If at first you don’t succeed…

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, numerical playfair edition. There are some out there who dislike numerical puzzles.  I’m not one of them – whether they end up being mathematical or logical in nature, they are something different and usually interesting.  There are some out there who dislike Playfair squares.  We call them rational human beings.  So when I saw the title of this puzzle, and then read the preamble, my emotions ran the gamut of fear to disgust.

I made about three attempts to sit down and work out a starting point to this puzzle, but even when working on the clues and writing down little notes (one digit in 4 has to be the same as one digit in 8, no other digit can be the same), I got absobloodylutley nowhere and there was still the looming spectre that even if I got somewhere, I was going to have to go back to that stupid little square.

Zag has set both word and number puzzles, and a look back at my notes shows that I managed to solve both word puzzles, but so far neither of the numerical ones.  Maybe next time… but this one is a resounding empty-grid victory to Zag!

Game over:  didn’t even make it past the tutorial screen

Feel free to tell me I should have scanned the empty grid, and see you next week when Nud informs us who our uncle is.

Taddeo Gaddit sounds a good name for a redneck uncle in a US sitcom

Welcome back to a very very late edition of George vs the Listener Crossword. I started this on Friday with all good intentions of having it finished on time, but a couple of crises and a flat tire later, I find myself writing it in a waiting room of a car center. I could be here for a while.

Although it won’t take long – clearly because the next week’s puzzle involves numbers and playfairs and all sorts of horrors, the editors wanted to go easy on us, so here comes this fun, straightforward and educational puzzle from Calmac.

I completed this one over lunch – there were some unclued entries and misprints in some definitions – so mostly normal clues, and real words, places and names in the grid, woohoo!

On the other hand, no 1 across, since it was unclued, and we have to go to 9 across for LIE,U and a big pass on the 9 across test.

It was a pretty quick grid fill – the possibility for LONGFELLOW in the bottom of the grid appeared early, and misprints TADDEO were enough to get the name TADDEO GADDIT, from there it was a quick trip on the phone to learn about the PONTE VECCHIO, ARNO and FIRENZE.  I don’t think there were that many leftover clues once all the thematic material was in place and I was done in a little over a half hour.

My working grid for Listener 4450, Bank Transfer by Calmac

Fun little puzzle and quite a breather.  Game over, and I believe that is 100% completion.  Feel free to tell me anything, and see you next week when I will tell you that I couldn’t even bring myself to attempt Zag’s numerical atrocity.

If golf is a good walk wasted, is fishing getting wasted in a boat?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, your weekly source for poor taste jokes and ruminations on a weekly puzzle.  Quiver in antici… pation for the big edition in two weeks where there is a numerical playfair, and wait to see whether today’s puzzle has something to do with the 40th anniversary of Star Wars.  You never know.

Anyhoo, we have a Nutmeg puzzle this week!  Extra letters in some clues, others lead to entries too short for the grid… Looks like another week with all real words in the grid, so let’s begin.

There is a 1 across – we haven’t had one of those for a while!  And it’s wordplay you may have seen before – reversal of STAB for BATS and an A that needs to be removed from the clue.  Woohoo!  Big pass on the 1 across test, this could be a good sign.

BATS is an interesting place to start, as it crosses what looks like it should be AIRBAG but I thought the Listener team frowned on cryptic definitions.  It went in with a question mark.  It also crossed SOW which is definitely too small for the entry.  16 across is BARES, and with FORCEPS and ON TO crossing it, looks suspiciously like BARES becomes BARCODES which means COD is added – could SOW gain PARR to be SPARROW and we are adding fish to the answers?  FRANCE could become FREELANCE.  This is looking promising!

OK – so we are pretty early into the process and I think I know what has to go in – now what about that message?  I have the start of ARE FISHERMEN and that’s all that is needed in Googleworld to come up with ARE FISHERMEN ALL LIARS OR DO ONLY LIARS FISH.

Armed with the phrase in extra letters and what has to be done to the short answers, the rest of the fill was a breeze, and this one was all done in one fairly long (two hours or so) session.

my working grid for Listener 4449, Whoppers by Nutmeg

I had more fun with this than I should – my father and grandfather both took me fishing as a boy (my father still goes out when friends are in town), and I can’t think of anything more tedious that doesn’t involve Playfair squares.  I like eating fish though, so I appreciate someone has to catch them.

Still, I think I can call this one a Victory to George

Game over:  100% completion!

Feel free to tell me that a stunned mullet like me should find another hobby, and see you next week when Calmac has a puzzle based on all those offers I get in the mail.

