Lack of nose aside, I think the smell is due to his R’s blowing off all the time

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword!  New year, new attitude, new attempt at all-correct, same old occasionally being on time with posting.  No problems like that for Towser, who has a new puzzle eight months after a grid filled with mystery writers.

This crossword appeared as I was attempting to recover from a horrible creeping crud of a cold, so I was relieved for an excuse to make hot toddies on a Friday night and settle in with the Listener.  What have we here – thematic omissions, wordplay only, more omissions and something to highlight.  Hmm, seems like we’re not going to be able to cheat much on the grid, since there won’t be real words in there.

Time to solve!  We are not treated to a 1 across but there is a 2 across and it looks like we should be able to substitute T for R in AFFAIR and make a rum… TAFFIA does the trick and we are away, a big pass on the 1 across test, woohoo!

TAFFIA crosses another gentle anagram of ABDOMINAL, and a clue for FLOORED which doesn’t fit in the grid, so I guess there’s an omission – the enumeration seems to match the answer to the clue and not the length of grid entries, so we’re going to know how long the omissions are… I just know it’s not the F that’s omitted, so the theme isn’t GET THE F OUT, which sounds like a good idea for a puzzle – it also crosses a clue that looks like wordplay for BASSET, though the grid entry starts with A… hmmm

Could the wordplay only clues be dogs?  45 across catches my eye as a compound anagram, and it’s for POMERANIAN, which is funny because over Christmas I played a bit of a video game called Tokyo Jungle where you start as a pomeranian trying to survive in a future city jungle.

It also appears the dogs are all losing their first letters…

And there it is forming along the diagonal – MY DOG HAS NO NOSE

How does it smell?

The olfactory canal is still functioning, it is the hard covering that is absent.

The other bit of thematic stuff is missing R’s from answers, presumably how someone would sound if they had no nose, or as I sounded during aforementioned crappy cold.

Well done Towser for turning a chestnut of a joke into a crossword!  I hope it’s the first of a series, maybe follow up with a wife going on a Caribbean cruise, or a piano player that fits in a jacket pocket!

There was a little sursolving to do – mostly in the bottom left corner, where a sneaky trick of clueing SETTER as “Towser, in this instance” held me up – the last of my thematic entries.  Soon after, we have a grid!

My working grid for Listener 4381, Awful by Towser

This was all done and dusted in less than two hours, so on the easier side, but I did really enjoy the theme, and the clues were rather fun.  And I believe I can call it a Victory to George and the year is intact!  Woohoo!

2016 tally:  3-0-0

Feel free to tell me that there’s no way I’m going to get a grid that has a boy traumatized by a clown together and I’ll see you next week when Malva gives us a ration of migs.

I’d like to take you on a symbolic journey through the world of time and space

Welcome back to George vs Deadlines.  This time it’s a mildly amusing story – as soon as I had made coffee and was ready to sit down and write this… fire alarm!  Had to leave a steaming pot of coffee (I’m already in trouble for stopping to grab my laptop in a fire drill, I’m sure I’d be in severe trouble for rescuing the coffee carafe) and this blog, and by the time I got back in my whole day was thrown out of order.  So welcome to the Friday night glass of cheap port edition of George vs the Listener Crossword.

Featuring the second puzzle of the year and it’s MynoT.  I made a bit of a hash out of the first few MynoT puzzles, but lately I’ve tackled him pretty well.  This time we have a jigsaw grid and anomalies with one unclued entry and some clues having extra letters in wordplay.  OK… guess I should just go solve it, right?

Jigsaw clues mean who knows what goes at 1 across (though there is a 1 across), but the first clue is a gentle ACT(A)S so solving is underway.

I did pretty well with a first run through the clues, and it appeared the best bet for the top left, where two 10-letter entries intersect was the PANEGYRICS/PINSTRIPED pairing, helped with NOUGATINE and IWI helping knit it together.

This nice start led to the first pieces of major confusion – it was clear one of the long down clues was going to be TRANSsomething, and probably match the clue that begins “America is engaged” but there isn’t 11 spaces.  In fact there don’t appear to be any 11-character or 8-character lights, despite there being clues that had 8- and 11- letter answers. Hmmmm

As the grid was coming close to being filled it was obvious there was a key here somewhere.  It was back to this first conundrum that got me started – if it was TRANSFUSERS crossing MARCESCIBLE, then MA and RS had to… OH – MARS.  So somewhere up the top I was pretty sure URACIL had to go, so if it met something that ended NUS, like CRONUS, then we have some planets.

And they are all on the diagonal, I guess close to their relative positions from the sun… oh and the sun is also there at the bottom!

