I don’t discriminate, I’ll go to the wedding with the best booze

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, your home for scraping through the year – I hope you all made it through Morbid March unscathed.

A second go-around with Spud – the last Spud puzzle from a few years ago was a flattened Rubik’s cube that I could not solve (I’ve tagged it at the bottom), so I was a little nervous going in to this one. What do we have – an invitation, free choice, extra letters in wordplay.

Free choice eh? Invitation you say?

This couldn’t be a crossword about the introduction of same-sex marriage in the UK could it?  I knew it was coming up that week – here it’s a strange situation where it is state by state, so my co-worker across the hall is married in California, has a federally-recognized marriage, but in North Carolina can’t file taxes jointly with her wife.  I’m the most confirmed of confirmed bachelors – I think all marriage is pretty silly, but I guess if people want to do a silly ceremony, go right ahead.  OK – enough pontificating, there’s a crossword to solve!

Looks like all real words in the grid, and there is a 1 across… it’s ACRE, but is it A,CREW minus W or A,CORE minus O?  Half-pass on the 1 across test.  Fortunately next up is RA,BRA,A,VIS – so I think the O is looking better than W for the message.

FLEWED and INGANS confirmed that we’re at a wedding… MACADAMIA means we’ve got an ADAM at the wedding… if there’s a STEVE nearby I’m going to scream… yep…

This was not too tricky of a grid-fill, but I’ll admit I made pretty heavy use of the “let’s search letter patterns on word wizards and reverse engineer the wordplay” approach, since I’d picked up the theme. WEDDING PLEASE JOIN ADAM AND STEVE fits the 33 cells.  The extra letters tell me to OBSERVE PRIME NUMBERED CLUES FIRST WORDS which are the clues that do not have extra letter contain a kind of pidgin English instruction that we write the names of those not highligted as guests… so if you picked ADAM and STEVE, then ADA and EVE are the guests, if you picked ADAM and EVE then ADA and STEVE are guests and if you picked ADA and EVE then ADAM and STEVE come along.  Isn’t that pigeonholing, that the gay friends would go to the lesbian wedding and the straight friends would go to the straight wedding?

my working grid for Listener 4287, primed to begin by Spud

My working grid was printed on the back of a New York Times crossword so it looks a little weird.  I’ve just checked the answer online, and it appears I’ve got this one, and the winners, James, Peter and Gordon, may all kiss the groom.

I just realized I may have sounded a little negative – this was a fun crossword, and a theme that may be surprising to a few solvers.  Since I’d sussed the theme early I was in “get it done” mode, and I had a lot more luck with it than the last Spud Listener so woohoos all round!  Victory to George and people silly enough to marry (in England and Wales).  And I believe the all-correct is intact!

2014 tally:  lucky 13-0-0

Feel free to propose, and see you next week when Kevgar wishes someone happy birthday, and a mystery solver makes an unexpected appearance in George vs the Listener Crossword.

Surely this is the end of Morbid March?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, in memoriam edition.  It’ s a double-dip with Radix, who made two posthumous visits to Morbid March, the previous in the form of Mango a few weeks ago.  I’ve added a Radix tag to the tags so at the end of this you can check out previous Radixy encounters.  OK – what have we here?

Oooh, a prize for the first-time Listener solver who sends the most correct entries (shouldn’t this be the “greatest number of correct entries”?).  I wonder if someone who sporadically sends in counts if they send every one in this year?  Eh… winning things is not in my blood. I won a Brewers Dictionary from the 3D calendar crosswords a few years ago.

OK, what do we have – a single letter removed from 12 clues, added to a word elsewhere.  A whole word taken out of 12 clues, added elsewhere, 12 normal clues which apparently don’t lead to their grid entries.  Hmmm…. OK.

There is a 1 across and since the surface doesn’t seem to make sense it’s likely a letter has to be removed (S from GULLS maybe)?  Anyhoo, GULLS makes no sense so underline it and move on. We’ve got a gentle MOD (Vince Noir?) up next, so that means… well nothing since I can’t enter in normal clues.  Another normal one next – LADYBUGS.  Finally LAT,ELY and an extra CINEMA and there’s something in the grid!

