Dvorak’s least favorite Listener

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword – there was an awful lot of traffic here last week, maybe because of the severe sigma vs plus sign controversy over last week’s eXternal puzzle.   Loda this week!  It’s been a while since we’ve had a Loda puzzle, so I get to add a Loda tag – though the last Loda puzzle is one of the most looked-at reports on George vs the Listener Crossword because I put “gay” “sex” and “danke” together in the title, which appear to be three of the most searched together terms on the internet.  I like to think this means Germany has a lot of polite homosexuals.

Well this is an interesting looking grid – all zig-zaggey, and with numbers in strange places.   Looks like entries can go left, right or zig-zag and there’ll be missing letters.  Hmmm… clues have definition misprints, leading to titles.

This looked like it could be brutally hard.  Good thing I had a wet Saturday afternoon with a hangover and no other plans.  Coffee at the ready!

There is a 1 …. well it definitely doesn’t go backwards… but it doesn’t matter because I couldn’t figure it out off the bat, so a big fail on the 1 somewhere test.  Better luck with the next clue which is a hidden IOTA but that could make the definition BITE or MITE.  Hmmmm… well I can confidently put a I in the square labeled 3, right?

Hooo boy – we are in ice-cold deep freeze cold solving mode here, aren’t we?  On a first run through the clues I got about a quarter of them, but frustratingly I could not get enough close together to put in any complete answers.   It was a case of take a break, and come back to the set of clues looking for a few more each time, until I could start slotting in answers.  The first part of the grid to really take shape was the top right – where I ran into my first real problem with the preamble (or at least my reading of the preamble).  Since two names had to start from the square labeled 2, I was pretty sure one ran to the right, since 3, 5 and 6 all ran on diagonals.  So imagine my dismay when I finally twigged that 4 was STAIRWELL and now the entire top row was filled in and there was no way there could be a six letter author with a missing letter starting at 2.  GAK!

OK, what am I missing?  Is there anything I can get from those misprints –  ISLAND…  THE VODI?  what’s a VODI?  ANIMAL.. could it be ANIMAL FARM? Can’t figure out 24 or 26 and don’t see ORWELL anywhere (yes, later on I realized he was staring at me from the top row).  GOD KNOWS… just a sec – I’ve read that!  It’s HELLER.  At uni I had a friend who went on and on and on and on and on and on about “Catch 22″, so to annoy him I read every other Heller novel except “Catch 22″ (I really enjoyed “Picture This”) so I could talk about Heller but not “Catch 22″, which I still haven’t read.

HELLENE is at 32 (where there’s meant to be a writer).   Aaaaah… so it isn’t that there are blank spaces in the writer’s name, it’s that only five letters of the writer’s name are in the grid.  So ORWELL is up there at 2, just missing his O and the other one is some form of RAINE or REPIN.  And I’d already spotted what looked like it could be HUXLEY except that CAPOT… hey, how are you doing CAPOTE.

Yes, gentle readers, once again I was so thick that I was missing the authors even when they were staring me in the face, one letter short.

This could be a first… I had a hard time finding the last few authors, so I searched for them by feeding the titles into Amazon’s Book Search… I couldn’t find out another way to see how THE VODI was a story by BRAINE, YOUTH was by WILDER and SKY TIP was by AMBLER.

Now we’re getting somewhere… most of the blank spaces are in the middle (or in what I presume is the frustrating to solve 46) and my missing letters from authors aer ERKYAOBD… KEYBOARD!

Woohoo!  There is a KEYBOARD taking shape in the middle of the grid, isn’t there? That explains the zig-zaggyness.

My working grid for Listener 4331, Conduit by Loda

In a split second my mood had gone from frustration to jubilation and my admiration for the grid construction and why these clues going every which way rose dramatically.  It didn’t even matter that I had three unchecked letters (very close to naughty, Loda) in a clue I made a right mess of in several attempts to solve.  This was a work of art of a grid!

Clues of note:

I guess I should say the one that frustrated me the most

46:  Fistic chumps might be shaved by these quietly heartless youth (7)  – misprint of U so definition is “Fustic chumps might be shaved by these” and wordplay is P, LAN(c)ERS.

