Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin

Posts Tagged ‘Shady characters’

Listener No 4456: Shady Characters by Malva

Posted by Dave Hennings on 14 July 2017

This was Malva’s second Listener, the first being of an avian theme. However, he’s a sneaky blighter since he used to be Dipper, whose garden featured in his crosswords under that pseudonym. It has to be said that I am not an expert on flora or fauna, so fingers were crossed on this one.

As it turned out, filling the grid was straightforward. The extra wordplay letters led to distinct jumbles of words which indicated how some answers needed to be entered. Those in clues 2–7 were llyeow and were followed by bule. It looked as though we were dealing with colours. The full set was Yellow, Blue, Tan, Sand, Butter, Green, Red, Ruby.

Some of them were hardly colours of the rainbow, but that helped with the endgame. Examining the entries in the grid, and remembering Malva’s new hobbyhorse, SHANK, PIPER and TIT stood out like a sore thumb and were obviously to be prefixed by one of the ‘colours’. SHANK could have either RED or GREEN as its colour, but START could only be RED (I think).

So out came the coloured crayons which haven’t seen the light of day for some time. (I now do highlighting in Paint before printing the grid for my entry.) Although, butter, sand and yellow are pretty much the same in my book, I still tried to make them slightly different. [I think you failed. Ed.] I know JEG is fairly lenient when it comes to that sort of thing. I did wonder whether highlighting the cells in each word, with letters the same as elsewhere in the grid would be allowed. Probably… but I didn’t want to risk it.

The birds were, in grid order:


That just left the first and last letters of the extra words in the remaining clues: PropagandA, CompatiblE, HollywooD, AttacK, OmnivorE, No-onE, PondeR, LasheD, RenaissancE. These could be rearranged into two 9-letter words to give a bird that needed to be entered below the grid thematically in only 15 letters.

Well, it didn’t take long to realise that the colour had to be three letters, and I soon had the PEA-DARKEN ELDERCHOP. Except that wasn’t in Chambers! Perhaps the ALE-DARNED HOP-PECKER. Nope! [Tim will undoubtedly have some others. Ed.] In the end, it was the RED-NECKED PHALAROPE who got slotted in.

Thanks for more avian shenanigans, Malva.

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

‘Shady Characters’ by Malva

Posted by Encota on 14 July 2017

Do I recall correctly that the last Malva Listener was the MINSMERE one?  Clearly in the weekend where Radiohead* are playing their fourth ever Glastonbury live set, we’ll need to be transported from the Suffolk coast to the depths of Somerset, i.e. there must be a Radiohead-based clue hiding in here somewhere.  Ah, yes, there it is, 15 down – with the track ‘Dollars and cents’ from their fifth album, Amnesiac (2001):

  Dollars and cents adult invested in baking equipment (4)

Mr O’Brien (one of R’s guitarists) and his sour dough bread-making project get a mention in this same clue, too.  [What??? Ed.]

Back to reality: …what is going on in 12 across?

  Men abandoning magic to practise crystal-gazing (4)

This was one of the clues where the wordplay indicates the answer with an extra letter.  My first parsing was perhaps ‘original’, by which I mean wrong:  ‘MM’ for Men (it seemed to work in Chambers, just about) being removed from a word for ‘magic’, namely SCRUMMY (in the ‘delightful’ sense), leaving SCRUY.  Remove one letter, U, leaving SCRY, which was definitely the definition.  But this led to a jumble of LLYUOW being required at the end!  Once I later knew it had to be LLYEOW, i.e. YELLOW*, then eventually I spotted S(or)C[E]RY, with OR for ‘men’.  Phew, I’d made hard work of that one…

The remaining challenges came at the end – which words to colour as which, and which to leave alone.  With there being a REDSHANK and a GREENSHANK to choose from, luckily there was one other place to put RED, in REDSTART and nowhere else for GREEN, so that one was sorted.  But what about a possible BLUE-EYE at 9d?  This didn’t look promising, as its intersection with (TAN)AGER at 7a meant that one character would have to have two different colours.  For its defence though, BLUE TIT was the only two-word (two word?) bird involved – was that relevant, somehow?  A careful re-read of the Preamble seemed to suggest No, so BLUE TIT it was.  And a BUTTERBUMP as a bittern was a new word for me, too.

That left whether to write the letters in the appropriate colour or to highlight them.  Well, there’s no mention of highlight anywhere, so it appears to be that the letters should be written in the appropriate colour.  And the title, ‘shady characters’ seems to back this up.  Some, however, especially a yellow HAMMER – and even more so a butter BUMP – aren’t going to show up too well, so it may need a bit of gentle background shading simply to make it readable.