A first pass through the clues and I managed to solve most of the normal ones and confirm it didn’t seem to be forwards, reversed or jumbly forms of entry.  I was having no luck whatsoever with these extra letters… it really looked like 1 across was going to be INAMORATA and the wordplay could be INA,MO, then TAR and A revsered, so I need to take the F away from ARE, but I can’t add F to GULLS and make a word.  Similarly from checking letters and definition it looked like 27 was going to be DRAFTEE, and that’s all the letters in FEARED plus a T but where can I get that T from?

Hmm… preamble… added to a WORD… I can’t put an F in GULLS and make a word… what if I add F to all the letters in GULLS… MARRY!  Aaaaah… I think I know what’s going on – are the extra words added somewhere – 1 down is EWE and the entry is I?L – so that would be adding D?G – add DOG to EWE and I get ILL!

Aha!  I started making a list of clue types, words and from that teased out most of the letters and word combinations

Working out the clue types for Listener 4286, No Robbery! by Radix

I hope that scan looks better in the blog than it does in the preview… it was pretty obvious that the final grid was going to be real words only, so a few of the last ones  (like GAGE + EDAM = LEHR at 24) were worked out by subtracting words I had found as extra from the letters already there in the grid.  It was also very very compact in that the extra words from across clues were used in other across clues and extra words from down clues were used in other down clues.  Here’s what I had at the end.

My working grid for Listener 4286, No Robbery! by Radix

Well that ended up rather fun!  After a long piece of staring and poking to try to get a start on the grid, things didn’t take very long once I’d started on the list of extra words.  A fun farewell from Radix, who may be scowling from the beyond that he didn’t get to break the all-correct for the year (at least if I still have an all-correct for the year).

Victory to George – 2014 tally a staggering 12-0-0.  Yikes!

Feel free to tell me that I need to be on the right gage, that Morbid March must not become a tradition, and see you next week when Spud gets us primed, and that’s just the beginning!

In sight and in flight!

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, your source for late reports on Listeners from three weeks ago.  And three weeks ago I was on my way to (yee-HA) Dallas, Texas for a week, with Now You See It in hand.  I hope Mr E. is OK, since I think we all know that Morbid March continued after this one.  I’ve tagged my previous battled with Mr. E – you can read all about them in the tags at the bottom.

What have we here – five jumblies, one showing where the other four might be found, and something to highlight.   OK…

I’m on a plane with Bradfords, and with Chambers on my laptop, so I’m up up and away.  There is a 1 across and it sure looks like ASS,WAGE which might have a significantly different meaning these days, but a big pass on the 1 across test and we are away!

Good start too, since 1 down looks like H,A,W(i)SE, meaning one of the 1s is a jumbly.  2 down looks like POTATO SEED, so it’s probably 1 across that’s the jumbly one. But 3 is WIT,HER and 4 is AL(l)TO so maybe I’m missing something… could it be both HAWSE and POTATO SEED that are jumbled?

Yes, I got most of the way through the top left hand corner before realizing the obvious – it’s not POTATO SEED, it’s SEED POTATO and 1 down is a jumble.  Hmmm… there’s “a different sense” in the preamble and I can jumble the middle of HAWSE to make SAW – are we putting senses in the words?

The clues were fun but not too too difficult and the grid filled up quickly in the waiting room for my second flight.  36 was a beast – clearly a jumbled clue, but I couldn’t work out the original entry.

Hmmm…. so as I boarded for my next flight, I was at this point

- most of the grid filled

- HAWSE became ASHWE, LETTER became TREETL, LINNET has to be either ILENTN or TLENIN

- no idea what was going on at 36

Up in the air again, fish out the grid to ponder… “sense” in the preamble had to mean something.  36 looked like F?NS?G?TAC?LE.  The last part is close to TACKLE… aaah, it’s FISHING TACKLE… but it’s not totally jumbled like the other ones.  It could jumble to fINSIGHTackle so there’s the sense… and S(ILENTN)IGHT works for LINNET… S(ASHWE)IGHT, S(TREETL)IGHT and that last one that I hadn’t solved looks like it could be S(TAGER)IGHT so it’s GRATE?

Phew… it was nice that the jumbles went in exactly the same place in SIGHT… so now I’ve got to look for something that would fit in S|MELL or T|ASTE… TASTE looks like a better option of those two… I hope it’s going to be easy to spot.

AHA! Thankfully it was early on in the across answers – PHOTO could become T(OOTHP)ASTE!  Woohooo!

