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Posts Tagged ‘Shackleton’

Army and Navy by Shackleton

Posted by shirleycurran on 23 Jun 2017

It is always a great pleasure to see that name Shackleton at the head of a crossword (or indeed anywhere – the original Shackleton of that astonishing journey in the James Caird is one of the greatest heroes of all time for me – and indeed for the compiler Shackleton who created that Ascot Gold Cup winning crossword ‘Six Across’ on the theme last year.)

It was soon clear from that very lengthy preamble that another expedition or even two expeditions were to be the subject of this puzzle. We were staying with crossword enthusiast friends in a village on the Atlantic coast of Ireland so I printed off copies of the puzzle for all of us on the one available machine in the Internet cafe and we all began to solve.

Of course I began by re-checking Shackleton’s entry right to the Listener Setters’ Tipplers’ Gang and I didn’t need to read far, “Got real porter maybe to carry son on foot (5)” gave the corrected ‘not real’ with ALE around S after F, so FALSE. So we started with ALE. Then he was in a Chinese pub with “Oldie’s stiff one, it’s served in Chinese pub (5)”, which gave LICHI. A bit of a dipsomaniac mixing the rice wine or whatever with the ale: not surprising that soon after we find, “Old mate turning up very hung over (6)”, which gave us EXSERT from EX with TRES turning up and we found that the word was some kind of projection. No, Shackleton hadn’t finished. The very last down clue had “Turned red ignoring mum’s whiny yarn (4)”. We found SHIRAZ ‘turned’ there and ignored the SH to give us ZARI which is some kind of shiny gold thread in embroidery, I am told by Auntie Google. So cheers, Shackleton – see you at the pre-Listener-dinner pub gathering next year.

By the time I had spotted those and managed to make myself a grid on Crossword Compiler (yes, it was amazingly symmetrical in view of all the thematic material it contained) the others were already deciphering the message: DOT AND DICK DASH TO THE POLE: NORTH IS WEST: ADD EIGHT FLAGS.

Dot and Dick! Years of juvenile reading, plus the fact that I originate from not too far from Windermere immediately led us to the theme (the Lake District – Windermere where, Ransome was unhappy in school and where, like those Swallows and Amazons on their ‘lake’ a sort of cross between Coniston Water and Lake Windermere, we spent holidays on a houseboat in Brathay Bay and learned to row heavy, old-fashioned dinghies). Of course, knowing of Shackleton’s interest in themes about polar exploration (see last year’s Six Across) told us that we were looking at Arthur Ransome’s fourth in the Swallows and Amazons series,  Winter Holiday, which uses the Nansen Polar expedition in the Fram as a model for the Walkers’ uncle’s houseboat, that they christen the Fram and from where Dorothy and Dick set off for their disastrous journey to the north end of the lake. (North is West, of course!)

It is exactly fifty years since Arthur Ransome died isn’t it? We thoroughly enjoyed the Swallows and Amazons film that came out last year (my great-niece was auditioned at her school for the role of Tatty – she didn’t get the role but did amuse us all by telling us that it was ‘Tatty’ and not the ‘Titty’ we remember.)

Completing the grid and deciphering the preamble, step by step, was magic (as Shackleton’s crosswords always are). A row had to cryptically indicate the author’s first and last names. ARTHUR appeared in row 10 surrounded by HURRIED (= RAN) and IN PART (= SOME). The row symmetrically opposite gave us WHITELY INROAD, an anagram of WINTER HOLIDAY, so we completed the gaps below the grid.

We were told that NORTH IS WEST, and with a smile changed S W ALLONS to SWALLOWS and highlighted that and the AMAZONS who had sailed into view three rows below. We had to add a line to the title and performed a similar manoeuvre to the title changing Army and Navy to ‘Army and Wavy’ which clearly led us to the semaphore which is a theme central to Ransome’s account. That, of course told us what to do with the VL and LV that were projecting at the two ends of the lake, and we laterally and vertically converted those into little semaphore flags spelling out NP (for North Pole) and FN (for Fridtjof Nansen) ADD EIGHT FLAGS, we were told – so we did. What an astonishing amount of thematic material Shackleton was cramming into this grid! And it hadn’t finished.

