Listener No. 4388: Cycle 20% More By Smudge

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upsetter | 13:26 Sat 05th Mar 2016 | Crosswords
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Six answers entered after six hours of solving - anyone else doing better?


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Aside from understanding on of the wordplays and what the title is about, I'm all done:-) Definitely the toughest Listener in a long time (years?)
Just limped in. Ended up really enjoying it, but it took me ages to find a way in and get the theme. Encouraged by comments here that it wasn't just me being dim! Happy Sunday to everyone who gathers here.
I should add - what an inventive and clever puzzle. (I may have sounded a bit unenthusiastic in my comment above - just a reflection of how drained I was when I made it over the line...)
After a mystified hour on Friday evening, I had two 3-letter answers in the grid and conceded defeat. Judging by the comments here, this was an excellent decision. Warmest congratulations to those who have completed it.
I almost gave up yesterday, with only nine solves after nearly five hours. I attacked it with renewed vigour today and have filled the grid apart from three entries. Ten or more hours in all, and I still have to sort out what to do with those words from the downs (some of which I haven't fully worked out.

It does get easier once you work out the rationale for the entry of the downs, in case anyone needs encouragement to press on.

I'm not persuaded that it's an altogether fair puzzle. When clue gimmicks are as complex as these, it's incumbent on the setter to [provide unquestionably accurate definitions. Some here are very vague or not exactly accurate. In several cases I had an answer that fitted the presumed wordplay but I couldn't be sure that it was right from the definition provided. A foreign word has not been indicated as such, which I find a trifle annoying because I've had clues amended by the editors when I have inadvertently omitted such an indicator. Editorial rules should be applied consistently.
Can't quite decide whether to describe this as unfair or brilliant!

If you are struggling to figure out the significance of the puzzle title, consider the location where the work takes place.
Flippin' 'eck, this should have come with a health warning! Despite a lucky guess at the entry method of the down clues this was a slog of at least 5 hours before the grid was filled, and it took a further 2 hours to get the last of the cryptic indications of the secret sign even though I knew what I was looking for. It didn't help that this wasn't in my usual reference source.

I only stuck it to the end because having got so close it seemed a shame to give up, but found the whole thing frustrating and I can't say I enjoyed it. BUT I'm not blaming the setter for that - Listeners are supposed to be difficult and the series has to cater for super-solvers (of which I am definitely not one) with the occasional stinker. Usually I can spot these and avoid them (they usually have blank grids, coded answers or are headed by the name Sabre). This one didn't look too bad at first...

I can appreciate that this was a marvellous feat of construction though I agree with Scorpius that some of the clueing could have been tighter, given the obstacles we had to surmount. As I get more advanced in years I'm not sure I can, or want to, justify spending this long on a single crossword very often, but some people clearly enjoyed it more than I did and so it would be churlish to complain about its inclusion.

