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Posts Tagged ‘Kea’

Listener No 4744: A Wrap-up by Kea

Posted by Dave Hennings on 20 Jan 2023

SCENE: The Editor’s office, December 2022.

There is a desk in the centre of the room. There is an in-tray on the desk. It is empty. There is a calendar for 2022 on the wall with 1st December highlighted.

There are two chairs: a big one is behind the desk and a small one in front of it. Editor is sitting on the big chair and Sub-editor on the small one. Both are staring intently at the in-tray which seems oblivious to their attention.

Sub-editor: Remind me why we’re looking at the in-tray.

Editor: I’m waiting for a letter from the Editor of the Times Saturday Review.

Sub-editor: Right. (He pauses.) Why?

Editor: I’ve got a puzzle coming up at the end of the month that requires him to rejig the puzzles section at the back. I’ve asked him if the Saturday Jumbo, Concise and Chess sections could be shrunk down to take up just a half page.

Sub-editor: Seems a bit extreme.

Editor stands up and goes over to the calendar.

Editor (pointing at 31st December): Our last puzzle this year is on New Year’s Eve and I’ve got a puzzle waiting to go that has a 48×3 grid.

Sub-editor: I don’t remember vetting that.

Editor ignores him and returns to his chair.

Returning their gaze to the in-tray, they see that a letter has materialised. Editor takes the letter, opens it and reads.

Editor: I suppose I’m not surprised. They’ve rejected my request. The Jumbo Editor had a hissy fit, and they also checked with John Green who said that if I expected him to check 400 strips of paper 18 inches long… well, you get his drift!

Sub-editor: Couldn’t we just have three 16×3 strips on top of one another?

Editor: I suppose.

Any similarity to actual editorial discussions is purely hypothetical.

A puzzle from our editor today. A couple of years since his last Listener (no 4624, World-beating), based on examples of “X is the best Y”, such as Laughter is the best Medicine. Mind you there was a Kea puzzle in the December Magpie which was a D grade, so I wondered what he had in store for us here. A long thin 48×3 strip for the grid is what it was and to be used as a scytale, the thickness of which was to be deduced. There were also a slew of thematic answers which were clued by wordplay only and would help with some endgame highlighting.

1ac Sailors’ patron died, having backed brief periods of expansion (8) had me googling the patron saint of sailors since I couldn’t see how Saint Nicholas could work in the clue. It turns out that, like many things that have saints, there were a few. One was St Elmo, but I dismissed that in the same way as St Nick. Of course, it would turn out to be he, with (ST ELMO + BO)< giving BOOMLETS.

At expected the clues were a mixture of tough and straightforward. 6dn Discarded prospect taking in odorous room (12, two words) was thematic and led to VIOLENT STORM [VISTA around OLENT + RM]. That was fairly tricky, as was 30ac Female behind Save the Children Fund capturing heart of Hilary Duff (6) for SCLAFF [F after SCF around (Hi)LA(ry)]. Oh yes, and there was 1dn Bloody fool keeping stack in tree (12) for BRICKFIELDER [BF around RICK + I’ + ELDER]. I was also surprised that AT PLAY was not in Chambers.

It took a fair bit of jiggery-pokery to find that the scytale had a circumference of 13 cells. Once the grid was complete, the windy nature of the answers given by only wordplay was evident. I was probably quite lucky to suss that the windiness work alluded to Margaret Mitchell’s novel, Gone with the Wind. Well, the only quote I recalled from that film was “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

A quick google revealed the true closing words to be “After all, tomorrow is another day”. A scan of the grid soon identified TOMORROW IS ANOTHER YEAR running diagonally upwards from the second cell of the bottom row and cycling through every seventh.

It seems that every new year recently has started with people saying that it’s got to be better than last year. This year was no exception in my view.

Thanks for a novel (no pun intended) and very enjoyable puzzle, Kea.


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World-beating by Kea

Posted by shirleycurran on 2 Oct 2020

Kea! One of the star Ascot Gold Cup winners! My all-time favourite is still the one where the cherry tree fell within the grid “I cannot tell a lie!” We can be sure of fair but challenging clues and something to entertain us in the end game. We read the preamble and smile broadly when we see that there are no moving , misprinted or missing letters and no gimmick except a grid with no numbers, clues in alphabetical order and five answers that we will have to ‘replace with thematically related words’. Ah, yes, ‘A three-word entry is unclued’. Quite a lot going on really, especially when I colour my clue light lengths and find no space for a twelve-letter solution, and a missing nine-letter space and only one clue to match the two ten-letter spaces. I suppose those aberrations told us where the replacements were going to be, but we had quite a long cold solve before we saw the sunlight.

The Listener Setters’ Oenophile Eite? Kea left no doubt. We barely had time to consume the BALTIS, ‘Spicy dishes and rest retriever brought back (6)’ SIT + LAB< before we were into the wine, ‘Stick bunches of French wine among spirits (6)’ We put VIN into BAS and got a peculiar word BAVINS which Chambers tells us are ‘stick bunches’. Well, with French wine among spirits, what can I say? Cheers, Kea!

