Another slight delay – well I’ll B

Been a pretty crazy week here, and I don’t think I’ll be able to add my post on Wan’s puzzle until tomorrow (not to mention I was going to say more nice things about Nutmeg’s Listener, which appears to be damned with faint praise.

Check in on Saturday and have a fun weekend!

Hope you came back for Wan time!  I rather liked the last Wan Listener, so I was curious to see what we were up against here.  Hmmm… part of the preamble makes sense, part of it doesn’t… we’ve got extra wordplay letters in across clues, misprints in down clues, and something thematic.  And then we have…

Solvers must create a representation of the other letter in the grid by highlighting six hidden members of the first group, arranged as overlapping pairs (43 cells in total)

What in the name of the flying spaghetti monster is an overlapping pair?

Hopefully we’ll get there eventually…

With Oklahoma out of the way, I started this one on a plane, on the way to meetings in Boston. There was a 1 across but I couldn’t figure it out on a first look.  6 across looked more promising… NC,RESTED gives me CRESTED and an extra N.  Woohoo!  Problem was the only answer I could get that crossed CRESTED was EVIL.  Hmmm…

A read through the rest of the clues and there was only one other I got on a first try – IDOL down in the bottom left.

I was beginning to get very frustrated with this crossword – how to get through these impenetrable clues.  Fortunately, when there’s room in my bag (and this time there was) I carry my copy of Bradford’s.  I wouldn’t have gotten far on most of these clues if it weren’t for looking up one word at a time in Bradfords – MASTIC for cement, ACARUS for mite, JAGGER for pedlar.

Near the end of the grid-fill things still were not looking too clear – the extra across letters led to ?NATCATCHER which seems to be GNATCATCHER (I now see it was TIG at the end that had the extra G) and then GOSLET, so they are types of birds, and in the down clues I had MINING and DRUMBLEDOR which are types of BEEs so it’s the Birds and the Bees as a theme – probably the letter B that needs to be highlighted in the final grid.

Finally – with HECTIC the last entry in, I have a full grid.  Now to find something to highlight.

Now to find something to highlight.

I see CKET near the left hand side… but a CRICKET isn’t a bird or a bee, and I don’t see an I handy

ARA is in the very middle… birds that have ARA in the name?  I now see that I should have been more failthful to Bradford’s as I might have gotten closer with ARAPONGA

The highlighting utterly eluded me.  I had an idea what I was looking for, and I could not find it.  Victory to Wan and the Listener Crossword!

My working grid for Lisener 4358, The Other Letter by Wan

Congratulations to Shirley on her win, but in this case for me it’s a “found the theme, didn’t make it to the end” situation.

2015 tally:  23-2-5

Feel free to tell me I should have known what overlapping hidden birds meant implicitly, and see you next week when The Tall’n has a message we have to pay for on delivery.

So close, yet again to a lemon entry

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  Settle in and let me tell you a story…

This summer I had a go at serious(ish), regular, paid acting.  I’ve always thought of myself as a writer primarily, a stand-up and improv comedian second, and an actor third.  Over the past year or so, I’ve been recommended by a lot of friends that I need to do theatre.  It certainly adds lines to the resume while you wait around for writing opportunities to come up.

So there I was, in a semi-pro community production of “Oklahoma”, playing Ali Hakim, sleazy peddlar, and to me the true hero of the show.  Here I am, administering a “Persian Goodbye” to Ado Annie.

As Ali Hakim in Oklahoma, HART theatre, July 2015

Why do I mention this?  My character, while he chews the scenery immensely, is not on stage all that much, in fact I timed it and I don’t appear until 20 minutes into the play.  So that gave me a lot of dressing-room sitting down time.  Where I had to be quiet, since noise from the dressing room could be heard on stage.

In cases like this, obsessive crossword solving is the best addiction to have!

OK – things have gotten crazy busy, so here’s a bookmark post – check back tomorrow for the rest of the story, but I rather enjoyed this puzzle!

My working grid for Listener 4357, Aft by Nutmeg

Well the final part ended up being a week later, but I wanted to note a few fun things about this one…

The first part I noticed was that the letters in the clashes came together to form words – that helped with placing them a lot.

Googling BAND, LEAGUE, CARBUNCLE was enough to lead to the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.  This may upset the purists, but for all the Listeners I’ve done with a Sherlock Holmes theme, I am yet to read any of the books.

