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Posts Tagged ‘Harribobs’

Listener No 4534: A Secret Unlocked by Harribobs

Posted by Dave Hennings on 11 January 2019

Harribobs hasn’t been on the setting scene for very long but has had some great puzzles, such as the recent Go West, Young Man (except that was over at the Inquistor). This, his second Listener of 2018 followed on from Exchange of Letters with Henry Longfellow’s Kéramos as its theme.

This week we were treated to a short two-sentence story with a mysterious ending. From the preamble, it would seem that this would be needed in association with an instruction to be revealed by letters omitted from 34 answers.

As I expected, the clues were sometimes tricky but always fair. The only one I had trouble deciphering was 17ac System of weights to be seen in Provence (5). Obviously a French word, it was only when I had three letters did avoir pop into my head. So, nothing to do with être; I’m assuming that it reads as a voir but not sure.

Anyway, when all was complete, it wasn’t quite complete! There were a couple of ambiguities that needed to be resolved, eg the AL in ARSENAL/SEASONAL. It didn’t take long to finish them so that the omitted letters spelt out Use template and note what hair (not hlir) conceals.

My initial reaction was to highlight the hair-fixated US TRUMP **** in the middle row and be done! However…

As I note above, this needed to be used along with the two-sentence story. Now there were 169 squares in the grid and it seemed obvious to see how many letters there were in the story. At the end of line 1, I had 81 and I knew I was on the right track. All told there were indeed 169. Constructing a second grid with the story reading from left to right, top to bottom, I noted the positions of H, A, I and R and then highlighted them in my original grid.

After two lines, I had ARISTA… and this time wondered if I had got it wrong. Persevering, it transpired that the message was “ARISTAGORAS, REVOLT AGAINST PERSIANS — HISTIAEUS”. A bit before my time, but this refers to the “…Ionian Revolt against the Persian Achaemenid Empire” about 500BC — thanks, Wiki.

All that remained was to fill in the theme under the grid which was indicated by the clues to answers not requiring a letter to be omitted. Two quick scans of the clues followed, firstly examining their initial letters, and then their last. The last letters gave STEGANOGRAPHY, the concealment of something within something else, here a message inside another message.

One of the first examples was that where Histiaeus sent a message to Aristogoras by marking it on a servant’s shaved head and waiting for the hair to regrow before sending it on its way. The message was hidden until the head was shaved by Aristogoras. Thus, the two-sentence story was finally explained and the secret un-lock-ed!

A lot of checking and double-checking then followed to ensure that the highlighting was correct and that I had correctly spelt the theme word. (I’m still smarting from spelling SCAUMBURG with a BERG in Harribobs’ puzzle about the German postwar chancellors.)

As expected, a fine puzzle from Harribobs.


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L4534: A Secret Unlocked by Harribobs

Posted by Encota on 11 January 2019

A STEGANOGRAPHY-based puzzle – great fun from Harribobs!

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Map the 169 letters in the completed grid to the 169 letters in the ‘template’ phrase from the Preamble.  Then highlight each letter that aligns with H, A, I or R from that Preamble phrase and all is revealed:


The puzzle is based around the tale of a message being written on a servant’s head, then letting the HAIR grow to conceal it.  When the servant arrived, the hair was removed to reveal the message.

Specifically in this puzzle the letters found under the H,A,I,R letters of the template revealed that message.  Simple, eh?

Tim /Encota

PS Though there weren’t so many clues with an alcohol-flavour here, I did notice PORT in Row 1, ALE in Row 6 and RUM in Row 7.

And I thought I spotted a U.S. president and one of the ‘code words’ I’ve seen others use on the Internet for him on Row 7, too – though perhaps I imagined that?  And, now we’re talking of Wordsearches suitable for publication in Viz magazine,  this grid would certainly be a good contender.  I can spot at least five …  🙂

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A Secret Unlocked by Harribobs

Posted by shirleycurran on 11 January 2019

We already saw Harribobs in March with his ‘All things must change’ and he is becoming a familiar Magpie name. There was something familiar about the first three lines of his preamble too – a familiar classical story – though, at this stage of our solve, we couldn’t pin it down

I did my usual hunt for the alcoholic clues but Harribobs was being relatively sober with Christmas just around the corner. There was just ‘Cordial he spotted in places around Ulster (6)’ What a clue! It had to be ‘A SEED round NI’ giving a poor replacement for Ireland’s Guinness, but I guess it must suffice. Cheers Harribobs.