I scanned my grid but uploaded the wrong one when I started writing this blog so later I’ll put in my scribble grid.  I think I have this one sorted out, and it was in the mail as soon as I got back from Texas (hopefully just making the deadline).  Victory to George – and it appears the all-correct may even be safe half-way through March. Yikes!

2014 tally:  11-0-0

Feel free to tell me that there’s something like S(NARD)MELL that I missed, and I’ll see you next week when Morbid March goes out with a robbery bang!

More Morbid March – and a public service announcement to US solvers

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword – one pathetic little man’s quest for the elusive all-correctish on the Listener Crossword.  And it appears I have a new foe – not just my own ability to misinterpret themes and forget wordplay, but the US Postal Service.  The day after this crossword came out, I got an email from Colleague regarding my comments on “Rise and Fall”.

You may think that my response is rather belated.  The reason is that your letter dated January 22nd was received by John Green on 18th February.  It was postmarked 22 Jan, Greenville, SC.  The final of the address that you used was “United Kingdom”.  However, there was a large scrawled “ENGLAND” across the envelope.  John Green wonders whether ‘ the Yanks aren’t familiar with “UK” ‘.

Now that’s not as bad as when I once accidentally wrote “United States” instead of “United Kingdom” on the envelope, but really US Postal Service?  I live in Asheville, North Carolina, and recent consolidation means that we no longer have a mail sorting facility in Asheville – all our post goes to Greenville, South Carolina to be sorted.

It appears however, that the US Postal Service does not want UK or United Kingdom on envelopes – see this page on “tips for international addressing

How should I address envelopes?

A hand writing an address on an envelope.


I apologise to Joyce Browning if she gets a bunch of dirty postcards after this.

Well, well, well… now the challenge is on – when I’m really lucky I get a letter from a setter (hey that rhymes).  I would love it if next time I’m a setter letter getter (I could go on for hours), try to address the envelope, rather than “United States” as “America”, “Americaland”, “Mickey Mouse Country” or “Yankee-Doodle Land” and see if it gets here.

And now back to our regularly scheduled Morbid March. I remember reading about the departing of Syd Lexis on the Crossword Centre – and I had hoped to meet him (I need to schedule my next London visit around a regular Gruntlings meeting – last time I was there Tim Moorey graciously gathered as many as he could), as I had enjoyed his previous Listener, all the way back in 2008, and now a trip to the Listener Crossword site reveals he was a half of Danda with the Cheap and Nasty theme (if I’d checked that before starting this crossword I might have sailed through).  I’ve tagged that one at the bottom of this post.

What have we this time – extra letters in wordplay, a quotation, and some unclued entries.  Sounds like Syd Lexis has been borrowing preambles from Dumpynose in the Spectator! (hi Dumpynose, I like your Spectator puzzles).  Real words in a grid again – we are getting lucky with those!

There is a 1 across and looky that anagram PHRENETIC + W and we are away with a a quote beginning with W… WHAT LIGHT THROUGH YONDER WINDOW BREAKS?  Nah, that’s not 1984.

This was not too bad of a grid fill – there were not too many unfamiliar words, and the wordplay in the clues was mostly straightforward – with only one unchecked letter, 7 down was the first hint of the theme, CHAST+ some letter definitely means CHASTE is going in there, and its symmetric counterpart, ?ORTHY looks like it’s going to be WORTHY so there’s going to be a nice aspect of this one.

Might I add, I love it when there’s symmetry in grids and doubly so when the unclued entries are similarly symmetrical!  PRISTINE and SPOTLESS (SPOTLESS was extremely useful, because the last few I couldn’t figure out the wordplay for – BAREST, FAVEL and NULLS all crossed it.  Took a bit of googlying to find the quote.

OK – it’s now many many hours after the solution has come out, and I’m off on a weekend trip using someone else’s hotel wifi, so time to wrap this up… the last part was that the unclued 16 down had to be two words (this wasn’t indicated… that would never fly in the Spectator).  But with it being PURE AND WHOLESOME, things are looking good – we have a grid!

My working grid for Listener 4284, Cruciverbial Creed by Syd Lexis

This was in the mail on Tuesday, along with a message apologizing for all the Listeners I had submitted which courtesy of South Carolina mail sorters, weren’t getting to J. Green until a month later.  A fun and gentle crossword from Syd Lexis, and another luminary blazes once more and fades into the cruciverbial cosmos.