2017-06-24 19.01.52

However, I’d rather No Surprises: I wonder where I could check that that is OK: Computer?
[Radiohead cracker joke mode off]

Finally, thanks to Mrs. Encota for colour advice and use of her appropriate colour
pencils 🙂  Words that sounded like ColourSoft and InkTense (?) and ..and …. kept appearing, along with the ‘what particular shade of Tan were you after?’ questions.  I think I got away with nodding ‘wisely’.


Tim / Encota

*One of those that Ian Hislop on Have I Got News For You might call “a modern beat combo”.  And if all goes to plan (given I’m writing this on 24th June & scheduling it for reading after 14th July) I will have seen Radiohead live again in Manchester last week!  Does anyone else remember that Douglas Adams piece in the H2G2 series where he talks about the biggest problem with ‘time travel’ not being the engineering but actually the need for new verb tenses, e.g. for describing what you did in the future last week?  I’m getting déjà vu feelings from the future about it right now…

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Shady Characters by Malva

Posted by shirleycurran on 14 July 2017

This is the second time we have met Malva. Last year he educated us about Bewick’s swans. Shady characters? We wonder what kind of criminal underworld we are going to explore this week – or are we going to ‘shade’ some characters? The preamble gives us one word we never like – extra letters in the wordplay are going to form discrete ‘jumbles’. It gets worse, we are to arrange the first and last letters of a number of extra words into a thematic item (two words of equal length), and enter it thematically below the grid (15 letters). That sounds like another rather lengthy jumble that can somehow change from being an even number of letters to an odd number. Mystifying!

Nothing to be done but solve! Well that isn’t quite true. I scan the clues to check whether Malya retains his admission to the Setters’ Oenophile outfit and find quite a few birds and animals, gulls, kestrels, a pigeon, fish, sheep, a small dog and a pig, but not much alcoholic evidence just that ‘Something that matures light beer (4)’ Well, that must be LAGER with the L giving us the first of our extra letters and the AGER being something that matures. Of course, we found the RED later on and used it in the endgame, so “Cheers, Malva!”

We worked steadily through the clues and the grid filled with nothing leaping (or flying) out at us except the fact that the extra letters were grouping themselves into colours. LLYEOW, ENGRE, BULE and EDR appeared, discretely in that they were separated from each other by those extra words PROPAGANDA, COMPATIBLE, ATTACK, OMNIVORE, NO-ONE, PONDER and LASHED. I kick myself that I couldn’t spot the extra word in ‘Woman losing her head and becoming a devotee of renaissance critic (5)’ Clearly CELIA or DELIA was going to be decapitated (and = ‘N’) becoming ELIAN. The other Numpty said ‘Well, Lamb wasn’t renaissance was he?’ But we were just a little confused about our last colour where we had the letters RGBU – GRUB? We had opted for BURG as our NW town, when clearly it had to be BURY. That, together with TAN BUTTER and SAND produced our last colour, RUBY.

We had been solving for well over an hour and had a dinner interval with the grid staring at me. When will I learn to read the preamble? (I’ve been saying that for years!) In a flash (or swoop, or flutter) all was clear. ‘How one thematic answer must be entered …’ it was as simple as that. ‘Yellowhammer’ I crowed, ‘Redstart, Bluetit, Sandpiper – so it has to be Greenshank, Tanager and that leaves us BUTTER and RUBY – of course, Rubythroat and Butterbump’ – well, Mrs Bradford helped with those of course – but she didn’t help me to sort out those letters PA CE HD AK OE NE PR LD RE. I think that was a fairly tough endgame but there was a logical way to approach it.

If 18 letters had to be reduced to 15, three were clearly going to be the colour and that was most likely to be RED. Feeding the rest into an anagram solver suggested PHALAROPE and CDEEKN (NECKED, obviously), and Auntie Google helped out, as usual, with pictures of the creature.  So there we were – finished! Well, not quite; we had to use each of those colours  to enter one of the thematic items and it did say ‘Shady Characters’ in the title so I felt that we had to write those characters in colour, but what if we simply highlighted their lights? And what about the slight ambiguity of the BLUE-EYE mating up in that top corner with the TANAGER – were we to opt for him and split the shared cell? No, I opted for the BLUETIT and coloured the letters and their cells too. Well, I think it is a pretty solution. (I had, at one point, wondered whether our fifteen letters were going to lead us to a RAINBOW LORIKEET with the 18 jumbled ones being its Latin Name – just imagine the rage of those solvers who don’t have a set of coloured pencils!)

Hare amongst the birds

An enjoyable solve. Thank you, Malva.

I didn’t really expect the HARES to be mingling with that massive flight of birds but, of course, they were there in force, all over the grid, but my favourite was curled up with the yellowhammer and sandpiper.

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »