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Posts Tagged ‘eXternal’

Strange Requests by eXternal

Posted by shirleycurran on 28 April 2017

Fools’ errands

The preamble for eXternal’s neat little grid didn’t say very much to us and we shelved it (as we so often do with a preamble that thoroughly foxes us) deciding that all would come clear as we solved. I have a terrible admission – we had confidently filled our grid and double-checked that we had used all the thirteen words that had clearly emerged as ‘one word definitions for the 11 affected entries and the two parts of the sixth item’ before I was able to make very much of the preamble and piece it all together. In effect, we had a full and hopefully correct grid before that penny-drop-moment that brought a rueful smile to my face. Even those words ‘LONG WEIGHT’ had appeared in the obvious place, the leading diagonal: what’s more, they had helped us complete KIRN and CHIGOE, though they didn’t say much to us until I asked Auntie Google and she led me straight to ‘fools’ errands’.

It was the explanation of a LONG WEIGHT that suddenly shed daylight on my woolly thinking and I realized why we had found ELBOW GREASE, a GLASS HAMMER, the BUBBLE from a SPIRIT-LEVEL, a COPPER MAGNET and of course, STRIPY PAINT (Yes, I admit that I thought my favourite clue, ‘Stripy horse (5)’ Z???A was finally appearing in a Listener – but it was not to be.)

We had, as usual, run through the clues before beginning to solve and, of course, I had noticed the stripy horse clue ‘Tipple before breaking open some beer (5)’ A in PINT, producing PAINT, and, of course that confirmed membership of the Listener Setters’ Tippling outfit for eXternal, but what was more interesting was that the grid required a six-letter word and very soon STRIPY was the only one that would fit – to be confirmed by one of the extra words, ‘banded’ that emerged from a different clue.

That led us to check word lengths which happily pointed us at most of the suspect clues – in fact to all but one of them – the COPPER MAGNET where the two parts of the item were of the same length. That was what ultimately held us up in that top, left-hand corner but, of course the extra ‘bobby’ told us that COPPER had to be entered even though the clue, ‘Publication on lace – it’s attractive (6)’ had given us MAGNET.

And so it went on: we found that we were removing various words for fools from clues, leaving us the words that went into the grid. MAL(div)ES left MALES, confirmed by an extra ‘men’; (clot)HEARS was confirmed by ‘tries’; FI(shmo)NGER by ‘pilfer’; C(ass)OCKED by ‘upright’; BAL(loon)ING by ‘bundling’; and finally (mug)HUNTER by ‘watch’.

The additional extra words that confirmed our solve were ‘insubstantial’ for the BUBBLE, ‘marathon’ and ‘pressure’ for LONG WEIGHT and ‘mirror’ for GLASS.

We had realized at once that we were extracting a set of fools without drawing the obvious conclusion that they were performing the fools’ errands and collecting those six ‘items for retrieval’ of the preamble. So I suppose we were the fools, but thank you, anyway, eXternal. Quite a feat to fit those fools into words that symmetrically surrounded the grid.

The HARES – of course! A couple of them lurking in the grid, as usual, even if somewhat jumbled and scrunched up.

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Listener No 4445: Strange Requests by eXternal

Posted by Dave Hennings on 28 April 2017

Another visit from eXternal this week, the setter my spell-checker is constantly getting annoyed at with his capital X not being at the start. It was just a year since his last, with Deucalion and Pyrrha repopulating the earth with stones which turned into men and women. (Personally, I think stones would be a more intelligent alternative to some people we’re currently lumbered with!)

Anyway, here we had six answers losing a messenger, six items made from two parts, in five cases one part clued and the other forming an entry, and thirteen clues with an extra word reflecting all this.

1ac MAGNET, 10ac OLOGY, 3dn POOR, 4dn EYOT plus ARTISTIC, ELEGIAC, VOLUNTEER and a couple more all went in within fifteen minutes. Of course, POOR didn’t mesh with MAGNET, so I guessed that one of them was my first two-part clue. The rest I wrote in as though they were final entries rather than requiring other halves, and luckily this proved true for some these first few. And only one extra word had come to light, in 3dn upright, but that was soon joined by mirror in 5dn.

Solving then became a bit sporadic, and it was only when I got to 26dn MUG-HUNTER for a 6-letter entry that I presumed I had my first ‘messenger’ clue. But was it MUG or HUN that had to leave? Luckily, a short while later, I came to 38ac FISHMONGER for another (6). I say ‘luckily’, but either SHMO or MONG could leave. Both were words for a fool, like MUG, but it looked as though I was on the right track. (Here it would prove to be SHMO that got banished.)

So, fools were being dropped and the only thing that came to mind was “A fool and his money are soon parted.” However, the puzzle’s title didn’t really gel with that idea, although 1ac COPPER could fit. Even though answer lengths were given, it was sometimes tricky to determine which were the ones losing a fool and which needed a counterpart. This was especially true of SPIRIT LEVEL at 22ac, where BUBBLE proved to be the entry.

