Burning down the Housman

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.

Another late post, I’m afraid.  Though some things may be changing soon – I have just found out I have severe sleep apnea, and have been fitted for a little machine that should help me get some proper rest.  Over the last six months in particular, I’ve had very little energy, especially in afternoons and evenings, and my writing has suffered from it.

Anyhoo – Little Hare, who appears to be a new setter, so hello Little Hare if you are looking in! Into week 2 of “The Man Who Came to Dinner” when this came out, and one very kind review in, so I was ready to go on the Friday night show, with my little laptop and the Listener to keep me occupied while I waited for cues.

Across clues look normal, down clues have extra words, and then there’s something to hunt for in the final grid.  Looks like we are in the realm of real words and even some normal clues, so let’s see what Little Hare has in store for us.

There is even a 1 across! And in crosswordland, Tom is a cat or a prostitute, and PRO,LOG looks like it works, so a big pass on the 1 across test, woohoo!

Believe it or not, I didn’t get PHEASANT straight away, but I’d just seen ROQUE in another puzzle so I was ready for it.

I got LOIN straight off, but thought it was ALI that needed to be removed, leaving a strange anagram indicator of WATERED, and a message that was contained ALISON. But working through the down clues yielded TWENTY I HEARD… which tickled something in the old memory banks… sure enough it was our second helping of A E HOUSMAN for the year – WHEN I WAS ONE AND TWENTY I HEARD A WISE MAN SAY…

That let me get the rest of the letter deletions (and wave bye bye to ALSION, it was a much more usual anagram indicator of ALTERED), and I had a full grid near the end of the second act.

My working grid for Listener 4393, Vingt-et-un by Little Hare

Now to find things – PEARLS and RUBIES were easy to spot.  CROWNS came next – and it looks like we are making 22 in Roman numerals – yep GUINEAs and POUNDS complete the crosses.  That means the HEART right in the middle of the grid would be what is removed.

I wonder if Housman knew he was writing poems for crossword setters, putting those nice even five- and six- character entries in his poems?

Everything was sorted out before my entry in the third act – the perfect theatre-length crossword!  I rather enjoyed this one, despite getting the thematic material very early on.  Little Hare’s clues with very accessible and fun to read, and the down clues were very good with the deletions scattered throughout the clues.

I believe we can call this one a Victory to George, woohoo!

2016 tally:  11-2-2

Feel free to tell me that to have sleep apnea you need to have brain function, and see you next week (maybe in a timely fashion) when Duck has some expectations he’d like you to rub against.


Why does one wax the ceiling?

Welcome back to George actually tries the Listener Crossword.  Looks like I wasn’t alone in not being a big fan of last week’s Listener, though I liked one conspiracy theory that the puzzle was specifically written to affront crossword snobbery, a group of which I am proud to be a part of.

I have enjoyed the three previous KevGar Listeners, so I was looking forward to this – it was also the first of four Listeners to be solved during breaks in the play The Man Who Came To Dinner.  OK – what have we here – clashes (an unknown number) and resolution and highlights.  All real words in the grid… hmmm, so normal clues.

There is a 1 across, and it’s a strange type of clue – OVERLOOKS clued as a mash-up of LOVE and ROOKS.  Things get a little knotty from there – as running down from OVERLOOKS we have OWE, VASSALRY, ELKS and LIMA, but they don’t seem to play too nice with TAURUS for 12 across.  I know there’s going to be clashes, but with those three clashes in – and OYSTERCATCHER slotted in the middle column, the game might be given away very very early – when there’s WALRUSes and OYSTERs there’s going to be CARPENTERS…

The rest of the grid fill went pretty rapidly indeed – in fact to the point I don’t think I ever bothered solving 11 down, knowing it had to be CEILING WAX (though I didn’t think MISC was a possibility at 8 across – went to look up the poem to see that it is SEALING WAX and I’ve got a bit of a mondegreen going on.

My other hold-up was being so convinced that 26 down was LIN,O that I didn’t look up LIN to see if it was a badge, so I was scratching my head trying to figure out what the clashes there could make.  In the end it turns out MON,O fits and there were no clashes.

