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Posts Tagged ‘Hedge-sparrow’

L4567: ‘Going Concern’ by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by Encota on 30 August 2019

Another neat puzzle from Hedge-sparrow.  This is my rough version.
Of the extinct creatures I could find HUIA, BAIJI, AUROCHS and QUAGGA evenly spaced around the grid.  The means of determining which letters were involved made for an unambiguous and quick endgame – which I think makes a change from some recent puzzles.  No requirement for Highlighting, too 🙂
Were the four extinct creatures purposely picked to be of lengths 4, 5, 6 & 7 to match the Puzzle number (or vice versa)?  I am assuming Yes.  At least I do hope so!!
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Instead of the unchecked letters in the eight endangered ones I knew [really? Ed.] Hedge-sparrow would be hiding something in the checked letters.  These turned out to be the LOWER CASE letters left in the following:
kaKApO sAOlA FOssa AXolOtl KAtIpO saigA bOnObO rHiNo

So I went for, as Hedge-sparrow did, a range of rarer species.  Jumbling these other letters together, and the result? “Becoming ever rarer in our towns & countryside, forests, plains, oceans and mountains: BATS, POLLS, OKAPI, LINGS … and T-BARS”.

It was all going so well but I definitely went downhill after the last one.
Tim / Encota

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Going Concern by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by shirleycurran on 30 August 2019

There’s a celebration of an anniversary of the mini car this month so, when I read the title ‘Going Concern’, I expected a crossword about that, but Hedge-sparrow is known for his compilations concerning living things so we held our breath, but only after checking the clues to confirm his place amongst the Listener oenophiles.

Alcohol, drop of malt on tap, poured for drinking companion (6)’ gave is M(alt)ONTAP* = POTMAN for a drinking companion – and left us with little doubt, and one extra word ALCOHOL from which we extracted the LO.  Then, ‘Utensil fermenting esteemed Bordeaux (8, two words)’ produced the rather surprising ST JULIEN with a J missing from the anagrammed UTENSIL. We looked it up and found that it is indeed an esteemed Bordeaux. Cheers, Hedge-sparrow – good taste too! None of the regular crossword ASTI or ALE.

A generous set of clues soon filled our grid, especially when SLIMED appeared to the right of the ST JULIEN (Male in drag, smeared with goo (6)’ SLED round M with an extra I). “That can’t be right” said I “as it means the unclued word has to end with TL”. “AXOLOTL” said the other Numpty and we had the theme. “These must be rare animals heading for extinction or already extinct. ‘The eight unclued entries are items tht may join the hidden ones before long’. We were able to add KAKAPO, KATIPO, SAOLA, SAIGA, FOSSA, BONOBO and RHINO to the axolotl and had our complement of eight.

I studied TS Eliot’s works a long time ago and pride myself on being able to recognise quotations from them, but this one took a while (of course, the ODQ quotes only the two lines that precede ‘WHERE IS THE LIFE WE HAVE LOST IN LIVING’, from The Rock.

I had kept a careful check of those extra letters, colouring them as we found them, so HUIA, AUROCHS and QUAGGA were spelled out for us and we were left with some doubt about the BA?JI. Chambers didn’t seem to have that creature and we weren’t totally confident about IRON for the ‘grating (Run over grating (4)- giving us the extra letter and RON). However, Chambers has ‘grating’ or harsh for IRON and our friend and ally Wiki produced a BAIJI for us.’The baiji (Chinese: 白鱀豚; pinyin: About this soundbáijìtún , Lipotes vexillifer, Lipotes meaning “left behind”, vexillifer “flag bearer”) is a type of freshwater dolphin thought to be the first dolphin species driven to extinction due to the impact of humans’.

Yet again, the Listener crossword has taught us about something.

A most enjoyable crossword, even if rather disconcerting in its theme. Many thanks to Hedge-sparrow.

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Listener 4524:  ‘A Little Night Music?’ by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by Encota on 2 November 2018

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Text of my letter to The Editors & The Statistician follows …

I liked this puzzle a lot – please pass my thanks on to Hedge-sparrow.

However, I was left with one uncertainty in the endgame, as explained below.  Was this a very subtle ‘elimination round’ to reduce greatly the number of people all-correct so far this year, something missed, or something else entirely?

For me this reduced to: “Of the eight owls that I can find in the grid, which one should I not highlight (and why)?”

[“Eight?”, you may say.  Well, I could find those listed in the table below]

This table summarises my dilemma:

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For the eight candidate words to highlight (assuming I haven’t missed other ones), I’d categorise them as:

Definitely OK (all-green rows in the above table): LONG-EARED, LITTLE, TAWNY, SNOWY, BARN.  That’s 29 of the 44 required characters.

Required at the very least to have a chance of reaching 44 total: SHORT-EARED, ten characters.  Even though not in Chambers, it can be easily found in other reference books.  That brings the total up to 39 characters used in six words.

Thus leaving the solver to choose between EAGLE and DESERT to provide the remaining 5 characters.  But which one to pick?

