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!

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before – when is a pi like a theta?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, your source for occasionally timely, always pithy reflections on the internet’s favorite barred grid puzzle.  I’m writing this up the day before the solution is published so there is a slight chance it will appear at the correct time.

OKeydoke – what have we here? Aedites! I generally have pretty good luck with Aedites, which is good, since I started this one on a plane.  Not just a plane… one of those plane rides from hell where you are squished in next to a large, seriously overperfumed, chatty lady who appears to be amazed by everything to do with planes, even though she assured me she flies often.  Just not in a plane like this one (maybe she goes cargo most of the time?). This meant that every entry I put in the grid was immediately followed by “how does that work?”, shortly followed by “you must be so smart”, or “I could never do those”.  It was a three-hour flight from Atlanta to Denver, and now I know why you’re not allowed to bring knives on planes.

Preamble brevity!  Across clues are normal, down clues have a misprint, and there’s something to highlight!

OKeydoke – to solving! There is a 1 across, and I could not solve it on the first readthrough, which made me kick myself.  Must have been the flight, as I didn’t get anything until CREE(l) at 18 across, and even then I couldn’t get any of the crossing entries.  Damn you perfume and personal space invasion!  Fortunately a little bit further into the across clues I managed to get a few in a row and make a start on the bottom half of the grid.  By starting near the bottom it became clear that the last word of the message was CIRCLE.  OK, something to do with a CIRCLE.  Working my way back up it looked like INSIDE… and DYAMETER? I was convinced the misprint was for political PARTY, but I guess with the origin of the word it has to be PARTI.  Unless it really was DYAMETER…

Oh!  It was 3/14 wasn’t it?  Isn’t it nice when your favorite number can be commemorated in a day?  3/14 for pi, October 23 or 10/23 for Avogadro’s number (celebrated as a degree of magnitude rather than as value), I wonder if that’s why there isn’t as much love for e?  2.718281.  I guess you could do it on February 7th… make it a week before Valentines Day.

So the message has to be something to do with pi.  Am I meant to highlight a pi symbol in the grid?  It’s lowercase, so maybe it should have some curly bits?  How would that fit with DIAMETER IS INSIDE A CIRCLE?  I’d already spotted RADIUS starting at SPRAD… so that’s something to do with it… there’s a ONE at the end of PALLONE and another ONE at the end of SOMEONE.  Aaaah… its going to be in a sort of circle… where does it start?  AREA THREE POINT ONE FOUR ONE FIVE gives the diameter of a circle with RADIUS ONE.  That’s the right number of letters… though the symbol you get when you highlight them all looks like a theta.

My working grid for Listener Crossword 4337, Relationship by Aedites

Well that was a bit of fun and could be solved on a plane (not wanting to be plane showy-offy smarty pants but I also did most of Piccadilly’s EV puzzle “Adventurous group”, which I also enjoyed, before we landed), so woohoo, thanks Aedites, and I think we can call this one a Victory to George.

Clues of note:

I liked that the corrections to misprints maintained surface sense.  In most cases, it was clear which word was going to hold the misprint, but some of the misprints themselves foxed me.

2 down:  Political parts put cells in Foreign Office (6).

FASCIO:  ASCI in FO with a misprint of I to give PARTI – a group of people.  Had the answer early but was convinced of the wrong misprint.

28 down:  Hair coat discarded, moved by lidos (7).

ABA,SHED with a misprint of A in LIDOS to give AIDOS, shame.

2015 tally:  9-0-1.  Maybe I should go back to submitting!

Feel free to tell me that you wouldn’t want to be stuck next to me on a plane either, and see you next week when Glow-worm wants to play to 15 (is that even legal?).

There is no such thing as on-time posting

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, well at least if you are looking in.  It’s a whole day since the solution came out and most of you are over it by now.  I had a pretty stacked week and didn’t get a chance to finish and post this yesterday. So here we are… in the graveyard of blogging, or looking in at next week’s puzzle before I’ve loaded it up.

