Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin

Posts Tagged ‘Encota’

L4587: 'Of Course' by Malva

Posted by Encota on 17 January 2020

A neat puzzle with an infuriating endgame!

I had a bout of thickness, where I had no idea what the Title was referring to. So I visited the Nineteenth Hole for inspiration …

After too long, it turned out I was on a golf course. That achieving two or three under being called an Eagle and an Albatross I did know. Spotting them in the forms highlighted above – in particular ALCATRAS – was much, much harder!

Finding the additions in the clues was fun,
e.g 35d. Prune aster to wrap in waxed cloth (4)

With a couple of crossing letters and the definition ‘to wrap in waxed cloth’ it was clear that the answer was almost certainly CERE. But why?

Realising that ‘aster’ was actually ‘3 under’ and should have been reading ‘asteroid‘ made it clear. The clue really read: Prune asteroid to wrap in waxed cloth (4)

So, start with CERES, prune off the S and we’re sorted. Good fun!


Tim / Encota

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

L4585 "In this world of sin" by Pointer

Posted by Encota on 3 January 2020

What an excellent grid that was! Though after now solving a few Pointers over the years, I am beginning to realise that that maybe the norm!

Perhaps I was not the only solver who had also been grappling with another – tricky – Pointer in December’s excellent Magpie magazine. That one took me a little while to fill the grid – and a week after that I still haven’t finished the endgame. So when this week’s L appeared with Pointer’s name at the top, and it didn’t take too long to fill the grid, I was worrying that I might have been here before! What next?

And having said the grid filled quickly, I did manage to hold myself up for a while in 1 across, where I had converted ‘noodles’ (the verb) into BOPS, as creating a certain sort of music. However, when it didn’t fit with ZEBRAS as ‘African animals’ at 8 down and I had double-checked that there wasn’t a cross called a ZEPRA first (well, it might have been a cross between a ZEBRA and part of a coconut, mightn’t it?), then I realised my mistake and SOBA for noodles went in.

My solving route then went a bit like this:

  • spot TIARA over HOLLY as a representation of ‘the holly bears the crown’. That’s the highlighted bit found …
  • double check the extra four words from the Down clues: STAR< as ‘the rising of the Sun’; FREE REIN as ‘the running of the (rein)deer’; GROAN as ‘the playing of the (merry) organ’, and ‘sweet singing in thE CHOir’ for ECHO. Good carol chorus. Not bad at all 🙂
  • try and guess what path the Decagon might take in practice. Get nowhere
  • spot a few more trees to go with HOLLY: LEMON, ACER, ASH, BAY jumped out easily. At this stage I wasn’t sure why trees!
  • use reference book to try and find more: there are two SALs, two RATA, a TAWA and an ANTIAR. That makes eleven – and we only wanted nine! Check the Preamble to see if repeats are allowed or not. Seems ambiguous to me.
  • Look again for the Definition to form the Decagon. Finally spot STORAGE FOR WINE ETC. Trace it back to find ‘THE CASK OR BARREL AS STORAGE FOR WINE ETC.’ Ah, that’s a definition of WOOD!
  • See if that helps eliminate two trees. One can draw the decagon through the edge of Column two so that the left-hand SAL still remains within it. Is that required? Re-check that ‘in nine distinct rows and columns’ part of the Preamble and decide that only one of the RATA/TAWA pair on Row 7 can be used.
  • Finally decide that Pointer must have been thinking of nine different trees and opt for ignoring Column 3’s SAL and Row 7’s RATA. Triple-check that PAN isn’t a tree, given the upper part of the Decagon makes its way round those letters so clearly. No – betel or betel leaf, not a tree. Hope that I haven’t fallen into a trap
  • Take a step back and finally cotton on to it being a representation of ‘for all the TREES that are in the WOOD … the holly bears the crown’.

And relax! Many thanks, Pointer! Now back to the seaside to solve that other puzzle ….

I hope you’ve all had a decent Christmas and I wish you all the very best for this New Year.

Cheers all,

Tim / Encota

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

L4583: "Potatoes" by JFD

Posted by Encota on 20 December 2019

Starting with the Title, I am hoping my logic of approximately equal items is JFD’s train of thought:

  • Les nourritures terrestres ->
  • Fruits of the Earth ->
  • Les Pommes de Terres ->
  • Potatoes

This week’s puzzle was based upon a quote from Gide which translates, again roughly – my French is middling at best – to: “Let every emotion become an intoxication for you”. i.e. No half-measures – now that seems a good rule for life …

One clue in particular (6 across) stood out for me:

Out of bed, Queen dresses at Balmoral or Sandringham, maybe (7)

You may recall, the wordplay in this puzzle led to the answer with an extra letter. In this case it is (U)P (‘out of bed’) + ER (‘Queen’) + HAPS (‘covers up’, with Balmoral as a Scottish_indicator and Sandringham as an East_Anglian_indicator, the two regions where HAPS has that meaning!), and with the definition being that seemingly throwaway ” , maybe ” pretending to be a Definition By Example indicator. So the answer is PERHAPS. Fabulous! We see a lot of good clues in the better cryptic offerings each week but that has to be one of the best in recent times! YMMV etc. caveats applying, of course.

Wishing you all a great Xmas.


Tim / Encota

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

‘Transformers’ by Yorick

Posted by Encota on 6 December 2019

Blimey! Not only were the Clues in Yorick’s puzzle very challenging – nearer the end I was solving at around 1 per hour! – but the entry technique was sneakily tricky – at least for this solver!! This must have been one of the hardest puzzles of the year as I don’t remember when I was last still finishing off the puzzle on the Monday morning!