The titles of the adventures all had colours in them, which was useful in finding the FIVE ORANGE PIPS

I had the version that I scanned finished by the middle of the second act!  So definitely on the easier side (and with a theme extremely amenable to being searched on a smartarse phone), but I enjoyed the puzzle from start to finish!

Thanks, Nutmeg, and I can call this one a Victory to George

2015 tally:  23-1-5

Feel free to tell me that I really need to stop reading rubbish, and see you next… well in a few minutes because I’m moving on to it now, when Wan gives us a bit of the other in letter form

Donna’s on her mobile again

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, today coming to you from Charlotte, North Carolina, where I just witnessed one of the oddest acts I’ve ever seen – a large man in a home-made spacesuit singing a duet with a unicorn hand puppet with a moustache while next to him a man standing in broken glass invites people by the stage to staple-gun playing cards to his chest.

You’re welcome!

OKeydoke – what do we have this week?  Raffles – a new setter or a newdonym, so hi Raffles if you are looking in!

What have we here?  Something missing in some clues, extra letters in wordplay, and thirteen thematic entries with something to be resolved by finding names.  Ugh – sounds like jumblies are coming up!

There is a 1 across and it looks like the wordplay is heading towards LEONE something or ELEON something so there’s a big fail on the 1 across test, booo.  Better luck with 10 across where MUS(StIES)T gives a T as part of the quote.

This was not a particularly helpful starting spot – 2 down was SUNNAH (extra O) and 3 down looked like it was heading towards SIGNORA with no definition.(and jumblies were looking on).

Poking further through the grid… these thematic entries are long – CONTADINA, URSULINE, MONTESSORI – anyway, they appear to be mostly Italian females… the quote is looking like THE LADY IS NOT… which a little Googling gets to THE LADY IS NOT FOR TURNING, a Thatcher quote (and helps me get the last of the non-thematic answers – DIARRHEA with an extra T.

OK… now I have all the answers except 5 down and 21 across which appears to be an anagram of GREAT,HARM,I which has to get rejumbled anyway.  A large amount of the grid is empty, hmmm.  I know I have to find MARGARET THATCHER in there somewhere – and a decent start on it is made in the left side of the grid on a diagonal.  Well that fills in a bit more of the grid.

What is the rest?  Italian women turning?  Are we in Rigoletto territory, La Done E Mobile or the like?  There’s the starting of MANTUA in the main diagonal near the bottom.

And that’s about as far as it got… I had all the entries bar one, but interlocking long jumbles with other long jumblies was getting painful.  Sorry, Raffles – you’ve got me here.

Victory to Raffles and the Listener Crossword – I got most of the theme, but just couldn’t make it to the end.

2015 tally:  22-1-5

Feel free to tell me that I need to brush up on my jumbling because there’s a lot more coming, and see you next week when Nutmeg gives us a foot.

Nobody’s ever been particularly fond of me for my sins…

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, your #2 source for all things barred-crossword-related.  Coffee is on, and if you’re me, you’re not enjoying the cricket one little bit.  So let us see if Aragon has dished up something enjoyable?

Aragon!  Oh dear, another puzzle by a setter who knows my personal email address.  I was surprised to see that there hasn’t been an Aragon puzzle in eight years, probably been too busy editing another puzzle I comment on every other week at another blog.  So hi if you are looking in, really I’m going to say nice things about your puzzle.

Let’s cut to the chase… I’m calling it – the Ascot Gold Cup is over!  This puzzle kept me riveted from start to finish and was rather fun all the way through.  Every classic element of the Listener was there, the starting off head scratching, the sneaky bits of the preamble, and the endgame that revealed all.  The only two mini drawbacks could be the two 2-letter entries (though they are both thematic) and that the poem itself wasn’t that easily available.  I had to hunt and peck online to find it, along with a list of all the names in the final grid.

Even Australia losing three wickets in the time it took to write that last paragraph isn’t going to dampen my enthusiasm for this puzzle.  Is it really going to be a two-day Test?

OK, there’s a crossword to talk about…

What have we here – a rather long and strange-sounding preamble.  Some clues have something, some are missing it.  OK… I guess we get to solving and see where it goes?

There is a 1 across but I had no idea what it was… ditto 7 across… ditto 10 across…

OK, plan B.  Let’s work from the bottom – 32 down looks like it could be wordplay for P,EST?

