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Posts Tagged ‘Mr E’

Nostrum by Mr E

Posted by shirleycurran on 24 Mar 2017

‘Nostrum’ said the other Numpty – well, that’s Mare Nostrum, the Med, isn’t it. But we shelved that useful bit of information and it was quite a long time before we returned to it.

sea-legs-001It didn’t take long, though, to confirm Mr E’s continued membership of the Listener Setter’s Tipsy Club, though we realized fairly early on, when the letters in the circles produced MAD HATTER (a great favourite of mine) that we were at a tea party, of all things, with Alice, the Dormouse and the March Hare. (That dratted HARE. I thought Hedge-sparrow had done for him a week ago by having the four HARE letters in a straight line run over by the HIGH SPEED TWO!)

Mr E gives his game away at once, ‘Relating to absorption of smells surrounding drunkard (7)’ gives OSMIC around [S]OT = OSMOTIC – so we have a ‘sot’ and ‘drunkard’. Apologies Mr E but there it is in the clues! See you at the bar next Friday? Cheers!hare-and-hatter-001

We back-solved, really, since as soon as we had the MAD HATTER, we were able to complete the truncated question produced by the extra letters in the wordplay of clues.  ‘WHY IS A RAVEN LIKE A WRITING DESK?’ has produced years of entertaining answers (even though Carroll himself told us that ‘The Riddle. as originally invented, had no answer at all’).

Our friend that elusive HARE isn’t much help in solving the riddle as we are told he hasn’t a clue either:

`Have you guessed the riddle yet?’ the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.

`No, I give it up,’ Alice replied: `what’s the answer?’

`I haven’t the slightest idea,’ said the Hatter.

`Nor I,’ said the March Hare.

We could see where to change a solution to insert RAVEN. RIVEN had already appeared in our grid ‘Poet’s raft, forcefully sent away without leader (5)’ = [D]RIVEN, Keatsian RAFT and the Spenserian word for the past participle of RIVE, and the only likely place to insert WRITING DESK was where we had DRIVING TEST, ‘Nancy’s score in extremely precise examination (11, two words)’. How I like that clever clue: VINGT in DRIEST. In fact, our first scan through the clues had shown us a whole series of beautifully convincing and deceptive surface readings – what a fine compilation!

001Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is the source of so many great crossword themes and Martin Gardner’s ‘The Annotated Alice – Lewis Carroll‘ exhaustively deals with the details of Carroll’s brilliantly absurd fiction. I remembered that E.V. Rieu provided the most popular solution to the riddle which is as absurd as the riddle itself – and Gardner’s note confirmed it: ‘There is a B in Both’ (and an N in Neither’ is often appended).

We still had to find the two solutions that were to be jumbled to produce a new question and Mr E’s grid made it clear where they were to be found since the answer to 2d was obviously PLEASE: ‘Like meadows in Peru (6)’ LEAS in PE, and 36ac seemed to be DIRECTION: ‘Dreadful battle without a sense of purpose (9)’ DIRE ACTION less A. So we had to jumble PLEASE with DIRECTION to produce the two words that were to fit into those lights and complete a new question. TEA is so useful for such problems. I do sometimes wonder how solvers with no access to such tools manage to solve complex anagrams and the like. We are given the words that clearly fitted those lights in the grid – CENTIPEDE and SAILOR.  With a whoop of triumph, I announced ‘Why is a sailor like a centipede?’ It’s yet another of those groan-worthy Christmas cracker jokes isn’t it? ‘They both have C legs’. We thought all was done and dusted – but oh no, we had a considerable amount of head scratching before seeing the C formed by MEDITERRANEAN, even though the LEGS were leaping out of the grid at us.

Mr E had given the essential clue hadn’t he? ’17 cells, located symmetrically about a horizontal axis: that told us very clearly that one cell (at least) had to be in the centre row of the grid. Thank you, Mr E. Great fun.

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Now You See It by Mr E

Posted by shirleycurran on 4 Apr 2014

Mr E Toothpaste 001Now you see it: now you don’t – well that was just about how I felt for a long time about Mr E’s latest offering. Apart from that hated word ‘jumbles’, the preamble offered nothing daunting and a quick read through confirmed that Mr E retains his ticket for the Listener Setter’s imbibing club, with a couple of tipply clues, ‘Step on it when entering to provide soldiers with punch (7) (not much alcohol there really DO + OR + MAT) and ‘America taxes belts of hard stuff (6)’ (A + TOLLS). My read through did confirm that there was a fine set of surface readings here, even if, like those two, most were very deceptive – as was definitely intended.

