If golf is a good walk wasted, is fishing getting wasted in a boat?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, your weekly source for poor taste jokes and ruminations on a weekly puzzle.  Quiver in antici… pation for the big edition in two weeks where there is a numerical playfair, and wait to see whether today’s puzzle has something to do with the 40th anniversary of Star Wars.  You never know.

Anyhoo, we have a Nutmeg puzzle this week!  Extra letters in some clues, others lead to entries too short for the grid… Looks like another week with all real words in the grid, so let’s begin.

There is a 1 across – we haven’t had one of those for a while!  And it’s wordplay you may have seen before – reversal of STAB for BATS and an A that needs to be removed from the clue.  Woohoo!  Big pass on the 1 across test, this could be a good sign.

BATS is an interesting place to start, as it crosses what looks like it should be AIRBAG but I thought the Listener team frowned on cryptic definitions.  It went in with a question mark.  It also crossed SOW which is definitely too small for the entry.  16 across is BARES, and with FORCEPS and ON TO crossing it, looks suspiciously like BARES becomes BARCODES which means COD is added – could SOW gain PARR to be SPARROW and we are adding fish to the answers?  FRANCE could become FREELANCE.  This is looking promising!

OK – so we are pretty early into the process and I think I know what has to go in – now what about that message?  I have the start of ARE FISHERMEN and that’s all that is needed in Googleworld to come up with ARE FISHERMEN ALL LIARS OR DO ONLY LIARS FISH.

Armed with the phrase in extra letters and what has to be done to the short answers, the rest of the fill was a breeze, and this one was all done in one fairly long (two hours or so) session.

my working grid for Listener 4449, Whoppers by Nutmeg

I had more fun with this than I should – my father and grandfather both took me fishing as a boy (my father still goes out when friends are in town), and I can’t think of anything more tedious that doesn’t involve Playfair squares.  I like eating fish though, so I appreciate someone has to catch them.

Still, I think I can call this one a Victory to George

Game over:  100% completion!

Feel free to tell me that a stunned mullet like me should find another hobby, and see you next week when Calmac has a puzzle based on all those offers I get in the mail.

There was no place in the puzzle he could find Nemo?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword – I headed out of town without scanning the grid for this one so you are spared and frankly unreadable brick wall of circled letters, scribble overs and poor highlighting.

Anyhoo, I am getting ahead of myself – Nemo is a new setter or a newdonym (I suspect a newdonym, but there’s no indication of that on the Listener website) – and we have a brick wall grid with a lot of blocked-off cells, and answers that meander around the grid threaded between the rows that are clued with no gaps.

I don’t think I’ve seen a puzzle quite like this before, particularly with the large number of answers near the top that needed tricky threading.  Fortunately the fully clued rows were not too bad, with the exception of me guessing CLASS at B3 at the start.

So after a few solving sessions I was stuck with a pretty solid bottom half of the grid, and a largely empty top half of the grid and a lot of head-scratching, with no idea about the theme.  I had a gap at the bottom left, including the difficult-to-fit-in (especially when you have CLASS at B3) ODALIQUE, and I guess knowing what could end up at 6 (I know it ends in O) will tell the theme.  Themes that end in O?

Finally saw CELLA at B3 and managed to fit in ODALIQUE and there’s the possibility of making AMONITILLADO snaking down to 6.  Wasn’t that a Poe story?  And EDGAR ALLAN POE could go in the middle.  This is looking promising!

I googled THE CASK OF AMONTILLADO (I admit, I have never read it), and found the information I needed – it was clear that IN PACE REQUIESCAT could go across the bottom – and the names of the characters could take care of the sides.  Now what goes across the top?  I only had a few letters.  A few scans through the wikipedia article and NEMO ME IMPUNE LACESSIT sticks out – it means I have to change one letter in the top row but it fits without NEMO so that’s the title of the puzzle.

Phew…

Even then I still had about half a dozen empty cells to try to figure out through the snaking around clues.  I remember having the hardest time trying to reconcile MOONSCAPE and ANATASE (that overlapped at the end).

What a strange puzzle?  I finished it, but I needed the thematic material to get a massive chunk of the grid, and had to crib all of that from online. I see now that I have a complete grid without solving 9 or 22.  So I’ll take a sheepish solution and feel pity for the checker this week!

Game over – Victory to George, 88% completion.

Twisted sisters

Welcome back to George vs the Listener crossword.  I would like to announce that there is a major crisis brewing (or not brewing).  Both espresso machines are out at my local coffee place, and so I am utterly deprived of coffee!  This could be the shortest post ever before I crawl limply towards either my grinder at work, or somewhere open for lunch that has the beans.  The beans!

Time for The Tall’n! I’ve found the last few The Tall’n puzzles to be quite challenging, and the preamble here is a head-swimmer.  There’s thematic entries, extra words and two messages.  Hmmm… well there’s at least real words in the grid.

Both answers in the top left corner are thematic so The Tall’n has deprived us of a 1 across.  There is a 7 across, which looks like it would be easy if I knew where Dushambe is.  Eh, let’s turn to electronic aids right off the bet – it is in Tajikstan, where they pay for their goods and services in DIRHAMS and SOMONIS – one of which matches the wordplay nicely.  So a kind of a pass on the 7 across test.  Woo-hoo?

