Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword. Well I’d like to say that I hope I’m getting back in the swing, but you readers love failure, with the last two weeks being the most viewers in the last six months! I’m not deliberately trying to fail, last week I was honest in accepting that I kind of got the theme, but in the end I was outdone by lowercase B’s. There are solvers that live for those dictionaries and all-corrects, and there are solvers that hope they’re right, and I fall firmly in the latter camp.
Which brings us to this week and Lato. I was pleasantly surprised earlier today to get an email from Lato, thanking me for my comments on this puzzle and saying he enjoyed the blog. Hi Lato! Was this a pre-emptive strike? Maybe, because I have a pretty pitiful record against Lato! Two years ago there was Wet, Wet, Wet which was close to an empty grid. Cut Out was a similar debacle, and Explanation was an embarrassing “get most of the grid and completely miss an obvious theme” which leaves only Yes as a completed grid.
So what do we have here – 16 unclued entries in pairs, a name to highlight. Extra letters in wordplay and a list of mutually checking letters. That’s a lot, but there’s some heartening stuff here – looks like we’re dealing with all real words in the grid! And all bar 17 of the clues are normal. Here we go!
There is a 1 across – and it’s MEG,A,BIT so we’re off to a rip-roaring start! Unfortunately everything it crosses except (c)ALUM and T-CARTS + U (hey, first extra letter!) is unclued. On the other hand, that gives me AMELANCHIER meaning that 7 across has an extra T so that’s the start or near the start of the message.
The top right of this crossword firmly grasped, it looked like the unclued answers were MATHS, GERMAN and BASICS, so I figured we were on some sort of school subject theme. What is going to be paired with either of those three? The corresponding right side didn’t look as promising, with one unclued entry looking like BRILLIANT.
So bizarre crosswording coincidence – I’m writing this up late at night on a Thursday night and there’s a cable channel that turns to bizarre (often British) comedy about 1 in the morning. Which means I’m catching up on “The Mighty Boosh” and there was just a “Stig of the Dump” reference that came up in a daily a few weeks ago.
The first breakthrough on this one came with seeing the pairing of MATHS VARIABLES right underneath each other, with GERMAN CAR. That would be XYZ with VW. I’ve already found BASICS and it looks like the middle of the grid could be THE, so with ABC, VW, XYZ I think we’re looking at letters of the alphabet! AIRLINE was looming as a possibility which could be KLM. Looks promising!
Following this hunch the rest of the alphabet came out pretty quickly. DEF – brilliant slank, GHI – clarified butter, J? There’s no J! KLM – arline company, NOP – countrywide survey (thanks Chambers!) QR – fourth part, STU – the name that is missing, but already found there in the left hand side of the grid. The extra letters in wordplay read THINK SEQUENTIALLY (that Q was cleverly hidden in SQ for “following”.
One long solving session (four hours or so) and we have a complete grid and all the thematic material worked out. That was a nifty idea – a fun accompaniment to Sabre’s Pangram puzzle from about two years ago. It was in the mail on Tuesday morning, which was good, as I was about to embark on another adventure. Definitely my easiest struggle with Lato and a very fun puzzle to boot. Unless I find out that this needs to be entered with a Japanese Q, I’m going to claim it as a Victory to George!
By the way, I wrote in my comments with my submission that I didn’t get the title even after completing the crossword – Latokindly informed me that Scouse is a type of STEW (STU).
2012 tally: 25-0-6
Feel free to criticize my alphabet, and see you next week when Hedgehog gives us a sad hummer (presumably not knowing the modern US connotation of that).