I never quite finished the message but it was SYMBOLI?S?CLASHES – so we are meant to replace the planets with symbols.  I had a bit of a hard time finding the symbols – I could have sworn they used to be in Chambers, maybe they were in older editions?  They aren’t in Brewer, so I’ve got to rely on online lists.  I am still not 100% sure which Earth symbol was required.

My working grid for Listener 4380, Stomach by MynoT

I’ve just peeked at the solution notes on the Listener website, and it appears there was a little latitude as to the choice of symbols, so I think my entry will be accepted.

I finished this in one pretty long session with a few breaks (maybe four hours total) so it was a little more difficult than the first puzzle of the year, but once I saw the theme it was a pretty quick finish, particularly for a jigsaw.  I believe I can call this one a Victory to George!

Feel free to tell me that I should really write these blogs in advance or when the puzzle is fresher in memory, or just lock yourself in during a fire alarm since it would be a mercy killing, and see you next week when Towser describes my solving skills perfectly.

Or in my case you lose a few, you give up on the rest

Welcome to the official start of the 2016 edition of George vs the Listener Crossword, and another attempt to get back on track by submitting grids!  It seems my opinion on the last few was in conflict with the general consensus in internetcommentingland, but something good may come of it – watch this space!

I’m not sure if it is a time-honored tradition, but it appears that the year usually starts off with a more gentle puzzle than usual, though seeing that it was Kruger I thought we could be in for a bit of a battle.  Kruger appears to have had a bumper year in 2015, with a few appearances in Enigmatic Variations and maybe one or two in the Inquisitor (both puzzles I tackle semi-regularly).  Preamble kind of sums it up, Letters Latent in both across and down, with the same set of letters bar one in a rotationally-symmetric 12×13 grid – wordplay leading to Letters Latent entry.  Haven’t seen a 12×13 in a while.

It’s a 12×13 with a 1 across as well, though I couldn’t work out what was going on with it so a big fail on the 1 across test (though it is apparently in Collins).

Much better luck with one of my grandmother’s favorite actors, Dirk BOGARDE appearing without an O in the next clue, so we are away!  The right hand side of the grid filled up pretty quickly, though there were a few trips to Chambers to find out what sort of alcohol could be AMORAL without the edges, which turned out to be MOWRA

I was doing pretty well with the across clues and had ?OUWINA?EW?OULOSE which was when I figured we were heading for YOU WIN A FEW, YOU LOSE A FEW and explained why I’d found two latent Y’s in the down answers.  Not the typical letter to be latent.

About an hour later it was all cleared up – I had all the across answers and just a few niggling down answers and I was left with both W’s,  L, an F and E unaccounted for (the tricky GRAYLAG had appeared by now).  Finally a complete grid and it was the L that was the one left over.  Be dump ching!

my working grid for Listener 4379, The One Left Behind by Kruger

Nice puzzly-puzzle this one.  No weird chess moves, playunfairs, knight’s moves or anything and a tight puzzle that persisted right to the end.  Very enjoyable, and not only that but I believe we start of the year with a Victory to George!

2016 tally:  1-0-0

Feel free to tell me that I need to stop lauding praise on easier puzzles and see you next week when MynoT pokes around our insides

P.S. In case anyone cares – I am right in ground zero of the winter storm sweeping the US.  I am likely to be snowed in for a few days, but I have snacks, booze, power and internet, so everything is hunky-dory!

Is this a ploy to ensure zero all-corrects for 2015?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, and here it is – the final lastest utterest puzzle of the year.  Let’s look at the preamble, shall we…

Every entry is Playfair-encoded…

Oh fuck me.


Horvendile is probably the name of another setter that has been Playfair-encoded because no established setter would surely wish to inflict such suffering on poor solvers.  Not to mention Mr. Green who has to check grid after grid with no real words in it.  Maybe only four were submitted.

I had a stab at it… I think I can see the logic – if there are crossing letters that match, then the letters that come after them have to be on the same row or column.

This is a 15×15 puzzle where the whole thing has to be Playfair encoded?  Really?

I got one or two of the entries that crept into the playfair square in the middle, which I guess means the letters code into the actual letters of the playfair square unless they are on the same line which they move down a space.

In the online version the playfair square is outlined in green, exactly the color this puzzle was making me.

So NTU are probably on the same line as are ADCE (really) and H and T, but probably on a different line than NTU.  W and Y end up on the bottom line so that means there probably isn’t any WXYZ in the keyword.

The Christmas season is good for crossword lovers – there were Jumbos in the Times, a Saturday jigsaw in the Guardian.  There was no need to spend any more time on this abomination.

So I didn’t.

