Percy Bysschylus?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, your weekly dose of confused hung-over ramblings about the internet’s favorite thematic weekly challenge.

What has Ifor got waiting for us this time around?  There’s two blocked-off squares in the middle, some extra phrases in across clues and extra words in down clues, and at the end something needs to be done to the grid, something about titles… OK.  Looks like we are in real words territory in the grid, so let’s get solving!

There is a 1 across for the first time in a while and it gives us the whole top row with DI(VERSION)ARY and we are away!  I wonder if Ifor has given us a similar gift at the bottom of the grid? Yes, it’s an anagram for CONGRATULATE and now I have a crossword sandwich and can work on the filling (it didn’t hit me until much much later the irony of getting the top row and bottom row first).

I did a little better starting from the bottom and working up, and getting the last few down answers made it obvious that it was the first and last letters of the extra words that we were looking for – giving ORDER TO SINGLE WORDS as the end of the message.  OK – well I’ve found ABJECT SUN and CAN BE JUST as extra phrases and they are anagrams of each other and of SUBJACENT, which means “bottomless”.  Hmmmm, OK.  There’s also HAS A COUPLE and CASUAL HOPE which can become ACEPHALOUS, or “headless”.  Wow, that’s nice of Ifor to double up on this… can I get the other two now?  PEARL AT makes APTERAL… hmmm, where else can I find that string… LATE PAR In 10, making the answer CROSSE.

A bit more poking at the down answers and it looks like we are heading to ERASE SOME LETTERS FROM GRID, so it looks like we’re getting rid of the outside of the grid… and it does appear that removing the outside of the grid leaves real words.  Two of my unsolved entries are around the outside, so I guess I could have ignored 8 down and 16 down (which I was pretty sure was ABET but hadn’t looked up that definition).

Running up that diagonal is CPROM??HEUSY…. which doesn’t seem to make any sense before the outside is erased, but when you take the outside away then you can make PROMETHEUS, which was a sci fi movie of a few years ago that started off awesome but got very silly near the end.

Now wasn’t there something called PROMETHEUS UNBOUND?  Wasn’t it SHELLEY? Hmmm… two books?  Traditionally ascribed?  I guess I’d better look that up – turns out it is based on the story of Prometheus by Aeschylus, where he does have his wings clipped (not sure if he ends up headless or with his feet cut off).

Hmmm… so what am I meant to write at the bottom, SHELLY or AESCHYLUS?

Ugh… I am really lost at this point. Have I missed something?

Title to the rescue, I hope – does Aeschylus rhyme with “fast and loose”?  More so than it rhymes with Shelley, so I guess that’s the better option?

I must be missing something, but this is the best I have

My working grid for Listener 4344, Fast and Loose by Ifor

Victory to George?

2015 tally:  14-0-3

Feel free to tell me what I’m missing, and see you next week when Samuel essentialises us.

A herring of little brain

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, hopefully the first in a new era of prompt posting which was promised last week.  Oh well…

Chalicea time!  Browsers of other blogs will know that Chalicea comments on puzzles elsewhere and peeks in on here occasionally, so hi Chalicea.  What have we here – extra letters in wordplay, indicating something hidden in the grid and unclued entries at the top.  So it looks like we have all real words in the grid and direct definitions in the clues, all good signs for me.

With the top row being unclued, the first clue is all the way at 11 across, so let’s put it to the 11 across test, shall we – CAR,TAP with an extra T and a big pass on the 11 across test!  It was a pretty steady solve from here – in previous Chalicea puzzles I’ve found the approach to clueing accessible, with a lot of containers and charades, and it wasn’t long before I had most of the top half finished, and the first part of the message in the extra letters as THE CORNER.

Aha!  Well that fits in just fine with the title – we’re in A.A. Milne territory, and there is POOH hiding diagonally in the New England corner of the grid.  This is going to be plain sailing!  Not sure why the unclued entry that would be 2 across looks like it should be FOREGN, maybe it’s referring to a particularly racist House at Pooh Corner, or another type of bear.

So what else is in this list of things to be highlighted… WHAT IS CONCEALED… Hunny?  The remains of Christopher Robinson?  Eeyore’s tail?  IN THIRTY SIX?  There’s only 30 cells to be shaded.  Huh?

Is there a possibility I’m barking up the wrong faraway tree?

So of course I go google FOREIGN FIELD which is clearly the top row and there it is… The Soldier by Rupert (wrong bear!) BROOKE who is hiding starting at 12.  That’s the corner that is forever England one… and there’s FOREVER ENGLAND, and what is hidden in RICH EARTH is A RICHER DUST running down the diagonal.

