Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin

Posts Tagged ‘Enigmatist’

Listener No 4677: Variety Show by Enigmatist

Posted by Dave Hennings on 8 Oct 2021

Well here’s a setter I haven’t seen at Listener-land before, so it must be a new kid on the block! Except, of course, we know that it is the pseudonym, along with Nimrod, of the head honcho over at Inquisitor-land. Not only that, but the Crossword Database ( and also the Listener website ( both show that he has had one previous Listener almost 30 years ago — no. 3194, Prayfail. The title probably says a lot and I won’t give any spoilers here in case you want to dig out the puzzle from your files and give it a go. Suffice it to say, the preamble contains the following: “In this puzzle, five Playfair codewords are to be deduced.”

But what were we faced with this week? First of all, it was a large grid; in Listener-world, “bloody enormous” would be more appropriate, it being 17×13. As if that weren’t enough, it was a carte blanche. Below that, we had a 10-line preamble which talked about larger-than-life characters and an endgame that seemed to require us to erase a lot of the grid. Finally, 57 clues, some of which ignored a letter in the wordplay of the answer and some included an extra wordplay letter not to be entered.

If you were tackling this puzzle on Friday evening, a couple of extra glasses of wine would seem appropriate. Only one thing for it — tackle the clues.

However I were to describe my solving process, it would come nowhere near conveying how unbelievably tricky I found this puzzle. The whole concept of identifying the larger-than-life characters (obviously large letters) but then ignoring where they clashed with across answers which were to be entered normally, in the words of the Ella Fitzgerald song I was “Bewitched, bothered and bewildered”.

I reckon I got to the end over the course of several days and lots of visits, each of which inched me towards the finishing line. It is probably best to watch the animation above to see how this crossword knits together although my solving experience was nowhere near that logical. Sadly it is not one of my better animations — really just too much going on. Anyway, the stages given are as follows:

  • The blank grid;
  • The bars that you would end up with even though they weren’t needed in the finished grid — and which would have helped in getting the rest of the grid! In fact, having it as a carte blanche just seemed to add an extra level of complexity;
  • The skeleton down entries that clash with the acrosses and which would have given the theme if you were licky to suss it out this early;
  • The entries clued with an extra wordplay letter which spell out Only the descriptions;
  • The across entries to be entered normally clashing with the downs;
  • The final grid

To be honest, this was really a puzzle more likely to be seen in Magpie and I wonder what grade the editors would have given it — D or E? It would be remiss of me if I didn’t admit to making a major booboo in my entry. Initially thinking that Posh would be a FASHION IDOL, I blindly filled in the missing I and D not realising that that spelt out FASHION IDLE when it should, of course, have been FASHIONABLE. Even I had to smile to myself!

Thanks for a really tough workout, Enigmatist. I’ll be on the lookout for your next Listener, although hopefully not in 30 years time.

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

Variety Show by Enigmatist

Posted by shirleycurran on 8 Oct 2021

I howled in disbelief as I downloaded a 17 X 13 carte blanche grid with just ‘Clues‘, by Enigmatist. We are used to a Telegraph Toughie struggle every second Friday and know that this will be no piece of cake after last week’s gentle ringing of the Bow bells and the slightly more challenging Vismut orders of bell-ringing the week before.

The ten-line preamble leaves us somewhat mystified (if only I had read it more carefully – but don’t I always say that and never learn?) We did understand that we needed two coloured stripes down the sides of our 57 clues (one solver has said to me “How on earth are they going to fit that into the space in the Times?”) – one for 24 letters ignored in wordplay, that were going to be used ‘along with the (larger-than-life) characters’ to stand for ‘certain letters’ in down entries, and the other for extra letters in wordplay – just 19 of them – that would tell us what to keep in the grid ‘erasing the rest’.

The second set eventually spelled out for us that we were to keep ONLY THE DESCRIPTIONS and the pre-ramble defined those by ‘the characters’ unchecked down cells must be filled to complete descriptions (synonyms of the usual ones)’. That was almost the straw that broke the Numpty camels’ back, as we were still struggling to create or find those synonyms nearly 24 hours after the theme had emerged.

It took long enough for the theme to emerge. Initially I had gleefully realized that INBY, IMPESSED, NESTS and BESTSELLER would conveniently start a corner of the grid , but, of course, we needed to understand that ‘across clues are entered normally’ but down clues ARE NOT! They split up and fill the spaces. Fortunately, we kept a record of those ignored 24 letters (even the 2 Ys in AYE-AYE and both the C and O in ICEBOUND) and eventually, when they all fitted into just five of the columns, understood that we had SCARY, SPORTY, GINGER, VICTORIA and GEMMA – the SPICE GIRLS. The extra five-letter word to be added and the ring prompted us that this must be a Spice Girls cover.

The VICTORIAN clue held us up for a while with just the N in the wordplay. (It shouldn’t have done! I instructed for four seasons in the Mt Buller Ski School and every Wednesday, the boys from Geelong Grammar School came up for ski lessons. It was the school where Prince Charles spent a year. We instructors were invited down there for dinner once a season and on one memorable occasion, a roo bounced on the car bonnet as we drove down. He bounced off again but left a mighty dint!) I have fond Geelong memories.

Enough! We were almost abandoning for want of those synonyms and they were staring at us. But have I forgotten something? The oenophiles! Of course Enigmatist has to qualify – he is due to organise another York gathering of sloggers and betters in October and we know where to find him in his favourite York pub. It was the other Numpty who decided ‘Drink in matter cryptically (5, two words)’ had to be SUP UP and it was in the ODE. So cheers, Enigmatist and thank you for what was probably the most challenging Listener we have ever solved.

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: | 1 Comment »