I know Dipper digs trees, but in this way?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, the blog that WordPress does not like to edit.  Not sure if anyone else uses WordPress, but they’ve made their editing interface more unreliable obtuse buggy likely to just flash three dots and “beep boop boop” while you wait to see if it’s actually saving any changes user-friendly.

It’s time for our perennial (or semi-annual) trip to Dippertown, which means there’s going to be some gardening going on.  And there is – the grid represents the garden again and there’s misprints telling us what to do at the end.

This Listener came out while I was on the road, so I didn’t really get a chance to get started on it in the usual time.  I managed to find an open printer and printed it off somewhere along the line and I remember starting it in a meeting room in San Francisco when I was probably meant to be paying attention to a lecture.  Looks like all real words in the grid so a little cellphone dictionary access cheating could go on.

There is a 1 across but I couldn’t figure it out at a first look, so a big fail on the 1-across test. Better luck on the right hand side of the grid with a hidden EASE giving a second letter of A.  You know at this point I thought “wonder if that first word is GARDEN” and if I’d done so I could have saved myself a headache later on with the top left.

I managed to make pretty steady work along the right hand side but as entries were going in I was starting to get bewildered by the misprints… is this message in English?  CLUED TREES looked like the last two words, but before that I had a bunch of gobbledygook.

With about a dozen empty squares in the grid, I was really trying to deconvolute that message.  GARDEN’S OLD?  GARDEN SOLD?  Is the misprint in 27 across toE or tIp?  And 33 has to be LO,SINGLY, but what on earth from PEARS gets you LO?


I wrote about five different versions of that message out, and eventually I’ve settled on GARDEN SOLD TO BUILDERS CLEAR PLOT ??? TREES – that’s probably FOR in the question marks, but my current notes have LAR

So I guess the TREES are in those thematic clues, which would make sense.  The last one looks like OPEPE, and that’s a tree and… aaaaah, it’s in the grid, down there in the bottom right!  Quick, grab Bradfords with a helpful list of 5-letter trees.  HEVEA is also in the grid – that could be HEAVE with the A moved.  MYALL is there too, was RIK MAYALL also a guitarist?  Hmmm… apparently there’s a JOHN MAYALL.  Never heard of him.

My working grid for Listener Crossword 4306, Hosta la Vista by DipperI didn’t submit this, because I got back after the deadline, but I *think* we are meant to erase the trees.  I don’t think moving them around does anything, and I don’t think there’s anything they can be replaced with that would lead to real words in the grid.  But I can’t figure out that last word in the instruction, so I’m going to call this one a victory to Dipper and the Listener Crossword.

2014 tally: 27-0-5

Feel free to tell me how to dig up information and see you next week when Wan appears to have put genitalia in the title of a Listener.


If you charge it, they won’t come?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, where you like it when I succeed, but love it when I fail – my incorrect grid posted last Saturday ended up being the most-viewed page for almost 18 months.  Most were probably Ozzie rubbing his hands in glee.

My most spectacular failure last year was due to Lavatch, where a carte blanche grid turned out to be exactly that, so I was in more than a little trepidation when I saw the setter’s name, knowing I had only two days before I was off on a two-week roadtrip.  This had to be done in a sitting or two or else it was likely to be three weeks in a row I wouldn’t be able to submit (with apologies in advance to Dipper, who drew the “I won’t even be by a printer by the time this is due to be mailed in” slot this year).

I’ve tagged previous Lavatch puzzles, so you can enjoy the previous battles by clicking the little tag link at the bottom.  There’s usually some grid manipulation at the end, and this appears to be no exception – two letters in 16 cells, and then some grid manipulation at the end – yep, it’s Lavatch!

There is a 1 across, and it looks like it should be some form of L?(AS)?S – LYASES, LEASES, LEASAS, but I couldn’t quite get it the first time so I left it blank, and a half fail on the 1 across test – gulp!  Better luck with 11 across for RED(ECO)RATE.  That crosses ERASES which means I could have been completely off the mark at 1 across or there’s a clash there.  We may have a start, or may not.  Pressing on…

Lavatch pops up occasionally in the Spectator series so I’ve been solving a few more Lavatch puzzles and am getting more into the style of cluing. Pretty soon ANTIS popped up as one that didn’t fit the grid entry… but the clue helpfully had the number of letters so that was a bit of a giveaway.  Silly me wrote all the possible letters that could go into cells before realizing that if it went in a checked cell then one of 4 down, 5 down or 6 down would have one more letter than the grid length… nope – so the N and T go in the same cell.