All in all, it took some googling to track down what was going on here and it was only when I could see LONG WEIGHT in the main NW–SE diagonal that everything came together.

1ac COPPER (defined by the extra word “bobby”) MAGNET
22ac BUBBLE (insubstantial) for a SPIRIT LEVEL
37ac GLASS (mirror) HAMMER
9dn STRIPY (banded) PAINT
11dn ELBOW (joint) GREASE
NW–SE LONG (marathon) WEIGHT (pressure)

I particularly liked the fools and the words they were leaving:

6ac MAL(div)ES — males
30ac (clot)HEARS — tries
38ac FI(shmo)NGER — pilfer
1dn C(ass)OCKED — upright
22dn BAL(loon)ING — bundling
26dn (mug)HUNTER — watch

I must admit that I was totally out of my depth with this puzzle, never having been asked for any of the items in the grid. Well, in IT you wouldn’t be! Good fun, thanks eXternal, and a shame that Handyman took the previous week’s slot.

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Strange Requests by eXternal

Posted by Encota on 28 April 2017

A long time ago, in a workplace far, far away…the themed items in eXternal’s puzzle could easily have resulted in a title of The Apprentice, or similar.  I suspect many seasoned workers have taken, or heard of others taking, the (slightly bizarre) pleasure of sending their new wet-behind-the-ears Apprentice off to Stores (with a Strange Request) to pick up a “long weight”.  The Storeman is, of course, in on the joke and says “No problem, I’ll just get you one”, then disappears into the back room, puts the kettle on, his feet up and reads the newspaper, for a LONG time.  As far as I can see, all the items featured in this fun puzzle are on the same list: “I’ve lost the bubble in my spirit level – do go and pick one up from Stores for me, there’s a good lad” (or similar patronising words).  [Aside: “All my Apprentices say that I’m always patronising but I told them, ‘There’s no need to worry your little heads about that’ “.]

I did this puzzle on Saturday, having cycled from a comms-free location in the middle of Thetford Forest to the village of East Harling on the Norfolk/Suffolk border to pick up the paper,  in between (largely failed) efforts to nudge some of April’s Magpie puzzles forward.  [As of 10th April, all six grids filled but only three puzzles complete…hmm!]

26d’s MUG-HUNTER (GEM UNHURT*) and 36a’s ‘Watch’ for HUNTER were the first pair I spotted, and things progressed pretty quickly from there.

Of course the messenger requesting these things is being made a fool of, so (I think) a FOOL synonym needed removing from six of the solutions before entry, viz.:

  • FI(shmo)NGER
  • C(ass)OCKED
  • (mug)HUNTER
  • (clot)HEARS
  • BAL(loon)ING, &
  • MAL(div)ES

A clever touch from eXternal to keep all modified entries as real words – I know how this adds to the setting challenge!

I’m off now to give a private talk (at Cliveden, Bucks) on “How to solve cryptic crosswords (for those too afraid to ask!)” – hopefully by the time you read this it’ll have gone well!

cheers all,

Tim /Encota

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Castaways by eXternal

Posted by shirleycurran on 8 April 2016

EXternal 001Misprints in some clues but clearly not too many as they are going to spell out the names of a husband and wife. We also have to thematically modify six answers initially and a further two when our grid is complete. In addition we are looking for extra words in eight clues that will define the modified entries. That’s not too daunting so we begin our solve with ‘Castaways’ somehow identifying the theme.

Yes, of course I have checked that eXternal retains his membership card for the Listener Wine Lovers’ Gang and I was very close to the end of the clues before I was reassured by ‘Foam covering upended old man – he’s drunk (5)’ Did I say reassured! He seemed to be in very poor SHAPE (PA, in HE’s*)

We enjoyed these clues; they were sufficiently unambiguous for us to be able to tease out eight extra words or sets of words with little difficulty and we soon knew that our modified words were going to define STATIONERY CASES, JAWBONE, RELAXED, INFAMOUS BIBLICAL CITY, STEAM BATH, BARREL ORGANS, PRAYER and ELIZABETHAN INSTRUMENT.

Finding words to modify was not so easy and we had the grid three quarters full before the other Numpty, who had already commented that SAXONY was too long for the five-letter light (and, of course, led us to count the other five in the list of answers that were to be modified by the actions of the husband and wife team, establishing that 6ac, 40ac and 20d had modified lengths for the changed words). “SAUNA”, he triumphantly declared “that’s the steam bath”, and seeing that XONY became UNA nudged us towards the penny drop moment.

DEUCALION and PYRRHA came next. We had heard of Deucalion but needed Wikipedia to tell us that this pair, in an earlier flood myth than the Noah story, being told to throw mother over their shoulders, hurled earth or stones (Gaia) which became men and women. Modifying XONY gave us ONYX and that, obligingly turned into UNA so we now saw what the thematic ‘castaways’ were.