Still, the other numpty was remarkably on form and in about an hour, we had an almost complete grid with a good sense of where our five jumbled clues were going to be. They were, not surprisingly, the last ones we solved. I suppose that says a lot about our solving technique (or mine, at least) which depends very much on the letters that are already in the grid for suggesting words that I then attempt to relate to the definition – that is the reason, I think, for my loathing of jumbles.

All the same, FISHING TACKLE did seem to fit the clue for 36 across, and we had a lot of the letters already in place, suggesting that TACKLE would remain unchanged, leaving us to work out that an anagram of THINGS was going into the middle of ‘unsteady’ or FICKLE, and the letters already in place suggested that INSIGHT was the word we were going to be using. After all, it did relate, rather cleverly, to the title ‘Now You See It’ and to the EPHEMERAL that had slotted in at 17 across.

The Numpty red herring? Of course there was. We learned that HEFT was another name for what we call a sheep cote, and that suggested that our lakeland word, HAWSE, was going to be entered as ASH WE. We already had LINNET (a lovely clue, the reverse of TEN NIL ‘Bird upset by one-sided result (6)’) entered as what could become I LENT N, so were we looking for something to do with Ash Wednesday and Lent? There was a TREE in TREETL ‘One formerly preventing sin, say (6)’ which might have rood connotations – but it didn’t quite gel did it? Especially as our last jumble was GRATE, entered as TAGER. Oh yes, of course we had first wondered whether it could be TIGER as he, too, has bars ‘This has some bars and spaces larger than others, I’d say (5)’ but it was difficult to justify the spaces, and, anyway, we needed a fifth jumble.

So there we were: a full grid to stare at and something to do with INSIGHT to resolve. We muttered and fumed and got nowhere, so slept on it and, when I woke in the morning, I had almost seen the light. It occurred to me that TAGER needed a couple of Es round it to make ETAGERE – a real word, and Mr E might have considered that EE to have something to do with sight (well it has in Scotland!) So I fed the other offenders into TEA with asterisks around them and gave a hoot of joy (and kicked myself soundly) when STREET LIGHT, SILENT NIGHT, SASH WEIGHT and STAGE RIGHT all offered themselves with SIGHT neatly enclosing the offending jumbles.

There was one last step and it took the other numpty about five seconds to spot a word that ‘might be found jumbled in another sense’. “Well”, he said, “It is most likely to be TASTE round something – TOOTHPASTE, for example”. Of course, there it was – PHOTO. Nice one, Mr E.

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2012 What’s My Line? by Mr E

Posted by shirleycurran on 28 Dec 2012

Listener 4219 001The Numpties took a deep breath when we saw Mr E’s name at the top of this one. We’ve seen him at the E and of the magpie puzzles and we don’t usually have a couple of weeks to spare so we don’t attempt those. There was nothing for it – we waded in.

Surprisingly, the clues were solved fairly quickly. Perhaps we were encouraged by the habitual Listener compiler tipple. We couldn’t see any alternative for ASTI in 8ac ‘What could be most interesting in test? This Italian white (4)’ and ‘I’m rarely stupid unless I get drunk (7)’ – that was a kind gift of an anagram, giving INSULSE. There was another fascinating new word to drop in nonchalantly too, ‘Noticed any TANIWHAS around lately?’ (Water monster hoisted a sailor say? Nothing in it (7) A HAT round NIX rev – but that X had to go in as a W. Aha!).

Now we were starting to produce a few examples of word play that gave us Xs or Ys instead of the letter that was to be entered. I wasn’t sure how these were going to produce the coordinates, so kept a faithful record of the letters that went into the grid and, as our fill developed, we noticed that the down Xs and Ys seemed to anagram to TWO/TEN. Could those be the coordinates?

We thoroughly enjoyed a couple of clues along the way. There was that lovely UNNOTICED that came from ‘Warm perhaps, after middle of June – in camouflage? (9)’ (I’m reminded of that exchange between James McNeill Whistler, was it, and his friend Oscar Wilde. “I wish I’d said that!” “You will, Oscar, you will!) and the amusing use of Us in ‘Marks cars moving around on lines above us? (7)’ Brilliant that one!

