Thursday, 31 October 2013

Bow End

Heading for Magpie this time, Bow End is a Circular or Radial puzzle, befitting its theme of Sumo wrestling.   Now Sumo is a bit of a 'marmite' sport:  to many no doubt it is just two (very) fat blokes bashing into each other, but wreathed as it is in technique, ritual and the over-riding Japanese / Shinto culture there is an awful lot more to it than that.

Even so, Sumo has courted its fair amount of controversy in recent times too.  In 2011, one of the six scheduled tournaments was cancelled following the discovery of a bout-fixing scandal.  In 2008, a trainer from a sumo stable was arrested in connection with the death of one of the junior wrestlers in his charge, which resulted from brutal beatings and ill-treatment as 'part of the regime' - he was jailed for 6 years.   Elsewhere, grand champion Yokozuna have been forced out by the Sumo Association; Futahaguro (60th) for a stable bust-up [he remains the only member of the highest rank never to have won a tournament], while Asashoryu (68th) was something of a rebel, who after various infractions with the authorities, got suspended and was ultimately forced to resign; although his side of the story is that he was removed to give the Association's preferred Yokozuna, Hakuho 'a free run'.  Interesting and part of the historic tapestry of sumo though these events undoubtedly are, they do rather besmirch what is otherwise a deeply symbolic, technical and at times very exciting sport.

In the UK, we have been rather deprived of exposure to sumo in recent times.  For a while, Channel 4 presented packaged highlights during the era of Chiyonifuji (the 58th Yokuzuna) who won 31 tournaments (basho) during his career.  More recently, Eurosport presented a series of highlight reels after the basho had completed, splicing 3 days into a one hour programme across the course of a week, there being 15 days to a tournament.

With the modern wonders of the internet, it is now possible to enjoy live streaming of the top-ranking Makuuchi division, which depending on the time of year either runs between (BST) 8-10am or (GMT) 9-11am for the duration of each tournament which are held every other month.  This can be found here: in the box which in off-tournament time shows a promotional video instead.

We had a 50:50 chance therefore that this crossword's appearance would coincide with a basho, and September is one of the three months that the Kokugikan hosts a tournament, the other three being spread across three other venues.  This time the 69th Yokuzuna Hakuho won through with a 14-1 win-loss record, his 27th tournament win.  Alongside Hakuho, Harumafuji was promoted in 2012 to the highest rank as the 70th Yokozuna.

So, onto business.  Sumo phrases appear relatively regularly in crosswords, but we don't recall a puzzle using Sumo as the central theme.  The sport occurs inside a roped ring which is embedded into a clay platform, constructed each tournament for the purpose.  So, the grid had to be round and is therefore a representation of a dohyo.  The grid construction was simple enough after relaxing the 50:50 ratio of in-out radials - the design also meant that the corrections to misprinted letters would need to provide the letters for Ring 4, else there was a significant amount of over-unching.  The proliferation of Ks and Zs in the Sumo ranks provided only limited options in a couple of instances, so some of the construction was almost set in stone (or clay in this instance) from the off.   In circle 2, we showed the five ranks of the makuuchi division (the highest), in increasing order of rank, MAEGASHIRA, KOMUSUBIs, SEKIWAKE, OZEKI and YOKOZUNA (the grand champion rank) in circle 6.  The thematic word RING is omitted from SP(RING), ST(RING), (RING)ED and TI(RING) which form the two letter entries in circle 1 - these also show the four cardinal points that are present in the ring itself.  It was slightly frustrating that the radials could not be restricted to 6s all the way around, but the use of four symmetrical lights of 5 each did not spoil the overall effect, and did mean that we didn't have to resort to the dreaded jumbles!

Rather than any reference to a boat, the title is in fact a reference to the yumitori-shiki or bow twirling ceremony which concludes each day of a basho (sumo tournament).

