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Posts Tagged ‘Encota’

‘Food For Thought’ by Handyman

Posted by Encota on 21 April 2017

I recall writing to the Editors some time in 2016 suggesting that, what with the Puzzle number 4444 looming (at that time) on the horizon then surely it could potentially be ideal for Quads 4 in the excellent Quads series by Shark.  Ok, ok, I hear you say, we haven’t even had Quads 3 yet and Quads 2 appeared in 2016.  Mere detail, mere detail,…

So what have we got in this week’s puzzle?  Well it doesn’t say ‘by Shark’.  But what a blinder of a first clue!

  Comic character most frequently seen in Rupert Bear – art is foremost (6)

As most of you will know, with many really good clues if two words appear to go really well together in the surface then they very often are partly definition and partly wordplay – and so it is here with Comic character.  The answer is AMUSER, with its definition Comic .  The word used here for art is MUSE and the glorious seven words ‘character most frequently seen in Rupert Bear’ simply results in the letter R!  Add the missing letter (A) at the front – as per the Preamble – and we have AMUSER.

The entries at 6, 7, 8 & 9 turned out to be the four requiring modification before entry – and what glorious clues they were:

About to call up individual (4)

…parsed as ON NAME< to give ONE-MAN and entered as 1MAN;

High degree of neatness in almost reformed enclosure in French city (6)

…was NE(w) PEN found in NICE, entered as 9PENCE;

Health recommendation following one American interrupting end of war? (5)

…had the entry 5ADAY, with wordplay of F I and then A in VE-DAY, and

Doctor removes lion flesh in Italian features (12, four words)


The first row finally became PANORAMA 1957, the two clued by wordplay were (the Italian-speaking Swiss half-canton) TICINO and (presumably Lake) LUGANO.  The final 3-minute April Fool TV clip mentions both and is available online for those who either haven’t seen it or are keen to do so again.  One nice touch in the clip includes the details about careful work that has been done by plant breeders to ensure all spaghetti grows to the same length. 🙂


Great timing for a puzzle by someone who is clearly a very skilled clue-setter.  Thanks Handyman!

Tim / Encota

PS It’s just been pointed out to me by Shirley and others that I appear to have won this one 🙂

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‘Not The Rockies’ by Kruger

Posted by Encota on 14 April 2017

Thanks first of all to Kruger for this enjoyable puzzle!

The pairing of the clues – i.e. knowing that one of each pair would be in the top (what eventually turned out to be the Northern) half and the other in the bottom half – was a clever and interesting technique, especially given its thematic relevance that was finally revealed to us near the end.

Fortunately (for me) I solved Clue 1 very early on, which hugely reduced the number of options available.

Ignore mass in principal characteristics putting Earth in deviations from orbital motion (12)

That looked like (m)AIN QUALITIES with E(arth) inside of it.  With the first A being the extra letter to be removed, that gave INEQUALITIES.  A quick check in the BRB confirmed deviations from orbital motion as a lesser-known meaning of INEQUALITIES and I was properly started.

It looked like the four 4-letter entries would really help next, given two of them started with the first I and U of INEQUALITIES.  I’d solved three of them but wanted the fourth to double-check I had them right and thus where they fitted in the grid.  I then twigged that Jock’s ankle was CUIT, leading to UNIT as one of the entries.

However, I didn’t spot what the hidden guidance was saying – namely ANSWERS CONTAINING N TO THE TOP AND S TO THE BOTTOM until I had perhaps only three left to enter into the grid.  Nonetheless it did still provide a useful cross-check of what I had entered.

And I spent a long while on my LOI, which was VILLOUS.  The definition was so accurate – with long, soft hairs – that I was almost certain of the answer very early on but I simply couldn’t make the wordplay fit.  Eventually I hope I got it right with VILL(a)[N]OUS, a spelling of VILLAINOUS of which I was not previously aware!

As we owned our first house in Watford, then the circled letters seemed to make sense pretty quickly – thankfully no relation to the ‘Watford Gap’ of Motorway (and childish but funny Roy Harper song) fame.

And the Title?  I am assuming that The Rockies are seen as the East-West divide in North America -and thus the ‘Not’ in describing this puzzle?  Though I may have missed a whole layer of thinking here – not entirely sure!

Thanks again – most enjoyable!

Tim / Encota

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Got Me! by Towser

Posted by Encota on 7 April 2017

Many thanks Towser for a very interesting and not too taxing puzzle.  I found this one contained quite a variety of elements!  Many of the clues seemed fairly straightforward and generous to the solver.  For example:

  Handled glasses, rereading long, endless letters (9)

looks like a simple anagram of LONG (l)ETTER(s) and yes, LORGNETTE it is.  Clever use of ‘Handled’ in the clue’s definition, I like it!

The missing bars at first seemed strange too, since, given the placement of the clue numbers one could deduce the position of all the bars straight away.  But hold on a minute: these ones aren’t part of a 180-degree symmetric grid!  Some clearly will need to move later on.

With around half of the entries placed in the grid I suddenly noticed Row 4 contained RABELAIR.  Given its closeness to RABELAIS, I soon confirmed that the cell with the final R in was one of the five clashes mentioned in the preamble since, in the appropriate Down clue,

 All parts of manuscripts introduced by base, sick acts? (6)

…the answer/entry was EMESES, MSS with each character preceded by an E to represent base.

