Rounding out the year… sometimes I slay myself

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword – this appeared on the website on New Years Eve Eve and I was rather happy to see Lavatch’s name attached to the final puzzle for 2016.  It has been a while since we have had a Lavatch puzzle, but it is a name I am delighted to see on the Spectator series (including an excellent one last week – 2292, Discovery).

Anyhoo, it was a cold and quiet Friday afternoon, so let’s get stuck into it. To be honest, the preamble reminded me of Spectator territory since the unclued lights are of a type (fortunately without the appendage “verifiable in Brewer’s”.  Misprints in ever clue, misprints, misprints everywhere!

What would be 1 across is not only unclued bu unnumbered, which means we have to go to a 5 across test, and Lavatch does not disappoint – AP(PET,IS)E and we have a correction of H.  First letter of a message is an H?  Can an I,G,H,L,I,G,H,T be far away?  The I is looking good – anagram of BILL and PAUSE making PLAUSIBLE.  W(H)IT,Y – you betcha the highlighters are coming out!

This was the theme – I never got stuck at any particular point, and with it looking like GEAR, CATHERINE and FERRIS were three of the unclued entries it seems we are heading towards WHEELS.  The message also came together HIGHLIGHT — QUOTATION IN SYMMETRIC FORM appeared first, it took a little fiddling to see the second work was THEMATIC (mostly because I misspelled SYLLEPTIC at 40 across and so had a T instead of an I as the correction.

So that means the grid-staring section – helpful THE three rows down, and WHEEL coming off of it – I figured we would be looking for a quotation in a circle and it is also a quotation about a circle – THE WHEEL IS COME FULL CIRCLE!

My working grid for Listener 4431, Round by Lavatch

This took a little over two hours, but it was fun all the way and do themes ever get tighter?  Thanks for rounding out the year in style, Lavatch!

Game over – 100% completion!

The end of 2016 sees my record as 44-2-7.  Not spectacular, but not too shabby.  Who knows what 2017 will bring.

Maybe it will bring me hitting the publish button in a timely fashion… whoops!

To think, just eight years ago several of my grids looked like this

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  I’ve come down with some sort of death plague, so sorry about the late post.  On the good side everyone who has seen me today says I look like death warmed over and should stay inside and alone, so I should be able to tackle today’s puzzle by Atlas uninterrupted.

But for now it is Pilcrow!  What have we here – jigsaw grid, clues in alphabetical order of answers and extra words, with a few entries missing, then some major grid modification.  OK.

For jigasw grids I’ve taken to jotting down the number of letters in each entry around the outside of the grid, where I learn there are only two 3-letter entries (both are clued) and two 10-letter entries (but only one is clued), so I’ve got a 50/50 chance of getting where one of the unclued entries lies!  To the clues…

There is an… well let’s call it A across since it probably starts with an A, and it is AC(t),E with an extra word URDU and we are away – it’s even one of those three letter ones!

I’ve done a few puzzles by Pilcrow and sometimes I’ve gotten the clues easily, sometimes I’ve struggled, but this seemed to be one of the easier sets of clues (of course there’s no wordplay trickery or the like, just the extra words to find).  I made two passes through the clues and found that I had both 3-letter entries, all bar one of the 4-letter entries and all bar three of the 5-letter entries.  So it’s a bit of the opposite from the usual jigsaw fill – I started with the constraints of all six 5-letter entries having to lock together in two sets of three, and worked around the grid from there.  THE SOUND OF SILENCE appeared after a while, which meant that G&S was Garfunkel and Simon which was a nice touch.

It didn’t take that long to have a full grid, and it was time to work on the messages – JOHN CAGE FOUR MINUTES THIRTY THREE SECONDS and ERASE EVERYTHING BUT THE NOTES IN CAGE’S PIECE.

Let’s admire that grid before everything disappears, shall we?

My working grid for Listener Crossword 4430, G&S by Pilcrow

And we wipe clean.

I wonder how many entries Mr. Green got that had letters in them?  I wonder if you were penalised for including your name, address, town, postcode and phone number, since most of those could be obtained from the envelope?

Cute idea and fun, puzzle, something light for the Christmas week!  I believe we can call this one a Victory to George.  Game over, 100% complete.

