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Posts Tagged ‘Ploy’

Listener No 4738: Even Odder by Ploy

Posted by Dave Hennings on 9 Dec 2022

I don’t normally blog a mathematical puzzle, but this was good fun, so I thought I’d throw in my tuppenny-halfpennyworth (other spellings are available). Ploy has got several Listeners to his name as well as elsewhere and in collaboration. Unless I’m mistaken, all his previous ones have been standard crosswords, his last here being no. 4651, That’s Your Lot based on Flanders and Swann’s song about the laws of thermodynamics. (Although I say so myself, I did a more interesting animation there than today’s here.)

Anyway, reading the preamble, I focused on, and felt a dread by, its reference to quantum entanglement. I have seen a few programs, primarily by Brian Cox and Jim al Khalili which have made me question any logic being used in the creation of the universe. How we were expected to cope with a Listener mathematical without using any logic would, hopefully, reveal itself shortly.

As it happened, the puzzle wasn’t too difficult. Of course, that didn’t mean that it was going to be done and dusted within an hour or so — at least, not by me. The main difference here was that instead of listing the letters used with their values alongside in a two-column table, three columns would be required, one for the across value and one for the down. Each of these would be an even/odd consecutive pair, in that order.

I won’t give any detail about where I started, except to say that 11ac, 33ac and 12ac helped identify that N and O were 2/3 and 4/5. After that, gradually eking out values and hoping, as usual, that I didn’t have to backtrack. Only once did I have to check some values, finding that I forgot to adjust the across value when using it in a down clue; M was the culprit.

Favourite clue, 15dn (-E + (I + N!)S + T – E)IN (4) — a deliberate red herring?!

Finally all done, and the endgame gave us THOSE UNSHOCKED, DON’T UNDERSTAND IT. This was very close to what Ms Teather quotes at the bottom of all her correspondence: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” Albert Einstein. Unfortunately that’s not really what we wanted. Helped by 38ac NI + ELS (4), I googled Niels Bohr quotations, et voilà. I could have looked him up in my ODQ where his attribution is given as “Anybody who is not shocked by this subject has failed to understand it.” I agree with that wholeheartedly.

Thanks for a very enjoyable puzzle, Ploy.


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Listener No 4651: That’s Your Lot by Ploy

Posted by Dave Hennings on 9 Apr 2021

Ploy’s last Listener was some time ago with a song by Flanders and Swann as its theme. [Spoiler alert: I may be starting my next blog of a Ploy puzzle with the same sentence!] That song was Misalliance, the love story of a honeysuckle and a bindweed and was titled Right and Left. That was also the symmetry of that puzzle. [Spoiler safe: that was also the symmetry of this puzzle, so perhaps Ploy was repeating himself!]

Anyway, this week we had normal across clues (and indeed entries) but an extra letter/word in each down clue which obviously needed removing before solving. These would spell out an extract from a song which, hopefully, would help solving all the moving around that would be required in the endgame.

1ac and 5ac got slotted in straightaway, being STEELY and SCALAE. 10ac Escapade that sadly leaves Dicky fainthearted (8) looked like an anagram of fainthearted with an anagram of that removed. Very nice use of Dicky too. Unfortunately doodling FINEARED failed to reveal FREDAINE until some crossing entries soon helped.

I decided on some downs next and while 1 Fatty secretion covering headcloth in bloody protein (12, two words) failed me, but 2 Tenants head exotic afternoon entertainment (10, two words) got me THE DANSANT. 3 ERA and 4 LESS got the FREDAINE in and REHASH then got me DHARMSALA (not many words beginning with my initials).

All this helped me get the left-hand side of the grid, culminating in 1dn Fatty secretion covering headcloth in blood[y] protein (12, two words) for SERUM ALBUMIN [(SEBUM + IN) around RUMAL]. Over to the right, and ASCENSION and ANTEPENULT got that half of the grid started and reasonably soon finished.

Just over the hour for the grid to be done and extra letters/word identified: Yeah that’s entropy, man! Loved the shriek! There were some enjoyable clues — not counting Ploy’s egocentric inclusion in 31ac Island tariff about to be blocked by me as not fit for use (12) for EMPLOYMENT! 7dn Marsh feature lacking margins in equal amounts (3) had me wonderiong why marshes could have canals before ralising we were talking about Mars, and 22dn Besuited editor’s regular obits could give this direction on proof (4) had regular bits with every third letter taken.

