Friday, April 3, 2009
Gnomon is a new setter to me, the Listener website lists a 2004 puzzle that I don't remember trying. I had a long trip a few weeks ago so saved this one to start on the plane. Not a bad one to try on a plane, since I didn't need a lot of aids to get a reasonably-full grid. Spotting the theme took forever!
Well I like beer and I thought "hey cool, a Listener about beer". The instructions seemed pretty straightforward, particularly when seeing that 1 across was M,A,L,T and we've actually got a brewing ingredient and there's no trickiness to the title. 3 down looked like it should be TEAM, but I couldn't work out how to remove one letter to get it from the wordplay. Do I have to remove all occurrences of one letter from the wordplay part? Hmmm... moving on.
The rest of the ingredients were easy to find - YEA(S,T) at 28, (SHOPPER - PER)* to get HOPS at 29 and (A PEWTER TANKARD - E DRANK)* to get TAP WATER (presumably the ingredient you wouldn't want to own up to) at 38. By the end of my flight, I had almost all of the bottom half complete, sort of.
Sort of... I was using definitions to get grid answers. Some wordplays weren't making sense, and it seemed like a bunch of random letters had to be removed, usually from anagram clues. I scanned the whole of the first page, and the second page looked like it as well, riddled with letter combinations, trying to figure out how to remove a letter to get these.
Take 17, for example... definition leading to LANAI, but the anagram fodder is LANAI + MME. Even if I cut both M's, that's not going to work.
Frustration really set in when I had more than two-thirds of the grid completed without having picked the theme at all. I was wondering if I could just finish the grid from definitions and make up a 5-letter brewing ingredient... SUGAR? COTWO?
The penny finally dropped when working on one of the empty spaces... the definition at 23 looked like it should have been TALUS, and there's that weird KHUSKHUS word in there... hmmm
tSAMEalKHs. SAMEKH? That's a Hewbrew letter isn't it? D'OH!!!!!!! tHE BREWer's ingredients.
I should have been all over that... last year a friend of mine who owns a beer store (and who wouldn't be my friend if they run a beer store?) introduced me to He'Brew, the chosen beer. They have one beer that is insanely hoppy that I loved, and can be found on tap at the Burp Castle in New York City's East Village (Ilan, if you're reading, next time I'm in NYC we'll coordinate things better to get a beer).
So I'm not removing English letters, I'm removing Hebrew letters, and there's 22 in the alphabet!!! Interesting that they specified 5 letters, since there's not many 5-letter Hebrew characters.
Bad move #1 - I went to google to get a Hebrew alphabet and found that there were a bunch of different phonetic spellings. I wrote down the one from (even worse) wikipedia, and found that the first clue I was going to try to re-unravel, 40 across (VAKEEL + SIN) didn't have a match on the wikipedia alphabet.
Doofus - there's a perfectly good Hebrew alphabet in Chambers! And it has SIN in it!
Write out the Hebrew alphabet from Chambers and we're back in action. I was actually missing two letters, NUN and ZAYIN (the only Z I could find in any clues was in 43 across). I suspect NUN has to be removed from 6 down? So that leaves me with ZAYIN, which I don't think has anything to do with brewing, but is the lucky last letter, and in it goes.
I thought this was going to be a breeze, but got really trapped until the very very late penny-drop moment. Fun puzzle from Gnomon, but victory to George! I know I'm getting better at methodically working through clues, but I'm still stunned by my record thus far.
2009 tally: George 10, Listener 1. Current streak, George 4.
Finishing this off I was reminded of a Corn Mo show where he did "Hava Nagila Monster". There's no great recordings of it online, here's a handheld from a reasonably quiet show. If you're drinking Bittersweet Lemmy's R.I.P.A. at Burp Castle, try to catch a Corn Mo show, he often performs in the NYC area.
Feel free to leave a comment, and see you next week for some elitism!