With one remaining, the 2016 tally looks like 43-2-7.

Feel free to tell me that I should have video recorded this entry with a ton of silence, and see you next week when Lavatch has a puzzle that describes my figure.

Oh no, you sank my all bar 8 correct

Welcome back to George vs the Listener. It’s 2017 now, but we still have three whole puzzles to finish out 2016.  This one is by a new setter or a newdonym, Paddock.

OK – extra letters in wordplay, and then some changing at the end to make it like the placement of ships in Battleship! but with some single letter S’s.  That’s odd.

Well there was a 1 across at least – TO(O)TTER gives TOOTER and an extra T to get things going, woohoo!

Must be new setter blues but I was having a really tough time with the clues here, and there was a lot of what is known on another site as BIFFing (Bunged in From deFinition), so after a few sessions of solving, I had a full grid, but I was not sure about several of the extra letters.  It wasn’t helpful that from the first six clues I had TEURSC which has several anagrams.

My working grid for Listener 4429, Battleships by Paddock

I’m afraid that’s as far as I got – apart from the six letters with several anagrams, I was at least a letter short in the other three groups, so I couldn’t even fathom what was to go there.  Congratulations Paddock, you have come across with a major Victory for the Listener Crossword.  Perhaps with that electronic buzzing sound to accompany it!

Game over:  loss.   75% completion.

2014 tally:  42-2-7

Feel free to tell me that I would have finished this with a little more naval gazing, and see you next week when Pilcrow offers us a Gin and Scotch.


Freddie Mercury took to his grave the secret of whether Scaramouche would do the fangango

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword – and a return to the kind of normality from six months ago.  Back in Asheville at last and it only took about three shots at cleaning the print heads on the old inkjet before the big black machine started churning out crosswords printed on the back of unusued participation certificates.  We have normality, I repeat, we have normality.

Which is good, because I would have had a hard time with the circular grid without having a printout – crossword compiler doesn’t do circular grids (that I know of – feel free to tell me I have no clue how to use that software as well).

Aelfre!  I thought this was a new setter but it appears to be another alias of Salamanca (I didn’t know that until just now)… circular grid with crossing (and it appears very generous crossing) rings.  Some in, some out, and a line (presumably from a song).  This looks like it could be deceptively straightforward, hmm?

There is a 1 (in/out) and it is a nice gentle reversal of DE,SUER for REUSED and so we have a big pass on the 1 in or out test.  Then I realised I should have started with the arcs, since we know where all of them go… d’oh!

If I’d remembered ENID was a place in Oklahoma I would have been off to an even more flying start, but it was ERAS that went in first, confirming that ASIANS went inwards.  AVIARY, LEGLIN and MALGAM later and I have GALI in the third ring.  Is it Bohemian Rhapsody?  6 is HAMLET and this is looking promising.  I put in GALILEO and looked at the outer ring – LYMAT  suggests that the quotation is NOTHING REALLY MATTERS.

Hooo boy!  I’m 46, I was just starting high school when Queen made it big in Australia, and I was a huge fan.  I never had this as a single – I had vinyl copies of most of the albums.

With the outer ring filled, it was back to the radial clues, now knowing the first or last letter of each – this was all done in well under an hour, one of the fastest Listener solves ever for me.  Aelfire’s clues were fun and direct, so I didn’t mind having the thematic material in place with only six clues solved.  EMI appears in the scratches.


Fun theme and a new use of the spherical grid.  There have been some other outstanding uses of the spherical grid (Brighton Rock comes to mind) over the last few years.  I believe I can call this one a Victory to George and Game Over with 100% completion.

2016 tally, with three to go (fear not – at least one more will be a bust) 42-2-6.

Feel free to tell me that I should have misspent my youth in better places and see you next week when Paddock decides it is time to put away Cards Against Humanity and bring out Battleships

Remind me to politely decline if offered an advent calendar from Bandmaster

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword!  How come I can spend six months living out of a suitcase in a series of borrowed rooms and with rarely seasonally-appropriate clothes and be fine, but as soon as I get back to my own flat, own bed, own wardrobe I come down with a massive headcold?  I’ll try to not let it spoil this one, because I really really got into.