These were not difficult clues and we putatively placed URBI ET ORBI into the lower of the 10-letter spaces where it fitted with BAVINS and BALTIS and as the other Numpty produced solutions (all but three cold-solved before I finally managed to get a convincing start to the grid) I muddled along, always drawing a blank when I needed to insert our four 4-letter solutions, OKTA, SANE, HECK and TREF. We did like HOO-OO (Loud utterance of Shakespearean play to jinx casting director (5) – we ‘cast’ the D(irector) of Hoo-doo). ‘YET TO COME’ was the only way I could complete that corner, but still no SUNLIGHT dawned.

It was that corner of the grid that finally gave me a little success, and working from there, we realized that DEFENCE was going to be entered as ATTACK, so assumed, wrongly of course, that we were entering opposites.

MEDICINE simply would not fit the available slots and I could think of no imaginative opposite for medicine, but then the light dawned – LAUGHTER would, and “Laughter is the best medicine”. So “Attack is the best defence” , “Honesty is the best policy” and “Experience is the best teacher”, We could see that we needed a gun-fight, or a bun-fight or maybe sunlight to be the ‘best’ 10-letter word that we still had to solve, ‘Misprinted fine chapter – binding is far cleaner (12)’ What a clue! We put FINE* + C into DISTANT (far) and finally got a ‘cleaner – DISINFECTANT (“Sunlight is the best disinfectant”) so we had our five replacements and the BEST that is ‘yet to come’ – SIX in all, and to highlight, symmetrically placed where we would expect it we at once saw ‘SIXOFTHE BEST‘ symmetrically placed where we would expect it.

How well I remember the school stories of my childhood where, for example, Billy Bunter earned ‘six of the best’ – so Kea was not making a cynical comment about the political leaders of the moment but was using ‘beating in a different sense. Nice one!

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Listener No 4624: World-beating by Kea

Posted by Dave Hennings on 2 Oct 2020

[Warning: this blog contains political allusions which some readers may find disturbing. Ed.]

I was somewhat surprised that we had a Kea puzzle this week since it had been only a few months since his last, Tour de Force with its centrifugal Scrabble tiles. This week a jigsaw with clues in alphabetical order of their answers but with five answers needing replacing before entry.

But what was this title trying to tell us?! Was it going to test us before we had to trace something in the grid? I thought crosswrds were meant to allow us some refuge from our day-to-day problems. I was sure that once I was immersed in Kea’s puzzle, I’d be happier.

I got off to a flying start with the first clue Spicy dishes and rest retriever brought back (6) for BALTIS [(SIT + LAB)<]. It made a change not to have a slew of words beginning with A. Next came CHIGOE (tropical flea), DEFENCE (justification) and EGG BOX (container for fragile items). DEFENCE actually took me a bit of time since I stupidly thought of FENCE for enclosure following E for English and a D from somewhere?! Of course it was just DEF + ENC + E!

I got a fair smattering of clues on the first pass, including one of my favourites, clue 11 Having no sons, she assumes heavy old headgear (6) [(SHE ASSUMES) – every S] for HEAUME which had been in a puzzle only a few days before (can’t remember where). I’m not sure why it was a favourite, since the surface reading is quite bizarre.

I didn’t get the 12-letter answer at clue 6 (which didn’t have a straightforward grid entry) Misprinted fine chapter — binding is far cleaner (12) but clue 35, Old city bishop that is with Eminence: two for a start like St Peter’s blessing (10, three words) was URBI ET ORBI [UR + B + IE + TOR + BI-]. (Clue 6 would be DISINFECTANT [(FINE* + C) in DISTANT].)

Another visit of the clues and a few more were slotted into my list and it seemed time to start a grid fill. URBI ET ORBI went in first and the two Bs helped me to put it in the right place in row 7. That was followed by BAVINS, OVERT, BALTIS, TESSERA, TUT-TUT, TEVET, TRIVET and half a dozen others. So the bottom half of the grid was looking good, and it was when LADOOS finally went in that LAUGHTER in column 1 popped out.

Of course, laughter is the best MEDICINE (answer 17). One of the best cartoons I’ve seen recently was from Mac, where a woman is walking out of the house with a suitcase and leaving her husband on the doorstep: “I’m not going to be caught out again by lockdown. I’m moving in with my hairdresser.”

Eventually, the grid was complete. We had ATTACK is the best form of DEFENCE which most politicians do these days: never apologise, never take the blame and don’t even think about HONESTY being the best POLICY. EXPERIENCE is the best TEACHER, sadly lacking in many of today’s politicos. And lastly, not forgetting that SUNLIGHT is the best DISINFECTANT. I’ve never heard of that one; nor has Trump who thinks it is bleach!