10 minutes in and one (ultimately incorrect) entry in the grid, I decided to take a break.  This one probably needed to be looked at in a venue other than the dressing room of a play that was about to go on.

Take 2…  fresh eyes, access to dictionaries, this should be better, right?  Let’s try downs first, shall we?  2 down looks like it could be RECUMBENT from the definition, and then the wordplay could be CM,BENT… so this could be a doubly-reduced clue, losing RE and U?  If 21 is STENTOR (normal clue) and 10 across is HUMBOLDT then it looks like the removal of U is a go.  So 4 down looked like an anagram… add a U into the anagram mix and there’s UNDERTOW.  Not sure what this has to do with shorthand or crosses, and I haven’t found another RE to lose.

Soon after I got HUMOUR which was shortened to HMOR and now the double removal is all U’s… could 2 down be CUMBENT?  Yep, that’s a word.   OK, the U’s are going.

At this point I think I’ve sussed the theme – since there was an EV last year (1149 – Common Usage by Raffles) that had the theme of U and non-U English.  So now the challenge is to fill the grid and find the poet (there was no mention of a poet in the Raffles puzzle).  All the clues with a U in them are normal, those without need to have U’s removed from the answers.

Late in the grid fill I had a horrible realization – I had five clues left and still four “double elimination” clues to find, most of them in the bottom left (one of them being my original mistake PEST which turned to to be BST,P being BUST-UP with the two U’s removed.  This also left a crucial J as part of the name of the poet.  Isn’t there a poet BETJAMEN?  Or BETJEMAN?  Yes, there was!

Finally a full grid, and down the middle is “THEIR SINS” – a google of “BETJEMAN and THEIR SINS” brings up the poem we are looking for…

The Mitford girls, The Mitford girls

I love them for their sins

Aaaaaah – so take THEIR SINS and replace it with I LOVE THEM… that makes DIANA, PAMELA and DEBORAH appear in the grid.

Hmmm… but that’s only 9 letters replaced, and there’s meant to be 6 more letters replaced.

On the right hand side in a column is UNISY… if the S in RLS is changed to T…  oh I see what you did there, Aragon – THE MIT for D GIRLS which appears in the fifth row.  Now there’s UNITY and JESSICA.  NANCY is nowhere to be found.

I left off my favorite part of the whole construction – although I had the thematic material and didn’t need it to complete the puzzle, there’s still the name of the essay… the characters after U’s in the Type 1 clues give it to us – THE ENGLISH ARISTOCRACY, NANCY MITFORD.  How all these letters were hidden in so few clues is a work of art.

Which brings me to our randomly appearing and disappearing feature… clues of note

39 across:  Pursuing horse, tire us out: hairy

At first glance an innocuous clue – H + an anagram of (TIRE,US) for HIRSUITE.  But the wordplay is hiding thematic content – four letters of the title are hidden, two in the one word!

My working grid for Listener 4355, Shorthand Crosses by AragonMy hat is off you you Aragon (and no more wickets have fallen in the time it took me to finish this blog – the Fourth 2015 Ashes Test may live into Day 3 – RAIN BLOODY HELL IN NOTTINGHAM!!!), and I think I can claim a Victory to George in by far my favorite puzzle of the year.

2015 tally:  22-0-5

Feel free to tell me that this poem in today’s society would have gotten Betjeman sent straight to jail, and see you next week when Raffles attempts to cover a continent in potatoes.


There may be no such thing as ugly mathematics, but I’ve met a few mathematicians that aren’t exactly picturesque

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, your weekly dose of sarcasm, puns, and solving.

Let’s see what is on our plate this week – Ilver!  I’ve found Ilvers puzzles challenging in the past (check the tag at the end of the post to see the rest of the Ilver puzzles looked like) though there seems to be a trend – get the theme early, finish the puzzle late.  Wonder what happens here… Extra letters in wordplay for down answers, and then we go hunting, including for something jumbled.  Another week of real words in the grid, sounds like it shouldn’t be too too bad.

All that and a 1 across as well… looks like it should be T-somethingthatmeansbars that means “beats” but nothing was coming to my poor addled head at the time, so there was a fail on the 1 across test.  Booo.

Better luck with 5 across with HO(MAG)E and we are away.