I’ll admit, this looked daunting at the start!Big grid, carte blanche (symmetry – woohoo yay for Crossword compiler), groups of letters in cells, extra words and blank cells.  Sure you don’t want to throw in a playfair, knight’s moves and boustrophedron while you’re at it, Bandmaster?

Good news is that the first clue is eminently solveable, an anagram of LANDSCHIEF for CANDLEFISH, so a big pass on the possibly 1 across test.  I think if I had been able to solve the first down clue then the game may have been up right from the outset, but  SEAL, ORCHIS and MAGICALLY had me really scratching my head.  I went back to cold solving. It was NOT FOR JOSEPH and JOSEPHENITE that caused the penny drop moment – weren’t there other clues I’d solved that had a common word inside?  Maybe they are in the multiple letter squares.  EVANGELS and STRANGELY… ELF-CHILD and DELFT!   Aha – we have already had an Advent Calendar puzzle a few years ago (yes there was, 4117 – Great Expectations by Samuel – which I couldn’t finish).

So now the fun was in finding the gifts, one for each letter of the alphabet and the message ADVENT CALENDAR NOT OPENED.  I’m meant to replace the gifts with numbers for the first letter, but it looks kind of fun in the grid…

my working grid for Listener 4427, Shut That Door by Bandmaster

I binge-solved this – I think it took me nearly four hours but I was enjoying it too much to put it down.  The rest of the people in the house I was staying at said they were worried because I didn’t move for hours.  A fine piece of puzzling by Bandmaster, and a victory to George!

Game over – 100% completion

2016 tally:  41-2-6.

Feel free to tell me that I deserve an advent calendar full of religious stuff rather than what I like (booze, chocolate, video games, booze) and see you next week when Aelfre has a grid that looks like one of those retro musicy things.


Dot dot dot dah… dot dot dot dah

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword!  And this is the last week of my five-month soujourn through the northeastern parts of the US which means soon I will be back in the world of printers!

It has been an intriguing journey doing the Listener without a printer – I replicate the grid in Crossword Compiler, copy the clues into a Word document and keep notes to myself on that.  Of course that means I haven’t even started on the circular grid that comes up in a few weeks.

So here’s what that word document looked like for this week’s challenge – Harribob’s puzzle.




–1 Dead body covers wallet with contact info (8)

B:  6    Woollen cloth placed on horse (6)

L:  12   René’s son eats goose with special delicacy (8)

A: 13   Sources of rubber used in sexual escapades (4)

C:  (E,FITCH)14         European with short paintbrush — a tool for portraiture (4)

K: (LA,BARACK)15 East of Louisiana, president informally ditches conservative moral standards (6)

O: OW(IE)NERS16   Landlords welcoming East Indian returning sausages (7)

U?  (ANOREXY)17   In Royal Variety, My Old Dutch possibly beset by some lack of appetite once (7)

T: 18    Ale must perk up such as Morse (6)

–19      Lamp saves Jones from the Devil (4)

L: 21    Sang up and down in the Rockies, whooped about over western face of Denali (7)

E: 24    American, spinning, fell into trap (5)

T: 25    Muttered mysteriously about soprano with most modesty (8)

–27      Sent back short glove, scarlet-trimmed (8)

T? (ET,TENS)30         Film with many old giants (5)

E:  33   A lady and I, we rudely interrupted (7)

R:  35  Prosecutor comparatively confident (4)

S (SO,BLAST)36       In due course blow up district of USSR (6)

I:  39    Native American profit on break-up of home (7)

–41      After one over the eight, maybe, tease a fop (7)

N (EN,DUN,RE)42    Tolerate René’s fidgeting astride horse (6)

M:  43 Country scrubs defile old-world charm (4)

O:  44  Cry from queen, recalling grief a moment (4)

–45      Leave mob rioting in Mobile (8)

R (SINGER,S)46        Forgotten poet, second (minor) Burns (6)

S (SALINITY)47       Brininess: it hides answer in faulty analysis (8)



–1 Activist runs into battered used car (8)

E:  2     An orb containing a well-focused lens (7)