At this stage my total knowledge of Rabelais consisted of ‘French writer?’ with the emphasis on the Question Mark.  Auntie Google soon helped me out with PANTAGRUEL as one of his works; an across clue looked very like GARGANTUA though I hadn’t realised this was Rabelais too.  Column 2’s down entry looked certain to be Francois (though the ‘RACK’ in the original 14d clue had thrown me a bit – the original answer surely still had to be FRANCK though.  And I recognised PANURGE (no idea why!) when it appeared, too.

Once these were in place there was only one sensible way to include the 34 bars and the 50 entries, though this did take some care and I wouldn’t be surprised if I made yet another crayoning error here – though hopefully not!

The phrases that came from the hidden 16 words:



were also new to me.  Finding out that Francois Rabelais first published under an anagram of his own name (what’s a cedilla between friends?) was delightful.  Though I would have quoted SIR FABIAN’S ORACLE myself.  That’s half the fun of a good Listener crossword – it introduces you to things you might never otherwise have happened upon – a bit like a really good book group does.

I could see that the second diagonal looked very like (what was to me) an uncommon word.  At first sight it looked as if it could readily have contained an O or an A in the centre and the BRB confirmed numerous options were possible, though with only two of them ending -ise.  I’d suspected the Title from the beginning as being part of an augmented anagram and so it proved.  The two As in Rabelais, plus the whole anagram being of RABELAIS GOT ME, meant that the middle letter had to be an A and all was sorted as METAGRABOLISE.  I think.

But was there something more hiding here?  Was this anagram really a reference to Henry Louis Mencken, the so-called BALTIMORE SAGE?  Was there a hidden insult, given MISERABLE GOAT is there?  Or was it a reference to Towser’s analysis of a recent LWO problem, I BLAME STORAGE?  Er…no, no & no again.

I think.

cheers all,

Tim / Encota




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It’s Dark Up Here by Colleague

Posted by Encota on 1 April 2017

I’ve just noticed that the splendid efforts I thought I’d put in on the evening before driving up to Newcastle for the annual Listener dinner had come to naught – as clearly I’d left my blog post on ‘It’s Dark Up Here’ somewhere in the depths of one of my browsers and so it didn’t appear here yesterday afternoon.  OOPS!  Take two…

What a fine puzzle and a great theme, or should I say pair of themes – thanks Colleague!

Clearly the fact that MARTIN, PAUL, ANN, HOWARD, HILDA could be jumbled to show that they HAD WORLD HUMANITARIAN PLAN was a vital part of the puzzle.
[Eh???: Ed]

The TV show EVER DECREASING CIRCLES was one of those programmes I recall enjoying.  The oozlum bird however was complete news to me.  Part of 23d perhaps hinted at what was to come – and the Title made me laugh out loud!

The last part I sorted was the eight ‘circles’ in the Down clues of ever decreasing lengths.  I’d found around four of them for certain and two or three other possible – and then was delighted when the word lengths from 10 chars down to 3 became apparent, namely:


I spent probably too long at the end deciding how to represent the two overlapping characters when the OOZLUM BIRD’s (presumably?) bill disappeared up where the sun doesn’t shine.  Should the Os be inside the loops of the R and D?  Should the R and D be inside the Os? Or should they just share cells?  None seemed wrong and one could argue the case for any of them, I think.

Many thanks again to Colleague.

Tim / Encota

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‘Where falls the axe?’ by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by Encota on 17 March 2017

What a clever puzzle!

As the theme began to surface, combined with a Title like that, there had to be a chance of Dr. Beeching making an appearance – but if he did, I couldn’t find him.

The Down clues each contained an extra word, the first letters of which appeared to spell out:


and the fourth letters in order seemed to spell:


But of course they didn’t mean these at all – but really were some 26-letter hidden anagram-based slogans.  From the ‘For The Trees’ camp:

  • Turn yew and poplar trees into worse

And from the Pro-Training camp:

  • Different view: must book ‘The Tree Express’

Well, perhaps 😉

Slightly more seriously for a moment, one of the clever parts about this puzzle was that, to add HIGH SPEED TWO onto the leading diagonal required six letter changes to the initially-filled grid.  And each of these six changes created a tree in its row: HOLLY, GARDENIA, SYCAMORE, YEW, ELDER and SALLOW.  (Of course that Cometary* anagram entered at 19a as TYCAMORE was a pretty big hint!)

That left the final instruction: REMOVE SIX TREES BUT KEEP HS-TWO.

I’ve read that to mean delete all the characters of the letters in the six Trees apart from those on the leading diagonal, so that the -OLLY of HOLLY is deleted, for example.  Seems to meet the Preamble’s requirements, anyway!

And the phrase in the circles reads CAN’T SEE THE WOOD, so Hedge-sparrow is clearly FOR THE TREES (I’d expect nothing else from someone with such a pseudonym, of course).

And I see there is initially that elusive HARE in Column 8 too – at least you think at first it’s HERE, but then it is (and so isn’t).  Simple, eh?

Great fun – thanks Hedge-sparrow!

cheers all

Tim / Encota

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