2014 tally:  10-0-0 – the all-correct (I hope) continues

Feel free to tell me that symmetry is overrated, and see you next week when Mr E tells us that now you don’t


Top of the Square Voting – What was your favorite Numerical Listener?


Morbid March Movements on

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword – somehow maintaining an all-correctish into March, where we are faced with a procession of recently departed setters.

Now in the case of Mango, that is only partially true.  Those of you who have been around for a while know that Mango is a three-headed beast – It was announced recently that Radix had passed.  We butted heads a few times on the Crossword Centre, however when I solved one of his puzzles he sent me a really nice card.  Seth Mould sometimes bugs me on facebook but has been quiet for the past month, so not sure what’s going on there.  I presume Shackleton is alive and well (and hopefully got the note I sent when I submitted this one).  I’ve not had a great deal of luck dealing with Mango over the years, you can check the tags at the bottom of the post to read about the highlights.

I had mentioned to a friend I was hoping this was going to be a quick one, since my upcoming week was going to be very busy, and I hadn’t mailed in 4282 yet, so I could avoid writing a letter with the Mr. Lemon Listener.  Now I’ve given myself a super challenge – finish a Mango in a day.  I did have most of Friday afternoon free, just had a photo shoot for an upcoming Feral Chihuahuas show – oh, hey, if you happen to be in North Carolina next week you can see me at the Carolina Sketchfest.

So what have we here?  Oh dear – non-base-10 arithmetic again.  Were there a number of setters born with an abnormal number of fingers and toes?  Anyhoo, we have to move some letters, fill in some extra spaces in the grid and end up with real words. OKeydoke, well real words is heartening, let’s get to it, shall we?

There is a 1 across and the wordplay appeared to be heading towards PEA or EPEA or some variation with a letter moved… I didn’t confidently see it, so I moved on.  Better luck on 8 across, where that wordplay has to be AI,L so the S moves and the clue doesn’t all fit.  Any luck with the crossing clues to AIL?  10 is ICE-MAN and 11 is LADINO so that places the I and L of AIL… 9 down looks like it should be AYRSHIRE… oh and it is, it’s an anagram of not quite all the letters.  Right hand side of grid away!

With the Listener, I usually work around an area where I find an immediate entry, rather than reading all the clues, so my progress was down the right hand side and then through the middle, and I was starting to get concerned that I hadn’t found any of the other thematic clues.  I did place an M, U and I in the circled entries, and spot SUMMER and AUTUMN in the rows along the middle.  Wonder if that means there’s a SPRING and a WINTER somewhere?  If 17 across is RING there sure is a SPRING… and if 38 is ERATO that takes care of our conveniently six-letter seasons.  So something to do with the four seasons?  Vivaldi?

Putting in SPRING and WINTER and getting back to a few I hadn’t been able to solve provides the next breakthrough – (p)IMP, L,ARUMS… could it be that the blank cells are next to each other at the top and the bottom?  That would make 6 and 14 down two-letter answers… and they are! TE(n) and R(be)A(ms).  I’m not a fan of two-letter answers, though I know it’s not going to be two letters eventually. At least both letters are checked.

A little after that, I have a complete grid – we’re in base-12 (at least it’s not 24).  If the summation goes at the bottom, PRIEST is a pretty good sounding possibility, and a Google search for VIVALDI PRIEST turns up that Vivaldi was apparently a ginger, and was nicknamed the RED PRIEST… so the thematic year is likely to be 1678 (Vivaldi’s birth), 1725 (first performance of the Four Seasons) or 1741 (Vivaldi’s death).  He was born in early March, so that’s a pretty good contender.  That leaves GWAUMN (some of whom are swapped with PRIEST) to be arranged at the top, with A definitely being on top of LARUMS to make a real word.

A few stabs at working out the orders of the letters and I finally settled on

G = 0, S = 1, W = 2, E = 3, T = 4, A = 5, U = 6, M =7, I = 8, R = 9, N = a, P = b

I found an online base transposer to figure the last of these out.