I had much better luck with the bottom half of the grid than I did with the top half, and two F’s and a J close by in the doubled-up letters made TRAFFIC JAM an likely candidate.  Looking at the rest of the letters I had, HE SOLUTION looked like a good second message.  Probably THE SOLUTION?  So we have ?????N TRAFFIC JAM – if that is an E/L clash at 1 across, LONDON TRAFFIC JAM looks very promising!

To Google!  Enter “LONDON TRAFFIC JAM SOLUTION” in Google and you get messages about the CONGESTION CHARGE.  Although I’ve been to London a few times I didn’t know about this – I’ve only walked or taken public transport.  I did notice pretty heavy traffic at a few times, but didn’t think that there were programs in place to dissuade using cars in the city.  Anyway, it was instituted by Ken Linvingstone who was London’s Mayor at the time and can be formed by tweaking a few letters around the middle.

What a rare delight… a Lavatch puzzle I finished in one go!

My working grid for Listener 4305, Not A Blocked Grid by Lavatch

This was in the mail before I left for my trip.  Has Lavatch turned over a kinder, gentler leaf, or was this just designed for the Listener solver stuck in traffic (confession – I usually have the Guardian crossword on the passenger seat when I drive to work for while I’m stuck at traffic lights).

I believe I can call this one a Victory to George (though I did that last week and look where it got me).

2014 tally:  27-0-4

Feel free to tell me that this isn’t really a solution and the traffic’s as bad as it effin’ was back in the day, and see you next week when Dipper tells us “I’ll be sack”

Mind the gap (in prompt posting)

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, which didn’t get written yesterday because of a red-eye flight back from the West Coast of the US to the East Coast of the US.  East to West – no worries, dead easy. West to East – mandatory day’s recovery (doubly so if one has to work immediately after getting off the plane).

Ozzie time!  I’ll tag the previous Ozzie puzzle on George vs Listener

Soooo… all may have been said and done about this puzzle already, though I haven’t checked the solution yet.   What have we here – carte blanche grid, though it looks like bars will be entered later (oh yes there will be entering of bars later!), ten letters to be inserted somewhere.  Most clues normal but ten have been tampered with.  OK, what does this bring?

There is a 1 across and it’s a nice gentle AC(R)E so Ozzie is a member of the 1 across club.  Since it cosses RESORBS and what looks like CHERIMOYERS then I don’t think there’s any blank spaces there.

Since there’s only 10 blank spaces, I started solving and slotting in normally, hoping something would pop up sooner or later.  The first strange one to pop up was a clue that looked like it was for ARI – there was AI, and R, and Onassis but something wonky with the clue.  I guess this would be tamperment.

Both sides of the grid seemed to be filling up nicely, but what is going on in the middle?  At the end of the first session of solving I had most of the outside, and a sneaking suspicion something was going on in the second row.

Second solving session was the sort of penny-drop moment familiar to all thematic crossword fans… a 10-letter warning had already made me think of MIND THE GAP.  Doubly so because in tagging Calmac puzzles a few weeks ago I was reminded of Listener 4091, Mind The Gap by Calmac.  There was a definition in 14 across for THEREAFTER and bits of the wordplay, and it looks like start of the word fits on the left hand side, the right hand side could have the AFTER part… and add MIN to THERE and you get THEREMIN and D to AFTER for DAFTER… it also looks like CARRIAGE is forming in the fifth row and PLATFORM on the seventh. So that is looking pretty good. Oh – THE GAP could go between them and make EMBATHE and GAPYEAR.

That just left a bit of what is going on with the other clues… aaah – there’s gaps in them… so that ARI clue would be witHin, and the clue with the wordplay for THRIFT is LivingsTon and conTrolling.  Not much longer and we have a complete grid.