I was so convinced that the misprint was in “chumps” to the point I was looking for names of doctors who shaved boxers during matches.  That happens, right?

4:  Dwarf maybe taking in island spa, a place for misers (9) – misprint of R so definition is “a place for risers”, dwarf STA(I)R,WELL

Loda did a great job of not making it obvious which words had to be altered, and this was a sneaky one.

In the end, I’m putting a check next to this one as an early runner for the Ascot Gold Cup… clever theme, good use of thematic material, might use points for using obscure books and stories, but I liked it – thanks Loda!

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

2015 tally (still without a submission) – 5-0-0

Feel free to tell me that everyone has read “The Vodi” and see you next week when Augeas forgets how many cast members there were in the American rip-off of “Man About The House”.


Shouldn’t this be the Listeno Xword?

Welcome back to George vs an inability to resist bad jokes!   OKeydoke – what have we this week – eXternal!  Usually good for a bit of fun.  Wordplay leading to extra letters, OK… lots of stuff about a brief that doesn’t make much sense.  Change, fallout… might have to wait until the endgame.  Does look like all real words in the grid, so that’s a plus!

OKeydoke – there is a 1 across for the first time in a while, and it’s a reversal of COIN in SER, extra letter C (a quote that begins with a C?) and we are away with SENIOR, woohoo.  Hmmm… and one of the crossing entries has an answer length of 6 and only four squares in the grid.  Even someone as dense as I knows there’s something up here – the answer is NOTATE and it isn’t the N that disappears.

I made pretty steady progress through the clues – helped out by getting the quote early on – it appeared the first word was going to be CERTAIN and so it looks like CERTAIN SIGNS PRECEDE CERTAIN EVENTS – CICERO.  Eh?  So is CICERO the brief?

SANDPIT gave me the way to the endgame without quite knowing what the endgame was about – taking AND out of SANDPIT gives a real word, SPIT – MOREL could be turned to MANDREL by changing O to & and the & would come on top of a DRAMA.  Above OPERA, SENIOR could become SENATOR (AT coming from NOTATE), before CENSUS a + (SUM from POSSUMS) and before CIRCUS, SATURN becomes SATURATION with a : (RATIO coming from OPERATION).

Great – an almost full grid, but why the big deal about the brief?  The letters removed for the symbols were I,T,O and R.  RIOT?  Those four letters appear together at the bottom left of the grid – ORIT?  Googling CICERO and ORIT doesn’t help.  Reversed would be TIRO… googling “CICERO AND TIRO” brings up Marcus Tullius Tiro – a former slave of Cicero who possibly invented shorthand.  Aaaaaaah…

Is there some sort of award for getting to a solution without quite knowing how?

My working grid for Listener 4330, Following the Brief by eXternalIn the end I was in complete admiration of the grid construction – given the parameters of locating the thematic material this was a masterpiece.  Is it a flaw that I got there without understanding all of the thematic stuff until the very end?

Clues of note:

I’ve solved eXternal’s puzzles both in the Listener and the Independent, and I am usually pretty much on the right wavelength to the point that I don’t have to unravel clues that much.  So I’ll save my admiration for the final few fiendish ones that eluded me all the way to the end – the sursolved clues.

32 across:  Maybe staged parking is characterised by formality (6):  P,HAS,ICE for PHASIC with the extra E.

The message had a lot of E’s in it, so eXternal must have had fun looking for different methods of burying E.  I thought from the definition this was PHASED and it held up that corner quite a while

19 down:  Nazi with one brown long boot (7):  HESS,1,TAN for HESSIAN with the extra T

OK, the real reason this nearly stumped me was I had PHASED rather than PHASIC.  Got to love that surface though!

OK, I think I can claim this one a slightly sheepish Victory to George and the year is still off to an umblemished (if unsubmitted) start.  Should really use a few of those stamps.

2015 tally:  4-0-0

Feel free to tell me that I should know my TIROs from my RIOTs and see you next week when Loda asks us to solve a puzzle con duit.

A miscellany of word-lovers?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, another year, continuing mediocrity!  Well it appears Stick Insect threw me a bone in last week’s puzzle and I didn’t even spot it for my “Clues of note”.  This could be a new level in thick.  Let’s see what can blow by me this week with Hedge-Sparrow.

