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Listener No. 4406: .....

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AHearer | 20:48 Fri 08th Jul 2016 | Crosswords
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Whew!! Actually, the first Playfair was not too bad, as a code phrase that long tends to lead to a bunch of letters left over that, as long as one or two of them appear in the hints, help a lot. I admit to enlisting on-line assistance for the other one, though. I'm not a great fan of 'book' as used in 19,21 -- it seems like a bit of a cop-out. A good challenge, though, so thanks to -- well, you know who you are.

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Yes, thanks to ---- 'you know who you are'. I was horrified to see that we had not one, but two playfair codes to work out but sort of guessed the second from all the hints and, of course, like A Hearer, cheated by using on-line assistance. What tough cluing too but this was a splendid challenge.
Yes a tough workout indeed...struggled for what seemed like ages on the second keyword. Many thanks to....
Blimey, that was a workout. And yet...Still, I'm over the line. Just.
I'm finding this exceptionally tough. It seems designed to defeat online playfair code crackers. I had to work out the one using the anagram since the code phrase I got initially from a code breaker seemed to work but then it failed with later solves. The main one seems a lot harder. I have two answers where I have all the plaintext except an unchecked cell in each. Even trying every letter of the alphabet for unchecked cells I haven't found a playfair code breaker that gives a useful result. Most of the time I get "no result found."
Me too Scorpius. Really really hard.
In the end I worked on what I had and worked out most of the key phrase myself. I've often found that I can get there without online code-breakers, and it is a bit more satisfying, though I have nothing against their use. Just three letters to place, which I cannot do until I have solved a couple more clues, though I think I know who the setter is. Not who I thought it was going to be.
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I only used the online tools for checking once I had the code phrases. For code cracking the usual online resources are only helpful for codewords, and of little use for codephrases (unless they are phrases in very common use).
I'll be damned if I can figure out what the "obliquely thematic word" is. An amazingly tough (but fair!) puzzle.

The clue for the alphabetically earlier answer of 5,14 was brilliant!
No luck so far with either Playfair. The obliquely thematic word is about the only thing I have got!
Wow - that was really tough! Most unusually for me I cracked the 'word search' long before either playfair and with only a few letters which enabled a bit of extra filling. The ultimate playfair had me stuck for ages until I sussed out enough to try a search - and as I'd never heard of the code phrase I'd have been lost without the web. 10 out of 10 for difficulty. Thanks Torquemada. Oops! ;¬)
Finished most of the puzzle last night and tied up some loose ends this morning, but even those loose ends took over an hour's work. Some of the clues were fiendish.
Brilliant grid.
The average level of difficulty of the Listener this year is at least one notch higher than last year.
Well, I found that to be seriously hard work. The easiest part was to guess the setter, to whom, many thanks.
Yes, really tough. I enjoyed it very much though (much more so than I normally enjoy a Playfair) - the assembly was incredibly clever. Thanks...
That was a lot of work! But all worth it for the particularly satisfying PDM when the Playfair code square revealed its message. Thanks to you-know-who.
I now suspect why last week's puzzle appeared to be made simpler than it needed to be.

Very tough, but satisfying to complete. Thanks, mystery setter!
It's taken a long time for me to become Happy this week. It wasn't who I'd been expecting either, but the same number of Playfair letters could be derived from 'Dowdy Woman by Explorer'. I don't suppose there's any chance now that we shall live to see that one. Shame.
That was hard work! I've finally stumbled over the line. I'm not sure that I would have finished without having guessed the obliquely thematic word early, allowing me to fill the bottom left corner.

I have to say that I'm not convinced by the clue to 14D, but maybe I'm parsing it incorrectly.

At least the single clue Playfair proved reasonably easy to unscramble, given the theme.
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I was tidying my desk yesterday evening, and putting my rough copy into the wastepaper basket (I always work on a print-out from the web but post in a standard-sized cut-out from the paper to ease John Green's filiing), and I'm sure I forgot to transfer the shading of the obliquely thematic word to my fair copy. That's a few hours work down the drain! What was it I used to tell my students? Oh yes - always check your answers.
AHearer - it won't be any consolation, but I've done that more times than I'd care to admit. And it's always on the really tricky puzzles, too.
Re tnap's comment, I had my doubts about 14d, and still do have some doubts. I think you have to take note of the preamble's wording. The definitions are in disguise, thus they are latent in the clue, whether or not you choose to decode.

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