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Posts Tagged ‘Popularity Contest’

Listener 4289: Popularity Contest by Tibea

Posted by Dave Hennings on 2 May 2014

SCENE: The Editor’s office, July 2013.

There is a desk in the centre of the room. There is an in-tray on the desk containing two letters. There are two chairs, a big one behind the desk and a small one in front of it.

Enter Editor and Sub-editor. Editor sits behind the desk, Sub-editor in front of it.

Editor: I see the in-tray has come back.

Sub-editor: So it has. The last time we saw that was with the Doctor Who puzzle last November. What has it got for us this time?

Editor empties the contents of the in-tray onto the desk, takes the first letter and opens it.

Editor (reading letter): It’s from a Max Turner and he says that he has been grappling with the Listener crossword for a couple of years now, and so far he has had little success. He is coming to the opinion that it is too elitist and needs to include puzzles that the average punter has got at least some chance with. He seems to think that there’s an inner circle that the ordinary solver cannot get into.

Sub-editor: Do you want me to write the standard reply from you, saying thanks for the letter and you’ll pass it to the relevant person… i.e. me?

Editor (handing letter to Sub-editor): Yes, please. Mind you, it reminds me of that puzzle that you and I thought of some time ago which played on the fact that ESOTERIC and COTERIES were anagrams.

Sub-editor: Yes, except that failed because we couldn’t agree on our pseudonym. Neither Edisub nor Kuron seemed to have the same cachet as Mango or Rasputin. What’s in the other letter?

Editor (picking up second letter): That’s odd… it’s postmarked next Friday!

Sub-editor: I expected nothing less!

Editor (opening and reading letter): It just says “How about this?”. It is unsigned. There’s a completed puzzle attached with the title Popularity Contest with circled squares that read ESOTERIC from top to bottom, but COTERIES from left to right. MORE LIKE THIS is the Phrase written under the grid. Well that’s a coincidence.

Sub-editor: I doubt it! Who’s the setter?

Editor: Tibea.

Sub-editor: Sounds like it’s a joint puzzle.

Editor: Why didn’t we think of that?

Sub-editor: We probably will.

Any similarity to actual events is entirely disjointed.

Fast forward to April 2014.

Listener 4289Another new setter this week in the guise of Tibea. From the preamble, it seems that the editors have had lots of letters pleading for the Listener to be dumbed down! Hopefully that won’t happen. After all, there’s the Inquisitor, Enigmatic Variations, Spectator, Magpie and Crossword, all catering for the solver who needs a little bit extra than the daily 15×15 block diagram gives. Indeed, the standard of the Listener varies from week to week, if not from setter to setter. I wonder where Tibea will stand on the difficulty front? And why was he selected as setter for this puzzle?

Twelve answers were of the Letters Latent variety, whereby a letter needed to be removed from the answer, as often as it occurs, before entry. In this puzzle, letters in brackets referred to answer, not entry, length, so a bit of help there.

There was a nice variety of clues on my first pass through them, from the simple anagram at 12ac A he-man, I demolished a West Coast city (7) which gave ANAHEIM, to the misleading use of ‘ground’ and ‘houses’ in 17ac Ground around houses left with small lump (7) for NODULAR. Despite being given entry lengths for the LL clues, I didn’t solve any in my first run through, although 15dn Red shifts (4) was certainly an anagram, given its 3-letter entry slot. NERD seemed likely! I was also perplexed by the wordplay for TABU at 6dn Prohibition is what fills the bath with rum, essentially.

I wish that it had been 11ac Joint badly twisted (9, two words) that gave the game away for me, but HIPLLI looked like gobbledygook. In fact, it was G[r]ASS [r]OOTS at 18ac and MULTITUD[e] at 43 that put me on track. The thematic words were all words for ordinary people. hoi polloi (yes, I should have got that first) defines it best in this context as ‘(derog) n the many; the masses; the rabble, the vulgar’; grass roots also includes the phrase ‘rank and file’, used in the preamble.

Although the puzzle wasn’t tough, it wasn’t particularly easy either. I liked the way that most of the LL clues lost more than one letter on entry, especially the three Os in HOI POLLOI and three Ts in THIRD ESTATE. The clues were all spot-on as well, with the likes of 19dn Article on education was blooming written in Elizabethan verse! (5) where the last four words were used to indicate a ‘(Spenser)’ word.

And as for 25dn Rafael regularly, having missed baseline stroke, holds following service (8) for the thematic entry R[i]FF-RAFF: RFE (alternate letters of RaFaEl) holding F (following) RAF (service) with the bottom stroke of the E removed… sheer genius. And not the work of a novice, if you ask me!

For some time 27dn Built in, with one side turning to the other (7) looked like it it was WRECKED, but that seemed unlikely, since neither the wordplay nor definition was there! It turned out to be ERECTED (built) with ELECTED (in) changing L for R.

I was close to filling in my submission grid, and part of me realised that I wasn’t entirely happy with 6dn TABU. It took a bit of time to wonder if there was another word TA·U, and a quick run through the alphabet led me to ‘what fills a bath being a TAP, and TAPU is a Maori word for ‘taboo’.