My working grid for Listener 4378, Present Day by Horvendile.

At the end of “notes for setters” for the Listener the following appears…

The editors regret that they are unable to enter into any correspondence over these “Notes” but will take into account any comments received when making periodic, though infrequent, revisions.

Here is a suggestion for the next revision.  BAN THE PLAYFAIR!

Victory to Horvendile and the Listener Crossword.

2015 tally:  41-3-8.

Let’s hope 2016 will be a bit of a resurgence!

Feel free to give me any grief you want, and see you next week/year, when Kruger treats us to some leftovers.

Was it named Alekhine’s Gun after what the audience wanted to put to their heads?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, where it’s going to be hard to muster up the usual ebullience. If there’s two things I dislike in thematic crosswords, it’s Playfair squares (coming next week), and chess (hidden in this one).  But I’m getting ahead of myself.  I also have a cold.  Misery.  On the other hand yesterday I posed off my first Listener solution and my first Azed clue in over a year, so hopefully they are enjoying the trip across the Atlantic and time away from my miserable self.

OKeydoke – Russian Roulette – there’s twelve clashes somewhere and extra letters in wordplay.  Hidden message in other clues, clashes and some shading.  No bars, though it does appear the grid has 180-degree symmetry, although that wasn’t mentioned in the preamble.  Let’s get started!

There is a 1 across and it appears to be some sort of complicated compound anagram that I couldn’t figure out on the first go, so a bit of a strike-out on the 1 across test.  Better luck with 11 across – RO,SEA,L and there’s no extra letters there so the thematic area isn’t in the top right.  I couldn’t get anything from ROSEAL, so I treated it like a carte blanche for a while and moved through the across clues.  Felt weird to work with a grid full of numbers but no bars.   Things started to take hold in the bottom right part of the grid and I put circles around the answers that were partly in the thematic area and crossed them out if they met answers that were not.  Looked like we were heading for a big square area.

I was also getting worried when the grid was about half full and I’d only found one clash, the O/P of OPEN/CUBED.  I was also doing a lot better on across answers, so much so that I knew it was TITLE OF PART TWO OF ELIO… LA?D

LAND?  We just had T.S. Eliot a few weeks ago, could this be THE WASTELAND?  Part two is called A GAME OF CHESS which works with the O clash and the square area in the middle.

OK – so the 12×12 grid had a chessboard in the middle, and we use the letters from clues outside that to extract ALEKHINE (who Googlepedia tells me was a Chess Champion) and SGUN which doesn’t seem to make any sense, until I continue the cyberinvestigation that there is a chess formation (and a pretty terrible sounding video game) called ALEKHINE’S GUN.

We now have some sort of record in sursolving coming up, as I only have one of the clashes and a ton of down clues to solve, at least I know the extra letters!

Another hour or two later, all those clashes are found (is it kosher to have two adjacent clashes in a four-letter word, which happens twice, and two adjacent clashes in a three-letter word?) and I have a complete grid.

My working grid for Listener 4377, Russian Roulette by Rasputin

I know I’m meant to rub out all the answers that aren’t chess pieces, and color it like a chess board, but honestly, I’m over this one.  I’ll begrudge that it is very well laid out, though I still question the concentration of the clashes, a theme that appears to be scattered to the remotest part of the internet and putting more Eliot, with chess, so close to a Playfair?

How about we call it a draw, Rasputin?

2015 tally:  41-3-5

Feel free to tell me I should really give up at this point rather than try submitting again, and see you next week when fucking Playfair kills the year stone dead.

I’ll see your Hamlet in a nut-shell and raise you a Prince Albert in a can

Happy New Year everyone!  I hope everyone is feeling as wrecked as I am – for some reason my town didn’t do the usual fireworks at midnight so I had to do the countdown in a bar and break out the bubbly when I got back.  Then there was some form of board games and it appears my place didn’t get destroyed and there’s nobody dead in the living room so no harm no foul, woohoo!

We are into the final three Listeners for 2015 – how’s your record looking?  Mine hasn’t been that great this year, though I did stop submitting (I know, I know).  I’m planning on getting back to submitting in 2016, I can probably bury the hatchet with Azed and pick up a few HCs in his competitionthing.

So what does ‘Eck have in store for us?  Lots of clue modifications – adding and subtracting and some unclueds that provide a hint to the theme.  Real words in the grid, and no bloody Playfair in sight for two weeks, so let’s see how this one goes.

There is a 1 across!  And it’s nice and juicy – regular listener solvers will jump for joy at the sight of a French Farm which is a MAS so this is O(MAS)A in there is an extra L in the clue.  Big win on the 1 across test!

