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Posts Tagged ‘Encota’

‘Dilemma’ by Aedites

Posted by Encota on 18 August 2017

Firstly thank you to Aedites for a gentle and accurate puzzle featuring the Bard.  Early on we find out that the ‘To be or not to be …’ speech comes from Hamlet Act Three Scene One, as we uncover the misprints in the Across clues.  Now that is almost ‘QI’ knowledge – the sort of thing you know isn’t important in its own right but is, well, Quite Interesting.

That Title by That Setter looks an ideal mix for possible anagrams, don’t you think?  And I am a fan of longer anagrams …

  • We had two ‘Greek’ clues, an ‘Eastern Church’ and a Title, ‘Dilemma’, that felt immediately based on Greek.
  • There was Miss America in 39a, no doubt gaining her ‘beauty sleep’ through the same daily bedtime.
  • There was ‘red’ in 37a, which I admit may be diesel.
  • In 12d we met The Times which, by definition, is timely-based media.
  • Or perhaps the politician in 29d isn’t Scottish at all but refers to the PM and May’s ideal bedtime.

And finally, in case you feel those are so short at 16 letters that they hardly even count as long anagrams, may I offer you one from one of my Posts back in March 2016:

This week’s anagram features as most of the following clue from the Guardian blog by Alan Connor (with enigmatically as the anagram indicator and everything else the anagram fodder):

Enigmatically, in one of the Bard’s best-thought-of tragedies
our insistent hero, Hamlet, queries on two fronts
about how life turns rotten (2,2,2,3,2,2,4,2,3,8,7,3,6,2,3,4,2,6,3,6,3,6,2,10,7)

There are some answers that can be biffed – and this has got to be the ultimate example!  Feel free to check my working…



Tim / Encota

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And now for something completely different…

Posted by Encota on 11 August 2017

OK.  We’ve done the sums.  The answer could be either 4 1/2 or 72.

Inspect the grid.  There are only five pairs of unambiguous letters B (hereafter known as Bs, or Bees) in the grid not separated by a Bar.  Convert these pairs of Bs from Bs to five Bees.  [And obviously 72 is way too big so can be ignored 🙂 ]

That leave minus Half A Bee to be found.  The Preamble talks about one ambiguity: clearly this is the possibility of the third letter of 25 across – is it an O or an E?

Use your favourite means for picking O(dd) or E(ven).  I keep a six foot insect-carved version of the 18th Century gambling game known as E-O in the billiard room for exactly this purpose.  The ball falls in Even, so E it is.  Row 7 now contains ERIC (the half a bee).  For those that need reminding, try

Finally subtract half a bee using the usual accounting convention of placing it in brackets. We now have five bees, less half a bee: 4 1/2 bees now found.  Simples.

2017-07-23 13.54.06

Tim / Encota

P.S. And the ‘Eric The Half A Bee’ Python song’s lyrics include, if I heard them right:

Half a bee, cruciverbally
Must either sail, or rival 3…

[Good grief!  Ed.]

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‘Four and a half…?’ by Sabre

Posted by Encota on 11 August 2017

The nine hidden words in this puzzle spell out, I think, the beginning of a well-known early problem in algebra, namely: “The square root of half a number of bees...”, perhaps made more famous in the Scheherazade series of puzzles.

In the original, it goes on to say that, ‘The square root of half a number of bees in a swarm leave a jasmine bush, as do two others (I paraphrase); 8/9ths of the swarm of bees have remained in the bush.  What is the total number of bees in the swarm?’

As many of us will have had drilled into us in maths at school when converting word-based questions into algebra, “First let the number of bees be ‘b’ ” (of course, what else would you choose?)

Then the above translates into:  8b/9 + sqrt(b/2) + 2 = b                      Equation (1)

Re-arrange with the square root by itself on one side, such that both sides can be squared without pain: sqrt(b/2)=b/9 – 2.  Whether it is that squaring process itself has introduced an additional solution is another matter!

So it leads to (b – 72)(2b – 9) = 0.  To make such a product of two numbers =0 then clearly either the left hand or right hand bracket must be zero, so b=72 (or b = 4 and a 1/2, hence Sabre’s Title with the QM, a somewhat strange number of bees in a swarm – especially as it requires minus 1.5 bees to leave the jasmine bush originally – apart from the obvious Monty Python reference – see below).

To check your answers, you might now have tried putting each answer back into equation (1): b = 72 slots in easily, as 64+6+2 does equal 72.  However, putting b = 9/2 back in only works when you recall that the square root of a number can be + or -, such that (1) becomes 8/9 * 9/2 – 3/2 + 2 = 4 1/2.

Other Monty Python fans might mention the new role for ‘Eric the Half A Bee’ in the alternative solution.  [Aside: how does anyone think to write a song called ‘Eric the Half A Bee’?]

But wait a minute.  Has Sabre been reading our site’s ‘About The Bloggers’ section to note that I am an avid Steven Wilson fan?  Coincidence that SW’s most recent release (at the time of writing: roll on 18th August!) is the mini-album 4 1/2 ?  Surely not…


[Steven Wilson: 4 1/2.]

So we’re after 72 bees in the final puzzle. Or, literally, should I say Bs.  I can find 21 definitive Bs and 51 cells where the clashing letters are two apart – and if one squints a bit then B=2 – so perhaps I should be changing each of those to a letter B, too – that would end up with 72 of them in place.  It feels like it must be the right thing to do, especially given the quantities of each, but I am sure I’m missing something subtle in the Preamble.  And is the ambiguous entry 6a’s BOBBLY /BLOBBY for L in BOBBY, or have I missed something else entirely (very likely).  Hmm.

