The Times The Listener Crosswords Paperback – 26 Sep 2008
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The latest book from Chambers is The Times The Listener Crosswords. This is a collection of the best puzzles from between 1996 and 2000. They were chosen by taking into account the comments expressed by solvers, as Derek Arthur explains in his introduction. Interestingly, the puzzles are presented not in chronological order but in order of their difficulty. So the book starts with an easy Pen Names by Smokey and ends with the AGC winning All Square by Dimitry. This is an important collection, especially as it may be the last Listener Collection if sales do not meet the wishes of the publishers. I have made this book our Book of the Month on the Crossword Centre. (Derek Harrison, Crossword News)
The latest book from Chambers is The Times The Listener Crosswords.
This is a collection of the best puzzles from between 1996 and 2000.
They were chosen by taking into account the comments expressed by
solvers, as Derek Arthur explains in his introduction. Interestingly,
the puzzles are presented not in chronological order but in order of
their difficulty. So the book starts with an easy Pen Names by Smokey
and ends with the AGC winning All Square by Dimitry. This is an
important collection, especially as it may be the last Listener Collection
if sales do not meet the wishes of the publishers. I have made this
book our Book of the Month on the Crossword Centre.(Derek Harrison, Crossword News)
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Top customer reviews
So much for the puzzles, what of the book? Puzzles are printed as two-page spreads with a decent amount of white space, which you will need - for the second puzzle, which uses a complicated scheme of misprints, I used most of this space. The paper used is thick enough to take a few rubbings out. The puzzles have been reviewed and some clues amended so that you can safely use current versions of Chambers (2003 or 2006 strictly - 2008 appeared too late to be taken into account). There's a four-page guide to solving Listener puzzles, with useful advice. Although the puzzles are ranked by the number of correct solutions received, don't be surprised if some seem out of order - difficulty of this kind of puzzle is very variable. Solutions include clear explanations of thematic elements, answer words before any treatment required to produce the grid entry, and explanations of the cryptic readings of the tougher clues.
Quick note in response to the review under "product description". "AGC" = Ascot Gold Cup - an annual award from the best Listener solvers to the setter of the year's best puzzle. All the winners from the period covered are in the book.
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The puzzles are not plain crosswords, but the most convoluted series of obstacles that I have ever seen, and more complicated than anything I have ever imagined.
The introduction says that the puzzles are arranged in order of increasing difficulty. I only did the first one, supposedly the easiest. I know I didn't get more than five of the words in all. I looked at the solution again and again.
Here's what you have to do to solve the first one.
There are 44 words in the puzzle. Of these, 33 have a deliberately induced "typo" in the cryptic clue. In many of them, the "typo" is in the synonym for the word. For example, you're supposed to somehow figure out that the word you've never heard of that you're trying to put into the diagram means "bracken," rather than "bracket," as is stated in the clue.
Once you somehow manage to fill in the diagram (mostly by looking at the solution, in my case), you make a list of each of the "correct" letters, i.e. the ones that should have been where each of the "typos" are.
(Many spoilers follow -- stop reading if you intend to do this puzzle.)
In this puzzle, they spell out, "Ruth Rendell's alter ego is Barbara Vine." So, as you can imagine, it was really no help as you were solving, hoping maybe to guess a "typo" letter from filling in the missing letters in a word in the hidden phrase, like you can do in a double crostic. For example, when you had "GOISB_ _ _AR" it's not likely you'd guess "arb" is what goes in there.
When you have figured out this hidden phrase, you are now supposed to somehow divine that it is a substitution cipher, with each letter in "Barbara Vine" replacing a letter in "Ruth Rendell." Then you have to go into the diagram and change, in order, each of the letters in the 11 words whose clues do not contain "typos" from the letter in "Ruth Rendell" to the corresponding letter in "Barbara Vine," forming 11 new words in the diagram. For example, in the first one, the "R" in Ruth Rendell changes to "B" in Barbara Vine, thereby changing 1-across from "barrel" to "barbel."
Et voila! You're done!
As if all this weren't bad enough, the words in the diagram include: opsonic (like constituents of sedum, actually serum), adpress (meek, actually meet), tara (bracket, actually bracken -- a word which doesn't even doesn't appear on the entire Internet), bussu (giant deaf, actually giant leaf), betise (plunder, actually blunder), leare (reach, actually teach -- again, a word that appear on the entire Internet), ord (what's at end of hangar, actually hanger -- again, a word that doesn't appear on the entire Internet), synth (scone producer, actually score (maybe?)), and, finally, arede, which is defined as "veteran spy," actually "veteran say," whatever that means -- again, this word doesn't appear on the entire Internet. In addition, the non-synonym part of the clue requires you to figure out that it is "Hedera," a genus of ivy, backwards, with the "H" dropped.
The clues contain words like juddering, meaning vibrating, duff, actually ruff, meaning ope (maybe?), acted as a decoy meaning toled (maybe?), and nark, actually nerk, which supposedly means "ass." Guess I must be a nerk, then.
I looked at the second puzzle, and when it promised to be more of the same, I threw the book away.
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