Under two hours and we had a full grid with the across clues producing U? and SEPT. Yes, we had spotted the fact that faux pas in the preamble was leading us to numbers they use around here, UN and SEPT, so it looked as though we had our second co-ordinate and, what’s more, we suspected that when we drew them on our grid, they would produce the MAGINOT LINE. (Yes, I realize it is a bit early even for First World War crosswords, never mind ones about the Somme and the Maginot Line but who knows?)

Well there has to be a numpty red herring each week and this week there was a second one. No, not the Maginot Line, our letters were OSTUEGORGMICO and do you know what they anagram to? GO-GO COSTUMIER! I know we had a descent into football culture with Arsène Wenger and Arsenal this year and some of us muttered about that but really, this was going just one step too far! We hummed and hawed and grumbled our scorn and disgust and set to to find out about sixties fashion, go-go boots, Mary Quant, André Courrèges and Yves Saint Laurent. Eventually, since none of those appeared in any ‘congruent’ line to the GO-GO COSTUMIER one, we had a dinner pause. Always a good plan at Listener moments like these.

We returned refreshed and wondered whether our editors had really lost the place to that extent. No, surely those letters must produce something else? Like a shaft of brilliant light it came, ‘COGITO ERGO SUM’. All we had to find was RENE DESCARTES. The other numpty was in a muttery mood after all the go-go boots and swore that the second line, parallel to the first, was not actually congruent, but it was fine for me, as it produced  EANECDRTSRESE. That couldn’t be pure chance.

Finished! Well, not quite. What was that bit about ‘The answer to the second question, ‘And whose line is it, anyway?’ is entered across, jumbled with just one letter changed’? I am not going to admit, here, how many potential solutions I found in the grid. Again, I was muttering about the editors letting that one through if, for example, the SEODCDRA of the fourth line was going to change its O to a T and use the ES twice. What a sly dog, Mr E and no wonder we were not required to highlight that one. It’s Sunday afternoon now, and I have just put pink highlighter on the words ‘ENTERED ACROSS’ in the preamble (of course, if you jumble them, you need to change the O of ACROSS to an E!) It was a delightful little addition, though, wasn’t it?

Thank you Mr E for a pleasant work out with a tough endgame.

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Some Assembly Required by Mr E

Posted by shirleycurran on 13 Aug 2010

I am feeling like a very small numpty indeed compared with the intellectual giant that Mr E must be. I have been attempting to work out how he compiled Some Assembly Required. Three four-letter clues had to be normal but composed of twelve of the twenty-six letters of the alphabet. Their twelve letters (HIVE, ZARF, ONUS) had to correspond with the extra letters produced by the wordplay of twelve clues. Those clues had to contain extra words that, read in, for example, ZARF order, gave ‘Grandma’s tiramisu uses wine’ – a clue for ASTI, one of the seven unclued lights. (So Mr E confirms my suspicion that there really is an oenophiliac requirement for Listener compilers!)

ONUS gave ‘Each expert’s holding prize’ (a clue for APIECE), and HIVE gave us ‘Mistakenly cite Hopi tongue’ (the clue for ETHIOPIC), leaving us with four ‘potential’ words to sort out, ILLUSTRATEDS, ROSETTA, PACKMAW and LADYBUG and twelve extra letters still to place (J,Q,T and X). We could eliminate ILLUSTRATEDS and ROSETTA at once, as they both contained checked double letters, so our culprits were L?DYB?G and P?CKM?W, and, of course, they produced just what we needed – a clue for ILLUSTRATEDS, ‘Our people started rioting after hurtful publications’ and a clue for ROSETTA, ‘African city grew up by dry area’.

Dazzlingly brilliant but where did Mr E start in the compilation? My mind simply can’t get round it. (It would be great if he honoured us with a setter’s blog!) What an injustice that a crossword compiler earns peanuts for compiling this sort of astonishing work of genius when a mindless adolescent can earn millions cavorting on a stage or kicking a ball around.