My choice of clue for the week is 11 across, the superb all-in-one clue [with extra word bracketed out]:

  11.  Disease in parts of [the] garden, tips of each turnip affected (12)

…reveals the disease of turnips, FINGER-AND-TOE, that affects the taproot, combined with the wordplay including ‘parts’ as a Container-and-Contents indicator (as in ‘parting the Red Sea’), ‘tip’ as a first letter indicator and ‘affected’ as an anagram indicator.  In all,
putting IN inside {OF GARDEN E(ach) T(urnip)}*  Delightful.

This clue got me thinking: I wonder how often a clue has all the hallmarks of a serious convoluted (I’m hesitating in using the word cryptic) clue but is all a bluff and is actually a near-enough straight clue?  A simple example would be the above clue but with ‘each’ changed to ‘any’, for example.  We’d all be scrabbling around trying to make the wordplay work, when actually it was all definition.  Perhaps they should be encouraged just a little more by crossword editors? Or would that simply help those who favour the ‘bung in from definition’ approach, rather than savour every intricacy of each clue?  I may have answered my own question!

cheers all,

Tim / Encota

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‘Shock Therapy’ by Serpent

Posted by Encota on 4 August 2017


I loved this puzzle.  The bottom half went in fairly straightforwardly, revealing the letters that would finally form the first row: WIG TOUPÉE HAIRPIECE.  The top half I found much more challenging!

The next stage for me was to find the ‘Condition’ talked about.  Given it had to be 2 words and 18 letters in total, I had no idea.  Some combination of BALDNESS (male pattern or otherwise) or ALOPECIA with something else, maybe?

I’d solved half a dozen or so of the upper Down clues, so had an attempt at finding words that began with the first letter followed by a jumble of all but one of the Upper Down answer’s letters.  For example, in 16d, four letters  E _ _ _ , with the letters of SOYA to choose from seemed to yield either EASY or EYAS.  I then tried to spot a synonym for either of these in the Across clues: 43 across had SIMPLE in it that I’d already removed from an earlier solve of:

  Behave like bird and others in [simple] turn (7)

i.e. EMU and (ET AL)<, giving EMULATE.  So EASY it was – one found, seventeen to go!  The A and the S helped me find 20a E-MAILED and 22a SNAILED, so identifying Woman and Eddies as two more of the required final synonyms.

After some consultation with Auntie Google, the only plausible 18-letter, 2-word condition appeared to be ANDROGENIC ALOPECIA, so I pencilled that in and happily found that each Row 1 letter was also found in the Upper Down clues I had already solved.  Phew!

Did anyone else notice how the puzzle also had a secret, secondary plumbing theme in it?  There was RING (Row 4), for olive rings etc used in compression fittings.  There was ROD (Row 5), for that part in the cistern connected to the float.  And there was COCK (Column 5), as in stopcock.  Clearly Serpent appears to have a DIY interest, too 🙂  Oh, and TRAP (i.e. a U-bend) upwards in Column 14.  Even a PLEET and a TROG were present diagonally, those Suffolk-dialect plumbing terms…

Many thanks Serpent for a very enjoyable solve!

Cheers all!

Tim / Encota


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‘The Owl, the Pussycat & Hares Galore’ by Chalicea

Posted by Encota on 28 July 2017

There are animals everywhere in this puzzle, ‘Difficulty’ from Chalicea: a TURKEY, LUPUS (wolf), the PUSSYCAT, a NIGHTBIRD, even ARGALI, TEAR A CAT and the GERENUK!   If only there’d been an opportunity to hide a HARE or two, or even other hare-like creatures.

But wait a moment, the Item to be added below the grid is enumerated (1,4) – it simply must be A HARE.  I’d thought initially the puzzle was themed on that delightful Edward Lear work, ‘The Owl and The Pussycat’ – what a fool I was!  See how easily the setter can divert you down false trails.  Or maybe the poem does mention a hare, let me think…

Many of you may recall that these hare-brained escapades all started with Listener 4422 by Poat, named ‘Buried Treasure’, in which the Hare of the Kit Williams book ‘Masquerade’ was found lurking not in the grid but in the Preamble, more specifically hiding in the searcH AREa.

Ever since, bloggers at LWO – especially Shirley Curran (Chalicea) – and other Listener solvers have been desperately on the lookout for that HARE in each Listener grid.

So, if I am right, we are looking for a HARE, presumably hiding in contiguous cells in the grid.  I thought, given the setter is Chalicea, then there’s bound to be one.

How wrong I was.

Because, at least by my counting, there are 26!  By which, of course, I mean 4! And 2!

Screen Shot 2017-07-08 at 23.10.30

See highlighted grid (forgive my scribbling), with some overlapping. I make it:

  • DOE x8 (all entered as DE, of course, given the ‘Difficulty’ with the missing O),
  • MARA x6,
  • PUSS x4,
  • WAT x3,
  • HARE x3,
  • BAWD x1 and
  • PIKA x1.

I make that one heavy-duty grid – very, very impressive!!

And of course, we all know that poem word-for-word, don’t we?  It sits so firmly in one’s brain that it is impossible to misremember:

Pussy said to the Owl, ‘You elegant fowl!
How charmingly sweet and fair!
O let us be married! too long we have tarried:

But what shall we do for a hare?’

All I need to do now is write ‘A HARE’ below the grid and I am sorted.


Tim / Encota



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