SPRING (1b98a0 = 493752)
SUMMER (167739 = 386397)
WINTER (28a439 = 681453)
AUTUMN (56467a = 1376446)

Add them together and you get 2938048 which is b98314 = PRIEST



my working grid for Listener 4283, Movements by Mango

So the priest had to be shaded in red – I didn’t have a red highlighter, so I used a pen to lightly shade, hopefully that works, and about 3 hours later I am all done, and YES – 4283 and 4282 were in an envelope on their way on Saturday morning.

It’s early in the year, but this has to be my favorite Mango puzzle by far, and a front-runner for the Ascot Gold Cup – speaking of which, as the Listener dinner is tomorrow, check back to read the GvL year in review, including my top five (last year the AGC people and I agreed for the first time!), 2013 Empty Grid award and the voting for Top Of The Square – where you get to pick your favorite numerical puzzle of 2013.

And I believe the all-correct is intact 9 weeks into the new year!

2014 tally:  9-0-0

Feel free to tell me that I should be able to do base-12 without internet aids, and see you next week when Morbid March comes to a merciful end with Syd Lexis offering us a creed.

Farewell to Mr. Lemon

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, one of the interweebworld’s 9th favorite blogs about the Listener Crossword.  Those of you who are regular solvers know we’re in for a threesome (at least) of crosswords featuring a recently-deceased setter. I don’t know if the plan is for this to be an annual occurrence but for right now I declare it Morbid March.

I had a really tough time the first three Mr. Lemon Listeners, though I got through the last one with not too many problems.  You can read all about them from the tags at the bottom

What have we here – a carte blanche with a coordinate system for entering answers, the coordinates coming from extra letters in wordplay… symmetry, no enumerations and clues in alphabetical order of answers. Yikes!

Welcome to super stone-cold solving!

I was proctoring an exam the day this came out, so I had a few relatively uninterrupted hours to get going.  There is a first clue, and it’s a rather gentle anagram for AFRICAN + M,D.  It wouldn’t fit in the bottom right, so up the top left goes an A.  One letter down, 168 to go!

Hey, two anagrams in a row – the next one for AFTERCLAP + I,A – also has to go on the top left version.  Two A’s in the grid!  AFTERCLAP would reach all the way to the bottom of the first column which is tempting.

The next one looks like BANDA from the definition and the alphabetical order, but I couldn’t quite get the wordplay.

Another anagram!  BOAT TRAIN + M,E – also has to go on the top left version of this

Two more down for another anagram (it’s anagratastic!) – CAREWORN + A,D.  That makes the AFTERCLAP idea look good

The first pass through of clues went pretty well – though I couldn’t get much of about 15 or so clues in a row in the midle (from INRO down to SOGGY.  This was enough to start putting together the grid.

I had a sneaking suspicion with the coordinates gimmick that this would be a Descartes-themed puzzle, and a 13X13 could fit COGITO ERGO SUM… looks like it could go down the trace diagonal.  CARTESIAN should go in there somewhere – maybe at the top right, where there’s a 9 letter entry symmetric to AFTERCLAP.  Yeah, that’s got to be it!

I wrote in COGITO ERGO SUM and CARTESIAN and got on with working out the left-over clues.  COGITO ERGO SUM really got me going in the bottom right of the grid, which was pretty empty after a first go-around.  I couldn’t make the words I had fit with CARTESIAN though, and it really looked like SUBURB should go at the top, so what’s going on there.

A first look at what could have fit in there turned up BOTTLE-IMP, but I ignored it at first.  Second peek in – it’s another name for a CARTESIAN DIVER – one of my favorite toys to try to make with kids when I’m teaching them physics and chemistry stuff – you can make one using a plastic soft drink bottle, and a plastic pipette which has the end sealed up.  Changing the pressure makes the thing bob up and down, and apparently Descartes is credited with its creation!  So BOTTLE-IMP it is.

There was still some sur-solving to get COBFIN becoming COIN, and (though I was kicking myself when I finally saw it) MAGI to eventually convince myself there wasn’t an entry that began in MB.  Finally… a grid.

My working grid for Listener 4282, Coordinated by Mr LemonNot sure if I snuck in the back door with this one, getting the thematic stuff first and then filling in the gaps.  The clues were a mix of very easy and horribly difficult (I never did find where the M and A from CASABAS came from) but I think I can say this one is a Victory to George and the all-correct streak is hanging on by a thread.

2014 tally:  8-0-0

Feel free to tell me I don’t know my M’s from my A’s and see you next week when mango gives us some sort of movement.



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