Welcome back to George v the Listener. What have we here – it’s another blank grid with a funny shape. Well I guess it makes sense given the title. The setter has hidden his/her/its/their identity in the grid somewhere.
Instant groan time. It’s only appeared once, when Pieman hid himself and a title in a grid (by the way, Listener crossword site – y0u have the wrong date on that puzzle). After failing miserably I hoped I’d not see that device again, ever. So I was in a grumpy mood when I got started on this. Well let’s see – we have symmetry. Clues in normal order. Letters to be removed from clues and some drawing to be done at the end. Sounds tricksy.
The morning after this one came out I was flying from Washington DC to Asheville, so I had two flights to get through. This was to be my entertainment and diversion. No internet, but I did have Chambers, and once I got to the end of my first flight I would have the dictionary on the laptop.
There must be a logic to this… clearly the last clue in the acrosses has to be the only other 6 letter answer on the first page of my printout. A bit of doodling on the grid and I think there’s only one way combination of putting these acrosses per grid – two answers on the first three lines, one in the middle two and two in each of the last three. There’s four 8-letter down answers, a hunch suggests two of them will be on the outside, and with an even number of clues there won’t be anything in that middle column. See, smart George!
Now for some clues – there is a 1 across but I couldn’t make anything of it at the time. The first one that comes to be is BALNEARY. Though that’s not a bad find – an 8-letter answer and I have a vague idea where it should go. A run through the rest of the clues and I manage to spot far more of the down clues than the across ones, so I tried to work a grid around BALNEARY. That wasn’t really getting anywhere, though it looked promising that I could fit ALIEN and ANIL in, but not really ALIEN.
Back to the first thought – the grid is only 8 rows deep, and there’s a lot of down answers… a few fiddles with the order of clues, and it becomes apparent that there’s only one arrangement for those down answers to keep 180 degrees symmetry and nothing in the middle column. So BALNEARY does cross ANIL and ALIEN, but not CAESAREA, which goes elsewhere.
I’m in the funny position of being able to place all my down answers, but not really many of my across answers – though with the downs in place the likely positions of BALNEARY, REMUS, and ALIEN (but with clashes) are in place.
The down answers in position confirmed a few acrosses that I thought would be right from definition, but hadn’t worked out the wordplay on, likel LLANERO and ARRIVISTE.
I was rather enjoying the removed letter strings at this point – getting rid of RAFAEROD to turn it into Rome was amusing, as was EPISHBAN from SHEEPISH BANDITS. I was sure the hidden word was there, but wasn’t sure how many letters to remove.
Getting close to a completed grid, I had a message -N-O-ETWOTHREE—EEIGHTSQUARES. Aaaaahhh – where there’s two, three and eight, that little Fibonacci sequence can’t be far away. And with and 8 by 13 grid, you can make the Fibonacci spiral without dividing any cells up. Bet that’s what we’re doing!
Knowing where to remove letters gets me the rest of the grid in pretty short order. Most of the misprints are on one side, so that’s probably where we have to put the dividers for the spiral.
But where is the title? It should be SPIRAL… and there’s the letters for SPIRAL, but they’re not together. Hmmm. The Fibonacci ratio is sometimes given by the symbol Phi, but the clues don’t really sound like Phi clues. Wonder if there’s something in the shape of a Phi? Nope. I can see STAN a few times in the grid, but nothing in a distinctive shape or leading to anything else. I have Stan’s email, but that would be impolite.
It’s got to be SPIRAL. Can’t be anything else… There’s SP at the top… then the I. Ahhhhhhhhh! It’s separated by Fibonacci numbers. The I is two away from the P, the R is three from the I, the A is five from the R, and the L is 8 from the A. Holy hell, I’m going to run out of grid! Six characters for the setter then. 13 letters away from the L is an S. 21 letters away is an A. It’s going to be SAMUEL, isn’t it? At least I’ve solved a SAMUEL before (I guess one of my big deals with the Pieman thing was that I’d never done a Pieman listener). 34 letters away, there’s an M. Going to run out of grid. I’ve got to count 55 letters away and hopefully find a U? There it is. 89 characters means another loop of the grid for an E, and yet another loop of the grid, 144 characters away for that L.
Ha ha! Victory to George. It wasn’t until it was all over that I noticed that the numbers of letters removed from clues were also Fibonacci numbers. Not sure that find would have helped me get there. The clues really did look like Samuel clues as an afterthought (hi Samuel, hope you got my note I sent in with the solution), which is what happens with a prolific setter – Samuel has appeared here seven times now and once as Qid.
I had to write a note on my submission (which I didn’t scan, but thinking back now, I should have) about how my spiral looks like crap, and I would be better off describing what it should have looked like. I managed to double-up on an envelope here, putting it in the same mailing as the clock puzzle from last week.
My aim now is to have my debut puzzle have my name hidden in there somewhere. Speaking of debut puzzles, that could be closer than you think.
2012 tally: 16-0-3
Feel free to tell me how great it is when setter’s names are hidden in puzzles, why you think Stan may have set this, or just check back in next week when Oyler knocks us over the head with a 2x2x2