So we have resolutions to WALRUS, KINGS, SHIPS, SHOES, SEALING-WAX, CABBAGES and CARPENTER.  I finished with enough time to spare that I went through and figured out all the clashes for SERPENRTY, but never did get around to what 11 down originally was.  All in all a bit of light fun after my woes the last few weeks!

My working grid for Listener 4392, A Conversation by KevGar

Chalk up another enjoyable and accessible puzzle to KevGar, and I think we can finally claim a Victory to George!

2016 tally:  10-2-2

Feel free to tell me that I can’t claim it without solving 11 down, and I’ll see you next week when Little Hare gives us a French coming-of-age story.

Happy Times Birthday, Listener – sorry I couldn’t make it to the party

Welcome back to George vs the Listener… well what is this?

Odd-shaped grid, no clues to speak of, a confusing preamble.

OK, clearly this is going to be a puzzle celebrating 25 years of the Listener being hosted by the Times (hip hip hooray!), but is the best way of celebrating it a game of reverse Mad Libs followed by a word search?

I like cryptic clues.  I sometimes write them, I even more rarely write them well.  I sometimes do US crosswords because of the themes, but with no clues I’m not big fan.

I can handle DLM occasionally, but at least DLM has a D in it.  This is LM + ML

I spent about an hour poking at it, realizing that many of the words in the narratives could be slotted in, which gives a pretty decent looking left hand side of the grid and a nearly empty right side.

I figured maybe I’d have more fun if I put it aside and looked at it in a few days.

I didn’t.

Sorry Tibea – I’m sure this was a lot of work to make, and it seems those could be actual clippings from Times articles (did Dimitry get a flash of recognition?), but I decided to put in a solitary puff on a streamer and drift off into the night in search of other entertainments.  I do that a lot at birthday parties, once even at my own.

Victory to Tibea and the Listener Crossword

2016 tally:  9-2-2

Feel free to tell me that I was giving this the shortest shrift that ever shrifted, and see you next week when KevGar wants to talk about something.

Needle nardle noooooo!

Welcome back to George vs the Listener.  A little late, and a little tired at the moment, burning the candle at multiple ends and playing a small part in a production of The Man Who Came To Dinner.  I must be looking good these days, because there I am (wearing amazing vintage goggles) in the middle of the promo shot!

Publicity photo for "The Man Who Came To Dinner"

Now let’s move on to Castaways – another puzzle that arrived the day I had to proctor an exam, which means I had a nice quiet two hours to make a good start (today’s puzzle is about to appear, but the setter can rest assured that I’ll be starting it during Act 2 of the play).

In Castaways, eXternal brings us misprints spelling a husband and wife, extra words and some thematic modifications (we are helpfully told where they are).  Looks like it could be all real words in the final grid, woohoo!

Not only this, but there is a 1 across!  BET,J,EMAN gets us going and that means a big pass on the ever rarer 1 across test!  You know how sometimes you unconsciously solve a clue before meaning to do it – while I was looking at the first clue, the one under it caught my eye as being SOBERLY (which we know needs to be modified).

OK – a little while into this, my first three misprints I found in across clues were E,C and L.  At this point I was utterly convinced that eXternal was treating us to a Goon Show theme and I started looking up ECCLES to find out who his wife was.  Nothing surfaced – it seems there was no mention of ECCLES having a wife, and certainly not one that had a P near the start of the name.  ECCLES and PATRICIA maybe?

I’ll admit I got a little disappointed at that point – though back to the solving a P,Y, R and A in the down misprints triggered something – isn’t there a PYRRAH somewhere in mythology?  A quick search leads to DEUCALION and PYRRAH and completely dashes any hope of ECCLES being in there, though it does help solve some of those pesky across clues.

I had to wait until I got home to look up D&P in Brewers, which thankfully spells out the whole deal – they threw stones that became men and women – so SOBERLY loses the anagram of BERYL and gains DOM to become SODOM (famous Biblical city).

Didn’t take long after that to get the first grid.