What have we here – nine clues which need a string of letters before solution, the rest need a single letter and and there’s unclued entries.  Looks like we’re treated to real words in the grid and close to normal clues again, so woohoo.

2 is unclued so we have to go all the way to the 9 across test!  NEAR,ER gets us going with an extra O in the clue so a big pass on the 9 across test.  I made pretty good progress on the top left corner of the grid, including finding the first two strings that needed to be removed – UTTERL which could anagram to TURTLE and WORC that could anagram to CROW.  Animals?  Fairy-tales?  The message looks like it starts with OMNIUM GATHERUM, but that doesn’t seem to mean anything,  Hmmm.

1 down looks like it’s heading for UNKINDNESS… where have I heard UNKINDNESS before?  Look it up – oh… it’s a collective noun!

OK – I haven’t updated to the 2014 Chambers yet (I guess I’d better get on that) but those of us who are still relying on the 2011 version are well aware that if you’re looking up a word beginning with M you’re likely to get flustered by the positioning of those red pages… the first of which is a list of “wonderful collective nouns”.   That page has EXALTATION and MURMURATION so the theme is nailed!  Woohoo!

Hedge-Sparrow wasn’t letting us off that lightly though, since not all of the collective nouns are in the Word-Lovers Miscellany, so there was still a little dictionary trawling to do.  I had the hardest time with verifying WISP for SNIPES (it’s not given as a collective noun per se, just a flock… but I guess a flock is a collective noun so it’s a meta-collective noun) and finding where WHALES could be removed to give the definition for GAM.  The leftover collective noun is the one right in the middle – MURMURATION for STARLING.

My working grid for Listener 4329, Doubtful Association by Hedge-Sparrow

I didn’t submit this in time (a habit for the year, I’ll admit none of my Listener solutions for the year have made it to the UK yet… I’ll start sending in soon, maybe), but I wonder if STARLINGS would be graded as incorrect?  It brings up the interesting notion as animals being actual units, which shouldn’t be stated in the plural.  When I hear a U.S. chemistry educator spouting on about the number of “moles” of substance I die a little inside.

Clues of note:

While I like the “extra letters in clues” device, it seems there was a reliance on two or three letter words that became one or two letter words that had to be inserted as a container, so I had a harder time finding notable clues this time around.  There were some gems!

5 down:  Blacked up desert rat beheaded old Turkic warrior (TATAR)

(extra letter L for Backed up) so RAT and then another RAT with the top taken off, reversed.  That’s some nice deceptive clueing, lots of indicators for TAR but unraveling the clue to get the right ones was fun

22 across:  Art college stops folding chair transport using cusion  (AIRCAR)

(extra letter string FOLDING CHA for GOLDFINCH) so RAC in AIR.  The definition is a little bit of a giveaway but that’s a masterful hiding of a tricky letter group.

So I believe we have a Victory to George and the year is off to an unblemished (if unsubmitted) start, and a rather fun puzzle from Hedge-Sparrow

2015 tally:  3-0-0

Feel free to tell me you’ve memorized exactly at which letter the Word-Lovers Miscellany begins, and see you next week when eXternal for some reason has us chasing after briefs

Is this as close to a vacation as JEG gets?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, and it seems last week’s puzzle caused a little kerfluffle in Listenerland, with some solvers liking it, some having problems with it, and most of us opting for “Swingin’ In The Rain” instead of “Sinning in the Rain”.  Well this week it’s Stick Insect, so let’s hope there’s no controversy (except for how to round up pi).

Let’s see – there’s a message in the perimeter, and the unchecked letters in it are extra letters in wordplay and then there’s something to do at the end.  OKeydoke, looks like real words in the grid, so let’s get started…

The perimeter message means there’s no 1 across, so we have to go all the way to 8 across for the test. NOW,A,Y,S – and that’s a big pass on the 8-across test, woohoo!

