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Posts Tagged ‘Phi’

Gallery by Phi

Posted by shirleycurran on 14 December 2018

With some surprise, we downloaded a circular grid, though we have memories of Phi’s unusual grids, in particular when he celebrated his own fiftieth birthday with a double L grid. We know that editors are not over-fond of circular crosswords, partly because they tend to leave too many unchecked letters for the solver to work out, but this one, with a mere thirty-nine clues had (we discovered as we solved) the astonishing property of confirming every letter except for that repeated one from the radial entries that interrupted some of the circular solutions.

We noted that we were going to find just one single extra letter in the wordplay of one of the circular clues and the these were going to establish a scoring system in some form of game where the ten inward solutions were competing with the outward ones. We guessed from the title that we were going to be shooting at a target or maybe playing darts. Well, there would be a few glasses of beer consumed during either of those matches though the clues didn’t contain much alcohol – just a landlord and some Ecstasy being pocketed, but cheers, anyway, Phi.

That clue, ‘Youth estranged from much of society immediately pocketing Ecstasy’ gave us our first p.d.m. as we put NEXT round E and produced our NEET with an extra X. Could our scoring system be Roman numerals? (Thinking back to Phi’s Fifty crossword, that seemed plausible). ‘Recipient of goods no longer let down with busy person about’ put a BEE round VAIL, giving BAILEE and we had our V for five, so we hunted for an L in ring 4. That was tough (but Phi’s clues sometimes are, aren’t they?).Eventually we found that PLAT is an ‘American plan’ and reversing that gave us TAP, the espionage activity. We found the C with less difficulty, ‘Expert taking care of brittle cracked bitumen gave us A[C]E round BRITTLE* = ALBERTITE. D emerged from ‘SE[D] PAL’ for ‘Part of flower’ and I from (c)ADD[I]S, ‘Attaches braid without a hint of colour’. Those values worked from the outer circle to the inner one so we decided that a bull’s eye would have to score M or a thousand.

We slowly filled our grid, grateful for all those intersecting letters, then colour-coded our team of inward players and outward players and carefully added up their scores. Of course some of them (OPEN SEA, TAMARAO, SANTERO and OILLETS) had scored bull’s eyes, extending beyond the six cells allocated to the other words, but that was MM for each team so we had to carefully calculate the shots in the six rings. We had some doubt about the shared ‘hit’ where EL NINO and ALECTO might both have put their bullets into the same hole or one of them might have missed (which would justify that figure 16 in the preamble), but decided to give them the benefit of the doubt and to add DD to the score. Inward seemed to be the more accurate shooter scoring MMDD CXVVII (3122) against Outward’s MMLXXXV (2085). Inward is the winner!

What fun and what a clever idea. Thank you, Phi.

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‘Squares’ by Phi

Posted by Encota on 25 August 2017

First of all, thank you Phi for a clever and enjoyable puzzle.  Mine ended up looking like this:

2017-08-05 20.49.46 copy

I particularly liked how each square had the colour required within it – especially the ‘folded’ yellow – and that we weren’t spoon-fed their existence in the Preamble.

But I had been somewhat surprised to see the puzzle’s theme – and below you’ll see why …

Last (at the time of writing) Saturday 29th July I was delighted to meet up with fellow setters and solvers at the regular, quarterly, Listener get-together in London.  Before the meeting and after a relaxing breakfast with one of my sons, he and I decided to visit Tate Modern.

And there I found a great idea for a puzzle.  I took photos so I could recall every detail.  On the way home on the train I started sketching how it might look in the Grid.  Then I put that aside for the rest of the week to let me deal with other ‘stuff’ that needed sorting.  This is what I had seen:


This was the artwork ‘Composition C’ by Piet Mondrian, details below:


So imagine my delight when I saw L4462 this weekend!  I am definitely counting myself very lucky that it appeared before I’d invested too much time in creating my own imitation.  Have any other setters experienced similar?*  I.e. been a (long?) way down the track with a new puzzle theme only to find someone else got there first?  Perhaps it is a lot more common than I realise?  If yes, I’d love to hear your Comments!


