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Posts Tagged ‘Ferret’

One or the Other by Hurón

Posted by shirleycurran on 19 Jul 2019

“A newcomer?” we mused, but it didn’t take us long to realize that this masterly set of clues was compiled by no newcomer. A friend has commented that Hurón is a subtle combination of the pseudonyms of the two setters but it is too subtle for me even though I know who they are. I can’t exclude these founder members from the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Outfit, even though I found not a drop of wine in their clues or grid – unless I can include the WHITE (the thermometer is registering 43 degrees here so that is the one to chill and drink!) It took us ages to suss the wordplay of ‘… in other words about the least reliable’ [I] E around WHIT giving ‘reliable’ which is a meaning of WHITE and producing the I that we needed for DRAW MIRROR IMAGE. They must have deliberately made that and the clue to FACES fairly obscure so that we didn’t cotton onto the theme too quickly. It was those two symmetrical entries that suggested the theme to us long before we found the RUBY VASE. Yes, I suppose that ruby is red, too, so I’m raising a couple of glasses – Cheers Hurón!

I wonder whether anyone else’s workings look like ours. I find it really difficult to decide whether letters are omitted from the wordplay or extra, produced by it, and have to colour code if I have any hope of performing the endgame. The task was not rendered easier by our initial mis-reading of the pre-ramble (yes it was a bit of a ramble but would have been kinder had it told us in simple words that one clue of each pair was normal). We spent our first hour of solving convincing ourselves that each pair consisted of a clue with a missing letter and one with one or two extra letters. “Read the preamble Numpties!”

When the other Numpty disappeared to cook something, I focussed on the words and saw why we had found no extra letters in the clues for CRASSER, ROBE, AGOUTA, CHEESE, INESCULENT, LASER, AMOEBAE,  etc. It was the initial letters of those last three that suggested DOUBLE-ACTING at 1 across, and our solve shifted into first gear.

The theme had to be a RUBIN VASE, though we didn’t know, until we consulted Wiki, that that was its name. I wondered why we were given that cryptic clue in the preamble ‘Leader of Whitechapel gallery fully into data processing’ (W TATE + UP in PP) but realised that we could have solved the clues in each pair in any order so that bit of extra help was needed.

I’ve had a number of people muttering to me about having to use up their blue pencils or highlighters for last week’s celebration of Scotland’s glorious midsummer victory – now they can mutter about the ruby! Lovely, thank you, Hurón!


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Moving Up and Down by Ferret

Posted by shirleycurran on 3 May 2019

One part of the wise advice that Roddy Forman would give to setters was that the device used in a crossword should be thematic. With that in mind as we read Ferret’s preamble, we were already prompted to think of installations that go up and down, and, of course, a funicular was the first to spring to mind (Mont Blanc and the Aiguille du Midi with its dramatic teleferique are visible from our front lawn) and I had memories of singing that song ‘Funiculi, Funicula (and disliking it) when I was the stand-in cat in a youth club Dick Whittington pantomime.

Solutions to half the vertical clues were to go up and an equal number to go down. Words were moving up and down in an equally balanced way within clues, the central columns were going to do just the same, and even the title obeyed the rule. Roddy would have been delighted. He would probably have appreciated the alcohol too: ‘Encounter involving Bass and US brewery (5)’ We moved ‘done’ up and ‘encounter’ down and put a B in PAST giving PABST which the other numpty knew to be an American brewery. (He’s an astonishing mine of weird and obscure information but I suppose that’s a trait shared by Listener solvers!) Ferret continued the alcohol theme with ‘He sold liquor to soldiers leaving Ulster (6)’ Again the other numpty produced a word from his arcane store. “It was a SUTLER who sold alcohol to soldiers.” so we realised that ULSTER had to be ‘working’, moved that word up and dropped the ‘leaving’ from the clue above. Cheers, Ferret! Membership of the Listener Oenophile lot retained.

We were lucky with the long words, ‘stated former’ anagramming to TERMS OF TRADE, and ‘old fossil’ suggesting PETRIFACTION and we particularly enjoyed PEANUT BUTTER made up of PEA(r) round NUTTER (a fruitcake) including BUT (merely). Our grid filled quickly and nicely with just a few doubts. We had no idea that DEF could mean ‘brilliant (Practised fitting around cut brilliant, giving us APT round DE(f) = ADEPT) but, as is so often the case, our grid was full before we made sense of the hint and we felt obliged to work backwards to it and correct a few of the words we had wrongly chosen to take up and down in the funicular.

VESUVIUS had appeared to prompt us that we were looking at a NEAPOLITAN INCLINED PLANE RAILWAY. Super setting and great fun. Thank you Ferret.

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Listener No 4550: Moving Up and Down by Ferret

Posted by Dave Hennings on 3 May 2019

It has been over two years since Ferret’s last Listener, Fieldwork with its theme of Crop Rotation. This week, we weren’t going round in circles, but up and down. This applied not only to the clues, where a word in each pair moved down with a word moving up to replace it, but also in the Vertical clues, where half were entered down and half up.

All in all, good fun trying to work out what words needed to move in order to make sense of the clues. Eventually, the initial letters of the moved words led to Neapolitan inclined plane railway. The last two words made me think we were dealing with Trains and Boats and Planes, but FUNICULI FINICULA soon became apparent in the central two columns of the grid with composer DENZA (who has a lot to answer for) and lyricist TURCO appearing there for good measure.

The song was composed in 1880. Unlike the funicular railway itself, it wasn’t destroyed in the eruption of Mount VESUVIUS in 1944. [Who just said “Unfortunately?” Ed.]

Thanks, Ferret. It’s always nice to see everything in a puzzle coming together thematically. And thanks to Turco and Denza for having the same number of letters in their names.