My working grid for Listener 4343: Bear, Bear, Bearing by Chalicea

Well that was a fun piece of delusion, but it didn’t hold me up for too too long…

Clues of note:

I admire Chalicea’s ability to keep reasonable surfaces given the constraints of the clues, though that did mean slipping into some more obscure wordplay elements.

21 across:  Humming Great Balls of Fire endlessly

BOLIDES without the exterior B and S, leaving OLID with an extra E.  Goodness, gracious!

28 across:  Scandanavian twin

OK – if you’re a regular Listener solver, then you see Scandinavian and think SAAME (and all its other spellings), so this isn’t the most difficult clue – but you have to like a two word clue that includes the answer plus an extra letter and makes sense.

I believe I can call this one a Victory to George!

2015 tally:  13-0-3

Feel free to tell me there really were Hundred Acre Wood denizens littered through the grid, and I’ll see you next week when Ifor somehow combines Lent and Lust.


So long, BeRo and thanks for all the Listeners

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword – which may be able to get back on to a regular schedule here soon.  Or not.

Here we have the final Listener by BeRo.  I was an admirer of BeRo’s puzzles far more than I was a solver – there always seemed to be some logic leap I just could not make.

OK – what have we here – some squares in the middle, and a lot of hints (including the numbering of the clues) suggesting Base 13.  Crikey!  At least it’s not boxes.

The preamble makes reference to a striking connection to 13, which sounds like the opening of “1984”, which translates to B98 in Base 13, so believe it or not, the very first thing that gets penciled in is the title as B98.

I guess all I have to do now is solve the crossword, and all the other stuff.

In the past I have found BeRo’s clues really tricky, though I think that may have been the large amount of cold-solving in puzzles like Phiz.  This time I did a lot better, having most of the grid filled in during the first solving session.  I left my copy on the scanner, so I don’t have my solving notes with me, but the 1984 bit was confirmed pretty quickly with the clashing letters matching up with GEORGE ORWELL (so well that in the end I needed to find two clashes in my last two entries – 18 down and 4 down.

So at the end of the second solving session I had a grid, I had the 13 letters starting at clue 13 reading SIX X NINE ADAMS

I met Douglas Adams twice and managed to get him to autograph my copy of a really poorly edited American edition of the Hitchhiker’s Guide (which I think he told me he didn’t get any money from) and “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency”.

Anyhoo – now here’s a dilemma – do I put 6 X 9 = 42 (apparently that is true in base 13) or since according to Douglas Adams 6 X 9 = 42, should it be entered as 33?

listener_xwd_4342Of course all this is moot… as I now am left with the last part of the instruction – filling in the middle row (which so far contains all A’s) and looking for a progressive theme in 13 sets of blocks, including this middle row.

Ummm… what now?

Something about summing up, but apart from there being a lot of A’s B’s and C’s in the top left corner, I don’t see much that makes a sequence?

Oh great… complete grid (apart from those little squares)… two pieces of thematic information, and BeRo is going to have the last laugh again, isn’t he?


Victory to BeRo and the Listener Crossword – what on earth was that last part about?

2015 tally:  12-0-3

Feel free to tell me that my lack of sequence is inconsequential, and see you next week when Chalicea presents us with three bears, one of whom has a ring!


Elementary, my dear What’s On

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, and we’re going to try for two weeks in a row where the scheduler works – doubly important this time since I’ll be in Tennessee around the time the puzzle comes out.

OK – what have we here – extra words in clues, leading to a hint in the method of grid entry.  A quick glance at the answer lengths and grid length shows this could be a tricky one – some entries are longer than their answers, some are shorter, some are the same length.  Hmmm…

The title sounds like Dr Watson.  Wonder if there’s anything Sherlocky going on?

The day before this puzzle came out I was helping a friend with her DVR, which had gotten full.  She had a lot of episodes of a show I had not heard of, called “Elementary”.  She told me it started off OK but wasn’t that good eventually and she wanted to take it off her program recording list.  The cute thing was that Watson was female.

Elementary… Watson…

Could this puzzle have something to do with elements?  Wasn’t there a Spectator puzzle a few years back when the answers were entered as atomic numbers?  That was bloody hard, wasn’t it.

OK, gentle readers, that was as far as I got with the post when I started writing it – and then I got distracted and had to head to Nashville and then didn’t have a chance to finish writing it up… so anyway…


I agree that there wasn’t much help from checking letters, and there really were only three that I eventually did solve by going through likely-looking possibilities for the known number combinations (10 across, 16 across and 27 down).  The most helpful aspect to me was getting the message so at least I had some contenders for the extra words – most of them were really well concealed!

My working grid for Listener 4341, What's On by Nod


It was a sigh of relief when I finally slotted 10 across in but I don’t think it was a bad puzzle.  It had me scratching my head a lot, and there were a few leaps of faith (was element 108 really going to be used for Hs?).  I wonder if it would have been possible to clue the answers using the capitalizations and lower cases expected for elements (or that could be a whole new crossword… maybe I could construct a Listener that had an even stronger negative reaction!).