  1. As per my table above, one might discount DESERT because it is entered upwards in the grid.  However, a precedent has already been set in the puzzle with the phrase TU WHIT TU WHOO in the grid, so clearly Upwards entry is allowed in this puzzle.
  2. As per my table above, one might discount EAGLE, since only the single word EAGLE-OWL appears in Chambers.
  3. As per my table above, one might discount DESERT (owl) because it isn’t in Chambers.  However, we allowed SHORT-EARED above when it wasn’t in Chambers, so a precedent has been set for allowing words / phrases not in Chambers but that can easily be found in other reference books, which DESERT OWL of course can.  Therefore no reason to discount it.
  4. As per my table above, one might discount EAGLE since it’s the only one of the eight that couldn’t correctly be the answer to; “What sort of owl is it?” An EAGLE simply wouldn’t be correct.
  5. Finally we come to the (possible) clue provided by the setter’s name, Hedge-sparrow.  It’s given as one word (i.e. hyphenated) but Chambers only gives it as two words.  Is this a clue to think carefully about the hyphenated possibility?  But one couldn’t shorten Hedge-sparrow to HEDGE, that’s a different thing entirely.  So, similarly, I don’t think EAGLE-OWL could become EAGLE, that’s a different thing entirely.  Therefore DESERT is the stronger candidate.

So, after all that thinking, it appears to me that either DESERT or EAGLE could be argued as the correct five extra letters but that DESERT ‘wins by a nose’.  I suspect it would be harsh to mark either of these as wrong – but I’ve little doubt that I have missed something!

One might also argue that, if one picks DESERT, only the MADGE equivalent owl (BARN) was already there prior to the five letter changes – the other six appearing only after the five letter changes.  That would feel a nice touch in the puzzle’s design, though there doesn’t appear to be anything in the Preamble saying this must be so.

The only other secondary argument that tempts me to highlight EAGLE is that, if one owl had been missed in the setting & editing process, then that one missed would almost certainly be DESERT.  Or the argument’s converse, EAGLE is easier to spot.  I don’t think that makes it any more right, though!?

Thanks to Hedge-sparrow (Hedge sparrow?) for an intriguing puzzle.  I look forward to seeing the resolution to the above in a few weeks time!


Tim (the setter Encota)

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A Little Night Music by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by shirleycurran on 2 November 2018

We enjoyed Mad Tom’s Traps by Hedge-sparrow some months ago and should have guessed at once, when we down-loaded this, that  it wasn’t going to be about Mozart. It was more likely to be about the butterflies, birds or bees that seem to flock to Hedge-sparrow’s garden. The preamble wasn’t too threatening and I particularly enjoy the crosswords that sound as though they are going to lead us to the Bard, Yeats, Auden or Donne. We were going to find two lines from a poem, and the name of its author in those extra letters in the wordplay (that oh so familiar device!)

Yes, of course Hedge-sparrow retained his entry ticket to the drinkie crowd’s get together. ‘Drink like dogs (4)’ gave us TOS[S] + AS and the other Numpty assured me TOSAS are dogs, so ‘Cheers, Hedge-sparrow!

Solving went at high speed with a few new words producing smiles ‘Cool walk following river east, getting cold in relative darkness (8)’ gave us F R E then C in S[H]ADE and the BRB told us that a FRESCADE is a cool walk. ‘Marg’s absent for recipe: call for butter (3)’ must have been difficult to write with that G needed for the extra letter but what a lovely surface reading. “Do goat’s say MAA?” asked the other Numpty. Well clearly Hedge-sparrow knows that they do.

It didn’t take long for familiar words to appear – that rhyme about greasy Joan from Shakespeare’s Love’s Labours Lost, THEN NIGHTLY SINGS THE STARING OWL, TU-WHOO, /TU-WHIT, TU-WHOO A MERRY NOTE and that helped us complete our grid fill. The end game shouldn’t have taken us as long as it did, as the start of the next line was in the second most-obvious place, up the ‘other’ diagonal and clearly the protagonists in that rhyme were going to be owls. It was lovely how some of them appeared when the letters of the diagonal were changed.

MADGE is the name for a barn owl in the part of North Yorkshire I hail from, and the BARN owl, TAWNY owl, EAGLE owl and LONG and SHORT-EARED ones were not too difficult to spot even with that one flying down another diagonal. Obviously the five replaced letters were going to lead to a five-letter alternative name for the barn owl. Surprisingly it was the LITTLE one who tantalised us for a while (and of course, now that I know the little HARE is safe and well, I wasn’t looking for him – with all those night predators around, he would be wise to stay in his burrow!)

I thought this was a gentle but beautifully executed compilation. Many thanks to Hedge-sparrow.



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‘Mad Tom’s Traps’ by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by Encota on 23 March 2018

A setter with possible initials of HS and who had previously created a puzzle based on the HS2 train from London to Birmingham.  I had a strong hunch this puzzle would be some form of extension to HS2 – and so it soon proved.


With a Title containing ‘mad’ it would most likely involve a jumble of the fodder ‘TOM’S TRAPS.  Once it was clear this was TRAM STOPS, once simply had to align the map of the UK Midlands Metro Extension Programme (above) with the grid.  Noting that it includes HS2 (from his 2017 Listener puzzle) at its centre (& stage right) and those multiple TRAM STOPS marked with blue Os.  Simply line up the Os with those Os in the completed grid and Game Over.

OK, so I haven’t actually checked this final stage out – but it has got to be right? Hasn’t it??

Cheers all,

Tim / Encota

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PS More seriously, what a great puzzle, with such a huge level of thematic content!  Many thanks Hedge-sparrow.  With all those fluttering things around I was almost tempted to claim it was all based on the last line of Robert Graves’ poem, ‘Leaving The Rest Unsaid’ – but that would just have been silly, wouldn’t it …

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