My working grid for Listener 4304, Warning! by Ozzie

I started working on bars in this version of it, but decided it was a task best left to Crossword Compiler.

Adding the bars for Listener 4304

I don’t know how anyone without Crossword Compiler did with adding all of these bars, and thanks Ozzie for keeping symmetry in the final grid!  And I was surprised at first to see, since TMYRRH isn’t a name, that we had closed off a cell… I guess there’s gaps in the final grid!  Can’t have a one-letter answer, so in my submitted version I left those two squares empty.

I think I would have struggled more with this one if I hadn’t recently been thinking of the theme.  In the US, “Mind The Gap” means look after a clothing store for enabled brats.   This was a fun little challenge, but I think (unless I’ve got a bar stray in the submitted grid), I can call this a Victory to George!

As pointed out in email – I shouldn’t have trusted Crossword Solver!!! It did count the two one-letter words as answers and so I only have 42 words in this grid.  Well that was fun while it lasted, wasn’t it?

2014 tally: 26-0-4

Feel free to tell me what else I can mind, and see you next week (hopefully on time) when Lavatch shows us how a laxative can work on a crossword.


Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword coming to you today from Grand Rapids, Michigan, though later today I’m flying to San Francisco, California.  So this may be finished while I’m here, at the airport, in the air or in another state and time zone altogether where the solution has already been published.

Nutmeg time!  I’ve added Nutmeg to the list of tagged setters so you can clicky to see all the battles.  I’ve found Nutmeg’s previous puzzles to take a fair bit of time.  However this came out when I was in Canada at a conference (printed it the last morning of the conference) and the conspiuousness was that little square grid. It’s a bloody Playfair!


I officially begin a group I’m going to call PHUC – Playfair-Hating United Cruciverbalists. Join us!

Good thing I’m in Canada, I’m going to a Blue Jays game in a couple of hours, and I can go to my favorite pub in Toronto to start working on this.  I don’t know if it even has a name – it’s next to the fairly well known The Office Pub on John St and it’s a rathskeller type set up with an exceptional range of taps.  There was a toasted lager from somewhere in Canada that was quite delicious, and took my mind off that I was tackling a Playfair grid.

I was pretty limited in resources at this pub – no wifi, I didn’t get a data plan for Canada so my phone was pretty useless (I do have a small anagram app that doesn’t use bandwidth unless you try to look up a definition), all we have is me and my rapidly-being-destroyed brain cells.  Could be a bumpy ride!

There is a 1 across but I couldn’t get it on a first read-through (though later I kicked myself when I saw what it was) so it was an initial first-beer fail on the 1 across test.  Next up is a clue where the wordplay seems to be pointing at R(ILL)OW but I don’t know for sure if it’s a word, so it went next to the clue but not in the grid.   Nothing doing until ARDS at 15.  Usually I work on crossing clues, but since every down clue is thematic I thought I’d press on and see if anything else came up in the acrosses.  Reward! After a festival of poor solving, BY(T)E, DI(ALL)ERS, STEREO and E,MER(G)E give me the whole bottom of the grid!  And 27 looks like it should be RIDER so there’s half of the theme!

So now to the downs, working up – these starred down clues don’t look too bad… 25 looks like it’s got to be some anagram of DEMO plus a 2-letter term for doctor (MO,DR,GP).  18 looks like it should be TRIST,RAM, 4 some anagram of G+EARTH… GARETH? Hmmm… RIDERS… is 9 LANCE,LOT?  25 could be MODRED and we are definitely in King Arthur territory!  Yep – 24 is GAWAIN and I dunno what 21 is but probably another knight.

At that point I decided it was enough pub solve, and I’ll tackle it after brutal cheating.

Blue Jays lost.  They won about seven in a row after that game, but typical me to go see the game where they got pasted.  They did have Alexander Keith’s Lager for sale at the game though!