This intersects one of my favorite Yiddish terms, MAZELTOV – which can, in true Australian fashion be shortened to MAZEL, MAZ or MAZO, and we are well and truly away.

It seemed there were a lot more extra letters in clues than removed letters, so I guess the location is short and the subject is long?  I had about half the grid finished when it became apparent that INFINITE SPACE was a possibility for 45 46.  That sounds familiar… Googling it suggests a video game for Nintendo DS, which sounds better than The Times Crossword Challenge for Nintendo DS, but I don’t think the Listener team is ready for a puzzle based on a Japanese video game.  I could test them by submitting a puzzle based on Yo-Kai Watch and go for the fastest rejection in Listener history!

OK, so what else about infinite space – 27 ends in G.  Why does A KING OF INFINITE SPACE sound familiar?  Oh, because it’s from Hamlet, silly (it also appears to be the title of two equally-dire sounding self-published books).  Hamlet could be bonded in A NUTSHELL – which does appear to be forming there in the top half of the grid – at least ANU??SHELL is.

This leaves a little sursolving – but it was a very strange retroactive process – since I knew the theme, I could now gather what the hints were – LITTLE PIG was already there, as was GREAT DANE, but MOUSETRAP WRITER (the play Hamlet wrote in Hamlet was called “The Mousetrap” which went on to run in the West End for 76 years) was not fully-formed, nor was the missing letters message ACT TWO SCENE TWO.

The final piece of the puzzle – 17 down that looked like it should be TRAIL, is actually T-RAIL with the dask indicated in wordplay.  Very clever, a nice companion to the puzzle a few weeks ago where punctuation marks formed the theme.  We have a grid!

My working grid for Listener 4376, Trapped by 'Eck

This was all finished in one fairly long session, so on the easier side, but I liked the theme and I liked the clues a lot.

Clues of note:

1 down:  Mark stood behind son, drinking weak, stale pints (6)

OWCHES: W in OCHE, S.  Extra T in definition – since OCHE defeated me in a Times puzzle a few months ago and it’s popped up three times since!  You can’t beat that surface.

17 down:  Prat receiving short stroke finally tenders for part of track

T-RAIL:  Extra letter S at the end of tenders.  TAIL containing -,R(last letter of tender).  I don’t think I’ve seen a piece of punctuation clued as a wordplay element before.

So a Victory to George and another in a stream of very fun puzzles from ‘Eck (the artist formerly known as Ron).

2015 tally:  41-2-5

Feel free to tell me that I should really brush up on my Shakespeare and play fewer Japanese video games and see you next week when Rasputin puts a gun to our heads.

Merry Christmas, and look over your shoulder, someone may be following you

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, coming to you live from Christmas Day central in Asheville, North Carolina.  The latest Listener has just gone live and it’s a f**king Playfair.  Ack!  What happened to the u and c key?

But before dealing with future misery, let’s see what Poat has for us, shall we?  A code of adding together entries, something to find and an unclued top entry.  Hmmmm, OK.  Around this time last year I had a beer with Poat, and I’ve found his puzzles fun, so away we go.

There is no 1 across, and I couldn’t make sense of the first clue initially, so no inroad into the grid is made until 11 across with (MISNA)*ME.  The good news was that entry opened the floodgates, and it was a kind of a rip through the clues from there, I think it was a little less than half an hour before the grid was close to full and it was time to work out what was going on with these encodings.

The way in turned out to be ULEMA + ?IMTD = ?URGE which looked like it could be PURGE or BURGE – I doubt there would be a Listener about Aussie batsman-turned-umpire Peter BURGE, so it could be part of BURGESS – either the author or the spy, which fits the one-time pads theme better.

I read about the spy ring in high school and was fascinated by it at the time, so I knew where there’s a BURGESS there’s a BLUNT, PHILBY and MACLEAN somewhere nearby so that takes care of the rest of the codings.  They were recruited by ARNOLD DEUTSCH, who can be anagrammed to HUNT OLD CADRES in the top row, and so that leaves the mystery fifth man, who I seem to remember from the 80s as being unknown.  Wikioogle tells me that it is most likely CAIRNCROSS – who appears as CARP(cairn) and CATTABU(cross) in one row.



This was all very neat, and in the end everything fit into place, although there was one I never solved along the way (OPING, which ended up being encoded to HILBY anyway) so a masterpiece in not needing sursolving!

2015 tally:  40-2-5

OK, since the Times Christmas gift appears to be a steaming pile of Playfair, I’m going to go see if the coffee place is open. Feel free to tell me that I should have seen OPING right away, and catch you next week (and next year) as we start to wind down the year with ‘Eck opening his trap. Merry thingthing!


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