Jago or Dipper next week please!
Good grief Perseverer I would NEVER have got the significance of the title without your pointer. I must say although I am by no means finished I am really enjoying this one, but thinking about how you would go about constructing it makes my head hurt.
Putting the current puzzle aside for a moment (I still have the cryptic deciphering to do) I've been keeping a personal database of Listeners since I first started solving, recording themes, gimmicks, level of difficulty, etc. My difficulty rating is 1 to 10 with 10 as the hardest and 5 to 6 as average (I usually rate Sabre 9 or 10 unless it's a gentler Sabre). In most years the average level of difficulty over the year has been between 5.3 and 5.6. Last year it was far lower, around 4.7, mainly because of a string of easy puzzles in the first quarter of the year. This time last year the average level of difficulty 2.7. This puzzle takes this year's average to 6.
Obviously these assessments are subjective, but I don't think there's any doubt that the first ten puzzles of this year have included far more tough challenges than the same period last year. Perhaps the editors took note of the complaints on this forum last year about the preponderance of easy puzzles and have given us something to really challenge us.
In fairness, we can hardly complain.
These comments are helpful. Seems one has to pass at least one of three tests in order to persevere with this. Lots of time available/100% record to preserve/"damned if I'll be defeated". We may pass.
A big sigh of relief when the last loose end was tied up. Things speeded up when I had worked out the theme and the method of entry, but there were a number of very awkward clues to solve near the end. Not a theme with which I was familiar, but the way that the secret Sign is incorporated into the work by the Creators is worth tracking down on the internet, as it's very amusing. What a lot of thematic material in the puzzle! Although not required to do so, I feel the need to highlight the Contest to round everything off.
I came to this one late, having had visitors over the weekend, and I found it wonderful. It took me back to the Listeners of 20 or 30 years ago when to solve every clue was a small victory (but perhaps I've got better at solving since then). It really took a time to get started and work out what what was going on, but well worth it in the end. The Listener is supposed to be difficult, so more like this please.
I read the plot this morning and polished off the puzzle. The plot must count as one of the silliest ever, more like a Monty Python script. I must say that few puzzles have had as much thematic material as this, counting the clue gimmicks. It all works superbly. Like Olichant I enjoyed it very much in the end, though enjoyment was not uppermost in my mind for the first few hours.

I had the same problem as Hagen in finding the fifth instance of the secret Sign, though it didn't take me two hours fortunately. It's not in my 2007 edition of Bradford's nor is it revealed by a text search in the Chambers CD (out-of-date but still very convenient and useful). In the end I found it in Chambers Crossword Lists. It's the sort of thing that could cause some to fall at the last hurdle.

My last task was to resolve the five queries I had against the down clues, more for my own satisfaction than out of necessity since I had no doubts about my answers and the top line. That was an enjoyable mini-puzzle in itself. All resolved in the end, even the obscurity in 7/23.
I have previously spent plenty of time digesting the secret Signs so found that bit easier than the rest of this beast of a crossword. The first of the Signs held me up briefly in finding the Contest due to the cryptic instance appearing twice.
Likewise petefoxes, indeed one has 3 possible permutations, another 2, and another 2 if you consider different potential spellings. All however were made unambiguous thanks to the confirming Contest. An incredibly tough puzzle, with some fiendish cluing (I too struggled for ages to understand 7/23).

Thanks to Smudge for a belter. A real challenge but never a grind, far too engrossing for that. Even so early in the year surely a strong POTY contender.
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An absolute tour-de-force by Smudge, despite the feelings of revulsion on seeing the fifth sign illustrated in Wiki and wishing we hadn't.
This thread reminds me of when I used to listen to Mornington Crescent on I’m Sorry I Haven’t A Clue
May persevere. Cracked the theme relatively quickly......
OK - Z Cup entry coming ...

I've finished it, I'm sure I've got all of it right - but it's still just not a fair puzzle.

There are (to me) at least three elements to each Listener - there may be more sometimes, but this is the basic set :

1. the definitions
2. the word play
3. the gimmickry that then turns it from a standard crossword into something much more interesting

If you give some sort of 'level of difficulty' to each of the elements then you can balance them to produce a fair challenge (at various levels of difficulty throughout the year).

This one just wasn't right - the clue definitions were (to say the least) often wilfully obscure, the wordplay was distinctly flaky in places and the gimmicks were almost off the scale - without too much thematic justification in most cases.

Any two of the above would be OK - some clarity from even one element usually resolves any witterings I might have about the others - but for all three to be heading for 80% plus on the difficulty scale just seems wrong.

Sorry Smudge - there was obviously a huge amount of work and artistry involved in making it all work - but I just felt battered by the end ...

zunny dave
Finished it off last night I think. That was hard. In the end did not do some of the cryptic adding, or working out some of how down clue words moved and changed, as there was enough other information to work out the theme. I applaud smudge for a great and long challenge. I had to re-introduce myslef to my family after finishing, I do not think that they had heard me speak to them since Friday.
Cheers smudge

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