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Posts Tagged ‘Heads or Tails’

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Posted by Encota on 25 November 2016

Phi’s wit showed immediately in the very first clue (which I suspect Shirley will mention – can’t think why 🙂  ).  It initially appeared like a strong contender for “Pedents Corner”, as it included the spelling ‘whisky’ preceded by ‘Irish’!  But no, of course this was Phi’s gentle way of nudging us into noticing that one or other of ‘Irish’ and ‘whisky’ was out of place and thus a likely word to be removed before solving, as per the Preamble’s instruction.  This was going to be fun!

Aside: I’m currently watching Series 3 of Black Mirror, that brilliant-but-scary Charlie Brooker view of a dystopian near-future tech-laden world.  Some grisly, thought-provoking stuff.  I’m picturing a final scene, with a final decision to be made:

Sit loads: hear last radio.  She also has tried to share dials, as this ordeal is old as Earth.  I herald a toss: “Heads or Tails?”

OK, the above is pretentious garbage.  But one thing that does surprise me about the phrase HEADS OR TAILS is how many plausible ‘anagrammed phrases’ it reveals.  We’ve already seen ‘I HERALD A TOSS’ as the appropriate anagram so cleverly used by Phi down the left-hand-side of this puzzle: for those with a spare few minutes over the weekend (or should that read seconds for this audience?) feel free to try these ones:

  1. Graham Norton maybe (8,4)
  2. The crew’s demise (7,5)
  3. Perhaps three-in-four drastically reduced to one-over-the-eight, say (5,7)
  4. Places to buy specific perennial garden plants (6,6)
  5. Lost the plot?  (4,4,4)
  6. 2001 computer’s minor planet? (4,8)
  7. A possible problem for Fallen Angel? (4,8)
  8. Cut off tall pointed London landmark (7,5)
  9. Didn’t find that prize in Kit Williams’ Masquerade (4,4,4)
    [this one is LOST SAID HARE]
  10. A rare scratch? (8,4) and
  11. What this blog could be named, if only I was paid for it (8,4)


Back to the real subject – this super puzzle.  I know I’m a novice when it comes to Listener crosswords – but is the clue type ‘Two Definitions of Words that differ by only one letter plus Wordplay for only the Common Part’ Phi’s own invention?  Certainly these sorts of clues were new to me and fabulous they were – thank you Phi for introducing me to them.  I do look forward to seeing them in use again sometime soon!  Here’s one example:

Persistent psychiatrist introducing singular punishment (7)

Definition 1 = persistent -> LASTING
Definition 2 = punishment -> LASHING
Wordplay = S(ingular) in LAING (psychiatrist) = LASING

and, as I enjoyed them so much, here’s one more:

Encourages busy store to stock unknown screws (7)

Definition 1 = encourages -> EXHORTS
Definition 2 = screws -> EXTORTS
Wordplay = X (unknown) in STORE* = EXORTS

And there were six more to enjoy, all delightful.

For me, the SW corner went in first, though solving 35ac (correctly) as SEA GODS then immediately entering SEA DOGS was a great way to slow me down!  Luckily it soon became obvious what I had done.  Last quadrant in was the SW: 36ac’s Scots downpour had me thinking it was PLASH not BLASH for ten minutes or so.  Once I spotted BLAS(e) for ‘…unimpressed because of familiarity, mostly‘ then all became clear.

There was one plural not directly provided by my (admittedly slightly older 2014) versions of Chambers, namely 11d’s GIRRS.  The third definition under gird says (Scot): ‘A hoop (also girr)’ but girrs doesn’t automatically appear in my WordWeb Pro version (bought this year) as the plural.  I suspect it’ll be updated soon enough.

I felt Phi had been particularly clever in picking words to fit the two phrases, i.e.
I__H   (IrisH) etc.
Picking either the Head or Tail of each word revealed the two 12-letter phrases: I HERALD A TOSS and HEADS OR TAILS.  The skill here as the setter of course was to pick words that would also fit suitably unobtrusively into the twelve chosen clues – no mean feat and done here brilliantly, I felt.

