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Posts Tagged ‘Merlin’

City Crossing Tour by Merlin

Posted by shirleycurran on 19 October 2012

This was one of those rare occasions when we knew where we were heading   even before the very first solution was slotted in (and that was the familiar word ULNA, ‘Bone left in possession of girl (4)’. That belongs with TSETSE, ANT, MERI and co. in the ‘Stop me if you’ve heard this one before’ category, doesn’t it?) The other numpty said, “This must be Euler’s seven bridges of Königsberg problem – but he proved that there was no solution to that, so perhaps we should stop right now!”

Of course we continued, with the advantage that a lot of solvers must have shared, of having a good idea what the down clue misprints were going to produce. However, some of those were the last ones we understood. Towards the end of our solve, we needed the B and E of Königsberg and had only ‘Doctor in agreement with thirst to slake (4)’ as the potential B. ADRY gave us a poetic word for thirst, so we decided the misprint had to be Blake for Slake. Now that really is working backwards!

SRADDHA had to be an anagram of ‘Rash dad’ – ‘Rash Dad could make offering to forefather (7)’ in the following clue, so our missing E had to come out of ‘Such as Clegg’s maths in old grammar school initially’ (7) (DONNATS). I had completed and sent my entry before a friend explained to me that Clegg appears in ‘The Last of the Summer Wine”. I wonder how many other people living overseas were stymied by that solution!

Happily, the misprints in the across clues were more generous, alerting us, in good time, that we were to SHADE RIVER BLUE. Of course there is always a numpty red herring or two, so I immediately began to hunt for the Pregel or some modern Russian version of it, but it was not to be, and, in any case, we needed a fairly extensive river that had to circle round the two islands of the classic problem.

Lucky finds of DUTCH AUCTIONS, REVIVOR, REVERIST, SRADDHA, SHAVUOTH, TARLATAN and PALSTAFF (just a few more words to innocently drop into dinnertime conversation this week) had helped us towards a fairly speedy grid fill and we were heartily reassured to see that Merlin shared the usual Listener setters’ love of the hard stuff, with a healthy number of tipply clues (‘Brewery’s by-product, one limited in stuff to be fermented’ (8), giving us MUST around LTD – MALTDUST, ‘Brandy perhaps, grounds for poet’s getting drunk’ (6) MARL + ON – though I don’t really understand the boozy reference – why the ON? ‘This pub in south-east is type from posh area’ (4) Interesting that one, as Merlin has split the hyphenated ‘south-east’ to give himself an S and an E to wrap round (S)LOAN(E) and finally, that ‘Doctor in agreement with thirst to slake?’ (4) AY around DR = ADRY according to Blake, we suppose).

There we were with a full grid and an astonishingly clever reconstruction of the Königsberg of Euler’s day that echoed the map that Google produced. Of course I always head there at once: the librarian in our little French commune would be somewhat challenged if I turned up there to do my hunt. Now we understood why we had those funny new words with all the Rs in them, REVERIST, VAIRY, REVIVOR and RORIER. I can just imagine Merlin’s compiler joy when he managed to find those to produce the bed of his river. Of course we coloured all the letters of R I V E R blue and hunted for bridges.

There they were: TAY, LONDON, FOOT, BAY, PONTOON, HUMPBACK and TOLL. I am stupid enough, after all these centuries, to imagine that Euler might have miscalculated, so, of course, I fiddled for a few pointless minutes attempting to escape from some remote area of Königsberg – was there a hidden airstrip, stilts, a wet suit, a ferry or something that would allow a leap from one side to the other of the grid? Of course, the other numpty is the scientific one. “Euler demonstrated that the addition of a bridge would solve the puzzle – there has to be another bridge!” SEA BRIDGE? It is there, but, sadly, it provides a fourth way off the island, only compounding the problem but EUREKA – sneaky Merlin has offered us an escape route. A TUNNEL!

We weren’t home and dry yet. I had pencilled routes all over my grid and inevitably ended up crossing my own tracks, so I handed over to the other numpty who finally produced the winning route.

What an impressive compilation. Thank you Merlin!

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Knight’s Move by Merlin

Posted by shirleycurran on 30 March 2012

“Oh no! Not knights’ moves again!” was our first reaction. Do we really have three days to spare? Sabre gave us our longest solve ever last year and we are still smarting.

We set to anyway and peace was quickly restored as one lovely clue after another yielded its secret. AHAB went in first; ‘Captain of whaler a hardy seaman (4)’ producing A H(ard) + AB and an extra Y. FL (Liechtenstein) is just over at the other side of Switzerland (I even worked there once, in Malbun, a delightful little ski resort) and that fitted with ATTEST to give FLATTEST ‘Must even Liechtenstein give evidence (8)’, so we had an O and a U when MUST changed to MOST.

The three different ways of producing extra letters gave Merlin lots of diverting ways to write clues and we thoroughly enjoyed solving this crossword. We must have been lucky, as the words YOU MAY KNOW quickly appeared and one numpty began to sing some song about ‘You may know by the clothes I wear that I’m a cowboy’. It was difficult to persuade him, even when ‘ALACRITY’ appeared in the down clue extra letters, that we were more likely to be in Shakespeare territory with a very famous huge knight.

Having ‘You may know by my size that I have a kind of alacrity in sinking’ as the phrase was a great help, and, in usual numpty style, we worked backwards, easily spotting the source of the remaining extra letters and had a full grid with a distraught (anagrammed) FALSTAFF in the BUCKBASKET where the Merry Wives bestowed him before we took a break for dinner.

No problems? Well not many. We liked the way the extra N could be produced by BAG around SKIN or BANG around SKI for BASKING in ‘Report about skin getting exposed to sun (7)’. As usual I learnt a sprinkling of new words, TAGLIONIS (coats indeed! They sound more like some exotic pasta), TEKTITE and the unusual LABILE, meaning ‘apt to change’. Of course I was reassured that Merlin shared the usual Listener setter oenophilia with ‘SmAll beer? Stop stocking fine cask (8)’ giving PIN in HALT – HALFPINT, and a ‘college drunk mentioned’ (to give Tech + tight = TEKTITE).

Our only problem came when, after dinner, we decided to throw Falstaff into the River Thames and I became mildly troubled by the words of the preamble.  We had to ‘replace him, yet more distraught … overwriting existing letters to make more new words’. It wasn’t difficult to see that LFAF/AFTS would convert ANGER to ANGEL, OTTERS to AFTERS, ENGRAINS to ENGRAFTS, SUMMON to SUMMAT and HAJI to HAFF, but what does OVERWRITING mean?

Chambers offers alternatives. One can ‘superscribe’, ‘cover over with writing or other writing’, or ‘type over and replace (existing characters)’. It seems to be that there are two possibilities there. Do we leave the original characters visible underneath? Hmmm! It is so often the preambles rather than the actual solving that give cause for doubt. It seems to me that either way of resolving the problem would be justifiable so I shelved my doubts and we left Falstaff at the bottom of the river after about two hours of very enjoyable solving. Many thanks to Merlin.

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