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Posts Tagged ‘Hamlet’

Dilemma by Aedites

Posted by shirleycurran on 18 Aug 2017

A lovely short preamble (yes, I know that can be the precursor to a dastardly crossword but fortunately, this was not the case). We at once speculated – “What was the location of the Gettysburg address?” Well, Gettysburg, probably. “Where did Churchill make his ‘blood, sweat and tears’ speech?”, “… Chamberlain’s ‘Peace in our time’ was on some aerodrome runway wasn’t it?” The possibilities are endless. It was a rather misleading preamble; as usual nothing to do but start solving. So we did.

Of course I scanned the clues to check Aedites’ right to his Listener Setters’ Alcohol Promoters membership card and drinks were rather restrained but one of the earliest clues we solved produced an EWER, ‘Less without front container for liquids (4)’ FEWER minus the F, and the very next clue we solved produced the ‘red’ to fill it; ‘Red cover disrupted levees (6)’. LEVEES* gave us SLEEVE and we had found a misprint since that had to be a ‘rod’ cover. Clearly that red was being imbibed in quantities as  the next misprint we discovered came from another decapitated word ‘Fight thwarted without force (5)’ which must be FOILED without the F telling us that now he was OILED with a misprint giving TIGHT  So cheers, Aedites. Membership confirmed. Hope we’ll see you at the bar in Paris.

Solving was speedy and we admired the economy of the compilation. When I once said that a  personal maximum number of words in a clue was twelve, I earned a horrified reaction from an editor who said he aims at an average of six. Some difficult words oblige a setter to use eight or ten, and a device, like misprints, can add length but Aedites had three and four-word clues to give a fine balance: ‘Territory for stags (5)’ gave us STAGE producing the E corrected misprint and STATE (Surely definition was rather too close to solution? Ed.). ‘Safe to keep dog in sight (6)’ giving SEE round CUR – what a lovely surface reading.

Last week I spent about seven hours finding Sabre’s bees so I appreciated a relatively gentle solve this week. HAMLET quickly emerged at the head of the message produced by the corrected misprints. I love the play having spent my last year of uni studies focusing on it, and it was clearly going to be ACT THREE SCENE ONE that was going to produce a large question mark and ‘To be or not to be, that is the question’ with a word missing – and there it was. We had just one Numpty red herring; ‘Apparently raise temperature in dressed spud (7)’ had mystified us (and I still don’t understand the wordplay) but we had opted for CURRIED on the basis that a SPAD can be a horse and dressing a horse is ‘currying’ it. No, it had to be SPED!

The end game – creating that large question mark – changed that to HURRIED and SPED, which, of course brings me to the

Couple of existentially challenged hares

HARES. Obviously a Lewis Carroll-style white-rabbitty HARE had just sped off the lower left hand corner decapitated (by the grid margin), like those Aedites clues, but there were a couple in a typical hare boxing match up there in the centre of the question mark (possibly somewhat existentially challenged beasts). Good fun, thanks, Aedites.


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No Offence by Artix

Posted by shirleycurran on 8 Jul 2016

No Offence by Artix 001We know this is going to be no piece of cake when we see ‘Artix’ as the setter. How I struggled with his very first Listener (well, that stunning ‘One Shot at a Time’ was his first individual one though we jointly, with Ilver, as Rasputin had had our Listener début some months before, and, setting with the two of them has not only taught me a lot, in the course of hundreds of email exchanges , but also shown me what deceptive tricks can go into the creation of a clue. – none of my ‘Stripey horse (5)’ for those two!).  Expecting a long haul, we downloaded this and carefully read the preamble.

How did we interpret this? With a degree of generosity, Artix was restricting the use of his device separately to the across and down clues, and the words that were going to emerge (clearly anagrammed) from the letters discarded during manipulations, were also, generously, going to be distinct in the across and down clues – two nine-letter words. Eighteen of the clues in each set (across and down) were going to be composed of nine with hidden definition words and nine where an extra letter had to be removed, probably before anagramming the remainder, to get a different word from the one that was being clued. Original and certainly challenging.

Time to pour the Numpty gin and tonic and scan the grid to check that Artix (whom I know to be somewhat of a wine connoisseur) was retaining his place in the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Outfit. I didn’t find much evidence but assumed ‘Old rustic cask where nothing’s replaced before (5)’ was probably an oak one, aging some quality red. By a stroke of luck, we opted for BARREL with O for A and found that BORREL is an archaic word for ‘rustic’, and with even more luck (and the help of Mrs Bradford) managed to find that a ROBLE is a species of oak, thus justifying the extra words ‘oak tree’ in 21ac.

With that entire barrel consumed, it wasn’t surprising to find ‘Hold one new S African driver, potentially drunk (6)’ producing N + ELS + ON. The only extra word we could find there was ‘one’ and, of course, we later pieced that together with ‘act’ in 20ac, and ‘Scene’ ‘five’ in 3d and 17d giving what had to be the pinpointing of a ‘relevant source’. Even better, those four clues led us to ADMIRAL NELSON and HORNBLOWER. These are both Horatios aren’t they and other words appearing in our grid (MOTHER, DANISH, GHOST, WRAITH, MURDER) were shouting out that this was my favourite play again. Hamlet.

‘No Offence’ was the hint I needed to lead me to that significant exchange between Hamlet and Horatio that helps us understand why Horatio is such a loyal friend right up to the moment when ‘The rest is silence’ in Act V.

