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Posts Tagged ‘Encota’

‘Army & Navy’ by Shackleton

Posted by Encota on 23 June 2017

As a relative newbie to Listener solving I haven’t solved loads of Shackleton’s puzzles – but I do recall that his was one of the very best of 2016 with the Endurance-based puzzle.

So what do we have here…?  Will it be another packed-full grid?  I am already assuming the answer is Yes 🙂

Let’s cut to the chase: row 10 is fabulous!  If you wanted to clue ARTHUR RANSOME, a name at a time, then what could be better than:


A hidden word ‘in’ (p)ARTHUR(ried) and a synonym-phrase of ‘RAN SOME’, all in one.  Delightful!

After a lot of rummaging the following copy appeared from a box in the attic.  Aside: why is there never enough shelf space for all the books one owns?  Is it some sort of fundamental law?  I build more shelves; I give hundreds to the charity MIND; but there’s still not enough space.  Anyway, back to the plot…

WH 1974

As shown on the cover, the North Pole the children visit is definitely to the left of the picture (and the map inside backs it up).

However … hold on a cotton-picking minute … don’t be fooled so easily!

Though it appears to be this, it isn’t at all.  The book title anagram actually reveals ‘Whored in Italy’, the until-recently lost (and slightly seedy) early autobiography of Roald Amundsen, the most famous explorer common to the North and South Pole expeditions, both in the Fram.  Some solvers may have thought that the publication date nods towards the death of Arthur Ransome on 3rd June 1967 but clearly it’s really about the departure of the Amundsen expedition towards the South Pole, having departed from ‘recreational activities’ in Italy on 3rd June 1910.

And so Amundsen’s name has to be encoded in Row 9 using – of course –  the Penguin-based code used in the 2016 GCHQ puzzle book, with the penguins obviously a clue to the destination of the Southbound expedition.  14 characters including the ‘space’: ROALD AMUNDSEN – it could clearly be nothing else.  I needed to look them up to complete the grid – I could only remember the Space being a Spaceman penguin complete with spacesuit helmet.  I’ve left a few characters as an exercise for the reader – see below.
Army and Wavy
Surely I have got it right this time!  [Good grief!  Ed.]
More seriously, a great puzzle – thanks Shackleton!


Tim / Encota

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Listener 452: ‘Bobs’ by Nud

Posted by Encota on 16 June 2017

‘Nud’ has, according to the Preamble, arrived home the worse for wear and presumably is at least partly seeing double.  When looking at what had been entered in the grid the following morning it appears that letters thought to have been entered twice unfortunately hadn’t!

In at least two cases this had got even worse, with ANANA at 42a losing one of the ‘AN’ pairs and so with only ANA entered in the grid.  Similarly OROROTUND reduced by ‘OR’ to be entered as OROTUND.  In every other word one pair of letters became a single letter – e.g. the answer DESSERT at 51a is entered as DESERT.

On the second diagonal the word HAPLOGRAPHY appeared.  It’s defined in the BRB as “The inadvertent writing once of what should have been written twice” which neatly sums up the puzzle’s entry gimmick.

2017-05-27 17.08.58 copy

Is that a Personal Announcement from ‘Nud’ hiding in the Central Column?  Intriguing…

And the Title?  Was it simply ‘Boobs’ by ‘Nudd’, entered in error?  I’m assuming yes.  Or do we have a new setter ‘Nuud’ or ‘Nunud’ in our midst?


Tim / Encota


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‘Numerical Playfair’ by Zag

Posted by Encota on 9 June 2017

It’s that week in the quarter when the Listener Numerical appears.  I suspect that the combination of the words ‘numerical’ and ‘Playfair’ may well have deterred some regular solvers, as they both do seem to be in the Marmite category for some Listener regulars.  However, this was a great puzzle and I hope most people gave it a try…

As a precursor I skimmed the grid and marked every cell that couldn’t be a zero – it might be important later, I thought.  All 2-digit entries, every starting cell and those implied by reversals left only a very few cells that could be 0 (and even most of those soon disappeared once I got started).

Then this was actually quite a gentle puzzle, once a few items were spotted.

  1. The top right square of the Playfair (PF) can by definition only be 1, 2 or 3.  7d is a square and so ends in the usual 0,1,4,9,6,5 choices.  And 9a once converted via the Playfair square must end in the top right square too.  So the end of 9a Entry (9aE) is 1.  First cell filled!  And this significantly limits the options for 6d.
  2. As 3d is the reverse of 2a, then their centre digits must be the same, so 3d must be of the form xxy, i.e. its first two digits are the same.  Where 7a meets 3d, and with 7a defined as a divisor of 3d gives a very limited set of 7a/3d pairs in the form xxy.  3d  can only be one of 558, 882, 992 and 996.
  3. The options for 5d as an anagram of 6d are again very limited, especially when it is clear that the 1 must be its central digit.
  4. After a while it becomes clear that 5d can only be either 316 or 613.  As the 3 and the 6 are both in the centre of a row or column of the PF square, then neither 3 nor 6 can be in a corner of the PF square.  This allows two options for the Playfair square to be created, one based on each value at 5d – remembering that in rows two and three of the PF square then there can only be three possible numbers in each cell.  Using these partially completed squares then the options for 2d can be fully reduced.
  5. The last couple go in at 1a and 1d.  One option can be eliminated as it results in 16 entered at 1a, which isn’t possible as it is already in at 7d.  And the final one uses one of the cells that could be 0, at the end of 1d.