The next day I was on my way back to Asheville, and it was time to knock the rest of this out – Quinapalus has a Playfair Breaker (though I suspect many who are reading now know that) and I was pretty sure the title translated to ROUND TABLE… so in it goes and KNIGHT’S MOVE comes back as the only possibility for the keyword, my last knight to be found is LI(O)NE,L and the two hiding in the down extra letters would be PERCIVAL and BEDIVERE.  I encoded the entries I knew (though did myself no favors by entering the first two letters of GARETH in my grid in the wrong order) and set about sursolving.

Wasn’t too much later I had a complete grid, and things were looking good… the last step wasn’t as bad as I was anticipating – with PERCIVAL and BEDIVERE (with a tempting E to catch those who didn’t completely solve the playfair stuff, I suspect) occupying spaces near the top and near the bottom with Knight’s moves.  Oh boy… if there’s any device I like less than Playfair, it’s Knight’s moves, fortunately there were only two to unravel.

Hmmm… I have a begrudging admiration for the puzzle.  The clues were fun, the theme is good, the Knight’s moves makes sense, but was the Playfair absolutely necessary?   Particularly since there’s no real challenge in a Playfair now with online solving tools available.  Maybe this will be the last time we see that silly little 5×5 grid beside the puzzle.

I left before scanning my grid, but I think I can call this one a Victory to George, and a victory to PHUC!

2014 tally:  26-0-3

Feel free to comment in support of (or against) PHUC and see you next week when Ozzie clearly has a puzzle that is about Shane Warneing.

What fresh hell is this?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, and based on the last two weeks I should be able to have solved this before I printed it off, right?

So let’s see what we have with Ottorino?  This is only the second Ottorino Listener and the first one I found a challenge but managed to get out.  What have we here.  All jumblies!!!  Yikes.  There’s a small bone thrown with letters that start in their original positions, so I guess some letters can go in.  All clues are normal except for 14 where a letter must be restored.  Okeydoke…

There is a 1 across and I could not figure it out at all, so (as in the first Ottorino Listener) a big Fail on the 1 across test.  Grrr.  Next up was an unfamiliar word with crystal clear wordplay so in goes CHANTAGE… well at least the A does.

OK… I started off really badly here.  After a few passes through the clues I had a bit of a grid forming on the bottom right, but less than half the clues solved.  It looked like the second word in the location was HOTEL (I had the HOTE but not the L) and although I hadn’t solved 47 across, SUINT really looked like a word that was dying for a Q to be inserted to make SQUINT.

Three hours in and I was getting nowhere, time to sleep on it.

Next morning… 9-letter hotels that start with Q… and from 12 and 16 across have an A and an L near the start of the name.  Isn’t there something special about the ALGONQUIN HOTEL?  Wasn’t it a Dorothy Parker and the Vicious Circle hangout?

Googletime to the rescue.. yes it was… and ERK could give me the end of PARKER and there’s a Y in PEATY, and that would make 25 HARPY.  Aha!

I’d also seen the possibility of LAWFUL or AWFUL on the other side of the grid, both of which wouldn’t be out of place in the writings of Ms Parker.  So what could we have on the right side of the grid one column in – HER definition, anagram of MOPER… HER POEM R?????

RESUME… a short and happy poem!  So 43 is ME,US and the L from hotel comes from there.


And there is almost the entire poem in alternating columns – no wonder it had to be all jumblies (and there’s symmetry too!).  The LAWFUL/AWFUL spot was essential to the poem, leaving YOU MIGHT AS WELL LIVE to go across the bottom.

Now all that’s left is… solve most of the entries for the columns that are not part of the poem!  Yep, the dreaded sursolving!  KEYWAY, RANDAN and DARRE were the last to fall, but finally I had it all!  And just in time too, as I was about to leave for a trip to Canada the next day.  This was in the mail on my way to the airport.

My working grid for Listener 4302, When All Else Fails by Ottorino

I’m sure there’s been at least one, but this is the first time I’ve encountered Dorothy Parker in a crossword, and finding her makes me happy.  I like to think that she did crosswords, or at least wrote her phone number in the lights to leave at bars.  Allegedly the title of this blog was the way she answered the phone during the day.

I believe I can call this a Victory to George, woohoo!

2014 tally:  25-0-3.