2015 tally:  12-0-2

Feel free to tell me I’ve gone soft in my old age and join in next week when… oh, Morbid March looks like it has become Morbid May, and BeRo gives us a final triska

Alice’s adventures through the owl service?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword. the only place where you can read about spectacular honest failures on puzzles that are being heralded as masterpieces.  Well, if you have the patience!  In any case, this is the last week of my regular Friday morning commitment, so maybe things will get back on track.  Or I’ll start writing earlier, like now, writing on Thursday and taking a punt on WordPress’ improving scheduling feature.

But I digress… Nudd! It’s been a while since a Nudd Listener, so I’ll add the tag in and you can read about previous battles at the bottom.  Funny thing is that last week’s Wall Street Journal puzzle had an entry technique Nudd used in “Full Instructions Included” where a word in the clue showed how to modify the answer.  Anyhoo here we have definition words jumping around across clues, and extra letters in down clues.  Looks like all real words in the grid, so away we go.

There is a 1 across, and it looks like a straight-up charade for FLASH(pool),BACK, so for the first time in a long while there is a big pass on the 1 across test.  Woohoo!  That crosses a nice chunky anagram of FOOL’S PARADISE plus D so the instruction begins with D.

This was an intriguing solve – most of the grid only took about 45 minutes to put together – the down clues were pretty accessible, but even when I was close to finished, neither message was making sense… downread DECODE CARROL something something OSW, and I was having trouble seeing where to slot several moving definition words, particularly those that were proper nouns.

In the end I had to resort to two things – the wikipedia entry for the Lewis Carroll cipher, and entering the across entries in to excel and sorting them so that I could figure out the other message.  Eventually KEY IS AN AUTHOR’S NAME appeared for the across message.  Hmmm… I can see ALAN and GARNER in the grid – is he an author?  Yep, turns out he is – and he had a book called Red Shift.  So that’s the keyword in DECODE CARROLL CIPHER NE to SW.  Good name for a Carroll cipher with all the A’s in it – and that changes the reverse diagonal to THE OWL SERVICE, leaving real words in the grid.

my working grid for Listener 4340, Red Shift by Nudd

I suspect this may polarize crossword fans, depending on whether they are fans of the material.  I had never heard of the book or the author, so I learned something, but I don’t think I’m going to run out and buy a copy. I don’t know if there’s any deeper meaning to the ciphers and the theme.  After a few super frustrating weeks, I believe with some relief I can call this a Victory to George.

Clues of note

I did like that the across clues had good surfaces before and after substitution, though I think my favorite was…

44 across:  Partners from French Republic eat with voracious yokozuna (5)

S,N(partners),A(from),RF(Republic Francaise) and a substitution needed of APPETITE for YOKOZUNA.  A nice surface in both versions of the clue.

The down clues were economical, particularly since each clue included wordplay leading to an extra letter. Here’s a classic example…

6 down:  Join soul dance (5)

SEAM,BA for SAMBA with an extra E.  A thirteen-letter clue that has a definition, wordplay and an extra letter!

2015 tally:  11-0-2

Feel free to tell me I need to read more kids books with shorter words and more simplistic relationships, and see you next week when Nod asks us if we know our definitions of electrical switch positions.

In which I get cross with a cross crossword

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword – my few months of hell only have about another two weeks to go, after which I may even get back to a semi-normal routine of solving and posting.  But here we are again, a day after the solution has gone up online, and I’ve read everyone waxing more than lyrical over this Listener.

Which of course I made a right mess of.



How did we come to this?  Well there was a near-carte blanche, with the three blacked-out cells in the grid.  There were double clues, four extra words, a song, an instruction and a phrase to be rendered.

This was definitely a novel way of setting out clues!  So for the first time, I guess we have to have a “zero across” test?  It’s a double clue, and of the two I could only get the first one in an initial read-through (E,RECT)… so I guess half a pass on the zero-across test?

OK – a bit of cold-solving later, I’m trying to figure out how to put together this grid… I realize that if there was a common letter in the position of each answer then they likely crossed each other in the diagonal of the grid… so maybe we can place HYE/HIN, ESTATED/BEASTIE and ADMIRER/HAS BEEN.   It didn’t take long to realize that I couldn’t do that with ADMIRER/HAS BEEN and have the clue the correct number of letters from the diagonal, in fact they would have to go all the way to the corners.  Ohhh… there’s not many positions that one could place clues that start 8-12 cells from the diagonal, so those must be the ones in the opposite corners. My assumption that ESTATED/BEASTIE joined together lasted for a long time, meaning I put ERECT/ESKAR in the wrong place too, and when I finally had the first clues with a symoblic modification (TONELESS and MONEYMEN, so ONE had to be replaced by 1) that there was absolutely nowhere in the grid they could go… GAK!