Time for a Numpty red herring. ATOMIC  fitted nicely into the letters we had at 20 and I mindlessly slotted it in. It was only later, when we realized that the clue led us to APYRETIC that we realized that TOM would rightfully belong in an across clue, and that we had to replace six letters of APYRETIC to give us the stone PYRITE and a female name, TONI (with ATONIC removing the ‘relaxed’ definition from our list) . I wonder how many solvers will be equally careless.

Of course, that was the danger of this crossword. We could fit DOM, MAX and PETER into the across clues and TONI, DORA and UNA into the downs, making words that corresponded with that CITY, JAWBONE, STATIONERY CASES, RELAXED, an INSTRUMENT and a STEAM BATH, without solving the original clues and working out that BERYL* had to come from SOBERLY, TOPAZ* from ZAPOTILLA, GARNET* from PAGEANTRY and so on. In fact it was just as I was falling asleep some hours later that I realized that we had not actually solved 1d (Curse to engulf market town (7)) I muttered at the other Numpty who, already half asleep, said “It must be BANBURY with the BURY giving RUBY.”

With a full grid and six names (including that rather anomalous DOM) we clearly had to find one more lady and one more man and the solutions were defined as PRAYER and BARREL ORGANS. That J in the prompts said it all. The stone had to be JET and only DES would complete a real word in its place, BEDESMAN (a prayer) which left us eight letters that conveniently turned SALOPETTES to SERINETTES (barrel organs).

I love it when only real words remain after thematic manipulations. From start to finish, this was a most satisfactory compilation. Thank you eXternal.

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Following the Brief by eXternal

Posted by shirleycurran on 13 February 2015

Certain signs?

Certain signs?

The title Following the Brief said nothing at all to me at first, but the preamble to eXternal’s compilation gave a series of steps we were going to follow that would clearly make sense in the end. Of course, I had to check that eXternal still qualifies for the Elite Oenophile Listener and, with consternation, read right down the across clues encountering tobacco, new food, fish and a range of computer clues but not a drop of alcohol. Thankfully eXternal more than redeemed himself, after dubiously dabbling with ‘possession of grass’ by ‘Stone stopping the many becoming drunk? (8)’ which gave an &Lit clue to AMETHYST (ST in THE MA[N]Y*), then ‘Scene of maritime struggle, sailor regularly heaved out lurid alcoholic drink (6)’ AB + U[I] + KIR and his ‘Short time until party (4)’ giving SEC T[O].

We solved steadily but with some difficulty until CERTAIN SIGNS led us to a quotation ‘CERTAIN SIGNS PRECEDE CERTAIN EVENTS’ (Oh thank you for Wikipedia) and Cicero. I had no idea that Cicero was known for his declarations about brevity but the other Numpty has read some popular novel about his slave Tiro, hiding in the Arras (or was that Polonius?) and taking down an interview in shorthand.

A little research confirmed that this was our theme and solving speeded up when we could locate the four clues where a ‘number of consecutive letters’ had to be omitted: NOT[AT]E, OPE[RATIO]N, POS[SUM]S and S[AND]PIT. Oh yes, we were being exceptionally numptyish, as the word-count had spelled these out for us from the start. It is good advice, isn’t it, that I received from Samuel when I first started LWO blogging? “I always read down and up the first and last letters of clues and check the word length before beginning to solve – it can save a lot of time.”

We had AT/ RATIO/ SUM and AND. We had to change these in accordance with the quotation, so they had to become ‘certain signs’ – more of that later – and precede certain events.

By this time, we had some ‘events’ in our grid and, by inserting those letters in the cell before OPERA, CIRCUS, CENSUS and DRAMA, we were removing the letters I,R,T and O. These could clearly form TIRO, the fellow who slavishly followed Cicero, and a little hunting produced his name, running backwards in (n)ORIT(e). That was a straight line so we highlighted him. The inserted letters gave us SENATOR, SATURATION, MANDREL and RESUME – real words. This was entertaining setting.

What was left to do, after we had filled the few remaining gaps in our grid. Hmmm! We had to decide what signs we would insert in those cells. Discussion ensued. I was all for putting in the signs that I (as a one-time shorthand typist and a modern user of the Internet) would automatically use for AT (@) RATIO (/) SUM (+) and AND (.) but I married a nuclear physicist (the other Numpty) who painstakingly explained to me that (:) would be the scientific preference for RATIO and that a whole range of symbols defines SUM, depending on the context (+ for digits, ∪ for sets, the sigma symbol (Σ) for series and an elongated ∫ for integrals). What would Tiro have used? The sigma, probably, but he certainly used the ET (Latin AND) symbol for which he is known (it isn’t on my keyboard – a sort of right-leaning cliff edge!)

Dilemma! This has been an enjoyable solve (Thank you eXternal) and here we are again, wondering how to complete our grid and whether the editors will throw up their hands and say “Accept anything, little squiggles, dots, splodges – whatever!” Yes, I have carefully checked the BRB and see that (Σ) and (:) appear in the mathematical symbols appendix as SUM and RATIO but if @ and & (which appears defined as ampersand) are acceptable, I imagine the other possible ‘signs’ have to be as well …..

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