We muttered a bit about the fact that the word lengths were those of grid entries, which, in 34 cases, were not the lengths of the solutions – and we counted the remaining clues, establishing that there were 13 that would indicate the theme to us. That was probably going to be the first or last letter of those clues and STEGANOGRAPHY was our first confirmation of the theme. The other Numpty explained to me that there are a number of complex Internet-related means of operating steganography but clearly this crossword would have to use a more approachable method.

The other Numpty also reminded me of the story of the servant who had a message imprinted into his skull, over which the hair grew, so that his head had to be shaved for the message to be read, and the secret was unlikely to be revealed by the uninformed slave or to fall into the wrong hands.

WHAT HAIR CONCEALS appeared next and we had to struggle work out the first half of the message since so many of our extra letters, as we fitted them into the cells in tiny pairs, turned out to be in unches. I initially suspected that we were removing the first, or last, letter of a solution but that theory collapsed when RACISTS had to intersect with SEASONAL. However, solving proceeded steadily and we were soon able to see USE TEMPLATE AND NOTE WHAT …

‘… an instruction that must be used along with the above text’ it said in the preamble, and a letter count established that there were 169 of them in the brief account of ARISTAGORAS’ machinations but how were we to find those five words? I initially copied the 169 letters of the template into a new grid then compared them with our solution grid, expecting to find five words in letters that corresponded. A fine red-herring.

We are in California, and my daughter-in-law who saw my struggles, said “Aren’t you just looking for the letters of H A I R? That’s what your message says.” Of course: ARISTAGORAS’ REVOLT AGAINST PERSIANS HISTIAEUS. There it was. Yet another very clever device to use in a Listener crossword.

Many thanks to Harribobs.

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‘An Exchange of Letters’ by Harribobs

Posted by Encota on 13 April 2018


Or so spelled out the changed letters of each clue’s answer.

Sorting out one and only one change to each answer to create its grid entry was, for me at least, the hardest part of this puzzle.  Eventually it all worked out though, with STRANGE appearing on the leading diagonal.

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Will at least one person, in their rush, mistakenly modify what becomes STRONGER at 39ac to form STRANGEr.  Who knows – but ‘odder’ things have happened.

Talking of STRANGE, … then Tony Strange, a good friend of mine, is a Physics teacher at Ipswich school here in Suffolk.

He rumours (though I have never checked) that the plate on his door reads:


to the (mild) amusement of some of his pupils.


Tim / Encota

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An Exchange of Letters by Harribobs

Posted by shirleycurran on 13 April 2018

We appreciate a short preamble and Harribobs gave us one with very little to worry us: a word to highlight in the final grid that was the final word of a quotation that would appear when we had changed just one letter in each word that we entered (quite a challenge for a setter!) Fortunately we were also going to identify the source of the quotation by finding a misprint in every across clue and all the final words in our grid were going to be real words. That left us the down clues with no disturbing gimmick. We got down to solving.

Of course, I found the evidence that Harribobs retains his place in the Listener Setters’ Tippling Club and he gave us ‘Whisky and soda recipe is used in prank in Hull (7)’ We decided that the R (recipe) had to go into the whisky and soda STINGER to give us a STRINGER or a reinforcing plank in a ship’s hull, thus producing an L of our quotation’s source at the same time. That was all the alcohol there was in Harribobs’ compilation – but it was enough. Cheers Harribobs!

We solved steadily with some struggles. Does a WEE TEST really exist? I doubt it, but it made us smile and, of course, ‘In parts extremely soaked … (7)’ gave us the dialect form of ‘wettest’. LUREX had us struggling too though we were obviously looking for ‘Those who Etch (not Itch) wearing some light cloth (5)’ That U went in as our very last letter when we realized that the RE were ‘formerly the Royal Society of Etchers and Engravers’ (according to the Big Red Book) and that they were surrounded ny LUX (some light).

Fortunately it was that part of our grid that filled the fastest and we very soon had HENRY W LONGFELLOW. Of course I went to the ODQ to see if the letters we already had would give me that all-important quotation – but it was not to be (though I did find something about four and a half bees!) We needed a poem about K????OS and vainly searched for a Longfellow interest in KNOSSOS. Oh those Listener red herrings!

Happily, PISIFORM appeared and gave us an R misprint in the clue (caRpus, not caMpus) and that was all we needed to find KERAMOS and our quotation “All things must change to something new, something STRANGE”.

We had to be very systematic about changing one letter in each clue to the one provided by the quotation. I wonder how long it took Harribobs to create this grid with that device in it! There were pitfalls for the unwary; it would be so easy to put SNITS and TIRL in that bottom left-hand corner, thus changing two letters of SNAGS. I wonder if any solver did! Many thanks, Harribobs.

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