Feel free to tell me that I shouldn’t have taken the advice in the poem, and see you next week when my joy at finding my hotel in Toronto had a computer with printer comes crashing down when that Listener prints off with a little 5×5 square.  Oh Nutmeg.

I solved this quickly, but I may have been doping

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, your source for all things possibly solvey.

And what have we this week?  It’s Jago!  What do we know about Jago – usually puzzles around a specific theme (we had the Diamond Jubilee, and Christmas wrens) and the solving has been pretty gentle in both cases, though I can’t fold a crane to save myself.

So… I printed this off, went for a coffee (wasn’t quite beer time yet), read the preamble, and wrote this.


Solved before even getting started!  Hot damn!

There was really only one catch while I was working through – I wasn’t familiar with the GRAND DEPART and had to look up a webpage about the Tour to confirm it. I also suspected HARROWGATE was the finishing point but wanted to confirm it in case there was somewhere named HAGROSADE that suddenly got a lot of cyclists.

Not much else to add, this was all over in about a half an hour and in the mail on Saturday morning.  Victory to George!

2014 tally:  24-0-3

Feel free to tell me about how awesome it was to watch them all ride by, if any of them put clackers in their bikes, and see you next week when Ottorino reminds us that all else fails.  And get excited, because in two weeks time comes the return of hatred towards playfair ciphers!

Obvious theme ignorance 101

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, coming to you today from beautiful Toronto, Ontario, Canada so this will be a brief post and I won’t have a scan.  I can add it when I return to Americaland tomorrow.

OK, what have we here – Calmac!  I had a pretty awesome failure last time out with Calmac, so let’s see where I can go wrong this time.  This Listener came out while I was on the road, heading to Charlotte for the ROC Race (were I also spectacularly failed).  So I was mostly doing this on a friends sofa while he was complaining about a sore tooth.

What have we here – misprints in definition, and there’s a LOT of clues here  Big grid with small entries mostly (ooo eerr).  These give an instruction… hmm, so it looks like we’re in real word territory which is a good thing when I don’t have Bradfords and the like with me.

There is a 1 across and although it looks pretty obvious now, I could not see it at the time, so that was a fail on the 1 across test (oh dear).  Much better luck on 5 across, an anagram of TASER and we’re away (though I incorrectly put in that it delivered JOLTS).

Since I had an entry in the middle, I started working from there and something became clear pretty quickly – SARAJEVO BOSNIA was hiding in the middle column.  Erudite, worldly people at this point probably cottoned on to the theme, I jotted it in and wondered what on earth Sarajevo was significant for.  Wasn’t there a Winter Olympics there once?

Moving over to the left side of the grid, there’s another long unclued entry at 1 down, and with FOR,DS now figured out it looks like it’s going to be FRANZ FERDINAND.  Isn’t that a techno group?

Oh… he was murdered around 100 years ago, right?  Did it happen in Sarajevo?  Shouldn’t I have known this?

Yes, he was, and the murderer appears to be lurking in the other side of the grid, GAVRILO PRINCIP – which was needed to get some pesky answers out in the Florida corner.  OK, so now we have a grid and a message.  And Sarajevo’s probably part of it.



What’s an EJELT?

Can tasers do something than JOLTS?  VOLTS (and is taser in Chambers?).  Aaaah so 12 isn’t to RAIL it’s to RAIN.  And now it’s an EVENT that occurred near a river.  In Sarajevo.

So the Wikipedia article on the assassination of Franz Ferdinand has no details of the name of the river.  There’s an APPLE BRIDGE (nowhere to be found).   Earlier on I’d noticed JACK quite close to 22 across (it was the title of the puzzle after all, may as well pay attention to that part of the grid).  So a bit more online atlassing and there it is – the MILJACKA… and the abbreviation R to make the shape of a cross.

22 is VERMIL which is red, so I highlighted my cross in red, I thought there might have been something to do with the formation of the red cross, but that was another time altogether.

So woohoo! I think I got this all sorted out and in, and I learned some stuff I probably should have known anyway, so thanks Calmac!

Feel free to laugh at my ignorance and see you next week when Jago tells us that it’s time to go home, since it’s over here.



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