We still had to replace letters in the row that spelled ICED WALKS NORTH with ‘a name common to both expeditions’ using code options (six each) from the description (DOT AND DICK DASH TO THE POLE). It was at once clear to us that we were going to fit the FRAM in Morse code – the other code the Swallows and Amazons used – into those fourteen cells (..-. .-. .- –) but we had to back solve to work out how ANDDICK  and THEPOLE could lead us to the dots and dashes that spelled out FRAM. We have followed with interest all the agony that this has caused solvers on the Answerbank and TSTMNBM (the site that must not be mentioned – oops – sorry) but surely they know Shackleton and our editors well enough to know that they are not going to make a counting error; the answer was simple and dazzling. The six letters ANDICK told us what to convert to dots and TOHEPLE converted to dashes and spelled out FRAM in Morse code with three spaces. Stunning, as usual, thanks, Shackleton.

Hare paddling

Oh the poor little hares! I think they are not spectacular swimmers and one was swamped, anyway, by the Morse code and the other was desperately hare-paddling or frozen stiff up in the north-west corner of the lake.


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Listener No 4453: Army & Navy by Shackleton

Posted by Dave Hennings on 23 Jun 2017

Here we had this year’s Shackleton puzzle following on from last year’s 6 Across with its… um… Shackleton theme. By my reckoning, this was his ninth Listener, the first coinciding with my current period of solving. I think I’ve managed all of them without a mistake. However, [Spoiler alert. Ed] I’m pretty sure that run has come to an end.

At first glance, pretty much everything about this puzzle was strange. The grid was an irregular shape, albeit symmetrically barred, there was a detached space beneath it to be completed with Something by Someone, and the preamble took up as much space as the grid did. At second glance, the preamble was even more tortuous. Luckily, only the first seven words related to completion of the grid — “Each clue’s definition has a letter misprinted”. The rest of the preamble told us what needed to be done in the endgame with D (a description), H (a hint), and A (an action). So onwards and upwards…

After thirty minutes, I had solved a mere dozen clues with a few extra likely misprints such as duties for cuties at 1ac and in addition for in audition at 16ac. A couple of hours later, and only the top right corner was looking sparse. However, the corrections to misprints were D•••ND••CK which looked remarkably like it could be Dog and Duck, but I didn’t think Shackleton would compose a crossword based on pub names!

Those who know me will not be surprised that my favourite clue was 7dn Break toes ties with very wide racket frames (6) for DISOWN, followed closely by the cunning misprint in 26dn Meat-lover menus genus always served up chicken sandwiches before (6) for HYAENAS.

Eventually, the misprint corrections spelt out the Description Dot and Dick dash to the poles, the Hint North is west and Action Add eight flags. Unfortunately, this meant nothing to me, so I looked to see what else the preamble required. We had to identify two expeditions described by two consecutive rows in the diagram. I took those as ICED WALKS NORTH and IN PART HURRIED, having dismissed AMAZON SITE above them as it didn’t occupy the full row. However, it made me think that the theme was another Antarctic expedition emanating from somewhere in the Amazon… a self-imposed red herring!

IN PART HURRIED led to ARTHUR for the author’s first name, and I toyed with RAN in PART or BIT or ORT for his last name, obviously without success. I turned my attention to the symmetrically opposite row WHITELY INROAD which was an anagram of the “account’s title”. I’m sure that Tea would have given the answer, but I decided (somewhat masochistically) to solve it without.

I doodled the letters: WIERDLY, EARTHLY, IDLY, WEALTHY and HOLY were all there, but when I stumbled on HOLIDAY (after about forty minutes), the letters for WINTER were soon spotted and we had Winter Holiday by Arthur… Somebody. At this point, Google needed consulting for Arthur Ransome to reveal himself (well I got the RAN bit right). Apparently, that children’s novel involved ice skating, semaphore and Morse. (Shackleton obviously has a fascination for Morse: remember dit-dit-dit-dah dit-dit-dit-dah for Beethoven’s 5th in Sine Qua Non back in 2010?)