Finally, such a theme does give us the opportunity to include what is probably one of the most iconic Sumo pictures, namely that of Konishiki aka 'the dump truck' who reached the Ozeki rank, before retiring, in this case facing Mainoumi ('the mighty mouse').   We hope solvers weren't similarly overwhelmed by the puzzle!
Thanks as always to the solvers who took the trouble to comment on our puzzle - these are shown below:

I thought it was a little strange to have the corrections to the misprints gave the letters in circle four, but I'm not going to complain about not having to work out the direction of entry for most of the radial answers.

I spotted SUMO in the second ring, and could see that OzEKI and YOKOZUNA (which I knew from Chambers), but I thought it was strange that the required highlighting would be part of the thematic material.

Enjoyable. One learns something new every day.
Bradford a bit light on teh thematics so needed a netfriend to confirm most of them, which helped with the last few unsolved clues. Given the occurrence of, eg Zs and Ks in those thematics, a pretty impressive grid.
I've filled the grid for this, but without submitting it. I don't know what to shade. I have YOKOZUNA and SUMO suggesting wrestling, but can't find anything in circles 3 or 5. My guess would be TENKO, but ... ??

I really don't like circular crosswords and the more I do the less I like them. It's not that there's anything intrinsically wrong, and it's partly an aesthetic thing, but it's mostly just that I don't like them for no really good reason! So it was with this ...
Circular puzzles are not among my favourites but this one appealed more than most; at least there were no jumbled radial answers to contend with. Having reluctantly jettisoned the absolute conviction (based on the title) that the grid represented an archery target, I was taken back to 1980s TV, watching two wobbling mountains of flesh ( I exclude Chiyonofuji, the Wolf, from this description) attempting to annihilate one another while Lyall Watson mystically drew parallels with white clouds drifting over a peaceful Japanese sea or pine trees waving in a gentle breeze. It sounded fanciful then; now it beggars belief. At least it helped me recognise some of the words in the puzzle.

Major difficulty in this one was trying to fit ozeki in in the wrong direction (there's a sentence I never thought I'd write). If only Hans Andersen came from Odenze.

A nice radial, with an inspired use of misprints to help solvers with entry orientation. I had to get every letter in the inner circle before discovering the cunningly hidden theme. Shamefully, I am not 
as au fait with the Sumo technical lexicon as I apparently should be...

Good value puzzling for a B grade. Always a nice change to have a non-standard grid shape. Didn’t find all entries in C (as one might grumpily expect with no mention in the preamble). I liked the novel device for indicating directions of Radial entries, the misprints being neatly worked into the clues.

Grid frustratingly close to being complete with just one letter to enter and the small matter of shading.  Now that Googly has been conquered back to the world of wrestling.

I stumbled across the theme (from circle 6) and then found SUMO lurking in one of the circles very early on. Only after completing the puzzle did I find any of the words in circle 2.
I wasn't familiar with the grades of Sumo wrestlers, I am now.

The grid was filled and I still had no idea about the theme except that some of the words looked Japanese (and I had almost got 'manga' in one of the rings). As ever google came to the rescue and all became clear. I do like circular grids now and again and especially when there is thematic reasons for them. A good puzzle for which the title only made sense right at the end (and made me smile).

I always enjoy circular puzzles and this was no exception. I liked the misprint helping with the grid fill idea. The sumo ranks took a long time to appear. The final highlighting feel necessary.

Not usually a great fan of circular puzzles but happily made an exception in this case. 

I know very little about sumo wrestling so this proved to be another educating puzzle.

It is amazing how many puzzles we are seeing that work so much better with a circular puzzle rather than a square one.

In this instance wikipedia was very helpful giving the list of sumo wrestlers. I also like the use of the novel misprints giving one of the rings, otherwise there would be a double unch in every entry. I often struggle with circulars as they are mini puzzles of 4 answers, but this was suitably a B grade. I thought the dohyo might get into the puzzle somewhere. 

Very good to get all the ranks of the top division of sumo wrestlers into the grid. There were an awful lot of Ks and Zs to clue. I was expecting the name of the division, Makuuchi, to be hidden but I guess that was a K too far! Great fun.