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Posts Tagged ‘Hedge-sparrow’

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:

Screen Shot 2018-10-15 at 07.19.29

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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Mad Tom’s Traps by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by shirleycurran on 23 March 2018

“What a lovely short pre-ramble” said the other Numpty and added, “Looks as though this might be about butterflies if he’s rambling amongst the wild summer flowers”. I was too busy commenting with disbelief on Hedge-sparrow’s amazing count of alcoholic clues. I suppose that with the setters’ dinner in Paris only a couple of weeks away, he’s getting ready to prop up the bar – but what an appalling mixture of drinks!

‘Strength of Perth’s Aussie plonk mostly makes a terrible weapon (10, 2 words)’  gave us FUSION for the Scottish strength, then BOMB(o) for most of the Aussie plonk so we had our terrible weapon. (I instructed in an Aussie ski resort, Mt Buller, for four seasons and can remember lugging boxes of the bombo up the icy slopes to our flat after the lifts closed, quite a terrible weapon some of it was!)

‘Going – gone? Knock back this vintage Norwich ale to get some of that (4)’ There’s NOGG reversed in that lovely clue. But what is it the Germans say? ‘Bier auf Wein, dass lass’ sein: Wein auf Bier dass rat’ ich Dir. I believe that advises us not to start with the wine then go on to the beer.

‘Cut consumption of wine (cut by half) (5)’ Gave us TB then ONE – that sounded promising but then ‘Drinks, spending day in the lowlands (4)’ told us to remove D from DALES and Hedge-sparrow was back on the ALES. It got worse, ‘Overlooking loch, recall Scottish island with a bit of a dram (4)’ Gave A MULL losing that L and we found that a LUMA is a bit of a dram in Armenian currency. So he’s into the whisky now. Then ‘Wilhelm’s blood left in cask (4)’ put an L into BUT giving BLUT (and no doubt back on the ale in that cask!) Next comes absinthe! ‘Bleating elderly couple swallowing a spot of absinthe (6)’ We found that a MING is archaic for couple and A A(bsinthe) made that into MAAING. ‘Head north on the sea (6)’ produced N + OGGIN. That NOGGIN could be wine or ale, and the whole alcoholic orgy finished with ‘Reach European port? (4)’ WIN + E. What is there to say? Cheers, Hedge-sparrow. I am amazed he was sober enough to produce such a delightful compilation after that binge!

But it was a delightful compilation with clues that had fine, sometimes deceptive, surface readings that steadily led us to a full grid with thirteen clashes obligingly appearing and an unambiguous instruction in the preamble telling us how to deal with those. In any case, it was fairly evident which letters had to be extracted, as in every case, we were left with real words in both the down and the across answer. That was a lovely achievement, especially as the ‘wild’ or anagrammed SUMMER FLOWERS were being trampled and the remaining letters TLDOTRPPSIEIE gave us our rambling hunter. – Oh no, surprise, surprise, no wonder there were all those alcohol references, they are all in it together: it’s an EDITORS’ TIPPLE so I suppose I am going to find empty bottles scattered all over the grid.

It was not to be, so I tried again and found a more satisfactory LEPIDOPTERIST.

We had to find MAD TOM’S TRAPS scattered around the grid (12 letters of course) and replace them with ‘the hunter’s usual equipment (two words – obviously the 12 letters of BUTTERFLY NET, though I had, by this time sorted out my usual equipment, a rather dated set of reference books that were all rather insular. Can you believe it, there wasn’t a BUGONG or a SILVER-Y in any of them! Chambers and Mrs Bradford, of course, came to the rescue and I was aided by the fact that I was soon left with only a couple of Ts and an S that had to be changed to an E an L and a Y.

I had my twelve victims, ORANGE TIP, RINGLET, ELFIN, LUNA, OWLET, BURNET, EGGER, BUGONG, GATEKEEPER, SILVER-Y, BLUE and LAPPET and could only marvel that Hedge-sparrow had managed to fit so much into his grid, with twenty-five of the original letters changing in a symmetrical grid, all in two series of moves in such a thematic way. Superb, thanks.

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Listener No 4492: Mad Tom’s Traps by Hedge-sparrow

Posted by Dave Hennings on 23 March 2018

Last year’s H-s puzzle had HS2 running through the grid, much to his disappointment. It looked as though someone called Mad Tom would be causing him grief this week. I hoped that he wouldn’t do the same to me.

Clashes would need resolving in 13 cells. Eventually, a hunter, his equipment, some wild summer flowers and potential quarries would need to be sorted out — somehow!

Progress in the early stages was fairly quick. This was followed by a slightly slower stretch of solving and then another spurt. The last two clues took an age to resolve, mainly because they involved clashes that had me befuddled for far too long. I won’t reveal which ones they were — oh, OK, they were 20dn and 42dn.

The endgame now had to be tackled. It was fairly obvious that those letters forming SUMMER FLOWERS had to be dropped from the clashes to be replaced by a ‘rambling hunter’ The letters that I was left with were DOTIPERSIPLET. Because I sometimes like to cause myself maximum discomfort, I didn’t resort to an anagram helper, but tried my usual doodling to jog the little grey cells.

I SPOTTED PERIL was the first anagram I stumbled on, followed by I’D STOP REPTILE. A few more abortive attempts and I had PI DO PI SETTLER, and this somehow enabled me to spot LEPIDOPTERIST (don’t ask me how). It didn’t take much longer to guess that his ‘usual equipment’ was BUTTERFLY NET.

So, MAD TOM’S TRAPS had to be replaced by the net to catch 12 potential quarries. Well, there were lots of places that the first set of letters were scattered around the grid. It was seeing that GAMEKEEPER could become GATEKEEPER that got me on the right track. Chambers told me that it was ‘any of several large butterflies’.

So it looked as though we would end up with a dozen lepidopterous creatures in the final grid. All I had to do was find them! Again, I decided on a bit of masochism and shunned Mrs Bradford. It was very enjoyable weeding out the butterflies and moths such as the ORANGE TIP and SILVER-Y and that took me about 20 minutes. Who said ‘life’s too short’? Not I.

Thanks for an enjoyable puzzle, Hedge-sparrow. Lots going on from start to finish.

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