Double-check that all Answers and Entries align and I’m sorted.  I hope!  Feeling good about Numericals – I must soon have a go at the couple in the last Crossnumber Quarterly issue that I haven’t started yet (just in case the feeling wears off!).

One thought: I wonder how easy it is to use Sympathy software as a solver-assist tool for numericals?  I have been creating a lot of custom Sympathy dictionaries (.tsd) recently for various puzzles I’ve been writing, but I have never delved much into using Sympathy for Numericals except as a general purpose editor.  Could I get the Playfair gimmick to work on this puzzle for example?  If anyone reading this has already done similar then I’d love to hear about it!

Cheers all,

Tim / Encota

P.S. Can you provide the answer to the following deep and meaningless question: “What number do you get if you take all digits not used in the grid and place them together in descending order?”

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‘Bank Transfer’ by Calmac

Posted by Encota on 2 June 2017

I hear faint rumours that there are a few solvers that were fooled into thinking this Title described a bridge, namely (I understand) the Ponte Vecchio di Firenze, described in the poet H.W.Longfellow’s English-Italian translation, with the original apparently created/built by Taddeo Gaddi.  They even thought that 18ac’s answer ARNO referred to an account of the current flowing beneath it 🙂

However, with the title ‘Bank Transfer’ actually referring to financials, more specifically ‘the numbers’, this puzzle was actually a glorified Wordsearch where solvers had to find numbers hidden in the grid [Are you quite sure?  Ed.].  Most were hidden straightforwardly but two overlapped (as an added piece of difficulty), and one even started at the bottom of the grid and wrapped back around to the top.  Sneaky, eh?  If I’ve got it right then there were five to find (see grid below):

2017-05-13 12.41.28

There are other folk that suggest that I must have gone slightly doolally, trying to invent a more difficult puzzle than the one in front of me.  Some have even quietly said that I am definitely seeing things when I suggested there’s a famous crossword editor hiding in Column 2, too.  Coincidence?  I think not!

Cheers all,

Tim / Encota

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‘Whoppers’ by Nutmeg

Posted by Encota on 26 May 2017

First of all, thank you Nutmeg for a surprisingly hard, for me at least, puzzle.  I think it’s largely down to not knowing how many letters the Answer is going to contain that always seems to slow me down, as I’ve mentioned here before.

I soon got to wondering how long a list of such words Nutmeg had to play with when creating this grid?  In the spirit of the Entries associated with the ‘normal’ clues in this puzzle, the best I quickly could come up with was:

‘Detangle metallised fibrillar velveret’

i.e. all such Entries were formed by placing a fish inside the initial Answer to the normal clue.  A good example been the first such clue at 4ac:

 Keep close to edge, showing strength (9)

…being FORTE formed as FORT E.  Simply add a fish (here TUNA) and FORTUNATE appears.

My LOI was

Hard Left briefly softens (7)

The checked letters pointed strongly towards the Answer being RETS, as did the definition of ‘softens’ but for some reason it took me ages to recognise ‘Left’ as a reversal indicator, such that RETS was formed as STER(n).  Add a fish (GAR) to form GARRETS.

There were 12 such clues. All others each provided an extra letter, which in order spelt out:  ARE FISHERMEN ALL LIARS OR DO ONLY LIARS (FISH)?  (William Sherwood Fox).  So FISH was not only missing from the phrase but also from the Answers and so needed adding to form the Entries.  At least that’s how I read it!

The Title seems very straightforward this week, though I may be missing something.  I was tempted to add a comment referring to, “The one I caught was this big” but (a) wasn’t sure it would work so well without a vlog and (b) couldn’t reach the keyboard whilst doing so…

And finally, this puzzle clearly links back to a theme from 2016 – after all, surely no-one could claim it’s coincidence that CHAR can be found in ‘the SearCH ARea’…


Tim / Encota

P.S. I was delighted to receive my first ever Listener win of the latest ChambersRevised 13th Edition’ Dictionary during the past month, for Handyman’s April Fool ‘Spaghetti Tree’ re-creation.  Like others, I have been writing ‘Chambers (2016) is the preferred dictionary’, or similar, in my Preambles over the last few months without actually owning a copy, so it is very useful to be sure that I had received the right one!  I suspect I’m not the only one to be confused by this being called the ‘Revised 13th’ and dated 2014 even though it was first printed in 2016.  If I understand it correctly it is labelled 2014 because its word content = those of the 13th edition plus the infamous ‘missing words’ list, neither of which are new in their own right.  [That’s the list that includes the ‘abbot of unreason’, amongst others, if you’re asking.]

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