Finally, four words to highlight, and with help from THE running NW–SE, I had no difficulty in finding SIX OF THE BEST thus confirming from the unclued entry that the best is YET TO COME. Marginally better would be a start!

Thanks for another fine puzzle, Kea.

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L4624: ‘World-beating’ by Kea

Posted by Encota on 2 Oct 2020

A beautifully constructed puzzle, I thought – my thanks to Kea.

Fortunately I solved all twelve 6-letter answers fairly early on. They still weren’t trivial to jigsaw together but some groups of three appeared to be unique. With one set in place I spotted LAUGHTER as a possible Down entry and already had MEDICINE as an answer – and so the penny dropped. LAUGHTER is the best MEDICINE. I wonder what other phrases could take that form?

At the end I wasn’t quite sure if I’d highlighted a diamond or a world shape. For the former, perhaps an allusion to ‘Diamonds are a girl’s best friend”; if the latter then tying in with the world of ‘world-beating’. Either or both felt like a satisfying solution!

And finally, great punning in the Title – assuming it’s a world shape then that’s at least three meanings!

Cheers all,

Tim / Encota

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Tour de Force by Kea

Posted by shirleycurran on 15 May 2020

Well, if it is by Kea, it is sure to be a tour de force. Isn’t he competing with Shackleton and Elgin as the holder of the most Ascot Gold Cup wins? (I think Kea has the lead in his Kea role and alter ego.) It is a clear preamble (not a pre-ramble this time!) I know that Kea, in his editorial role, is currently in a mode of trimming and polishing setters’ clues (to put it bluntly, removing the verbosity) in a search for greater succinctness  so he obviously mustn’t offend himself, and we find a mere 40 clues with 3, 4 and 5 words in some of them.

(Some years ago, I commented to an editor that I thought that 12 words should be the maximum tolerated in a clue and he responded with horror that we should be aiming at an average of 6 – and Kea has allowed himself a 13-word clue for UBUNTU but maybe that should be used in one of those ‘clue-writing’ competitions to see whether a shorter clue is conceivable – probably not.) Most of these were models of brevity.

‘Occupier sustained colonist (6)’ gave us TEN(uto) + ANT = TENANT

‘Diana glimpsed in hallucinations (6)’ gave us (Hal)LUCINA(tions)

‘Bouncer gets bar back (4)’ Returned RAIL to get LIAR.

Oh yes, of course I checked Kea’s grid and clues carefully to see whether he retains his admission ticket to the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Outfit and have to announce the very sad news that that last clue was a paltry attempt and it looks as though the editor has to go. The ‘bouncer’ may have been removing drunkards from the bar but Kea’s RAIL reversed is a poor apology and LIAR has no claim at all. Sorry, Kea!

But what a stunning compilation. We laboured long and hard to solve these tough clues and, with a number still missing (RAMEAU, VOXELS, SQUIRR, RAVENS, PUTELI, ZENANA) could make a putative grid fill but were unsure of the order of the letters in the outer circles. TURN LOOSE had to fill that first circle, but we had completed our solve before I realized that those eight letters are part of the ETAOIN SHRDLU (most commonly used letters that figured in a Listener crossword a few years ago and, of course all get you a single SCRABBLE point).

Happily, CENTRIFUGE appeared and RABBLE (possibly) a little further round that circle five. I went to bed still musing, well after midnight – but doesn’t the mind do surprising things (or is it the obsessive setting and solving of crosswords that fills a lot of these lockdown days?) “SCRABBLE”, I annonced at 6 a.m. and the other Numpty turned over in bed and went back to sleep. The rest was easy as TEA helped me to produce USING SCRABBLE VALUES FOR MASS – and all that was left to do was to complete my last few words making sure that, for example, the Z of ZENANA was flung by centrifugal force, to the outside of the circle. Yes, I’ve been reproached for making abusive comments about ‘Aren’t I clever?’ setters insisting on using pangrams in their creations, but clearly must concede this time – and we were warned (helpfully) in the preamble.

Don’t get me onto centrifugal force! I spent three tough years training as a ski instructor a long time ago and the oral exam required quite a lot of understanding of the physics of ski turns, which, to my astonishment, was somehow explained as deploying centripetal force – I didn’t understand it but just learned it off by heart. But it was good here to remember that Z gets you a 10, X an 8, F a 4 (?) Yes, of course the values are different if you are playing with a French or a German set as we do here, and you even get different quantities of each letter as Z is easy to use in French, for example.

Be careful with Kea! He condemned a lot of us to ignominious depths with his TABU/TAPU some years ago – so I initially coloured one example of each letter of the alphabet pink (Was that because we might have put NOELLE as our girl rather than JOELLE?) Then I checked that I had three radials with no letters moved (green) 7 with two letters moved (yellow in my grid) and 26 with just one letter going outwards.

Where was the potential ambiguity? Ah, could we have been tempted to put ONAGAR for ONARAG, or ONAFLL for ONALLF? However did Kea do it? Brilliant!

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