You may well know the sort of progress – the sort when you’ve solved, say, 25 out of 40 of the clues and even have most of the hints for the endgame guessable – but have little idea what to do next! The swapped-around hints appeared to read:

  • ROTAT…

… with a few other gaps here and there. It was interpreting these that I had trouble with! I initially assumed that E-W meant enter the answers from right to left, and that N-S meant enter one Group of answers up the page. How wrong I was!!

I had drawn myself a little table, with Groups 1 to 4 across the top and the list of four techniques (above) down the side. And started to try and eliminate which couldn’t be which – Group 4 can’t be ‘NORMAL’ entries, as the word NORMAL came from that Group’s hidden word, that sort of thing. My next step was the one that wasted me a day! I noticed that 3- and 8- letter entries could only go in Across positions in the Grid. So, I thought, surely any Group containing any (3) or (8) length clues cannot have a NORTH-SOUTH FLIP applied to them ‘as a whole’ (as the Preamble states), since surely N-S FLIP can only apply to Down entries? Can’t it??

This soon led to a contradiction whose details I won’t bore you with (LIONS and RHINO appeared to have to be entered vertically but they couldn’t fit) – and so I was stuck!

I next tried swapping all Ns for Ss (and v.v) in what seemed to be an appropriate group before entering the results – but that went nowhere, too!

Eventually I re-started the Gridfill by assuming Group 1 were to be entered Normally and tried some interesting jigsawing of them until the gaps left looked a bit like some of the other Groups’ words. Those finally slotted in – but what now?

I had already found two of the Misprints and was trying to interpret them. My initial assumption: ‘bad’ in Group 3 looks like a possible Anagram Indicator, ‘backing’ in Group 2 looks like an ‘Across’ Reversal Indicator – all fell apart when ‘heads’ appeared in Group 4. I tried hard to interpret that as a ‘Down clue’ Reversal Indicator but (luckily) couldn’t convince myself. So what now?

I then wrote out the letter-specific changes from the three Misprints:

  • p becomes b
  • d becomes b
  • p becomes d

Those looked more interesting! The first could be achieved with a N-S Flip, the second with an E-W flip, and the last with a Rotation. Aha!

I did wonder if all entries needed to be in lower case, given the transformations above, but found that fell apart when an N flipped N-S had to look the same as an N flipped E-W (e.g. where SENNIT meets REINS in the bottom left hand corner). So capitals it must be.

As I type this it’s now Monday morning and for perhaps only the third time this year I’ll have to put a First Class stamp on my combined (here 4581 + 4580) entry to ensure it gets to JEG in good time for Thursday – and keep the faith with the Postal Service, of course!

My thanks go to Yorick for what must be one of the most challenging puzzles of the year! And I wish John Green the very best of luck with marking all those transposed characters!!

Tim / Encota


I only noticed (on the Tuesday after) that the paper copy of The Times on Saturday (in the UK at least) came with a ’tracing paper’-based ad for a new VW on the outer cover.  Clearly this was planned all along – and almost certainly commissioned – by Yorick and the Listener editors, as an essential tool for the Solve.  Thus could we draw the puzzle Grid on it, then enter Group 1 from the front the Right Way Up, two Groups from the back of the tracing paper (including one of those inverted), and finally Group 4 from the front again, this time with the Tracing Paper upside down.
Unfortunately I only realised this after I had finished solving it – this could have saved me hours!  I even missed the hint for the alternative clue for VIEW in Group 3:  “VW surrounding – that’s a thought” So obvious after the event …
Or maybe not 😉

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

L4577: ‘The Gaudy’ by Paddock

Posted by Encota on 8 November 2019

I don’t know about you … but for me the theme for this neat puzzle by Paddock dropped out quite quickly. 14ac read:

Brave Joshua’s first to come out [2 7] after collapse (6)

… where the square bracketed part was explained by the Preamble to be part of a novel’s title. What with ‘Heroic’ being a synonym for ‘Brave’ then it looked very much like JHEROIC* being part of the book title and that looked very much like Jericho. But isn’t that part of a Morse novel’s title &/or part of Oxford? Ah yes, ‘The Dead of Jericho‘. After that the others soon became clear.

15ac originally solved as CODEX, with this being the one clue where the wordplay omitted a consecutive pair of letters. It transpired that two meanings of ‘consecutive’ applied, with the missing two letters in the Wordplay being the D&E of CODEX.

As an aside, I did wonder if I could spot a hint of COLIN DEXTER hiding in this part of the grid, that finally got changed to MORSE? Perhaps coincidence?

13ac’s WOX to mean WAXED or and old word for GREW was a new one to me and an intriguing word! I wonder if I’ll remember it when it next turns up in 1000+ puzzles’ time? Knowing me, probably not!

The one clue I failed to parse properly was 27d’s:

Felt revulsion at shifting [3 4] bodies about (5).

At this stage I had HA.ED and so it was hard not to jump to the conclusion that the answer was HATED, defined by Felt revulsion (at). But [3 4] had become ‘the dead’ from the relevant Morse novel. It almost felt like the missing D&E from 14ac had reappeared here with HATED being derived from {THE (de)AD}*. No other HA.ED possibilities seemed to make sense, so HATED I entered into the grid. Don’t you just intensely dislike it when that happens? I always feel that, if you can’t parse a clue in the Listener then you may well have the answer wrong. I await the solution with interest!

I also failed to get the full significance of the Title. Auntie Google noted that The Gaudy was an Oxford college celebration of some sort and referenced one Morse story and also Dorothy L Sayers. But that is as far as I managed. ‘Enigmatic death guy‘ or similar as a description of either Morse or his creator? At this point I will stop clutching at straws!

Many thanks to Paddock (& to the editors) for another classy puzzle!


Tim / Encota

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »