Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, the internet’s third favorite Listener blog.  Which for some bizarre reason had something on the order of 50 views on Thursday.  Probably the Listener Editor team looking for lawsuit material.

Anyhoo, what have we this week three weeks ago?  We have Gos!  Now Gos has a kind of a noir theme to most puzzles, with a series of murder mystery themes which have been rather fun so I’m looking forward to this.

Hmmm… a black spot in the middle, normal clues, looks like everything is a real word except for some unclued answers… one of which would have been 1 across so that’s a deft sidestep of the 1 across test.  There is a 8 across, and it looks like A,M(ATE)UR so there goes my test, but I guess someone over at another blog will be happy with the appearance of booze in the first clue.  Anyhoo, we are away.

There were no tricks in the clues, though it seemed the solve worked in an L-shaped sweep, starting from AMATEUR and working down and across to where it became apparent that ORSON WELLES was a good guess for the right hand column (on the grid  below, rather than writing the letter straight in to that column, I wrote it to the right of the column in case the change was obvious.

So ORSON WELLES, eh?  What do we have up the top… if it’s JOSEPH COTTON we are in “Citizen Kane” territory.  And so it is!  Yes, we’re hunting Rosebud and I’ve got to change ORSON WELLES to CITIZEN KANE or CHARLES KANE and JOSEPH COTTON to the name of whatever his character was… wikioolgle time.  Jedidiah Leland.  Ummm… that’s not going to fit. J. Leland?  Jed Leland?

Besides, putting CITIZEN KANE on the right doesn’t make real words.


Yes, dear readers, I plugged along with the CITIZEN KANE thing for about an hour, wondering how it could work.  Kind of like watching the film for the first time.

Reset… definitely ORSON WELLES and JOSEPH COTTON.  Did they work together again after “Citizen Kane”?  Of course they did… a few other times, but it appears the next time they were on screen together was THE THIRD MAN.


HOLLY MARTINS and THE THIRD MAN give us all real words and they were searching for HARRY LIME


My working grid for Listener 4309, Shades of Green by Gos

Stop kicking yourself, George, stop kicking yourself.

Well done, Gos – though I got there in the end I managed to pursue a false trail that would make any mystery writer proud.  I believe I can call that one a Victory to George

2014 tally:  29-0-5

Feel free to tell me I need to watch more movies and see you next week when Charybdis nets us a book agreement.

A final sigh of relief with Ruslan

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword – where Ruslan appears to be moving in to Jimi Hendrix territory by having nearly as many posthumous releases as ones released during his lifetime!  I thought Ruslan had the last laugh last year – Ruslan puzzles feature in the hall of shame and I could not get a handle on the last one.  I’ll add tags to them soon, WordPress’s new “editor” (motto:  you can type things in boxes but there’s no guarantee they’ll make it to the page) seems to be having issues with me going back and tagging old entries while I still have a draft entry present.

OK – what have we here – prime numbers greater than 3 (hey, two weeks of prime numbers in a row!  bet that makes some of you feel awesome) can be expressed as 6n+1 or 6n – 1.

Grab nifty online references of the first 1000 prime numbers and away we go…

I had about two pages of notes, but now as I come to write this, I can’t remember where I started – I think with the teeny tiny ones.  There were only two possible entries for 2 (2,2), 52 and 70.  All entries had to end in even numbers, and most of the rest was hunt-and-pecking through the pretty small list of possibilities.  It seemed most of the time there was not a great deal of difference between the multiples of 6 that needed to be added together, so you could guess what the first digit or two in each entry was likely to be and work from there.

My main problem came from wanting to write the actual products of the primes somewhere.  Once finding 61 X 97, there was no need to even write down 5917… I think somewhere along the way I stopped writing down the actual product of the primes, unless it looked like it might not fit the number of digits specified in the answer.  About two hours of calculator mashing later, I had a grid…


My working grid for Listener 4308 Sub-prime more-gains relief by Ruslan

It is sad that this is the last Ruslan Listener – a setter of intriguing numericals!  Some I got, some I missed, all I admired (I think “Beating the Bookies” was marvelously inventive).  So a final wooohooo and Victory to George and vale Ruslan.

2014 tally:  29-0-5.

Feel free to share anything about Ruslan and the art of the crossnumber, and see you next week when Gos realizes those prime numbers may have left us a little green

A vegetarian vs the Listener Crossword

Welcome back to George vs the Listener crossword, edging up on one year of being meat-free.  In October of last year I was diagnosed with some health problems and the recommended options were giving up meat or taking pills that are bad for the liver.  I need my liver (I don’t treat it like I love it, but I really do love you, liver).

So when the title of Wan’s puzzle appeared I was a little confused.  Even in omnivorous days, I don’t seem to recall salami going with walnuts.  Must be a deeper meaning.  OKeydoke, what do we have – thematic clues have to have something removed from a word.  OK.  39 elements to find at the end.  Hmmm…

Well it does appear we have a grid of all real words, so that should help.  Let’s get to it!

There is a 1 across and it’s a straightforward RA,TABLE so we finally have a pass on the 1 across test!  Woohoo!  That crosses R,E,PAST and what looks like AD VIVUM but that means there’s something wrong with PUMA.  Aaaah – take away the P and A.  Hmmm… 5 down looks like it could be LEER from the wordplay, maybe there’s something wrong with KEYNES.

All real words and not that many obscure words in a 13×13 grid meant the fill was going pretty steadily.  It seemed for a while that it was the first and last letters of four letter words that had to be dropped in order to solve the clue – but that can’t be all there is, since I can’t explain 3 down, 5 down 43 across (which looked like it should be EMBERS) or 17 down (which looked like it should be OESTRAL from the definition).


From OESTRAL to get the rest of the anagram I have to lose the 1st, 4th, 6th or 7th and 8th character.

Primes?  Keep the primes?

That would turn KEYNES into EYE – GLAD-EYE!

Aaaah and the clue number is prime too – is it all the primes?  Looks like it.

Something at the back of my mind was ringing… isn’t there a thing called a PRIME SPIRAL?  Spiral is in the title and preamble.  Googlytime!

Thank you wikioogle for telling me that it is a thing – and STANISLAW ULAM is an anagram of SALAMI and WALNUTS.

Now we’re getting somewhere – the grid was not quite full, but it appears that the letters in the prime number positions of the prime spiral would have something for me – HIGHLY SEASONED ?AUSAGE ?ND EDIBLE TREE SEEDS

Even I can guess the missing letters – so 36 across must be VALSE?  Aaaah VALETAS minus TA with an S inside.  Yup, and 37 is SIDE – and SPANGLET becomes PAGE and 22 down has to be P(LATE)AS,M.  I never did figure out the wordplay for FIASCO, so if it turns out to be ZIANCO then I could be wrong, but I think I’m right.

Unfortunately my printer ran out of ink this morning (this is not a euphemism) and for some reason when it’s out of ink it won’t scan – just screams at me “buy me more black ink and then we’ll talk”, so I don’t have a scan just yet.

Even more unfortuantely – this arrived right at the end of my long roadtrip, and I didn’t even get to pick it up until after the due date has passed.  I know Wan checks in here sometimes, so I don’t think you got any feedback from me, although I did mail in my grid and a note with another puzzle.

OK – this was great fun!  One of my personal favorites for the year but I doubt it will be everyone’s cup of tea (particularly among those who were expecting to not have to deal with primes until the next week).  I do have a fondness for messages hidden in an unusual way (we’ve had Fibonacci and golden mean hiding before), and the large grid was generously filled with starter words.  Woohoo!

I think I can claim this as a Victory to George (though I won’t be winning an electronic atlas or whatever they’re giving as prizes these days)!  Yes, I can – the official solution has FIASCO.

2014 tally:  28-0-5

Feel free to tell me what I’m missing out on by not eating meat, and see you next week when Ruslan primes our subs.


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.


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