OK – so a few runs through the across and down clues and I had a pretty sparse grid.  This is not looking promising!  Usually when there are separated thematic clues I leave them for last, because after seeing ASTRONOMY, MUSIC, DEATH and HYMNS straight off giving a message that read ??ACEM – it sounds like we are in mythology area – any chance that M could be the start of MUSES?  SP,LEND,OUR – yep!

Funny coincidence – I’m a member of the National Puzzlers league and sometimes play their online games on Monday and Thursday nights.  One of the more interesting games they play is called “Anti-match”, where someone calls out a question with a limited number of answers and you have to try to pick the one that is going to be the least popular.  A week before this puzzle came out one of the question was “Name a Muse”.  Given only a few seconds to write one I came up with CLIO but that was picked by a few.  I was in awe of whoever managed tocome up with and type POLYHYMNIA correctly in 10 seconds.

Since they were fresh in my mind I tried to fit in the names of the MUSEs and the GRACEs in the grid, and saw a spot where CLOTHO could go, so it looks like the MUSEs, GRACEs and FATEs are all there.  Aaaah – and THALIA appears to the name of both a MUSE and a GRACE.

Goody, that’s all the thematic stuff done, now it’s time to… ummm… solve about half of the clues.  Whoops.

Fortunately – THEY ARE ALL GREEK MYTHOLOGICAL SISTERS as the message helped me see what the remaining extra words were and it wasn’t too long before I slotted in POISHA as the last answer.  THALIA has to replace another six letter word that is not thematic and it was another of my last in that can go – GOALIE.

We have a grid!

my wotking grid for Listener 4447, Influence by The Tall'n

Kind of like last week, slow start, fast finish, though it was a very different style of solve in getting all the thematic material early and filling the grid with the non-thematic stuff (is that maybe the way the puzzle was constructed?).

Nice clues though, and with everything being thematic to a certain extent, it all had to be solved to get the final grid.

Game over – Victory to George, 100% completion.

Feel free to tell me that I’d be good if there was an opening for a muse of stupidity, and see you next week when Nemo writes a puzzle with all the ME’s removed.

Some weeks I have no i deer

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  This week coming to you with anticipation and sadness – for the last few weeks I’ve been performing in a rare lead role (top billing, even) as Sir in a brand new play, Prairie Fire.  Is it odd?  Oh yes it is… here I am as Sir.

Me as Sir in Prairie Fire

I don’t often wear a suit or tie, maybe I should show up like this to my next job interview.

Dysart time – Dysart gave us a tricky puzzle last year with a Timothy Leary theme, and I have generally enjoyed Dysart puzzles, so what have we here?  Remove a letter from down definitions before solving.  13 across answers treated thematically, something to highlight and something to change.  That’s a lot!

There is a 1 across, but it ended up being one of the last that I solved – I had T-something written on my printout forever with a question mark next to it.  Big fail on the 1 across test!

Next up though is CE(RUL)E so in it goes.  Fortunately I got most of the top row of the down answers pretty quickly, and ??EY?ENTTOS?AI sounds like THEY WENT TO SEA IN – are we having another Jerome K Jerome themed puzzle?  Haven’t we had the Owl and the Pussycat lately?

Meanwhile on the across side of things – 25 across looked like CRANIAL and 38 across looked like ROSEHIP which are both jumbles with an I added.  Do they all have I added?  ERECT -> RECITE.  THROVE -> OVERHIT!  This is looking good.

OK, so what then is the theme?  Fortunately a bit of googling turned up THEY WENT TO SEA IN A SIEVE which is the opening of THE JUMBLIES by Edward Lear and that explains the I’s and jumbles.  That’s neat!  It also helps me get LANES at 32 down and finish off a tricky Florida corner.

Fortunately with the text of the poem at hand, the engame was pretty swift – there’s the mountains of THE CHANKLY BORE and the TORRBILE ZONE.  Although SIEGE is there and temptingly one letter away from SIEVE, TIVES is not a word, so it is LERNA that needs to be changed to SIEVE to complete the grid.  I wonder if that was a deliberate sneaky trap?

My working grid for Listener 4446, Edwardian pioneers by Dysart

A fairly long frustrating start to this one that was met with a clatter of fun as the penny finally dropped (or the I finally left).  Excellent use of the theme for an ultimately fun puzzle!  This was done in one very long solving session (I think it was around 2am when I finished the highlighting).  I believe I can call this a Victory to George!

Game over:  100% completion

Feel free to tell me that I should go to pee in a sieve, and see you next week when The Tall’n appropriately presents a Listener I can really get under.

Come back later and don’t forget the dried water

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  Another week where I left the puzzle on the scanner and it has gone to whatever dark side is on the other side of my scanner.  Oh well… what can I remember?

Here’s what I remember the most about Strange Requests – it took a long time to get to the theme, and then a very short time once the penny dropped – it was clear which answers were candidates to have a thematic removal, since the answer lengths were in the clue, and it was looking up DIV as a removal from MALDIVES that got me to thinking that it was words for idiots that were removed from answers – are we in for a second helping of April Fools?

