if we put TROUSERS at 20d, we had the link with the Emmental cheese (Wallace’s passion for my local cheese, Wensleydale). If we can find GROMIT somewhere, we would have a couple of crime fighters with a single villain.

TROUSERS produces BATMAN and ROBIN but it also produces a problem since DENIALS would have to become DENSALS. Hmmm.

Aha! GROMIT appears heading diagonally north-east if we anagrind the trousers. ROUSTERS will give us DENTALS, together with RUBIN, GASP, CERES, ERES and ESSOIN – and, of course, the usual Listener compiler’s little tipple, supplied, this time, by the BARMAN.  The TROUSERS are now ‘wrong’ and we have operated a ‘Change of Clothing’. (I am sure we could change it to TROUTERS, too, and have a strong prompt that our villain is the PENGUIN – no doubt he would consume lots of trout if he could catch it – but that sort of thinking could run away with us and we’d merit the Joker!)

Tough and challenging, both the grid-fill and the endgame – and we are left with that nagging doubt that we haven’t quite got it right. Thank you Elgin.

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