A bit of reading showed that Ransome’s great influence for this book was Fridtjof Nansen’s crossing of Greenland in 1888 and his Arctic expedition from 1893–1896 in the Fram. So we were in the Arctic now, compared to the Antarctic last year (6 Across), and the North Pole loomed large. With the help of the map in Winter Holiday, I could see that the children had it on the western edge of the lake and in the grid we had 23/25 as V/L for N/P. In other words, North is West. Moreover, opposite, we had L/V which presumably had to be transformed into F/N to represent Nansen. In order to Add eight flags I needed to flip and flop the letters, and with a bit of semaphore help give N/P vertically on the left of the grid and F/N on the right:

At this point, my mind was beginning to spin with all the thematic goings-on, but here was more spinning to come. Dot and Dick and their Dash had Morse code jumping out from the description, and the Fram seemed to be the name that was common to both stories. With the hint that North is West, I finally spotted SWALLONS becoming SWALLOWS, with AMAZONS three rows below. Also the title, Army & Navy, became Army & Wavy!

All that was left was the transformation of row 9 where the letters had to be “replaced using code options (six each)”. And this is where I ground to a halt! 6 dots and 6 dashes plus 2 spaces gave the contents of the 14 cells, but no amount of juggling of Morse enabled me to get the required code. What’s more, I just could not get FRAM out of my head, but that had 6 dots, 5 dashes and 3 spaces: ••• •• • .

In the end, my golfing holiday in Portugal got in the way, and I had to surrender. I don’t know whether AnswerBank would have helped, but there are limits to the advice that I am willing to seek. Congratulations to everyone who solved it.

No doubt I will be kicking myself when the solution is published, but meantime all I can do is gasp in admiration at yet another Shackleton masterpiece.

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‘Army & Navy’ by Shackleton

Posted by Encota on 23 Jun 2017

As a relative newbie to Listener solving I haven’t solved loads of Shackleton’s puzzles – but I do recall that his was one of the very best of 2016 with the Endurance-based puzzle.

So what do we have here…?  Will it be another packed-full grid?  I am already assuming the answer is Yes 🙂

Let’s cut to the chase: row 10 is fabulous!  If you wanted to clue ARTHUR RANSOME, a name at a time, then what could be better than:


A hidden word ‘in’ (p)ARTHUR(ried) and a synonym-phrase of ‘RAN SOME’, all in one.  Delightful!

After a lot of rummaging the following copy appeared from a box in the attic.  Aside: why is there never enough shelf space for all the books one owns?  Is it some sort of fundamental law?  I build more shelves; I give hundreds to the charity MIND; but there’s still not enough space.  Anyway, back to the plot…

WH 1974

As shown on the cover, the North Pole the children visit is definitely to the left of the picture (and the map inside backs it up).

However … hold on a cotton-picking minute … don’t be fooled so easily!

Though it appears to be this, it isn’t at all.  The book title anagram actually reveals ‘Whored in Italy’, the until-recently lost (and slightly seedy) early autobiography of Roald Amundsen, the most famous explorer common to the North and South Pole expeditions, both in the Fram.  Some solvers may have thought that the publication date nods towards the death of Arthur Ransome on 3rd June 1967 but clearly it’s really about the departure of the Amundsen expedition towards the South Pole, having departed from ‘recreational activities’ in Italy on 3rd June 1910.

And so Amundsen’s name has to be encoded in Row 9 using – of course –  the Penguin-based code used in the 2016 GCHQ puzzle book, with the penguins obviously a clue to the destination of the Southbound expedition.  14 characters including the ‘space’: ROALD AMUNDSEN – it could clearly be nothing else.  I needed to look them up to complete the grid – I could only remember the Space being a Spaceman penguin complete with spacesuit helmet.  I’ve left a few characters as an exercise for the reader – see below.
Army and Wavy
Surely I have got it right this time!  [Good grief!  Ed.]
More seriously, a great puzzle – thanks Shackleton!