OKeydoke – Kruger with… a puzzle with exactly the same title and preamble as an Enigmatic Variations puzzle I couldn’t finish. Gak!  Now I’ll admit EV is kind of down my totem pole of puzzles, I only pay attention to EV if I’ve already solved the Listener and Spectator weekly thematic crosswords. Hmmm…

It looks like most entries are fewer cells than the listed clue answers, and with the title there’s probably some deleting going on, but nothing consistent, so it’s time for a sweep through the clues… there is a 1 across and I couldn’t figure it out for the life of me so a big fail on the 1 across test.  Booo.

It takes until 15 across and MISSEND with an extra I that I start to get anywhere.  A scan through the clues nets only a andful, and a second scan doesn’t add that many, but it does add the crucial ones… ZABAIONE which can’t lose any letters, so in it goes, and DUTCH GUILDER which has to go above it… DUTCH has to fit across the top, confirming that the S at the start of SCISSORS has to go, and then it’s a hmmm moment.  If I take all the S’s out of MISSEND, SCISSORS, ENDORSE and BLASTED as well as GANG from ORGAN-GRINDERS and GUILD from DUTCH GUILDER and everything fits.  S can mean society, so it looks like we’re losing societies, which would also fit with what looks like SOCIETY forming fro arond 4 down and a really helpful THE starting at 5 across in the quote.

Good news is that now I think I have the way of entering answers, so it’s to Bradfords and Word Matcher to look for probable words, which netted UNKINDNESS ,TENUOUS and BLASTED immediately… that got me the rest of the quote – THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS SOCIETY by Maggie T (who I guess given the number of remaining letters had to be M THATCHER).

So now we have the method of entry, the quote and all the thematic material is in place… but most of the bottom half of the grid is empty.  There was rather a lot of sursolving to do here, so it was quite a relief when BELEAGUERMENT finally emerged as a possibility for 34 across, completing the grid.


My working grid for Listener 4336, Company Liquidation by Kruger

That was a workout, though I did it in one marathon three-plus-hour session.

2015 tally:  8-0-1

Feel free to tell me that this one was easier starting at the bottom and working up, and I’ll see you next week, really truly on time I hope when Aedites puts our relations in a ship.

And good luck Australia in the World Cup final tonight!

After that length of time, wouldn’t she be Agatha Crusty?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  Eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed there was no post last week…. well, about that.  Um, gee.  I read the preamble and didn’t do it.

I haven’t looked at a solution or read any of the other blogs, so if I get a chance I’ll have a go.  It’s just that the preamble made my head spin and I put it at the back of the pile.  Repeatedly.

So we’ll count Brimstone as a loss and sorry if you’re reading Brimstone.

It is that time of year when there is an annual event and usually an easier puzzle to go with it.  I found out at the end that if I’d just googled the answer then the entire mystery would have been gone.  Good thing I didn’t do that!

Jago has oft been gentle – and we have a pretty large grid (anyone do the Maltby puzzles in the Wall Street Journal?  It looks like one of his grids), an unclued entry and some modification of some answers.

There is no 1 across, its the unclued entry, so we have to go all the way to a 11 across test.  And it looks like it should be PERSIAN but there’s only three letters.  Sounds like something is being removed (brilliant deducation, George).  Next up is RE(STRAIN)T so we hae a grid beginning to form.

Working around RESTRAINT is appears that part of 1 across is VANISHES… THE LADY VANISHES?  That would explain how AIRCRAFT CARRIER could go in without CARRIE and PERSIAN without SIAN.

The rest of the gridfill was pretty quick, though as usual I got down to the point where three of my last four entries had to be thematic, with the last one in being GRADATORY without ADA.  I did enjoy entering SKATEBOARD without KATE and although all the letters were already in place by the time I got around to it, I liked GRENADINE without NADINE.

Goody, a full grid.   Aaaaand… now what?