And finally, the Title.  Fairly straightforward this week, at least with hindsight: ‘bit’ as a coin helps create a clever pun.  Overall – great fun.  Thanks Phi!

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A Bit Up in the Air by Phi

Posted by shirleycurran on 25 November 2016

phi-a-bit-in-the-air-001Phi? We thoroughly enjoyed his last one, ‘Off We Go’ where the players left the stage one by one to leave just Haydn in the finale of his Farewell Symphony. I wonder whether we will have a musical theme again (we know that Phi compiles the crossword for BBC Music and, indeed, that a 20th anniversary crossword will be appearing in 2017).  We smile as we see a relatively short preamble then struggle to work out what it is telling us (but isn’t that so often the case? The preamble makes sense as you solve or, occasionally, only after solving). At least we understand that we are to find twelve redundant words in clues and some kind of double definitions in eight other clues. There is going to be an anagram which is clearly going to identify the theme for us but, mercy be, no misprints, jumbles, extra/deleted letters or any of those over-worked gimmicks.

Of course Phi retains his seat in the Listener Setter Oenophile Upper House, but I check all the same and he leaves me in no doubt. I’m surprised he’s opted for Irish whisky in his very first clue, ‘Source of Irish whisky is arable land (5)’ but then with a smile, we see that ‘Irish’ has to be an extra word since the clue leads to IS + LAY – Islay, so Phi is behaving like a true Scot.

Only three clues further down we find ‘Greedy types securing most of Indian drink for small amounts once (8)’ PFENNIGS = PIGS around FENN(Y) which Chambers tells me is the same as feni, an alcoholic spirit produced in Goa from coconuts or cashew nuts. A bit of a comedown after the Islay malts but sobeit. Fortunately consumption picks up again towards the end of the clues with ‘Miss supporting German wine (in limited quantity) (5)’ and there’s restraint too, as that gives a single glass G + LASS. Cheers, Phi!

Heads or tails!

Heads or tails!

Whilst scanning through those clues, I admired Phi’s cluing economy, even where we suspected that we had found the clues with ‘two definitions to words differing by one letter, and wordplay for the remainder of the entry, as in ‘Participating in Wagner in Johannesburg,say, with a fixed look (7)’ which suggested SHARING and STARING with word play for SA and RING. The next suspect is ‘Encourages busy store to stock unknown screws (7)’ which gives us EXHORTS and EXTORTS with wordplay STORE* round X giving us the remainder of the words.

Our third find gives us our first pdm. since we have taken note of the title ‘A bit Up in the air’ and suspect that we are tossing a coin. Again we find words differing by an H and a T, LATTER and LATHER in ‘Modern soap trade I should abandon after a reversal (6)’ with RETA[I]L< producing the shared wordplay. So H and T are  the letters that differ and we realize that when we toss a coin, we cry ‘Heads or Tails’.

We find BLASH/BLAST, STRINE/SHRINE, HOSS/TOSS, LASTING/LASHING and CORNIST/CORNISH (yes, there’s as much music as alcohol in this one, not surprisingly!) and those words have produced four clashes in the grid. So what do we do now? We have been highlighting putative extra words as we solved and have produced rather a mixed bag: IRISH, HOPE, ABUSE, ROAD, ACCEPTS, OBOL, RELENTED, AFFIDAVIT, (and a second) AFFIDAVIT, IMPRESARIO, SANDAL, and SET-UPS.

There’s the usual bit of grid-staring, then light dawns. We apply ‘Heads or tails’ to that set of words and, hey presto, we get HEADS OR TAILS and left over, an anagram of those words, I HERALD A TOSS. I do like the way this thematic unity is progressing.

With a full grid, we now have to decide about those clashing letters and to our delight, see that those diagonals, each turning back on itself, spell out the two phrases when we select the correct option. Nice one Phi!

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