Tim / Encota

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6 Across by Shackleton

Posted by shirleycurran on 13 May 2016

6 Across ShackletonHow does he do it! Books have been written about the saga of the Endurance, the struggle of Shackleton and his men to survive when the Endurance, with its complement of 28 men, was crushed and finally sank beneath the Antarctic ice. It was exactly a hundred years ago, wasn’t it, that the six men made their astounding 800-mile journey in frightful conditions across the open sea from Elephant Island to South Georgia in the tiny James Caird. Almost more amazing was that first recorded crossing of South Georgia by Shackleton, Worsley and Crean to the Grytviken Whaling Station – then the wonderful rescue of the 22 men who had been left behind. The photographs of that moment are iconic (though the famous photo by Frank Hurley was actually of the departure of the James Caird).

Can all of that be compressed into one little 13X13 grid? Friends were expecting some crossword celebration of the sovereign’s reaching the age of ninety, or some bard having a 400th anniversary. There’s ‘PRINCE’ and ‘ICONS’ (somewhat of a prediction, maybe) in Shackleton’s grid as that pop icon’s demise has been the focus of today’s media but seriously – how could Shackleton have chosen any other theme! And how magically he incorporated the entire epic into that tiny grid. (And, of course, remained a member of the Listener Setters’ Wine Connoisseurs’ Club with ‘Maybe rush through dour Irish game with pint (6)’ IR + RU + PT).

The preamble was mildly daunting with misprints leading to a total of four messages, two of them ‘6 across’ (what a superb device but how tough it must have been to have the second couple of messages subtly spelled out by the sixth letter across from each of those misprints, without any of them becoming glaringly obvious). Then there was a jumble – hated word – but in this case, how appropriate that the crushed and sunken Endurance appeared in a jumble at the ‘bottom’ of the grid, south of Elephant Isle. The word SUNK even sneaked into the crossword too with a clue I loved, ‘Strewed paper in front of king (4)’ with the SCREWED for STREWED misprint and the SUN + K.

We solved these stunning but very difficult clues and slowly teased out the four messages, recognizing early on that we were on very familiar ground (there are shelves of books about the Antarctic in our home). SEA VESSEL ABANDONED BY CREW/ LOT LED ACROSS TEMPESTUOUS SEA/ 3 CLIMB TOWARDS WHALING PORT took us right to the heart of the story but there was that amazing double use of those clues.

Of course we had wondered how to find a misprint in 6 across but that clue told us that LED across tempestuous (or anagrammed) SEA gave LOT (definition). LEASED gives LET so we have our E/A misprint and the C (aCross) that tells us that 3 Climb.

The ‘third’ (message) ‘describes some entries’. THREE CLIMB TOWARDS WHALING PORT, we were told and, sure enough, we found that VELOUTE, LAG-END and POINTE climbed in our grid towards GRYTVIKEN.

The James Caird

The James Caird

That fourth message, 3 DOWN (which was COASTS) WITH BOAT ARE NOT TO SCALE was perhaps the most significant of all. There out in that vast 800-mile ocean between the symmetrical coasts of SOUTH GEORGIA and ELEPHANT ISLE was the tiny James Caird with the VI on board, symmetrically placed between the VI of GrytVIken, and the XX[VI]II of the original complement.

Brilliant! This sort of compiling puts all the rest of us into the shade. It was rather like that ‘pass the parcel’ game we played when we were little. As each layer came off, another treat dropped out, then there was the real prize in the centre. Thank you to both Shackletons – two astonishing feats a century apart. I think this was the most enjoyable and accomplished Listener crossword I have ever solved.

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Mixed Doubles by Shackleton

Posted by shirleycurran on 17 Apr 2015

ZOOX 001We were, of course, delighted to download a Shackleton crossword but the murmurs of dismay began at once. “It’s carte blanche!” said the other Numpty (which, of course, if the grid is going to be symmetrically filled, isn’t a major problem) but then I read ‘The grid has mirror symmetry about the main diagonal (marked by blocks)’. That, to me, was slightly more worrying. I know it shouldn’t be, but I really find it difficult to mentally grasp that. Worse was to come! We now learned that ‘Clue numbers give the horizontal/vertical distance of the entries’ starting cells from the main diagonal’.

There was to be an instruction and first letters of the down clue ‘part’ of each ‘tandem’ clue were going to give us a phrase from a song. We were also forewarned that there were to be four extra words hidden in the clues and that the answers to those clues were to be entered ‘in part symbolically’.