Unfortunately this did involve Googling “The Old Swan” to find the answer.  Agatha Christie, who is hiding in a column, took a little sabbatical there.

Weird ending – I think there might have been room to hide something more thematic there rather than giving it away in the title.  But a quick victory is good after deliberately avoiding a puzzle for a while.

2015 tally:  8-0-1

Feel free to tell me I should have persevered with the cubey thing and see you next week when Kruger has a long liquid company

Abandon all hope, ye who use Oxford Dictionary of Quotations

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword where it appears my tastes do not reflect the voters for the Ascot Gold Cup at all.  I did like the puzzle that won (though I made a mess of solving it and I think I even submitted an incorrect grid).  If you’re visiting here for the first time this week, make sure you scroll down a little and cast a vote for Top Of The Square 2014 edition.  There have already been a few votes cast but there is no clear winner right now.

OK… Flying Tortoise.  Subjected me to the musical “Wicked” a few years ago.  What have we here? A quotation to be found, some manipulations, and that’s it for the preamble.  Hmmm… to solving, I guess…

There is a 1 across, and the definition looks like BOON but the wordplay looks like BONT or BOOT.  Chambers confirms BOOT (even after I’d written BOON in the grid) so we have a pass on the 1 across test!  By the way, in that bit of Chambers thumbing, I noticed one of my favorite Australian slurs is in there – BOOFHEAD.  Please someone use BOOFHEAD in a puzzle soon, I’ll be eternally grateful.  Woohoo…  BOOT  crosses OMERTA which doesn’t fit in the spot.  Well I guess that’s treated then.  Hey, why is 21 sitting by itself?  That’s weird, and it’s a 7-letter answer.  AMPLY confirms the M of OMERTA, so there’s probably just some letters missing.  12 is LEAP YEAR, and I can see where L,E, and A go… 14 across is NOWHERE… so if I take the YEAR out of LEAP YEAR and add it to the N of NOWHERE then I can make YEARN.  Are we taking out letters to make words?

Up above that 10 across has two clues.  Hmmmm… the first one is for BELIE which doesn’t fit with any of the letters.  Does it all disappear?  The other looks like FEALTY – ahhh… BELIEF disappears.

A little later, and there is no more BELIEF, FEALTY or CONFIDENCE (completely disappearing from CONFIDENCE TRICK).  ASSUME, AIM, EXPECT and DESIRE – with the finding that there is a DESIREE potato complete the grid.

Now what?

We are meant to rearrange a string to find a quotations… hi ho, hi ho, to ODQ we go… there’s a lot of quotes for HOPE, but since they all lose HOPE, it looks like we’re down to old Dante… ABANDON ALL HOPE YOU WHO ENTER.  And it’s on the gates of Hell, which means Flying Tortoise considers this crossword more damnable than it was.  Looks like most of the letters are in the perimeter… let’s get circling.

And they are not all in the perimeter?  Whaaa?  Not only that, but the quote is three letters short of three sides of the perimeter.  Not even room for a HERE?

Surely this has to be the theme…

I Googled the quote, and there’s a lot of versions floating around.  Bartleby comes up with a translation that does fit the outside of the grid.


This one does have all the letters.

Let’s rewrite the preamble, shall we?

A string of letters in the completed grid must be rearranged to show, in a thematically appropriate position, a quotation (not using the words or order found in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations) which solvers of Listener crosswords must Google repeatedly, which also describes treatments that affect some entries.  The Chambers Dictionary (2014) is the primary reference, 17 and 21 are in the Oxford Dictionary of English, George’s brain is fried and in the gutter.

Much better.

I assume this was the version desired (I forgot to scan my grid, I’ll add it later), so I can call it a half-hearted victory to George?

It appears the marker accepted about anything… I should have just drawn a gate.

2015 tally:  7-0-0

Feel free to tell me that I didn’t have any hope to abandon in the first place, and see you next week when it seems Rubik gets a run for his money.



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