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Posts Tagged ‘Encota’

‘Milky’ by Malva

Posted by Encota on 15 June 2018

Malva L4504

I’d first of all like to offer my thanks to Malva for a nicely themed puzzle!

When I see Malva’s name it reminds me of a coffee advert that used to be on when I was a child, for something – I think it was – called “Mellow Birds” (or was that Mallow Birds?), so when the Title ‘Milky’ was also present I was doubly surprised.

And, as an aside, I see from the Listener Setter list that Malva used to be Dipper.  Why the change from a bird-themed name to a plant-themed one, I wonder?  Intriguing … I’d love to hear!

I think this was the third Malva I’ve solved – what with MINSMERE delightfully featuring in the first and RED-NECKED PHALAROPE in the second (I always see that pencilled into my copy of Chambers Crossword Dictionary whenever I refer to the ‘birds’ list …).

Initially PETROL/PETREL in the Thematic clues was a gentle way of confirming the Bird-based theme, in the Thematic clue:

Fuel converting oxygen to energy (6)

And I spent far too long trying to solve my last one:

Someone keen on confrontation appears at the end of fight and brawl (11)”,

knowing at that stage that it was a bird but incorrectly trying to shoe-horn in a T for the end of (figh)T, rather than spotting the charade SPAR ROW HAWK.  D’oh!

I also should have read the Preamble and noticed from the start that the rest of the clues were in conventional order.  I didn’t miss it for long – but long enough!  I’ll add that to my ever-growing list of PICNIC* items.

I’m hoping there’s no other 6-letter synonym for Milky that is also a Bird, so I have opted for GENTLE.


Tim / Encota

*The usual:   Problem In Chair Not In Crossword



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‘Property Management’ by Smudge

Posted by Encota on 8 June 2018

Crikey, Listener 4503 was tricky, wasn’t it?  I eventually succumbed to writing a few of those functions that I had always meant to for years, for future numerical puzzle-setting.  You perhaps know the sort: isprime() to test if the number in brackets is prime and so on.  The functions  istriang() and isdiag() soon followed.  Did it help much here?  Probably not.  In fact the most re-usable one was getdigit(number, digit) to let me select any single digit within a number e.g. to compare it with another, check if it is odd, …

My suspicion is that many seasoned numerical setters and solvers must have some of these at their fingertips and more than likely a lot more – though this was the first puzzle that finally encouraged me.

2018-05-21 07.03.38 copy

I think it was about Sunday lunchtime when I finally cracked L4503, having eventually used the final 5 lines of the Preamble for the first time to determine whether my LOI at 26ac should be 522 or 524.

I was left with the worrying suspicion that their surely must have been a much more straightforward Solution Path than mine.  The Mersenne primes helped get an initial toehold but some of the properties – especially for me ‘f’ and ‘i’ – seemed to give little info until right at the end.

But I did think that the hidden message telling us to indicate those different ways to reach that special number 4503 was good.  There were, I think:

  • 19 x 3 x 79
  • 57 x 79
  • 19 x 237 and even
  • 18012 / 4

Unbelievably well hidden, I hear you say.  My finished article therefore looked like this:

2018-05-22 07.57.02 copy

What was that?  You didn’t spot the hidden message??


Tim / Encota

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‘Two Solutions’ (or ‘Hip-Hop ft. Dr Dre’) by Quinapalus

Posted by Encota on 25 May 2018

I don’t know about you, but I found this one hard!  I am not a particularly fast solver but this one was much nearer to 10 hours than the (perhaps) more typical 3+ hours-ish!  I finished at around 1 a.m. Sunday.

The puzzle contained two clue types.  I’d seen this first clue type once before, I think, and even had a go at writing one or two in the past.  To recall, the clue was in a form such as:

<Definition1, with N letters> +

<Definition2, with N letters> +

<Wordplay for the (N-1) letters that Defs 1 & 2 have in common>

A gentle example appeared at 30d:

See stupid confuse wisest (7)

‘See’ is WITNESS, ‘stupid’ gives WITLESS and the rest of the clue ‘confuse wisest’ is the jumble-based wordplay for WIT.ESS.  Simple, eh?

The other clue type featured a misprint in each definition which had to be removed before solving.  Many of these I found tough, for example:

Raised letter containing leak and joint buckled (7)

I could see from checked letters very early on that this must be KNEEPAD – but why?

At long last I spotted that buckled should become BUCKLER, a protector according to Chambers, then it was PEE ‘N’ in DAK ( a letter), all reversed.  Always hard when two of the pieces of a clue are unknown to you!

Once a few letters started appearing in 5d I had .H.N..ND…… and wondered if it might be CHANSON DE GESTE, the Song Of Roland etc but that soon didn’t fit with other crossers.

[surreal mode on]

What with DJs appearing in various stages at 26ac and, later on, at 11ac, plus the mention of rapper Dr. Dré himself in 29ac, the theme was obvious:  hip-hop.  Given the entry at 5d, it was clearly all based around Peter Spirer’s 1997 hip-hop film documentary Rhyme and Reason

This was soon confirmed by finding, in the grid, RAP, in Row 5,  (Dr.) DRE at 29ac, and the hip-hop stars NAS and ICE-T from Spirer’s film in contiguous cells in the grid.  And, what with HIP and HOP being only one letter apart, this was surely part of the solution.
2018-05-07 22.14.38
There are those who feel I have completely lost the plot – and that the Solutions referred to in the Title are actually all drinks.  Again, finding in contiguous cells, LAGER, RED, RUM, TEA & CHA, as well as (Creme de) CASSIS already at 35ac gives some substance to this argument.  And when I found that PHANTASMAGORIA is a cocktail – involving melon & raspberry liqueurs with pineapple juice, if you’re asking – then that pretty much proved it.  Maybe.  But whoever heard of Listener setters & solvers liking alcohol, or a cup of tea, or both?  I therefore obviously discounted this option.
2018-05-07 22.13.28
Finally, I’m riddled with some vague thought that a Quadratic might be involved somehow … but as that’s only of second order, I’ve ignored it.
[surreal mode off]
We’ve had some amazing puzzles in Listener 2018 series already but this must surely be one of the finest.  Quinapalus has taken school-level Maths combined with a famous Oxford don’s poetry to create one of those delightful crossover puzzles that should suit polymaths everywhere.  Tough wordplay, an astounding grid, multiple angles to a theme including poetry, solving quadratics and the oxymoron that is simple complex numbers.  Though I suspect not everyone will agree, an ideal Listener puzzle, in my humble opinion!
Cheers all,
Tim / Encota

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‘What Have We Come To?’ by Kea

Posted by Encota on 18 May 2018

You solve puzzle 4500 and this phrase appears:


Here Kea is assuming all Listener solvers know their 20th Century music which is bound to be part of the theme: he is clearly referencing, in the jumble of the emboldened characters,  the lesser known song from their 1978 Parallel Lines album BLONDIE’S “LAX IN HAND”.



Bit busy this week – apologies for the shortened blog 🙂  Great puzzle Kea, many thanks!


Tim / Encota

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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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