What an odd grid, by the way?  The long dividing line in the middle makes it look like two puzzles joined together, wonder if that will work out in the end… so much so that after a very long and frustrating solving session (these clues weren’t really as hard as they looked on a first read, but I managed to brain fart my way through not getting most of them), I had a completely complete right hand side of the grid, but apart from EAT CROW sneaking across, the left side was completely empty.  Weird!

As the left side slowly came together a few things appeared… hey, a bunch of answers don’t fit.  Not that I could work out any of them apart from PERIPLUS.  Hey, that PLUS at the end looks like a good candidate for being replaced with the mathematical plus sign.  Wonder if any of the others that don’t fit have letters that are mathematically inclined – 20 down could be EQUAL SIGN which could be replaced by…. well EQUALS sign and 16 across is SNIPING… hmmm, if that’s PI then it is also in 3 down… CHAMPIONESS – PI and ONE could be replaced.  Now we’re getting somewhere!

With these in place my message from the down clues reads AV??YINTER??S??GWUMBER.  A VERY INTERESTING WUMBER?  A mathematician with rotarism?  Checking into A VERY INTERESTING NUMBER leads to the Taxicab Number – 1729, which we’ve had in a Listener before (4046 – Disagreement by Stan).  Aha – well that explains the title!

Wasn’t too long after this that I had a full grid – though I’m not sure about where the extra N came from in 25 down… maybe it was meant to be WUMBER.

OK, I’ve got a full grid, and a key – 1729.  What to do with the key?  Oh – and what looks like the start of e to the power of (i.pi) minus 1 = 0.  I remember that one – so mabe RED ANT needs to be anagrammed to get the E in the right position?  There doesn’t seem to be an anagram of REDANT that puts the E at the end, so I should probably try to follow the rest of the thematic stuff.

The key is 1729… apply it to the grid?  The 1st and 7th character are T and H which sounds like a good start… oh, and there’s an E as the 2nd character in the second row.  AHA!  THE WORASHTTMMAECLD HARDY.  Man that’s some bad rotarism… well THE and HARDY look promising, but there’s something screwy in the middle.  There does look like an anagram of MATHEMATICS in the middle.

Something else was bothering me – why the down clues for the hidden message?  Maybe there’s something hidden in the across clues… letters 1 and 7 followed by 2 and 9 in the across clues give me BIG (yes) SSOAS (hmmm)

What about one letter at a time – BEAUTY IS THE FIRST TEST – no fucking way.  The first Test was horrible, as just was the third!  Pull it together, Australia.  Is this sledging in the Listener?

I didn’t know the mathematician Hardy was known for anything other than the taxicab number (or was even known for that) so I was surprised to see how many quotations he had, but there was the one I was looking for – THERE IS NO PLACE IN THE WORLD FOR UGLY MATHEMATICS.  Depending on where you put the emphasis, I have many friends who would agree with you there, Hardy.  So it is an anagram of MATHEMATICS inside THE WORLD – sorting it out leaves a lot of non-words, but does put the e (now lowercase in the correct position) for that odd transcendental number relationship

My working grid for Listener 4354, Taxi! by IlverAnother tricky, but ultimately fun, entry from Ilver – and I think I can claim a Victory to George (especially since I don’t think anyone can read the scribbles in that grid!).

2015 tally:  21-0-5

Feel free to tell me all about discwete wumber feerwy and see you next week when Aragon apparently breaks some soccerball rules by allowing short hand crosses


It must suck to be a Greek gift shop owner

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, where last week saw a spectacular return to mediocrity!  Let’s see if we can right the ship with KevGar.  Last time we saw KevGar it was a rather fun but not too difficult puzzle with Haydn’s symphonies in mathematical form.  Now we have a spooky ghost story,ooooowooooooo.

Misprints in definitions spelling out something to find… and change at the end.  Hmmm, so real words in the grid and a mix of normal and definitions misprints clues, sounds deceptively straightforward (didn’t I say that last week?).  And for the first time in a while, we have a 1 across!

I couldn’t solve it right away (later on I kicked myself for not seeing it), but I did think “dining” stood out as a word that could be a misprint.

A few clues in and I was getting nowhere, so I resorted to my other sneaky tactic – try the last few clues.  We now have the 35 down second chance test!  L,EP and a quick peek in Chambers to confirm no misprint and we are away!  Not only that, but that P looks like 39 could be heading towards STOREKEEPERS from the definition and it is, woohoo!