  • Horatio. These are but wild and whirling words, my lord.
  • Hamlet. I am sorry they offend you, heartily;
    Yes, faith, heartily.
  • Horatio. There’s no offence, my lord.
  • Hamlet. Yes, by Saint Patrick, but there is, Horatio,
    And much offence too. Touching this vision here,
    It is an honest ghost.

These are but wild and whirling words, My Lord 001‘These are but wild and whirling words, my lord’, says Horatio. Of course, that is what nine of the solutions in each of the across and down sets does. It whirls wildly. So we have the device but have to do that complex task of identifying the rogue definitions and matching them to the words we can anagram or whirl out of those solutions. Slowly we identify ‘the one chosen’, ‘kiwi plant’, ‘rivals’, ‘Murray’s fearsome’, ‘oak tree’, ‘Halifax’s good for nothing’, ‘brilliant art movement’, ‘African antelope’ and wrestling, in the across clues, and ‘bits of Bulgaria’, ‘large dog’, ‘Danes overseas’, ‘Indian protests’, ‘bulb’, ‘local joints’, ‘illnesses’, ‘Scotch pine resin’ and ‘festival’ in the downs.

But what an astonishing vocabulary of solutions and subsequent docked anagrams these lead us to: SOPHERIM, UAKARI, BORREL, SEBESTENS, TSESSEBE, PAYS’D, DONNAT, HARDPANS, KISSEL. Can all of this be English or are we transliterating a peculiar mountain Asian dialect? The eleven almost normal clues in each set happily populate our grid and give us the framework that allows a steady grid fill but, in the four hours it takes, we have hiccups. Of course, there’s the usual Numpty red herring. Feeding SOPHERIM into an anagram solver produces only one word that fits our grid, PROMISE (with an extra H) but that soon proves to be impossible as there is no EA?IAS word to go into 13d. Of course, we needed ORPHISM (a ‘brilliant art movement’) and 13d had to be MANIAS (‘illnesses’).

A full grid and two sets of nine letters to anagram – REAARERNG – obviously REARRANGE (and not ‘red herring’) and TEEPERMIR. This had to be the icing on the cake! PERIMETER, it said and what happened when all those Hamletty words in the perimeter were rearranged? Astonishing! We got ‘These are but wild and whirling words, my lord.’ Horatio. Brilliant, Artix!

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Trapped by Eck

Posted by shirleycurran on 1 Jan 2016

EckEck’s preamble produced mild disquiet. We were going to look for either a missing letter or a letter added in each clue and these were going to lead to two different messages, a relevant location and clues to the identity of the puzzle’s subject. Mildly daunting – and it was still daunting even when we had completed the puzzle and worked out the endgame and looked for the location of that quotation from my favourite play and found it in ACT TWO, SCENE TWO, as we still had to find those hints to HAMLET in the extra letters.

This is backward solving, as we clearly didn’t really need LITTLE PIG, GREAT DANE, or MOUSETRAP WRITER, but we did have to work those out just to make sure that we were not missing some obscure final requirement, say to translate the entire puzzle into Danish or Sanskrit or alphanumeric characters.

However, I consoled myself by checking for Eck’s continued membership of the Listener Compilers’ Boozy Gang and he didn’t disappoint with ‘Mark stood behind son, drinking weak, stale pints (6)’ (OCHE S round W giving OWCHES – rather odd since OWCHE leads the solver to OUCH(1) in Chambers, which is ‘an exclamation of pain’, and clearly Eck intends us to parse this as STALE PIN[T]S and OUCH(2) is an archaic word for ‘a brooch’ – an error or is my BRB out of date?), then, not surprisingly after those stale pints, ‘Cara’s drunk luminous discharge (3)’ giving CAR[A]* = ARC. Not an encouraging dose of alcohol but “Cheers” anyway Eck, see you in the bar..

Though we now encountered an accomplished set of clues, solving wasn’t easy and we were mystified by ‘Prat receiving short stroke finally tenders for part of track (6)’ which somehow had to give a word to complete T?R?IL. Neither Chambers nor TEA could offer a solution. Fortunately the unclued lights 27 of 45 46 emerged as A KING of INFINITE SPACE and, with a murmur of delight, I was directed to Hamlet ‘O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space were it not that I have bad dreams …’ and it took only a moment to find a NUT?SHELL lurking in the grid with ‘DREAMS’ anagrammed (bad) within it.

Problem solved – or almost. We were solving away from home and with no ODQ but, since T-RAIL fulfilled the requirement of ‘One cell contains a non-alphanumeric character’, we guessed that the ODQ must have added a hyphen to the Hamlet quotation and that A NUT-SHELL was to be highlighted and HAMLET be bounded inside it replacing his ‘bad dreams’. Nice one, Eck. I so appreciate replacement in crosswords when real words result – the sign of a master.

Yes, we still had to tease some clues to the identity of HAMLET out of those extra letters and finally we got that amusing LITTLE PIG GREAT DANE MOUSETRAP WRITER; I muttered about MOUSETRAP WRITER. Sure, it was a cunning red-herring leading the unsuspecting solver to Agatha Christie but it was not quite accurate for Hamlet (Yes, Hamlet is a bit of a fetish for me – I did spend my final university year reading from end to end of the shelves on Hamlet in Manchester’s library and there were hundreds of them – probably still are).

No, Hamlet was not the ‘MOUSETRAP WRITER’: he has inserted a ‘dozen or sixteen lines’ into a familiar play, probably a revenge tragedy, The Murther of Gonzago, in his attempt to reveal his uncle’s guilt (though the play also hints that Gertrude is the ‘mouse’).

Still, apart from that grouse and the odd ‘Ouch’, we very much enjoyed Eck’s puzzle. Thank you Eck.

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