I made a steady start across the top and right of the grid, and saw the possibility of DELETE PERIMETER (what? after feeling good about spotting it I have to go scrub it all out?) before realizing that the extra letters in wordplay were in the exact order of the misprints.  So a big hand in solving the whole puzzle was figuring out the message of DELETE PERIMETER MESSAGE AND ALTERNATE ROWS.  I needed that to solve 20 (RUN,KLE) and 31 (SEND inside DUE, extra S).  Eventually there is a grid!

My working grid for Listener 4328, Reducto ad Absurdium by Stick InsectOK… that’s a lot of deleting – if I get rid of the perimeter and half of the rows and columns then there’s not a lot of letters left.  Hmmm…. do I delete row 2 or row 3?  If I delete row 2 then the leftover letters say DELETE ALL SEND UNFILLED GRID.  Which makes more sense than OASEAETESNLIDUKENSRLRDBGNMWEFAINRDUI.

I didn’t get to this until the deadline was done, so I didn’t send in an unfilled grid, but here was a good opportunity to set the whole thing on fire and send in the cinders!  Fun puzzle, with an amusing ending.

Clues of note:

I guess the restrictions on hiding so many elements restricted the grid, so there were some unusual words to clue.  I’m a sucker for slapstick film references, and clear wordplay for obscure words, and two stood out for me here

17A:  Bumbling inspector’s lost half the main point:  CLOU(seau) – with an added bonus that the word came from French, while the inspector came from an American director and British actor’s interpretation of a Frenchman

4D:  Whine of Angus adolescent with pressure to replace top:  TEENAGE with P for T, extra letter A giving PEENGE.  Excellent wordplay for the extra letter and an unusual word.  I wondered if there could be a more surface-appropriate word for replace.

I didn’t get to submit either of the first two for the year, but I think I’ve got them done so I’ll call this one a Victory to George!

2015 tally:  2-0-0

Feel free to tell me that you got it from reading the title and sending in an empty grid without solving a clue, and see you next week when Hedge-Sparrow doubts our associations.


A ravine battles someone hearing a puzzle (

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, and the first appearance of a purple pen I found on a desk somewhere.  Free pen!

I am a complete pen mooch.  If I go to a convention, I’m on a pen scavenger hunt.  Hotels – thanks for the pen!  Conference centers, even better if it comes with a mini notepad.  Finding an abandoned purple pen is very rare indeed!

OKeydoke – Waterloo!  Waterloo specializes in messing up words in the grids, and also catching me out with silly errors.  There’s usually nothing particularly thematic which makes checking the grid at the end tricky.  No difference here – Malaprop’d titles of books, songs, plays, films, popular websites, species of llama. We have an odd indication of the mangled title and have to put in the original word.

OK… I’ll admit that this had just appeared when I met Poat, and he said I might find it a little enervating (well, it is Waterloo).  Let’s solve…

Fortunately one of the malapropisms jumped out at me with SWINGIN’ IN THE RAIN… so SINGIN’ (ugh) goes into the grid and we are away.

Not sure I can say much about the solving process here – I did find a lot of the malapropisms by looking for possible words in Word Wizards and entering them in an Amazon search to see if there was an appropriate book or movie.  I needed this to get THE MIDWICH CUCKOOS, RAGGED TROUSERED PHILANTHROPISTS, A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE and THE CODE OF THE WOOSTERS.  Eventually, here is what we have…


The solution is out, and I think I have it – but there’s a few places where I got extremely lucky…

  • END and BOY were fully checked, and I have no idea what malapropism was used here.  I now know it’s THE DEN OF THE AFFAIR (not sure if I’d have gotten that with an unchecked letter) and A SUITABLE BOY (never heard of it).
  • With HE?RY it has to be HENRY right?  What’s HORRID HENRY?
  • ?SES has to be USES right?  How well known is THE USES OF LITERACY?

So a muted victory to George, and the year is off to a limping start.

Feel free to tell me that I need to become wider read, seen and listened, and see you next week when Stick Insect reduces us to absurdity.

2015 tally:  1-0-0

Eeeeew, the hands are touching, maybe.


Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword – and more potential fun and games with either my scanner or WordPress.  Got some bad news for regular readers – my Friday schedule has changed and I now have no break between 10am (an hour before the Listener is released) and 2pm, so unless I get in the habit of writing these up early, which I will shoot for, then posts won’t appear until later in the afternoon, well after the new Listener is out, as is the case today.  So I’ll try, but who knows…

Sabre rounds out the year!  This is another that I printed off in Australia (I thought I had printed the next weeks, but I lost it and had to start again when I got to the US, but you can read all about that next week), which means it came with an even teeny-tinier grid than I’m used to.  OKeydoke – what have we here… every answer needs a letter replaced, and some replacements are identical, presumably to allow for the message to have duplicated letters… hmmm…  tricky.

Well nothing to do but start solving, right?  There is a 1 across and it is a fairly gentle SO(U)L so we are away, woohoo!  In the first session of solving I thought I was making pretty decent progress, clues didn’t seem too bad, I was finding plenty of clashes… but writing the letters that clashed next to the clues didn’t seem to be getting me anywhere… and in some clues like 16 across there appeared to be three clashes (though looking back now I think the N/H clash had to belong to 2 down since it was the only clash in 2 down… though 2 down could be a same letter clash. GAK!

Then came the problem that started with 5 across and got worse with 11 across… surely 5 across is BROMHIDROSIS… but that has one more letter than the grid entry and there’s nothing about more than one letter in any one square… similarly with 11 – that looks like it should be EXPIRATION… and 20 ACANTH and I can’t find any clashes.

Settle down, George… OK, we know there’s something strange about that middle row, maybe the coincidence is that both letters go in it?

Hey, are all entries meant to be real words?

Not sure if it’s WordPress or my scanner, but here’s where I had gotten to…


my wotking grid for Listener 4326, Coincidences by Sabre

It looks badly pixellated on my end, but so do I on occasion.

It was about then that I had my drinks with Poat, who asked me how I was doing on it… I showed him, and said I think there’s two words in the middle row, but I couldn’t work out what they were (I think I had a half-assed idea and it must have been so half-assed that I completely forget what it was).  Poat said he hadn’t solved much more than me but he thought it was MINUTE HAND and HOUR HAND… though it doesn’t appear my clashes are going to work there (I may be wrong on PREACH UP).

And that was that… I didn’t pick it up for a few more days and never managed to work out the last parts… though I also felt a bit weird about consulting on the answer (not that I was likely to submit from Australia).  I hope Poat managed to finish it off, though!

Victory to Sabre (and there have been many) and the Listener Crossword!

Clues of note:

Sabre’s clues were once described to me as a “model of efficiency”.  You don’t find many link words, and there are many of these oh so short charades that make perfect surfaces.

2 Down:  Raises dangerous issue (6)

UPS,HOT – here’s an example – that’s a common phrase that makes for a complete clue

4 Across:  Monsieur’s horrid BO is compounded by this? (11)

BROMHIDROSIS – anagram of M’S,HORRID,BO,IS – even though “is” looks like it could be a link word, it is part of the anagram

5 Down:  Right, frost in Arizona, twice!  What a to-do (8)

R,AZ,MAT,AZ – A little bonus surface there for those who know where Sabre lives (stalker mode on, though he did put George and North Carolina bars in a clue a few years ago) and the typical temperature there.  I was in Arizona once in July and I thought it was where heat death went when it wanted to dry out.

So we did not hit the magic 40, and end the year without cracking the final puzzle.  39-4-9.  That’s 39 solved, 4 missed the point, 9 silly errors.  What will 2015 bring?  Likely more of the same!

Feel free to tell me that it’s bedtime at Neverland Ranch when the big hand touches the little hand, and see you next week when Waterloo presents us with the cryptic puzzle made of nail varnish (21,3,8)

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  Or at least I hope it’s welcome back, as at the time the new Listener goes live, I should be on a plane somewhere in the vicinity of the West coast of the USA. So this posting is going up on the extremely iffy scheduler on WordPress.  We’re down to the last two Listeners of 2014, and for the puzzle that appeared around Christmas it’s Poat!  What an intriguing coincidence – Poat and I have talked in email a few times, and when this appeared I had just arrived in Sydney and was a few days away from heading to the city I grew up in and where Poat now lives, Melbourne.  An opportunity loomed!