Just one little hint there. That intriguing word ‘blocks’ and even their presence! Even I don’t need little black squares to tell me where the diagonal is – of course I know that it is where any desperate setter will hide his/her message – going from one corner to the other – so why those little black ‘blocks’?

ShackletonAnyway, that was enough to keep us going till midnight! I took a deep breath and checked that Shackleton’s membership of that elite toping club has survived the years: of course it has! ‘Henry the fusty old drunk …’ gave us H and two obsolete words YE and HYE. The tandem clue continued ‘behind bar bought everyone drinks, initially about 8 or 12 pints’ Well, Cheers, Shackleton! HIN appeared after a little research.

There was more! ‘Fly to Scotland? Possibly worker , stocked with wine …’ which gave us that old crossword setter’s favourite ASTI in BEE (BEASTIE), and only one clue further on, ‘Turn to vintage wine when penning new (obscure Listener) …’ which gave us T’ + RED around N(ew). The clues were just running with ale, vintage, red etc.!

Oh but this solving was tough. We (well, the other Numpty actually) slowly solved, producing PARTAN, CYAN, PLAN, TWAS, APED, APOLLO, BEEGAH, EPOS, NAAM. I find it extremely difficult to solve clues that are tagged on to each other and desperately began to attempt to construct a grid.

We were in luck, as ADMIRER/ HAS BEEN gave us the two clues that had to start in the corners since they were to begin 12 cells from the diagonals, and a lucky guess put NAAM and EPOS intersecting with them. PARTAN (which Mrs Bradford kindly gave us – in a crossword like this her ‘Crossword Solver’s Dictionary‘ is invaluable -) and CUMMER fitted with those but then I bungled and, full of joy because I had managed to solve a couple of gentle anagrams (SASHAYED and SEEMLIER), slotted them in too high in the grid. I wonder how many other solvers struggled as much as we did to get a grid fill!

We had a stroke of luck, though. Feeding the letters we had, at the start of the ‘down’ parts of the tandem clues into TEA with a number of ????? gave what had to be the theme, ‘The animals went in two by two!‘ So that was why we had tandem clues and ‘Mixed Doubles’ and it wasn’t going to be a tennis court at all or Daisy on a bicycle made for two! Such a familiar song – was it Burl Ives who used to sing it, with the ELEPHANT and the KANGAROO and the outsize HIPPO getting stuck in the door? Hoorah, hoorah!

Shackleton 2X2 001Then came the pdms. Four extra words emerged from the clues: HYBRID, CROSS, STEER and BUFFALO (obviously thematic in some way) and, after a little bit of head-scratching, we realized that the symbols that had to be used in those clues would be numbers so we had T1LESS and M1YMAN (TONELESS and MONEYMAN) intersecting with each other in the top left hand corner, and 2SOME (TWOSOME) and 3DECK (THREE-DECK) strategically placed in the grid. (But no 4 – at this stage, I was bemused – I was now convinced that we were constructing an ARK with four windows!)

With our almost full grid (and shortly after midnight – this one was really challenging!) we had to tease out the instruction and found that we had to FULLY EXTEND EACH BLOCK NSEW.  Aah! Those blocks. I did that and produced a little set of quadrants. Almost at once, I found the necessary animals in them – well, five of the animals, ANT, WASP, BEE, ELEPHANT and KANGAROO, in the three numbered squares.

Red herring time! Those letters had spelled out ZOO. Wondering how to fit the HIPPOPOTAMUS into the fourth square (since we were told there were going to be six), we looked at the four words that were to guide us and saw that we had ZO (HYBRID and CROSS) and it seemed logical that STEER and BUFFALO would give us OX. Sure enough, putting an X into the same section of the fourth quadrant produced BEHEMOTH. I went to bed, not quite convinced, as there was no 4 in that ‘Ark window’.

When light dawned a few hours later, the full genius of Shackleton’s compilation dawned with it. We had a delightful little 2 X 2 crossword with just four clues!

1ac Hybrid (2) = ZO

3ac Steer (2) = OX

1dn Cross (2) = ZO

2dn Buffalo (2) = OX

This was simply magic. Thank you, Shackleton!



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