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Posts Tagged ‘Shackleton’

Listener 4339: Mixed Doubles by Shackleton

Posted by Jaguar on 17 Apr 2015

Shackleton makes his reappearance in the Listener after a prolonged absence stretching back to 2013, and perhaps unsurprisingly he provided us with a cracker. Straight away there are at least two novel ideas, at least ones new to me, in the choice of grid symmetry and the clue numbering system, in terms of how far the clue starts from the diagonal. Oh, and a carte blanche to boot, four extra words somewhere, and clue enumerations not necessarily trustworthy. So that’s all right then.

At least the most obvious starting points, the clues starting furthest from the diagonal, weren’t too inaccessible, and ADMIRER, SOAK, Tosh (or, as it turned out instead, PHOH, but never mind…) and HAS-BEEN fell out soon enough. What was really needed was some crossing entries to confirm positions and get something to go on for the rest.

It was a case of working from the SW and NE corners and towards the centre, with helpfully generous clues like the double anagram for SEEMLIER/ SASHAYED proving and entry into the SE corner in due course.

It was also a case of reading the damned preamble! For quite a while I was puzzled about the apparent YW pair at the end of the song before I remembered that the various letters had to be read in standard grid order and not clue order. Nothing like making it harder for yourself, eh? But having crossed that hurdle, and as Saturday came and went, I had at least figured out the end of the song line, “TWO BY TWO”, and recalled a childhood song about Noah’s Ark. First major PDM, with about a third of the grid fill to go. Including all the extra-word/ symbolically-entered clues, of course, but I had some inkling that the first half of 6.1 was threedeck ((the creek + D[ec])*), to be entered 3DECK. What the heck has 3 got to do with anything? And, for that matter, I couldn’t make much sense of the presumed extra word “steer”. But was the other half of this clue 2SOME? Nah… at any rate I couldn’t make sense of the word-play, still can’t.

Roll on Sunday, and the final charge to the finish line. More of a whimper, perhaps, although at least I was on the look-out for possible 1’s somewhere. And there they were, in MONEY-MAN and TONELESS. The extra words appeared to be “cross” and something else — “hands”, I reckoned, but I should have seen that you don’t need both “hybrid” and “reviewed” to indicate the anagram, so it was one of those really. Regardless, the grid was filled at last, and the instruction at least was clear enough, with a resulting set of black-out cells fitting perfectly with the pencilled-in numbers all in the top-left. What could it all mean, though?

Back to the preamble, again, and the reference to circles (and animals from the song) guided the search for KANGAROO and ELEPHANT; both appearing indeed in circles. Then ANT, WASP and BEE followed in a Z, and all together they formed a ZOO. Which is all very nice, apart from the meaning sixth creature, and ZOO having exactly nothing to do with 1, 2, 3. Apart from ORCA in the fourth block I couldn’t see any animals, not even a hippo. So near, yet so far!

More staring, and making sense of the extra words seemed vital. Eventually… Steer = Buffalo = OX, and Hybrid = Cross = Zo, and the 1 2 3 are marking clues in a 2×2 crossword. Well, obviously.

With a sigh of relief, I could erase everything else and not have to worry about why it was EPHOD, how the clue for GABLE worked, and so on. How kind of Shackleton to reward solvers who made it to the end of this epic with so little to check at the end, and a new benchmark for 2015’s Gold Cup competition has surely been set in some style.

4339

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Construction by Shackleton

Posted by shirleycurran on 5 Jul 2013

Construction by Shackleton 001There was a numpty murmur of delight when this came off the printer and Shackleton appeared at the top. ‘Bound to be magic!’ However, it was bound to be a challenge too, not least because of a numberless grid where the clue lengths, which, of course, we immediately colour-coded, didn’t, even then, correspond with the spaces in the grid. It was clear that some were going to circle round (rather like those Tubular Bells of three weeks ago) but, when we did our sums, there seemed to be a missing 7 space, a couple of extra 5s and an extra 6 space. Ah! ‘Unclued entries’ and ‘an overlong answer’. No doubt it will all make sense in the end and probably produce the sort of spectacular solution that we saw with the gold cup winning Sine Qua Non of 2010. Nothing for it – start solving!

One numpty anxiety was immediately put at rest. Shackleton is clearly a confirmed member of the totally tipsy Listener setters’ club with ‘Loaded, drive by one local house of ill repute (7)’ [DR + UN + KEN], and ‘Slowing down, executive committee knocked back by stock of wine (6)’ [RALL. + EC rev.]

Having the clues in alphabetical order of their solutions always helps and that require to sort them into conventional entry order, in order to get a message, is less glaring than the often too-obvious misprints or the weary device of the extra letter in the wordplay isn’t it? We tangled with these clues for almost four hours and still had a dozen gaps, even though we sometimes knew what letter the solution had to begin with.

What particularly held us up? ‘English god by one name, Mars essentially: he’s not this! (7)’ What a superb clue now that we know the answer! [A + N + TIW + (M)AR(s)] and that 8-letter word NINE-FOOT [FINE* cleaving TO + O + N rev.] My gridfill finally produced that, and I could then laboriously work out that complex wordplay. Wow! I believe that, as solvers, we immediately attempt to unravel the wordplay and sometimes overlook the splendid surface readings and I suspect that it is a set of flawless surface readings that really makes a compiler stand out from the bevy of less gifted setters.

I’m not so sure, though, about ‘Exudate adhering to tin bottles left in neck before dropping off in some places (7)’ [SN + OOZE round L] Well – if you don’t like it, produce a better clue!

Perhaps I should have attempted a gridfill earlier, as that was the real plus of this crossword. It very quickly became evident that TOGOLESE and EINSTEIN had to fill the circling across spaces – there wasn’t a 4-letter N word to intersect with the end of EINSTEIN, or a 6-letter word with an S or an I as its second letter. Trial and error soon put TOGOLESE in the lower position and the fill was then pure joy, as all our missing words appeared – TELE-AD, BOS’NS, PREONS, RISIBLE, EUROPOL, LINGAMS (‘who she?’ asked the naive numpty) and we could make a fair guess at HEAVEN and BACON in two empty spaces.

BY-LANES was extra and we immediately leapt to the conclusion that we were exchanging its BYL with the C of BACON producing CANES and BABYLON, so that, obviously, we were dealing with the Tower of Babel and a Bacon quotation but we still needed to arrange the initial clue letters in standard order to understand exactly what was going on.

Winding stairway to heavenBOOK OF GENESIS ELEVEN FOUR / TITLE OF LED ZEPPELIN SONG

That confirmed our suspicion that it was Babel and a quick visit to Wikipedia reminded us that Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven was considered by some to be the greatest rock song of all time. That had to be the link. The ODQ gave us Francis Bacon’s ‘All rising to great place is by a winding stair’ (Didn’t we have Bacon’s Love’s Labours Lost last week?) and there was the quotation, climbing in steps in the grid. Of course, we would have to wrap the grid round, or construct it, to unite the two parts of the quotation but I don’t think Mr Green would relish ungluing all our mini Towers of Babel so ‘Actual construction is not required’.

This was exemplary compiling wasn’t it? Thank you, Shackleton.

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