One should really solve the puzzle before going to meet it’s maker, right?  So let’s see what we’ve got – a strange shaped grid with something thematic on the sides formed by taking letters out of answers and something else thematic on the bottom.  OK…


I thought about starting on the downs, but 1 across really stuck out as a slo-pitch anagram… well it would be if I could remember whether the word was CARAP, PARAC or PARCA.  I didn’t have Chambers nearby so I hazarded a first guess at CARAP and wrote it in thankfully pretty lightly – pass on the 1 across wordplay spotting test, big fail on the 1 across getting the right answer test. Next to it was definitely BOL,SHY so that became the starting point.


It was a nice gift that the enumeration gave the number of letters in the answer, I think if I was looking for the extra letters without knowing how many were going to be left out since there were some pretty tricky pieces of wordplay, particularly in the top right.


Early on I made a few wonderfully wrong wild speculations – with the bottom right pretty well sorted I thought the bottom row was going to be something NIGHT and searching 11-letter entries in Chambers ending NIGHT brought up WHITE KNIGHT and YESTERNIGHT.  YESTERNIGHT sounded convincingly Christmassy enough I wrote the letters under the grid and was almost immediately dashed by solving TALLET (SOLAR for an upper room was a nice find).


The T from TALLET helped a lot because I had seen ARM?STICE in the middle row and was thinking maybe it was an entry starting with I… but of course it’s likely to be part of the changes that need to be made in the rest of the grid…. aaaah – one could make CAROLS in the first line and SOCCER in the third.  It’s got to be the soccer game that broke out sometime in the Great War… a bit of woogling confirms that it was 100 years ago.  I suspect for many solvers this theme would have leapt out before solving a single clue but the theme eluded me for a while.


Next task – figure out those sides… eventually I managed to piece together NO MAN’S LAND for one set of the letters, which means we had TOMMY on one side and JERRY on the other side… could FOSSE go around TOMMY?  Check of Chambers, and FOSSE is a ditch.  Aaaaaah… is there a word for ditch ending in ??YAU?  BOYAU!  So JERRY is in the BOYAU.  Which confirms OLOROSO as 13 across (tricky definition!) and makes 11 across… ummm… ?EMB with a missing N somewhere…  it took a lot of poking around to find NEEMB as a tree that yields oil, and confirm TEEM can mean “empty”.  So does that make TEEM one of those words that had definitions that are practically opposites of each other, like how defeat can mean BEST and WORST?  You learn something every month.


So there we have it – CAROLS, SOCCER, a SHORT ARMISTICE at the WESTERN FRONT where even someone a thick as me should have guessed at SILENT NIGHT.  Woohoo!


So I had a few beers and caught up on some crossword gossip with Poat at a rather fun beer hall type place in Fitzroy.   We talked about puzzles we did and didn’t like, and there was one fascinating point – Listener solvers and bloggers tend to be more focused on the grid and the solution than on the clues themselves, and he aims to be precise and fair in clues (feel free to correct me if I’ve misquoted here).  So when I got back from our chat I took another look at the puzzle as a whole, and he is completely right – I do gloss over the clues when I write these things, except for being critical of having unsolveable 1 acrosses.  So I’m going to change that and include my favorite clues in these write-ups.  For as long as I can remember to.


Clues of note:


17 down – Girlie mag’s opening issue, 40 per cent off one for Scottish lawyers

M(ag),ISS(ue),ISH – despite my hopes that “Girlie Mag” was going to be the definition, ISH being ISSUE in Scots Law was a fun wordplay element


13 across – Something of a trifle?  About its fifth part, approximately

OLOROSO with the middle O’s unindicated.  Fifth part of trifLe in OR SO.  Even after seeing this as an answer from wordplay it took me forever to connect sherry as being in a trifle


28 down – Group of trainers repeatedly throwing stick

ATL+ATL – perfect surface.


And as a final ignominy to Poat – here he is reluctantly clutching my solution.  Ball is in your court, Listen With Others – what can you get a setter to do?


Poat with puzzle, George (not pictured) with beer.

Poat with puzzle, George (not pictured) with beer.

2014 tally:  39-3-9.  One last chance to hit 40…

Feel free to call me a worthless groupie and see you next week when Sabre happens along.


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