Tim / Encota

*Of course fellow blogger Dave Henning’s database does a great job of helping one avoid inadvertently using a previously deployed theme, or ensuring that a new use is different enough: it’s the time where new themes are hiding in the puzzle editor’s queues where the ‘fun’ starts!

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Squares by Phi

Posted by shirleycurran on 25 August 2017

The preamble was rather daunting – a grid with no clue numbers, no word lengths and the clues divided into sets of three ‘squares’ and others. There were two anagrams to discover and solve too, though we suspected at once, since those were both of three words, that they were going to be on the top and bottom rows of the grid or down the two sides.

Of course I had to check that Phi had maintained his long-standing right of entry to the Listener setters’ toping outfit, and, of course, though rather eccentrically, he confirmed it with an obscure East African drink, ‘Millet supplied by West Africa for East African drink.’ I confess that I needed Mrs Bradford to produce a drink with WA in it, and, of course, RAGI is millet, so hope to see you at the bar in Paris, Phi, maybe with something slightly less exotic than WARAGI. Cheers!

We were really lucky in that we spotted the hidden ORTOLAN at once, ‘Some decor to landscape is bunting’, and it was evident, since the ‘other’ clues were in conventional grid order, that that was going to fill the first across light of seven cells, so our grid fill was immediately underway. Since that was one of the clues that was not in any of the squares, our ‘yellow’ square quickly filled. As soon as we realized that a word like DITHEIST, ‘Scots block robbery, one directed by two overlords’ (DIT + HEIST – what lovely word play!) was in that square even if only one letter of it fitted there, we were well underway.

Even better. I PAI?T appeared on our top row and we had our penny-drop-moment. Who paints squares? Google at once confirmed that MONDRIAN’S first name was PIET so I PAINT MODERN seemed likely and the slightly less likely NO DIM PAINTER went across the bottom of our grid.

I was lucky in that I had selected red, yellow and blue as my working colours, with those ‘other’ solutions in green and the dimensions of those squares were fixed since black lines, in Mondrian style, had to divide them. We soon spotted that the names of the colours were actually appearing in the squares, and we were home and dry. Most enjoyable, thank you, Phi.

Hares? Of course they were there, rather deceptively jumbled and not in straight lines but squatting merrily in the Mondrian masterpiece. There were a couple of  DOEs too at the top and bottom of the grid but the hares had clearly not spotted them yet or there would have been some lively sport, I suspect.

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Listener No 4462: Squares by Phi

Posted by Dave Hennings on 25 August 2017

Phi’s 2017 Listener puzzle faced us this week. You never know with him whether it’s going to be relatively easy, tricky or an outright toughie. My blog for last year’s A Bit Up in the Air (about the tossing of a coin) began “A much easier week from Phi”. Would this week’s be equally forgiving? I tossed a coin: it came down heads.

Here we had four sets of clues. Three were presented in alphabetical order of their answers, each relating to a square region of the grid. The fourth set of clues were in normal grid order and I decided to tackle them first.

The second clue in this group led to ORTOLAN and the third to KERMES. I took a chance and entered them in rows 3 and 4 respectively. OISE came next, but there were no 4-letter across entries so it looked as though that would go in the top right corner. MERCAT and ALUM were the only others I got in this group and, again, I took a guess that they were in the bottom half of the grid.

The clues under the ‘square’ headings were a bit slow coming, but I was happy when I got INOBSERVANT going down column 1 — the V almost certainly precluded it from column 12 (OLLAV seemed unlikely). The rest of the grid still took some time, especially since the top and bottom rows turned out to be the unclued entries.

These two rows turned out to be I PAINT MODERN and NO DIM PAINTER (rather than “Nod, I’m painter!”). It didn’t take too long to unscramble Dutch artist Piet Mondrian (1872–1944), he of the squares, rectangles and black lines. The Wiki article describes his later works as “almost cartographical in appearance”, which I guess could be called MAP RENDITION.

All that remained was to paint each of the regions as indicated by their hidden colours — RED, YELLOW, BLUE — and then draw in the thick black lines. Et voilà! Although it certainly AIN’T MIRO PEN’D.

Another enjoyable work of art from Phi, thanks. I’d pitch it about medium difficulty, unlike some of Mondrian’s works which remind me of what I drew as a kid! Now where’s my easel?