–3 Benin treasury drops poor rate, having difficulty spending a penny (6)

C:  4    Join calcium to fluorine with difficulty (5)

O:  5    Being not yet excited about Italy (6)

D:  6    Tennis player, left-hander initially, in top-ranked group (5)

E:  A,NAN,EA7         Fruit before bread and water in some places (5)

A?  ASAR,U,LE(A)8 High-class pasture lies below gravel ridges generally (7, three words)

N: A(FAWN)LD 9     Fife’s honest alderman accepts rare flattery (6)

D:  RED,MOVIE10   Withdraw revolutionary film losing investment at the outset (6)

–11      Transposed Eastern American pastoral work (8)

E:  16   Regularly away in Leeds; a way in Stirling (4)

R: 20   One supporting bombast, one against (4)

A?22   Dry measure restricting Ohio, USA (4)

–23      Spinoza was one, but if Descartes was, then so am I (8)

S:  T(URN)AW,SAY: 26       Reject vase in marble, eg (8, two words)

MY,LO,DON: 28       I never did look over a giant sloth (7)

T:  (BT,MUD)29         Foolish baronet faces mounting slander (4)

–31      Raised arm to gain a little thing of value (6)

H:  32  Person holding mass in Lowestoft? (7)

E (WOOL,ERSE)33   Hair cut seen on Irish suitors (6)

R: 34   Unruly Serb MOD discharges from army (6)

E: 35    Somewhat contrarily, astronomer eschews lecture (6)

S:37     Extracting nitrogen, sifts loose rocks (5)

T:  38   Bits of bread around Papua New Guinea; browned bread around Spain (5)

–40      Small bay-windowed room in college (5)

All of that lead to this as the starting grid…

My first grid for Listener 4426, Dah-di-dah-di-dah

Which once I blocked out everything (I wrote the letters in the spaces next to the Morse code segments)


I didn’t find this one too difficult. Once I thought it was heading towards Morse code I was having nightmares of a near-unsolveable EV puzzle from a while back, but apart from a few false starts in blocking out (I guess one advantage of doing it entirely on the computer, I could go back to the original grid and re-shade), I believe we have a Victory to George, woohoo!  Both Harribob’s puzzles have been fun to do (though both have had an intricate endgame).

Game over – 99% completion (there’s one wordplay I still have a question mark on).

2016 tally: 40-2-6

Feel free to tell me that I wussed out on writing a ton of terrible jokes by extensive use of cut and paste and see you next week for the final (for now) entry in non-paper solving, when Bandmaster provides the other side of “Hold the door”.

Quad erat demonstrandumb

Greetings all – I was going to have this up yesterday, but the Kimpton Onyx hotel in Boston boasts “fast internet” while “completely not working internet” might have been a better description.  Oh well!  Not that there is a great deal to say this week.

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossnumber, your quarterly check in on my ability to use Excel to solve a puzzle that is intended to be done using a pocket calculator.  And we have gwizardry who brought us a pretty difficult (so difficult I couldn’t do it) cards themed puzzle last time around that was very popular with most of you.

This time we have a Lagrange Four-Square Theorem puzzle – all answers are a sum of squares.  Neat – and there’s zeroes in there which doesn’t happen often in a numerical puzzle.  It was pretty obvious D was going to be zero, and T was going to be one, so there’s 1/13th of the puzzle out of the way.

I shamelessly Excel’d my way through this which is good, because I had to double back twice, the most memorable being a big blunder assumption on V that caused me to have to go back nearly to the beginning.  Two sessions later, it all fell into place, with 1120 neatly becoming QUAD

My grid for Listener 4425, Clue-by-four by gwizardry

The most intriguing part of this puzzle to me was that I think I would have struggled a lot more without crossword compiler – nature’s gift to carte blanche puzzles with symmetry! For an 8×8 puzzle with all but four numbers checked, that’s a lot of bars.  I tried sketching it on paper at the beginning and had bars all over the place!

Anyhoo – game over and it’s a 100% completion for George and another challenging numerical from gwizardry!

2016 tally:  39-2-6

Feel free to tell me that I cheat even more on numericals than I do on lettericals, and see you next week when Harribobs asks us to name that tune.