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Posts Tagged ‘Planets’

Hotfoot by Vismut

Posted by shirleycurran on 15 Jan 2021

The last Listener crossword of the year and what a pleasure to see that it is by a lady setter. We already saw Vismut at the start of the year and have also solved one of Skylark’s compilations, but ladies still produced less than 8% of the year’s Listener output. One has to wonder why there is this massive imbalance.

However, Vismut speedily qualifies for the Listener Setters’ Elite Oenophile Set with, ‘Wicked enough to get drunk [messenger] to mislay second letter (6)’. It is Christmas day so she has an excuse, maybe, and we remove the second letter of SKINFUL to produce SINFUL. She declares an alcohol preference with, ‘Spirits essentially short, unless mixed (7)’. We mix UNLESS with the heart of ‘shOrt’ and get ENSOULS. With that skinful of spirits, short or mixed, “Cheers! Vismut.

‘Hotfoot’. It’s an intriguing title (we wonder – are we going to meet Brer Rabbit or ‘The boy stood on the burning deck’?)  We are told that there are seven extra words in clues and that a word’s ‘position in the clue indexes a letter from the answer. These words and letters identify most of a work …’ That is Vismut’s special device that we have already met in her puzzles – a pleasant change from misprints and extra letters in wordplay.

We also have to find the ‘rest of’ that work in the grid and change it to identify a second work.

Ah but then we read that down clues will contain ten misprints of one letter in the definition (misprints after all, but only ten!) and that corrections will ‘spell out a hint to what else solvers must change in the grid, to reveal the second work’s creator’.

It is ‘jollity’ that gives us our penny-drop-moment. The other Numpty with his encyclopaedic knowledge of trivial detail says, “Jollity, Winged Messenger, Magician, Mystic? Those are Holst’s Nicknames for the characters in his Planets Suite.” and Wiki produces the list for us. So we spotted ‘Old’ and ‘Age’ in two more clues, even in the order they appear in the list, though War and Peace were not there.

  • Mars, the Bringer of War (1914)
  • Venus, the Bringer of Peace (1914)
  • Mercury, the Winged Messenger (1916)
  • Jupiter, the Bringer of Jollity (1914)
  • Saturn, the Bringer of Old Age (1915)
  • Uranus, the Magician (1915)
  • Neptune, the Mystic (1915)

Of course, we understood when ‘Copper’s village emptied before star shown around (5)’ gave us V(illag)E + SUN< which spelled VENUS “That’s a reference to copper in alchemy,” proclaimed the erudite Numpty. We had to find MARS and there was the Bringer of War hiding at the left of the grid. We saw HOLST there too, down the leading diagonal – naturally!

The corrected misprints spelled out TITLE ODDLY, and we wondered, for a while what we were going to do with the PLANETS SUITE but then realized that the odd letters of the crossword title HoTfOoT spell out H to T. What a delightful endgame. We change the H of HOLST to T and TOLSTOY obligingly appears so we need to change MARS and VENUS to WAR and PEACE. Most satisfactory, thank you Vismut!

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Stomach by MynoT

Posted by shirleycurran on 29 Jan 2016

MynoT 002These are early days when the editors generally treat us to relatively ‘easy’ puzzles and MynoT had actually told me that he had a puzzle due and that it was fairly easy (but we all know that setters are good at judging the difficulty of other people’s puzzles but not very good at rating their own) so it was with some trepidation that we looked at this large grid, and with even more anxiety that I copied it into Crossword Compiler (such a useful solving tool!) and saw the astonishing unching and almost total lack of symmetry. What were the editors and MynoT treating us to?

Did I say trepidation? It became sheer panic when we compared the word lengths with the spaces in the grid and found, for example, four eleven-letter words but not a single eleven-letter space in the grid, some eight-letter words, likewise with no place to enter them … and so on.

Nothing to be done – except do a quick run through to make sure that MynoT retains his place as an honorary member of the Listener Oenophiles club, though, with good reason (we have shared a glass) I had little doubt. His seventh clue immediately confirmed his place: ‘Stall with coffee or tea (4)’ GAVE B[Y]RE + W, then with that BREW, MynoT ‘Drank back in warehouse (5)’ DEPOT reversed, giving us TOPED. The toping wasn’t over. Later we encountered ‘Grape skins etc that can be fermented without agitation, liable to wither (11)’ – one of those worrying eleven-letter words that, only with the endgame gave us a new word (for the Numpties who should have recognised the reference to MARC) MARCESCIBLE.

MynoT hadn’t yet reached the end of the alcohol references. Next came ‘Foreign soldier to lubricate in bar (5)’ OIL in PU[B] giving POILU, and finally decanters: ‘America is engaged in conveyances for decanters (11 – another of those ‘over-long’ clues!)’ giving us US in TRANSFERS = TRANSFUSERS. Of course, at this stage we had no idea where we could fit that word.

These clues were a fine set and we raced through them, with about three-quarters of them solved in our first hour but, oh dear, the head-scratching about how to fill our grid. There was just one faint hope, as, running out of highlighters and pens, we had, nevertheless, managed to colour code our word lengths and had noticed that there were five spaces for ten-letter words and four clues that would fit. Putting PINSTRIPED and PANEGYRICS into the top left corner, and ESSAYETTES and STRICTNESS into the opposite corner was our way into the grid fill and we quickly slotted in almost all the words we had already found, leaving an intriguing white strip diagonally up/down our grid from top right to bottom left.

Now what? We could see elements of those extra long words in the grid that was appearing but there were, for example, extra letters like SAT in the centre of TETES-A-TETES and RUN in the middle of FORERUNNERS. ‘SATRUN’? AVENA and MUSE gave us VEN and US — Penny drop moment, ‘Venus’! Of course, from then on it was plain sailing – or almost. We still had to put those extra letters OYSSSAISECMLEHL into the clue order in which they appeared in the grid. What did we find? SYMBOLISE CLASHES.

That was clearly telling us that instead of squeezing the letters of Mercury into that tiny cell, we had to enter the symbol for Mercury. Which symbol? One of the Numpties has done computing for the European Space Organisation and he announces that the symbols conventionally used in these ‘modern’ days are the age-old alchemical ones, so we are rather bemused by that requirement to ‘resolve certain anomalies (in a modern scientific way)’.  We put the traditional symbols in with just a hint of anxiety. It would be a shame to be knocked out by the endgame of the second puzzle of the year if the editors have superior knowledge of some ‘modern scientific’ way of representing the planets.

All in all, a lovely puzzle. Many thanks to MynoT for a most enjoyable solve.

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