My working grid for Listener 4390, Castaways by eXternal

The next step was a little trickier – I had BARREL ORGAN and PRAYER left over from the extra words, so they had to go in somewhere.  Knowing that a J had to go drew my eye to that very first answer – BETJEMAN, which had an anagram of JET in it – and BEDESMAN had appeared recently, so that takes care of six of the letters.  OK – so now I have to make a four letter substitution somewhere else to get a BARREL ORGAN.


I’ll admit – I went to the WordWeb version of Chambers and reverse searched BARREL ORGAN to get SERINETTE, which fortunately words – take out the jumble of OPAL from 13 down and insert ERIN.

Nifty use of the theme there, eXternal!  I know it’s a standard reference, but given how crucial it was to the theme, I’m surprised Brewers wasn’t listed as recommended for this puzzle.  In the end I think we can call it a Victory to George!  Not so fast, idiot – eXternal stopped by to point out that I have messed up with TOM instead of TONI in 20 down.  Victory to eXternal!

2016 tally: 9-2-1

Feel free to tell me that ECCLES would now be legally married to BLUEBOTTLE and see you next week when Tibea unleases something truly bizarre!

In North Carolina, a bifurcation needs to use the bathroom of their birth certificate

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  Oh boy, last weeks was a polarizing puzzle, wasn’t it?  I expected to cop a bit more grief than I did, and it seems that my opinion was shared by a few out there.

This time around we have Nutmeg, and so I’m not expecting anything controversial.  Apart from one puzzle where Nutmeg dragged out the insufferable Playfair code, I’ve found these fun and pleasant, same can be said for Nutmeg’s occasional outings in the Guardian.

Tiny New Laptop came in handy this time, as the puzzle appeared shortly before I was to leave for San Diego, which meant a four-hour flight awaited!  This flight was full and noisy (and I got moved – my new seat, 45C was scribbled on the top of the grid).  Hooray for noise-cancelling headphones and a tiny laptop with the WordWeb version of Chambers on it.

OK – jigsaw grid, clues in alphabetical order of answers, no tricks in clues, but some answers need to be added in a thematic way.  A quick look and it seems there are some three-letter entries in the grid but none in the clues, vertical symmetry rather than rotational and writing down the lengths of answers around the grid, nowhere near enough six-letter lights. Hmmm…

I guess I should start solving, eh?

There is a space that would normally be labeled 1 across but we have to go with the first clue, and I know it’s near the top of the alphabet and it is A(BR)IM so we have a big win on the first clue test!

I mentioned before that I enjoy Nutmeg’s clueing style, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that even with stone cold solving I had about half of the clues on a first run through.  Even better, one was the 14-letter entry NATURAL NUMBERS and the only two 8-letter entries, positions confirmed by VENT and LAID.

I managed to place most of the clues I’d already solved into the grid on a first go, with some notable exceptions – there didn’t seem to be any place for POMADE, POMELO, ROSILY, ROSTRA, SCALAR or SCAMPI… and those words all share the same first three letters.  It was pretty clear the unclueds were going to be on the edges – and one had to be BIFURCATION or OBFUSCATION.  Those matching three-letter parts make BIFURCATION look likely – though the other side isn’t looking good at I had ??TH?NG??S which wasn’t leading to anything.  I know this has to be two words… the second one could be ANGLES… aaaah – I had STINT in there twice, and the other one should be SLING.  RIGHT ANGLES!

So those three-letter entries are the start for the six-letter entries I was having a difficult time placing.  This helped in the final set of solving, as I didn’t have BRUTES or BRUNEI, nor did I have BARGEE or BARAKA.

This was essentially done before the plane landed – only catch was that I was going to be nowhere near a printer or a post office, so it didn’t get mailed in.

My working grid for Listener 4389, Teeing off by Nutmeg

Just what I needed and expected!  A fun puzzle, a neat trick, and some fine clueing from Nutmeg.  And above all, I think I can claim a Victory to George!

2016 tally:  9-1-1

Feel free to tell me that I should be spending plane trips harassing passengers, and see you next week when eXternal reminds us of a bad Tom Hanks film.