However did we solve it? The clues were superb, weren’t they? I was especially taken with the one for WALNUT (‘What could make Queen Anne cabinet reverse [hurtful] old fine’ – producing UNLAW reversed and the necessary extra letter T). The normal clues filled the grid fairly quickly and, about an hour into our solve, those telltale extra letters Z and Q turned up, (in QUIEN SABE and KRANTZ) prompting us that the extra letters were panalphabetical. Soon, we had only the unclued lights to sort out.

Doesn’t this sound easy? Of course the numpties faced problems. I had realized that the twelve letters of the normally clued answers and the words L?DYB?G and P?CKM?Q gave all of the alphabet except JQT and X, but, for nearly twenty-four hours, simply compiled random clues for the unclued lights, not recognizing the letter-to-word link (which, of course, had to be there; no doubt seasoned solvers saw it instantly) –  a real head-scratcher. For example ETHIOPIAN, in my bungling, had ‘Mistakenly Hopi cite African tongue’. Allocating all the extra words seemed to be an impossible task and there was no way to know how to place the JQX and T.

What a relief when it was finally resolved and the twenty-six extra words neatly slotted into clues! I thought Mr E’s Some Assembly Required was outstanding! I have never solved anything like it.

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Be My Guest by Mr E. Contesseration

Posted by shirleycurran on 22 Jan 2010

Namey Namey becomes Mr E's soulmate

There was a fair chance that this was going to be a blogless week for the Easy-clues-stripey-horse-Z???? (5) team. Did I hear a groan of relief from the experts who despair of our floundering bungled solves? After the usual hours of desperate staring at Mr E’s odd grid with the blank corner square, our early solutions took us nowhere.

Why? Clearly, since clues were going to yield words that were sometimes longer than the number of cells, and ‘two letters separated by a diagonal line must therefore be entered in some cell’ (did he mean cells? Was this a Listener misprint?) we had to spot across and down clues that shared a couple of letters. ASPIDISTRA and DISEMBARK seemed to be a fine pair of culprits and a few other pairs appeared – and we had dug ourselves into a fine hole.          
Obviously we were on the fast track to failure.  The south-east corner of the grid filled easily with straight-forward clues like ‘Purple (coat) missing in inn’ (AUBERGE). (For once, our other language didn’t work against us.) ‘Who will bother the queen about measure by (eastern) prince’ PESTERER , INVITEE, ORDINEE, TOGETHER  and FUGIE but nothing would fit around our slashed cells.          

Expert solvers will probably find it impossible to believe that we could be so blind to the obvious. It took our wise friend to prompt us to read the preamble more carefully. (New Year resolution stuck on the mirror READ THE LISTENER PREAMBLE MORE CAREFULLY!) Of course, there was a reason for those details, ‘both letters in a double cell from part of both the across and down answers intersecting at that cell, when read in the encountered order‘ So that was why the line had to be diagonal! As soon as we understood that the letters were read in one order for the down clues and the other for the across clues, the grid-fill became easy.          

CONTESSERATION emerged in a lovely upward-slanting line of double cells – ah, the joys of ignorance – Chambers explained that and all was clear. Even the message emerged, ‘Cut it out, cut it in Y, keep Y, enclose Y with your name on it’. With backward easy-clues team logic, we understood that our missing solution at 2d ‘Without a bit of stealth, like criminals raised imperfectly’ (4) had to be HALF and the wordplay was explained to us – FLASH (slang for criminal) upwards, without S (a bit of stealth).          

This was not the only wordplay that confounded us. What had Hurok to do with the SUNGOD in ‘Maybe Sol Hurok clebrated with force’, (except, of course, that we needed its H)? We recognised that we were dealing with a TIGON because the word fitted but failed to see that subtle wordplay where AN and English went round it to give us the tragedy ANTIGONE, and we still cannot understand how we get CLIO as the ‘Goddess caught mother of 10 cutting head off’ (eldest). It seems to us that we have to cut the tail off a LION to get the LIO of CLIO. (More cruelty to animals, just like last week’s miserable little stoned wrens!)      

At one stage Mr Math muttered, ‘If Mr E really wants to contesserate with lots of new friends, he should make his clues easier!     

We dabbled with the idea of cutting the entire grid in half diagonally and sending a queer triangle of words, but, in the end, neatly chopped out that tessera and are carefully looking after Mr E’s part. After last week’s birds and this week’s holey grid, we are fearful of what lies in store next week. Thank you, Mr E, for what, in the end, was a very rewarding solve.

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