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Also read this…

Posted by Encota on 25 November 2016

Phi’s wit showed immediately in the very first clue (which I suspect Shirley will mention – can’t think why 🙂  ).  It initially appeared like a strong contender for “Pedents Corner”, as it included the spelling ‘whisky’ preceded by ‘Irish’!  But no, of course this was Phi’s gentle way of nudging us into noticing that one or other of ‘Irish’ and ‘whisky’ was out of place and thus a likely word to be removed before solving, as per the Preamble’s instruction.  This was going to be fun!

Aside: I’m currently watching Series 3 of Black Mirror, that brilliant-but-scary Charlie Brooker view of a dystopian near-future tech-laden world.  Some grisly, thought-provoking stuff.  I’m picturing a final scene, with a final decision to be made:

Sit loads: hear last radio.  She also has tried to share dials, as this ordeal is old as Earth.  I herald a toss: “Heads or Tails?”

OK, the above is pretentious garbage.  But one thing that does surprise me about the phrase HEADS OR TAILS is how many plausible ‘anagrammed phrases’ it reveals.  We’ve already seen ‘I HERALD A TOSS’ as the appropriate anagram so cleverly used by Phi down the left-hand-side of this puzzle: for those with a spare few minutes over the weekend (or should that read seconds for this audience?) feel free to try these ones:

  1. Graham Norton maybe (8,4)
  2. The crew’s demise (7,5)
  3. Perhaps three-in-four drastically reduced to one-over-the-eight, say (5,7)
  4. Places to buy specific perennial garden plants (6,6)
  5. Lost the plot?  (4,4,4)
  6. 2001 computer’s minor planet? (4,8)
  7. A possible problem for Fallen Angel? (4,8)
  8. Cut off tall pointed London landmark (7,5)
  9. Didn’t find that prize in Kit Williams’ Masquerade (4,4,4)
    [this one is LOST SAID HARE]
  10. A rare scratch? (8,4) and
  11. What this blog could be named, if only I was paid for it (8,4)


Back to the real subject – this super puzzle.  I know I’m a novice when it comes to Listener crosswords – but is the clue type ‘Two Definitions of Words that differ by only one letter plus Wordplay for only the Common Part’ Phi’s own invention?  Certainly these sorts of clues were new to me and fabulous they were – thank you Phi for introducing me to them.  I do look forward to seeing them in use again sometime soon!  Here’s one example:

Persistent psychiatrist introducing singular punishment (7)

Definition 1 = persistent -> LASTING
Definition 2 = punishment -> LASHING
Wordplay = S(ingular) in LAING (psychiatrist) = LASING

and, as I enjoyed them so much, here’s one more:

Encourages busy store to stock unknown screws (7)

Definition 1 = encourages -> EXHORTS
Definition 2 = screws -> EXTORTS
Wordplay = X (unknown) in STORE* = EXORTS

And there were six more to enjoy, all delightful.

For me, the SW corner went in first, though solving 35ac (correctly) as SEA GODS then immediately entering SEA DOGS was a great way to slow me down!  Luckily it soon became obvious what I had done.  Last quadrant in was the SW: 36ac’s Scots downpour had me thinking it was PLASH not BLASH for ten minutes or so.  Once I spotted BLAS(e) for ‘…unimpressed because of familiarity, mostly‘ then all became clear.

There was one plural not directly provided by my (admittedly slightly older 2014) versions of Chambers, namely 11d’s GIRRS.  The third definition under gird says (Scot): ‘A hoop (also girr)’ but girrs doesn’t automatically appear in my WordWeb Pro version (bought this year) as the plural.  I suspect it’ll be updated soon enough.

I felt Phi had been particularly clever in picking words to fit the two phrases, i.e.
I__H   (IrisH) etc.
Picking either the Head or Tail of each word revealed the two 12-letter phrases: I HERALD A TOSS and HEADS OR TAILS.  The skill here as the setter of course was to pick words that would also fit suitably unobtrusively into the twelve chosen clues – no mean feat and done here brilliantly, I felt.

And finally, the Title.  Fairly straightforward this week, at least with hindsight: ‘bit’ as a coin helps create a clever pun.  Overall – great fun.  Thanks Phi!

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