So, a bit of googling to reveal Flanders and Swann’s song, First and Second Law. From the first law, we have “Heat is work and work is heat.” And from the second, “Heat cannot of itself pass from one body to a hotter body.”

Of course, we had HOTTER and COOLER opposite each other in columns 3 and 10 with WORK and HEAT next to them. Well it didn’t take long to see WORK sitting in column 4, but where was the HEAT that it needed to swap with. I spent far too long looking in the upper part of the grid (well about 10 minutes, I guess) before my eye settled on the four letters that were in the bottom row — H, E, A and T! Swapping the two gave new words everywhere.

Next we had to illustrate the second law, and HEAT, which was now in column 4 had to move from its HOTTER place to the COOLER, leaving a gap behind. Again, new words sprouted up everywhere.

Finally, the song tells us “…there’ll be no more work And there’ll be perfect peace”, so PERFECT PEACE appeared in the bottom row with unchecked letters CAFE PRET. Four new words appeared to round off the puzzle.

Great fun. Thanks, Ploy.

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L4651: ‘That’s Your Lot!’ by Ploy

Posted by Encota on 9 Apr 2021

The Preamble quickly tells us this puzzle is about songs and music. 1ac’s answer STEELY obviously points to the band STEELY DAN and, sure enough, there is DAN hiding in the middle of 2d to confirm that.

But are we interested in Singles or Albums? 1d’s (serum)ALBUM(in) soon clears that one up. But now what? Am I getting warmer?

There’s clearly something going on in 4 adjacent cells in Columns 4 and 9. But what STEELY DAN album fits (4,4)? A quick bit of Googling and there it is – KATY LIED. So we need to replace those letters with KATY LIED. I haven’t read the Preamble too carefully but that must surely be what all that ‘replace 4 letters’ stuff means.

That just leaves the (7,5) requirement of the bottom Row. What can it be? Is there a (7,5) STEELY DAN album? Over to Auntie Google and yes, there it is – PRETZEL LOGIC.

That just leaves the Title, “That’s Your Lot!” to be unravelled. What does that have to do with STEELY DAN? Checking the Discography and, sure enough, it must be referring to their 2003 final studio album – EVERYTHING MUST GO. Neat!

Easy this week. Must get on with the Listener ‘Dinner’ Quiz now, else I’d have had time to check it a bit more thoroughly 😉


Tim / Encota

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That’s Your Lot! by Ploy

Posted by shirleycurran on 9 Apr 2021

We knew we were going to download John Henderson’s Zoom Listener dinner quiz in exactly an hour and the team was poised, ready (and what a team – brilliant – it was almost as stimulating as the usual pre-dinner Friday evening gatherings in the pub!) so it was with some trepidation that we downloaded the Listener puzzle and we were delighted to see Ploy’s name at the head of it. That is always a guarantee of no great difficulty but lots of pleasure.

Ploy, of course organises the Listener gatherings every three months in Farringdon (though we haven’t been doing Zoom gatherings lately – obviously – how on earth would we fit them in with all the other crosswordy and quizzy Zooms?) so of course he remains in the Listener oenophile elite, but I did look for proof in his clues. It was fairly subtle: ‘Black uniform with zip further back (4)’ had to be SLOE (uniform = SOLE so the O goes further back to give SLOE) – so I suppose he was starting with the gin. ‘Married to Punch (3)’ No, it wasn’t RUM PUNCH – we opted for M + AT = MAT which Chambers tells us is ‘Punch’. ‘Each French lake has westbound canals (6)’. We know all about the wine lakes that occur in France now and again when the Brits aren’t driving over to export it in the boots of their cars but here we reversed EA (= each) and those LACS to give SCALAE.

By this time, we had “YEAH, THAT’S ENTROPY, MAN!” emerging from our extra letters in the down clues and were happily playing Flanders and Swann, so it wasn’t much of a surprise to find that Ploy was finishing by drinking that rum hot: ‘Purring for some hot drink, cat ultimately got ahead (5) H + RUM with (ca)T in front = THRUM. Cheers, Ploy!