This puzzle was worked from the bottom up – and fortunately the grid fill was not too difficult.  I had a few questions marks as I went along, and completely messed up 13 across by putting NAB and looking for definitions.  I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the misprints until I had a full grid.


Really?  Isn’t that like seven bajillion pages and in Latin?  It had better be the bit about the Trojan horse or I’ll be done.  Where on earth do you get started on finding a 25-letter phrase in the Aeneid?

Yay for my library having access to Oxford Dictionary of Quotations… Virgil gets a pretty long entry, though the bits I’m hoping for appear about half way through – the beware of Greeks thing goes TIMEO DANAOS ET DONA FERENTES.  There’s not many F’s in the grid, let’s start there – FERENTES can be made by starting near the bottom right and going across the second last line.  Bingo!

Fortunately it was not too bad from there to trace the quotation.  I worked backwards since it helped me get started with FERENTES.  Inside my rather chess-piece looking horse (if there is a B that needs to be changed to a German B or a Greek B I’m going to scream) there is a mixture of the letters of GHOSTS.  OK, I have to replace them with TROJANS… too many letters.  Duh, it’s not the TROJANS that were in the horse, it was full of GREEKS, all brandishing baklavas and souvlakis or something like that.

OK – GRUNTS could become GRUNGE and that makes AMENDS AMENDE (thanks for the French tip), ONDING obviously becomes ENDING… oh for fuck’s sake read the preamble , George – it’s just entered as GREEKS row by row.  All done!

My working grid for Listener 4353, A Ghost Story by KevGarDespite a little trepidation on having to find the quote, this was overall a nice bit of fun, symmetrical grid, and a rather neat looking endgame, so thanks KevGar, I’m back in town!  At least until next week…

2015 tally:  20-0-5

Feel free to tell me that my scribbled out lines don’t look that scribbled out, and I’ll see you next week when Ilver has clearly dropped a glass at a bar.

Everything’s missing

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, where mediocrity meets jocularity regularly.

Dear readers, I have a confession to make.  Let’s get this out of the way right off – for the past seven and a half years, I’ve written about my attempts to get better at the Listener.  I’ve struggled, I’ve breezed through, I’ve taken a few weeks off when things have become super hectic.  This week, I bring you something first.  The week I chucked it in.

Artix time – odd-looking unsymmetric grid.  Entries wrapping around in all direction.  Unclueds.  Bars that aren’t shown but must not be added (oooo… kkkkk).

Sounds like some super cold solving… There is a first clue, since there’s no numbers, let’s call it, for want of a better name, 1 across.  And it’s a word that is close to my brain often, being a favorite Vonnegut word – C(LAMB)AKE.  Next up is WELLES missing an E to make WELLS.  I didn’t do very well with the rest of the clues, though I got CHELSEA WARE at the end, and a few of the first down clues.  Near the end there is a clue that looks like it is for HI,JACK if JACK is something that matches an unclued.  Cards?

CHELSEA?  Isn’t that a type of a bun?  There’s nowhere CLAMBAKE and WELLS fits… oh – is it BAKEWELL coming out to leave CLAMS and we are in the territory of the Queen of Hearts making tarts and having them all stolen?

About twenty frustrating minutes of solving a few clues here and there I have come to the end of my rope.  Am I meant to find random parts of tarts (hey, that rhymes) in random clues that I am struggling with, even though all clues are normal, and bung them in this unsymmetrical grid with a bar missing?

Sorry, Artix… I lost interest.

My working grid for Listener 4352, What's missing? by Artix

I picked up the puzzle a few more times over the next few weeks and stared at the clues, but didn’t get anywhere else.  Now there’s a chance I have completely misunderstood the challenge, but this struck me as not fun anymore.

Victory to Artix and the Listener Crossword!

2015 tally:  19-0-5

Feel free to tell me that I should have persevered and there was a delicious lemon filling waiting at the end, and I’ll see you next week when KevGar brings us a ghost story, maybe this crossword coming back to haunt me.

Edit:  well the joke was on me even more, wasn’t it?  Completely on the wrong footage, but the theme was a musical I didn’t like in the first place.  Looks like every letter I had in was correct and although I had CULCULLATE I’m kicking myself for not letting it wrap around with IRE (I thought that was a darkened line at the end of the row).  Not sure if any of this would have helped, but now I’m feeling even thicker than I was before.  Thanks, Artix!


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