There was no place in the puzzle he could find Nemo?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword – I headed out of town without scanning the grid for this one so you are spared and frankly unreadable brick wall of circled letters, scribble overs and poor highlighting.

Anyhoo, I am getting ahead of myself – Nemo is a new setter or a newdonym (I suspect a newdonym, but there’s no indication of that on the Listener website) – and we have a brick wall grid with a lot of blocked-off cells, and answers that meander around the grid threaded between the rows that are clued with no gaps.

I don’t think I’ve seen a puzzle quite like this before, particularly with the large number of answers near the top that needed tricky threading.  Fortunately the fully clued rows were not too bad, with the exception of me guessing CLASS at B3 at the start.

So after a few solving sessions I was stuck with a pretty solid bottom half of the grid, and a largely empty top half of the grid and a lot of head-scratching, with no idea about the theme.  I had a gap at the bottom left, including the difficult-to-fit-in (especially when you have CLASS at B3) ODALIQUE, and I guess knowing what could end up at 6 (I know it ends in O) will tell the theme.  Themes that end in O?

Finally saw CELLA at B3 and managed to fit in ODALIQUE and there’s the possibility of making AMONITILLADO snaking down to 6.  Wasn’t that a Poe story?  And EDGAR ALLAN POE could go in the middle.  This is looking promising!

I googled THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO (I admit, I have never read it), and found the information I needed – it was clear that IN PACE REQUIESCAT could go across the bottom – and the names of the characters could take care of the sides.  Now what goes across the top?  I only had a few letters.  A few scans through the wikipedia article and NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSIT sticks out – it means I have to change one letter in the top row but it fits without NEMO so that’s the title of the puzzle.

Phew…

Even then I still had about half a dozen empty cells to try to figure out through the snaking around clues.  I remember having the hardest time trying to reconcile MOONSCAPE and ANATASE (that overlapped at the end).

What a strange puzzle?  I finished it, but I needed the thematic material to get a massive chunk of the grid, and had to crib all of that from online. I see now that I have a complete grid without solving 9 or 22.  So I’ll take a sheepish solution and feel pity for the checker this week!

Game over – Victory to George, 88% completion.

Twisted sisters

Welcome back to George vs the Listener crossword.  I would like to announce that there is a major crisis brewing (or not brewing).  Both espresso machines are out at my local coffee place, and so I am utterly deprived of coffee!  This could be the shortest post ever before I crawl limply towards either my grinder at work, or somewhere open for lunch that has the beans.  The beans!

Time for The Tall’n! I’ve found the last few The Tall’n puzzles to be quite challenging, and the preamble here is a head-swimmer.  There’s thematic entries, extra words and two messages.  Hmmm… well there’s at least real words in the grid.

Both answers in the top left corner are thematic so The Tall’n has deprived us of a 1 across.  There is a 7 across, which looks like it would be easy if I knew where Dushambe is.  Eh, let’s turn to electronic aids right off the bet – it is in Tajikstan, where they pay for their goods and services in DIRHAMS and SOMONIS – one of which matches the wordplay nicely.  So a kind of a pass on the 7 across test.  Woo-hoo?

OK – so a few runs through the across and down clues and I had a pretty sparse grid.  This is not looking promising!  Usually when there are separated thematic clues I leave them for last, because after seeing ASTRONOMY, MUSIC, DEATH and HYMNS straight off giving a message that read ??ACEM – it sounds like we are in mythology area – any chance that M could be the start of MUSES?  SP,LEND,OUR – yep!

Funny coincidence – I’m a member of the National Puzzlers league and sometimes play their online games on Monday and Thursday nights.  One of the more interesting games they play is called “Anti-match”, where someone calls out a question with a limited number of answers and you have to try to pick the one that is going to be the least popular.  A week before this puzzle came out one of the question was “Name a Muse”.  Given only a few seconds to write one I came up with CLIO but that was picked by a few.  I was in awe of whoever managed tocome up with and type POLYHYMNIA correctly in 10 seconds.

Since they were fresh in my mind I tried to fit in the names of the MUSEs and the GRACEs in the grid, and saw a spot where CLOTHO could go, so it looks like the MUSEs, GRACEs and FATEs are all there.  Aaaah – and THALIA appears to the name of both a MUSE and a GRACE.

Goody, that’s all the thematic stuff done, now it’s time to… ummm… solve about half of the clues.  Whoops.

Fortunately – THEY ARE ALL GREEK MYTHOLOGICAL SISTERS as the message helped me see what the remaining extra words were and it wasn’t too long before I slotted in POISHA as the last answer.  THALIA has to replace another six letter word that is not thematic and it was another of my last in that can go – GOALIE.