Listener 4289 My EntryAll that remained was to enter the three words formed by the Letters Latent under the grid: More like this, a phrase that can be read in one of two ways, depending on the stress. Coincidentally, and courtesy of the QI elves and a tweeter called @Grammarly:

“I never said she stole my money” has seven different meanings, depending on the stress.

And so thanks to Tibea for an excellent puzzle. I hope you gang up against us again in the near future.

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No 4289 Esoteric Coteries? by Tibea

Posted by shirleycurran on 2 May 2014

Coteries 001If you hadn’t immediately twigged who Tibea was/were, the preamble spelled it out in their political statement in their preamble where they (KEA and TIBURON masquerading as some kind of mis-spelled leg bone) focus on a perception ‘that the Listener Crossword is aimed at characters in the “inner circles” (as seen by the rank and file), and that other solvers are belittled, as represented by 12 answers that have a common definition.’

There was more to it after some technical details. We were told (or I imagine ‘setters’ were told) in an evangelical tone, that the editors ‘hope to demonstrate and encourage’ whatever the omitted letters in 12 solutions spelled out for us.

Well, I shouldn’t imagine the esoteric coteries of editors ever descend to read the blogs that the rank and file, the grassroots, hoi polloi, riff-raff, rag-tag, vulgar commonality of bloggers compile each week, so here goes.

I didn’t really need to check through the surface reading to confirm that these two had membership of the Tipsy Listener Setters’ Coterie (at least one of them was still in the bar when I left at about 4 a.m. after the Listener Setters’ Dinner this year). Ye gods, there it was, ‘Prohibition is what fills a bath with rum, essentially (4)’ (TABU but I had a bit of trouble with the wordplay BAT fills (a)BAT(h) and U is (r)U(m) essentially but did that RUM act as an anagram indicator too? My solution seemed to say BATU).

So there they were swilling down bathfulls of the hard stuff and we had ‘Red shifts (3)’ too ([H]ERD) and, to conceal all that mixed imbibing, the bottles were ultimately thrown away, ‘Let children throw bottles (4)’ (RENT hidden).

Now this solve was becoming interesting as that hidden clue was accompanied by another two: ‘Some of LindisfARNE MAnifests returning pre-Christian god (6), and ‘News bulletIN FOllows show (4)’ The late MrLemon, the previous EV Editor was very clear that a single hidden clue was more than enough for a crossword. Was this easing of rigid rules what these editors were propounding? (MrL would, surely have required SHOWS for grammatical accuracy in that clue too wouldn’t he, and it wouldn’t have affected the surface reading?)

We had spotted that clue lengths didn’t agree with grid lights in twelve cases and we focussed on those as ’12 answers’ that ‘have a common definition’ (COMMON indeed – the effrontery of it!) That clue that led to ERD, happily gave us our essential break-through after only a few minutes of solving. (Is this the regime we are being coached in? Easy clues, early p.d.m.s?) It tied in with the preamble and my triumphant cry of ‘The common HERD, that’s us!’ led to a fairly rapid gridfill as we located COMMONALITY, HOI POLLOI, GRASSROOTS, THE MASSES, RABBLE ROUT, CANAILLE, RUCK, MULTITUDE, THIRD ESTATE, RIFFRAFF and VULGUS.

MORE LIKE THIS said my extra letters. So that is what we have in front of us: a demonstration model of what the editors wish to encourage. I wonder whether this is an editorial protest against the flood of Magpie D and E-style crosswords that has created a two-year backlog pile up for most setters submitting something to the Listener (cheekily, I wonder whether this one sat in the pile for two years – yes, wash your mouth out with soap, Numpty!)

Like this? Well it had a delightful aspect. Long after mine had been mailed, a fellow solver said ‘ESOTERIC’ (Chambers says, ‘Inner, secret, mysterious, taught to a select few’) ‘well, I suppose the Listener image is that!’  ‘Esoteric?’ I rejoined, ‘My inner circles contained the word COTERIE! (Chambers says, ‘A social, literary or other exclusive circle). Nice one, Tibea!

That wasn’t the only aspect that earned Numpty nods of approval. There was a superb range of clue types. We had the proper nouns AMENRA, ANAHEIM, BRAHMS, DYFED and SINBAD (what a gem of a clue ‘Evil, evil, Arabian adventurer’), the classical references in OIDIA, HOI POLLOI, and the HS (HOC SENSU) of that difficult TATHS clue, a bit of Spenser (of course!) in THEED and ALSOON and a fair spattering of anagrams to get us going and clues using subtraction, reversal and alternate letters. There wasn’t an imbalance of any clue type.

Was there any unfairness? Am I allowed to complain about a comma? If I had written that clue ‘Built in, with one side turning to the other (7)’ (ELECTED with L changing to R), the late Radix who so kindly coached so many of us, would have said ‘Remove that deceptive comma – if you have one there, you have to have one after ‘Built’ too!’ Now that is effrontery, complaining about the coterie’s commas, so I had better get my coat!

Great fun, thanks, Tibea. Let’s have more like that!

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