Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword. It’s a dreary Friday morning here, and I’m just back from an amazing couple of days of a comedy festival in Columbus, Ohio. One of those situations when you get through the week on adrenalin, coffee, lots of local beer and wine, doing shows, and the first time you actually feel time is when you get home and realize they expect you back at your day job the next day. Oh well…
So you know how last week I wanted an Alan Turing theme from Hedge-sparrow and I got one from Hotspur? Well the next week when I saw Hedge-sparrow as the setter I thought all my pagan festivals had come at once! Not wanting to pick favorites, but I’ve really enjoyed every Hedge-sparrow Listener, all four of which have appeared in George vs the Listener Crossword – Mass Production from last year with the circular supercollider grid, Metrical Variations with the speed of light lurking in the centre, Darwin turning ape into man with S, and wormholes everywhere with Travel Agents. Four for four with Hedge-sparrow and can we be having science two weeks in a row? Awesome!
What have we got – everything needs amendment, one clue is funny buggers, and there’s some ambiguity. OK… and extra letters and omissions… wow. There’s a lot here.
There is a 1 across and it’s a nice gentle CO(MPOS)ED and the entry has nine spaces so something’s got to happen. With OVERPLAY at 2 down, probably a letter or something has to be inserted in COMPOSED. But we’re making a start – actually I found the clues rather agreeable, but wasn’t getting much of the grid together in a first sitting.
I had decided to work on this one on Sunday, and a friend of mine was so bored he decided he’d come around and help/watch. He’s been interested in cryptic crosswords a while, and I’m not sure this is the best way to get started, but what the hey! So with huddled over the coffee table company, on I pressed.
Strange how having more than half of the clues solved, but yet still a pretty empty grid, how the obvious could be missed – the down extra/missing letters were looking like ALL ENTRIES ARE REAL ????S so of course I immediately wrote in WORDS as the last set of misprints to look for and wondered why I couldn’t solve any of the last four, but then started banging in real words everywhere (much easier to do for the shortened entries).
I started keeping track of those extra/missing letters and still couldn’t find the clue that was the odd one out. I’d narrowed it to 28 across (where I could see one definition and thought I had wordplay), and 10 down, where I could see a definition that works, and part wordplay, but a lot of what seemed to me to be unnecessary words. I also had a few answers where I couldn’t see what needed to be inserted (20 down).
Finally I figured out that TERMS was the last word in that message and was left with a predicament…
- all clues “solved”, though not sure whether 28ac or 10d was the culprit.
- a list of 46 I think letters that didn’t seem to match the letters in either 28 or 10
This led to a good three hours of me staring and scribbling, and my friend reading all about Pluto and Ceres. Aaaargh!
Next idea – it looked like about the same number of words had letter added to them and subtracted, so I started a closer list of what was added and what was subtracted. I have a problem with the number of “i’s”, but it’s looking a bit more promising down that path.
Eventually we were both exhausted by trying to figure out what was going on and went out to drink.
I don’t know if I’ve been so frustrated by a puzzle before… every day I came back to it, and every day I threw it back aside. Why do you torment me, Hedge-sparrow! So great fun before, so what is going on here?
Final charge… I think I’d so convinced myself that it was 10 down that I was ignoring little 28 across. And the last few words in the clue have three I’s in them. Hmmm… let’s write it out and try to match the letters to the insertions/deletions.
Eureka! Both 20 and 32 need an R, and an I has to be taken out of 28. The middle letter of 28 is an N(the unused letter) and so it’s MANIA losing an I.
WOW!!!!! It wasn’t in the mail until the weekend, and I’m pretty sure I’ve got it right (actually, it’s past 11am here, so let’s look it up – YES!!!).
Victory to George. Yikes! Please, Hedge-sparrow, more science next time, though this was a real challenge!
2012 tally: 21-0-4
Feel free to complain about my lateness in putting this up, not updating George vs Azed despite getting two HC’s in a row, or anything else, and see you next week when we have a menage a deux with Bandmaster.