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Fieldwork by Ferret

Posted by shirleycurran on 2 Dec 2016

crop-rotationThe pseudonym Ferret conjures up fears of ferocious mustelidine battles (mainly based on Magpie experiences) so there was a hint of trepidation as the Numpties downloaded this wee thing with its very economical clues, but we were delighted by the clarity of the pre-ramble and immediately identified four clues in each quadrant that needed special treatment and the one that was unclued, that was to be completed by the corrected misprints from two others in the quadrant.

We have seen Ferret, glass in hand at both Listener and Magpie events (time for a Magpie plug – if you were the moaner who complained that this was one to attract new solvers and too easy for you, the Magpie provides six more Listener-style puzzles each month including one numerical one – Oh no, did I mention those anathematical monstrosities – and do we suffer one next week? … misery!)  but I did still need to confirm Ferret’s admission to the Listener Setters’ Drinkie Elite – and scanned his clues.

Disaster, what do I find? Some soft cheese, ‘Inclined to eat small volume of soft cheese (9)’ a normal clue that gives us PRONE around VOL O = PROVOLONE, ‘Foul-smelling assorted salami sandwiches taste of mace (7)’ SALAMI* around M[ace] = MIASMAL (What a superbly deceptive clue with that verbal  use of ‘sandwiches’ disguised as someone’s olid packed lunch!). There were fish and mutton too, ‘Finally trap fish in dune, slippery with its skin still on (8)’ [tra]P + EEL in DUNE* giving UNPEELED, ‘Buff fellow consumes mutton (4)’ (of course that led to DON round EM giving DEMON but it was at once clear that we had to dock the last letter as only four cells were available; so in went DEMO).

There was a copious drug use (or abuse), ‘Decided a long time ago to give up ecstasy after heroin became difficult to obtain’ (HARDGOT though the word play foxed me) and ‘Cherished a desire for something mood changing: dope and a bit of horse (5)’ DOPE + H[orse]* = HOPED (with our first misprint, a G when Mood changed to Good). And the alcohol?

‘Very good daughter gets a fizzy drink in Disneyland (4)’ (yet another superb surface-reading with that subtle transition from word play to definition) – SO + D + A. I suppose I have to give Ferret the benefit of the doubt. He’s hardly going to drink that soda without a shot of whisky is he? Cheers Ferret!

Our grid is almost full as we have immediately spotted with delight that the five different clues in each quadrant are placed symmetrically so we know where to look for those that are to be entered in reverse (LOOT, SODA, FEER and RIAS) and the ones to be curtailed (SCULL, EARLY, DEMON and BERET) and as we ferret out our eight misprints and slot them into the spaces in the unclued lights we have a delightful penny drop moment when four ‘crops’ appear (well, three and one that ‘isn’t’) GARLIC, BARLEY, CARROT and FALLOW.

Suddenly light dawns and instead of looking for some dubious phrase like ‘cut back’ we understand that oh so appropriate title. We are working in the fields – we CROP and ROTATE.

I loved every minute of this solve with its thematic unity. The late Roddy Forman who coached so many of us in crossword matters used to insist that the device used had to relate to the theme. It would be difficult to give a better example than this one. Many thanks Ferret.

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Listener No 4424: Fieldwork by Ferret

Posted by Dave Hennings on 2 Dec 2016

Ferret’s previous Listeners have been based on the old British Rail logo (no 4207, Loco), Pete and Dud’s one-legged Tarzan (no 4257, A Short Entertainment) and the Origami staircase from Swing Time (no 4319, Feature Film). This week, a two-word phrase would provide the theme.

listener-4424The preamble was very busy, but basically each 4-, 5- and 6-letter word lay wholly within one of the quadrants; two would need modification (according to the theme), two had misprints in their clues and the other was unclued. The remaining clues were normal.

For a bit of fun, I decided to tackle the normal 7-, 8- and 9-letter words first. I was pleasantly surprised at how many I got. PREMIER, FULL-TIME, TETANIC, MIASMAL and UNPEELED were the acrosses which I plonked in fairly quickly, followed by REAPING, HARD-WON (?), ARMHOLES and AIRBUILT down. 20 minutes in and feeling happy.

Next, I decided to try and ferret out (no pun intended) the misprints. 1ac HIRAGE and 5ac SLOPE were next to fall followed by GRIFFIN, OVERREACH, PROMISORS and HOPED. I was getting annoyed at missing the entries that needed modification before entry, but that was soon rectified with 5ac SODA which looked as though it became ADOS in the grid. I also realised that HARD-WON should have been HARD-GOT. Next came 21ac BERET which looked like it needed truncating to fit the B and E I already had. RIAS at 26 becoming SAIR confirmed the anagrammy entries and 24dn EARL[Y] confirmed the choppy ones.

I sat back mildly contented and tried to come up with the thematic phrase:

– Clocks changing (wrong time of year)
– Chop and change (too many words)
– Chop around (a bit vague)
– Irish stew (clutching at straws)
– Short change (now that’s a possibility)

listener-4424-my-entryThe rest of the grid came together fairly quickly once I had identified the two methods of entry, and the two misprints in each quadrant enabled GARLIC, CARROT, BARLEY and — ah-ha!! — FALLOW to appear. CROP ROTATION was obviously the theme, and I tried moving the four unclued entries clockwise. Some new words were revealed, so I knew I was home and dry (although it didn’t stop me checking other rotations).

Thanks for an enjoyable puzzle, Ferret. It wasn’t as tricky as your previous Listeners, but it was one that I could explain to a non-crosswording friend over a couple of pints to give him an idea of our fascination with these beasts.

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