We have a grid!

my wotking grid for Listener 4447, Influence by The Tall'n

Kind of like last week, slow start, fast finish, though it was a very different style of solve in getting all the thematic material early and filling the grid with the non-thematic stuff (is that maybe the way the puzzle was constructed?).

Nice clues though, and with everything being thematic to a certain extent, it all had to be solved to get the final grid.

Game over – Victory to George, 100% completion.

Feel free to tell me that I’d be good if there was an opening for a muse of stupidity, and see you next week when Nemo writes a puzzle with all the ME’s removed.

Some weeks I have no i deer

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  This week coming to you with anticipation and sadness – for the last few weeks I’ve been performing in a rare lead role (top billing, even) as Sir in a brand new play, Prairie Fire.  Is it odd?  Oh yes it is… here I am as Sir.

Me as Sir in Prairie Fire

I don’t often wear a suit or tie, maybe I should show up like this to my next job interview.

Dysart time – Dysart gave us a tricky puzzle last year with a Timothy Leary theme, and I have generally enjoyed Dysart puzzles, so what have we here?  Remove a letter from down definitions before solving.  13 across answers treated thematically, something to highlight and something to change.  That’s a lot!

There is a 1 across, but it ended up being one of the last that I solved – I had T-something written on my printout forever with a question mark next to it.  Big fail on the 1 across test!

Next up though is CE(RUL)E so in it goes.  Fortunately I got most of the top row of the down answers pretty quickly, and ??EY?ENTTOS?AI sounds like THEY WENT TO SEA IN – are we having another Jerome K Jerome themed puzzle?  Haven’t we had the Owl and the Pussycat lately?

Meanwhile on the across side of things – 25 across looked like CRANIAL and 38 across looked like ROSEHIP which are both jumbles with an I added.  Do they all have I added?  ERECT -> RECITE.  THROVE -> OVERHIT!  This is looking good.

OK, so what then is the theme?  Fortunately a bit of googling turned up THEY WENT TO SEA IN A SIEVE which is the opening of THE JUMBLIES by Edward Lear and that explains the I’s and jumbles.  That’s neat!  It also helps me get LANES at 32 down and finish off a tricky Florida corner.

Fortunately with the text of the poem at hand, the engame was pretty swift – there’s the mountains of THE CHANKLY BORE and the TORRBILE ZONE.  Although SIEGE is there and temptingly one letter away from SIEVE, TIVES is not a word, so it is LERNA that needs to be changed to SIEVE to complete the grid.  I wonder if that was a deliberate sneaky trap?

My working grid for Listener 4446, Edwardian pioneers by Dysart

A fairly long frustrating start to this one that was met with a clatter of fun as the penny finally dropped (or the I finally left).  Excellent use of the theme for an ultimately fun puzzle!  This was done in one very long solving session (I think it was around 2am when I finished the highlighting).  I believe I can call this a Victory to George!

Game over:  100% completion

Feel free to tell me that I should go to pee in a sieve, and see you next week when The Tall’n appropriately presents a Listener I can really get under.

Come back later and don’t forget the dried water

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  Another week where I left the puzzle on the scanner and it has gone to whatever dark side is on the other side of my scanner.  Oh well… what can I remember?

Here’s what I remember the most about Strange Requests – it took a long time to get to the theme, and then a very short time once the penny dropped – it was clear which answers were candidates to have a thematic removal, since the answer lengths were in the clue, and it was looking up DIV as a removal from MALDIVES that got me to thinking that it was words for idiots that were removed from answers – are we in for a second helping of April Fools?

The second part of the theme took a lot longer – in a second run through of across clues I solved MAGNET, but the checking letters read ?OP?E? so that was a replacement.  I hadn’t found any other candidates for replacement, though there were a few listed answer lengths that differed by from the number of lights by one, which are probably replacements.

One of those was GREASE – and it looks like ELBOW would work.  Hmmm – ELBOW GREASE and COPPER MAGNET – where do those ring a bell – a bit of Googling later and it turns out these are both FOOL’S ERRANDS!

This page (despite all the comic sans) helped a lot in identifying the rest of them, including the final LONG WEIGHT.

I didn’t use the last part of the theme, the definitions of the components until right near the end in trying to add up the last few bits.

My working grid for Listener 4445, Strange Requests by eXternal

That was a fun theme – I wonder if the editors were torn between this one and the one from last week and decided to run both.

Game over – victory to George and I think 100% completion.

Feel free to tell me that the blog is as necessary as a bucket of steam, and see you next week when Dysart sends us a really old record player