With a full grid, we could see that HEAT had filled the spaces that weren’t unched in the bottom row of our grid and WORK had appeared between HOTTER and COOLER in our grid but Flanders and Swann tell us that “heat can’t pass from a cooler to a hotter (or a hotter to a cooler) without conduction, convection or radiation” so we had some manipulating to do. “HEAT is WORK and WORK is HEAT” so we switched those two, according to the first law, then to illustrate the second, we shifted that HEAT from the HOTTER to the COOLER, finally giving ourselves the alliterative PERFECT PEACE in time for a stimulating Zoom solve of John’s challenging very Listener-oriented quiz where (together with the newest Australian convert who is about to win the Roddy Forman trophy this evening and who was up in the middle of the night) we toured the country for previous Listener dinner sites.

Great fun, thank you Ploy.

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Right and Left by Ploy

Posted by Encota on 30 Sep 2016

I’ve recently been encouraged by shirleycurran to post some of my (what she calls ‘quirkier’) Listener solving experiences here – so here goes!  As an aside I’ve been solving cryptics since a teenager and am beginning now to get some puzzles published under my pseudonym Encota.  I’ve loved attempting to solve The Listener for some time but only started sending them in after a fortuitous meeting with Roger, one of the Editors, last December.

What an intriguing and innovative puzzle – thanks Ploy!  Putting the first pairs of answers in I was lucky to guess right (or was it left?).  Spotting which words needed moving within clues was hard in places; the three to be removed appeared fairly quickly which, combined with generous checking, meant that the WINDOW LEDGE was relatively quickly fitted into place and it felt like everything was heading towards a speedy completion.

However, in finding the comedy duo I did end up going through this scary train of thought:

1) Early on, Column 6 seemed to have ‘Wee Boy’ hiding between the Stars.  Surely The Listener hasn’t stooped to defining ‘The Krankies’ as a comedy duo?  What about the Trade Descriptions Act? (Do I need an ‘allegedly’ here?  I’m new to this blogging lark! I think I’m allowed to share personal opinion!)

2) Once the WINDOW LEDGE appeared, I thought about the funny Pete & Dud sketch sometimes known as ‘Film Stars’.  You may recall it?  The one where the semi-naked Greta Garbo is (supposedly) hanging by her fingertips from the WINDOW LEDGE outside Peter Cook’s bedroom window.  Could it be this perhaps?  Is this why Stars have been chosen?

[Aside: available at time of writing on Youtube at

I always love watching Dudley Moore trying (and often failing) to keep a straight face!]

Looking more closely at Columns 6 & 12, the spacing in them below the WINDOW LEDGE is in the form  — — – downwards, i.e. G in Morse Code.  Two of them make GG, one of Greta Garbo’s nicknames!  This looks very promising!

However, only ten cells are being used in each column, so it can’t really be right as the Preamble says 11, even though I’d dearly like it to be, and I’m not quite sure it’s Listener material (though hopefully closer than 1!).  Has Ploy included this as planned misdirection?  With The Listener I am never sure!!  I look forward to a Setting Blog, should one appear!

3) So the F and S appearing in the Down clues most likely does refer to those two Westminster School chaps (rather than Dawn and Jennifer, another possible planned piece of deception?).

A bit of investigoogling leads to ‘Misalliance’ (which, incidentally, is neatly included in 7a – respect!), so HONEYSUCKLE AND BINDWEED must be the two 11-letter clockwise and anticlockwise upwardly spiralling thematic lines each side of A DOOR.  Not too sure about the ‘interrupted by’ bit of the Preamble but it must be right…(doh, just got this ‘interrupted’ bit – they are regularly passing behind something – a pillar or similar!)

I was desperately hoping that, given the ‘dual’ nature of the puzzle, that BOTH (2) and (3) were going to be right simultaneously.  However, on re-reading (and re-re-reading) the Preamble, I simply couldn’t make (2) fit as well.  The ‘interrupted’ bit seems to fit the Morse Code idea as well as the spiralling, but I couldn’t successfully modify the ten moved words for this idea to work, for example.  The more I look at it though, the closer it looks.  Why else Stars, for example – unless simply part of 2’s deception?  I’d love to hear if this was at least partly in mind when setting!

Great fun – very enjoyable!

Tim / Encota

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