My problem was that even when I worked out the correct positions of these words, a few leftover characters from them started messing me up when I was trying to solve the last few clues from checking letters and knowing where they had to go.

Eventually I had almost all clues solved, and a close to full grid.  The numbers 1, 2 and 3 in the grid… I had the instruction – FULLY EXTEND EACH BLOCK NSEW – so we’re making black space in the grid, and the song lyric THE ANIMALS WENT IN TWO BY TWO (hurrah, hurrah!).  I had ANT, WASP and BEE making a Z near the number 1, and MOTH in the opposite corner.  I know I should be looking for ELEPHANTS and KANGAROOS from the song but I can’t find them.  I’m also completely stuch on one clue in the top right corner.

In desperation, I wonder if there’s another Z in the bottom right corner made from BRY and FLY… but it’s beyond repair.  A big Victory to Shackleton and the Listener Crossword… I’ve now seen the solution, and I am still not sure there is enough there to unambiguously lead the solver to the answer, but maybe that is tired, overworked sour grapes.

2015 tally:  10-0-2

Feel free to tell me how dense I really am, and see you next week (maybe even at the regular time) when Nudd makes me wear a red shift.

I went to see a duck hooker once – the sex was OK, but the bill was outrageous

I hope to get this finished this afternoon, I’ll leave you with the worst joke I can thing of for now.

Welcome back – if you are still reading, in which case, hi, welcome, all that.  Pretty busy weekend here, with the debut show of my new improv comedy group, Lab Ratz.  Remember that scene in the Blues Brothers where they end up owing a ton of money because they drank far more than they were getting paid.  Well let’s say at the debut show I almost recovered the price of half of my drinks.  The audience liked it though…

Anyhoo – Glow-worm!  It’s been a while since Glow-worm has given us a game-themed puzzle, five years apparently.  This one I started on my way back from the trip where I started Relationship last week.  I had a much more comfortable seat and quiet unobtrusive fellow passengers for a late-afternoon flight from Denver to Atlanta… three hours to bash away at this.

What do we have – lots of 15ing in the preamble and looks like four different modifications of clues.  Answers appear to be real words, and my smartarse phone has a searchable dictionary that I can use in airplane mode, so this is looking promising.

There is a 1 across and I could not for the life of me figure it out.  There’s some clues that are wordplay only, maybe it’s one of those.  Ditto 2 across, so we have a big FAIL on the 1-across test, and the puzzle gets started with 9 across, a reversed hidden word clue for ERASER.

Working from there, the first piece of thematic material appears in 19 across, where there’s an extra O in the wordplay for CADET CORPS, and another one in the clue for PATROLMAN – generously hidden in anagrams.  Hmmm… two O’s… wonder if more O’s have to leave?  Yep – in 27 across as well.  So some O’s have to be put in somewhere.

Next up, it’s obvious we have to remove AVOID from 36 across, and DEER, I from 11 across.

O, AVOID, something that is an anagram of DEER,I?  Ducks?

Is 15 down HOOK A DUCK?  The preamble says that it isn’t in Chambers, and I wonder if that might be because it is common in the US.  I’ve seen it a bunch of times at county fairs in the US, but don’t recall seeing it in the UK (not sure if I still have the picture of the fair near Leeds that was advertising welly-wanging as one of the activities).  It fits… so 2,24 is GAIN PRIZES, and 1 across I guess is NO GO… along with OOPS for 40 across.

At the end of the plane trip I had almost a full grid, and I’d found three of the six duckanagrams that had to be hooked out of clues.  All that was left was a little clean-up and figure out the word that goes across the bottom.

Even with a full grid, this gave me a bit of a headache… the circled letters were EONTSALWMPDD… and I’d only found three of the six duck anagrams… I had an idea which clues had extra words, so where can I go from there… EIDER, WIGEON, and SHOVELER were the only two I had… there had to be something in 34 down, maybe an anagram of DAMN RAIN?  Yep – MANDARIN!  In 7 down, it looks like TALE can go which leaves TEAL.  Five out of six…

My remaining letters are now ONALPDD.  That looks like DONALD, also a duck, and P… looked in Bradfords for P ducks that might be lurking in clues… no luck.

So I never did hook that last duck, though I have a complete grid, a reversed ROD (which sounds like a painful medical condition) and a sheepish victory to George.

My working grid for Listener 4338, A Game of 15 (Hook-a-duck) by Glow-worm

Aaaaah, I now see it was CHAP ROD I needed to get rid of for POCHARD.

Feel free to tell me that I needed to remove CHAP ROD to get POCHARD and see you next week when Shackelton mixes us a double… make that two!


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