Much more turvy than topsy?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, Goodish Friday / Early Daylight Savings edition.

Hey gang, have you been waiting for me to fail and fail hard?  Smudge provides!  I am completely and utterly baffled, and with all apologies to Smudge, I gave up after finding I wasn’t really enjoying the puzzle.

Here’s the thing – there’s letters to move from one place to another in across clues, and words to move from some down clues and into new down clues with letters adjusted.  I was surprised at how few across clues I could actually solve, even though the surfaces of some of the clues were so convoluted it was easy to pick which words were candidates for the letter move.  This meant I could figure out we had GILBERT reversed and then SULLIVAN forward in the across clues, which sounds like a reference to the recent movie Topsy-Turvy.  Even with moving the letters, I had mostly unsolvable clues – are the surfaces meant to make sense after the moving and subtracting?

Then to the down clues.  More indecipherable surfaces… look at 4 down – Rum babas left boy ensnared by gross craft.  Not that I’m a master cluesmith (my attempts at the Times clueing comp were regularly picked to pieces), but that’s just an assemblage of words.  I have a single solitary down clue solved (CIAO for 11) and it doesn’t seem like it has an extra word or something that resembles a word from 31 down that needs to be added!

I got an email a few days ago saying that this puzzle was ultimately enjoyable, but I’m afraid I never got to that point.  Good news, Smudge – if I couldn’t figure it out and didn’t see the point, it could be a shoe-in for the Ascot Gold Cup next year!

My working grid for Listener 4388, Cycle 20% more by Smudge

Complete and utter victory for Smudge and the Listener Crossword, and a frontrunner in the Empty Grid contest for 2016!

2016 tally:  8-1-1

Feel free to tell me that I’ve completely missed the point/boat/schuit and see you next week when Nutmeg appears to tee me off even further!

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I’ll have a (Sir Alec) Guinness(cide)

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, time-warped edition.  I thought that I was going to be late in posting, but I had forgotten that we in Trumpistan have already started daylight savings cos ‘Merica and some of you in less armed nations have not.  Upshot of which, I might actually have a timely post.

New setter this time, so hi Emu if you are checking in.  What have we here – an unusual 11×14 grid, extra characters in clues leading to some stuff to do with the grid, which ends up with some lines in it.

There is a 1 across, and for a setter with a very Australian nickname we end up with a very American entry into the grid as A(D)MASS with an extra A goes in, so a big pass on the 1 across test!

Interesting grid – there were a number of long entries, particularly in the downs, and a set of double unches, but BANKER’S DRAFT really opened up the right hand side of the grid that filled pretty quickly.

I was getting close to a filled grid when I started wondering about the theme – I had spotted GENERAL as a possibility in the second last row and AGATHA close to that, but I didn’t put two and two together until unraveling some of the message – googling “simple faith” and “blood” brings up AND SIMPLE FAITH THEN NORMAN BLOOD from Tennyson, which is preceded by KIND HEARTS ARE MORE THAN CORONETS, which explains what the GENERAL and LADY AGATHA are doing in there – we are in the classic tale of murder up the chain!

At this point my admiration for the puzzle grew immensely – our “hero” is offing the ASCOYNE’s, so the lines make sense, and once we have struck out LADY AGATHA, ASCOYNE, the BANKER, GENERAL, DUKE, ADM, REV and HENRY we have the shape of the end of a game of hangman, and of course in the end, Louis hangs.  We finish the game of hangman by circling the one vowel to make the head.

My working grid for Listener 4387, One-man Band by Emu

Reminders of a very fun film (and it has also been made into a play that a friend of mine saw on Broadway over Christmas) and a puzzle where every piece of thematic material makes perfect sense.  I’ll begrudge the double-unch, which isn’t in a thematic area, and say this is an outstanding debut puzzle by Emu, a lot of fun, and I think I can call it a Victory to George.

2016 tally:  8-1-0

Feel free to tell me that St. Patrick’s day was yesterday and see you next week when Smudge tells me to get back on the bike



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