The second part of the theme took a lot longer – in a second run through of across clues I solved MAGNET, but the checking letters read ?OP?E? so that was a replacement.  I hadn’t found any other candidates for replacement, though there were a few listed answer lengths that differed by from the number of lights by one, which are probably replacements.

One of those was GREASE – and it looks like ELBOW would work.  Hmmm – ELBOW GREASE and COPPER MAGNET – where do those ring a bell – a bit of Googling later and it turns out these are both FOOL’S ERRANDS!

This page (despite all the comic sans) helped a lot in identifying the rest of them, including the final LONG WEIGHT.

I didn’t use the last part of the theme, the definitions of the components until right near the end in trying to add up the last few bits.

My working grid for Listener 4445, Strange Requests by eXternal

That was a fun theme – I wonder if the editors were torn between this one and the one from last week and decided to run both.

Game over – victory to George and I think 100% completion.

Feel free to tell me that the blog is as necessary as a bucket of steam, and see you next week when Dysart sends us a really old record player

In the follow-up, did they harvest meat balls?

Welcome back – it’s Listener 4444, so may the 4’s be with you!

I thought we had a new setter this week but it appears to be a newdonym – the Listener webpage lists Handyman as an alias for Shark.  There’s a lot in the preamble – modified entries, wordplay only clues, missing letters in wordplay, things to highlight and a strangely large number of non-Chambers words.  Hmmm?  An asymmetric grid too!

A look back shows I failed miserably at the last Shark offering (Quads II), so here goes nothing!

1 across was unclued so we have to look at 10 across, which I’m afraid to say was one of my last solved, so a big fail on the 1 across test.  Next up was OOMPAH – MA in OOH with the P unindicated. Nothing seemed to fit along with that, although it struck me that 9 down looked like an anagram clue with far too many letters.  Pity I was on a plane without wifi, I think if I’d put it in to an anagram solver straight away I could have made this one a romp.

Instead I managed to get myself in all sorts of messes – one being rather amusing – at 23 across I had TAT as half of TATTOO since I’ve seen a lot of henna tattoos around.  I shrugged at TESH as looking like it kind of fit, and went on from there.

Eventually I got to an anagram solver, put in the letters from 9 down and there was SEVEN HILLS OF ROME – which would fit if the first character was the numeral – is it 6-9 that give us a year?  If so, then 6 would be 1 something – ONE-MAN!  7 would be another number – 9PENCE!  So the top row was P?N?RAM?19?7.  PANORAMA?

A googling of PANORAMA shows me that in 1957 they ran the Spaghetti Tree video! So the extra letters read APRIL FOOL (confirming AMUSER), and there’s TRUNK in broad daylight in the zigzags.  On one side, a BOUGH hangs out with SPAGHETTI draped over it, and on the other side… well there’s BRANC which is nearly BRANCH and a SPAGH but no ETTI.  There’s an ITT?

Took me a while to convince myself that there was an option for TAT.  MEH fits the definition and puts an E and a H where they need to be – and there is MEHNDI in Chambers to fix up that mess.  Woohoo!

My working grid for Listener 4444, Food For Thought by Handyman

Oh boy did I make that harder than it was – fun puzzle Handyman!

Game over:  Victory to George, 100% completion, woohoo!

Odd postscript – NUNGA was quite vulgar slang in Australia in the 70s, so I was surprised to see it here.

Anyhoo, feel free to call me a nungamuncher and see you next week when eXternal requests some strange.

Mind the Watford Gap

Welcome back to George vs the Listener, the blog that occasionally catches up.  Now go back and read my notes on the last two puzzles, that were added late and out of order.

Did you do it?  Slacker!  You’re as bad as me.

Kruger time – what have we here – a strange grid with almost symmetry, carte blanche, lots of 6 and 7 letter entries, extra letters in wordplay, an unclued entry.  Gee, Kruger, why don’t you add knight’s moves and a playfair while you’re at it.

It appears that the key is solving 1 down, which I could not solve on a first read. So a big fail on the 1 down test.  However I was a sneaky bastard and did a chambers text search for “orbital” to learn that INEQUALITY can mean a deviation from orbital motion.  Thanks for the definition, Kruger!  We are away.

So then it was some stone-cold solving, and a few lucky finds after two passes through the clues – UNIT, ANCHOR. DYNAMO and ELTON work well and confirm INYALA (which I never did figure out the wordplay for). Since neither of OAST or FRIS begin with an I, they have to go in the bottom right, which might work well with EASIER, allowing SERAI and CRUSE to go in.  Not sure if it was by design but I didn’t have many words that sat around for too long looking for a place to fit – OCEANIC, GENTEEL and CESTUS were among the longer waits, and eventually I took a punt on CESTUS going in the bottom left because it didn’t look like it was going to fit anywhere and they appear to be nice word-finishing letters.

I was about two-thirds through the grid fill when the message started to make sense – ANSWERS CONTAINING N  TO THE TOP AND S TO THE BOTTOM and lo and behold there was NORTH and SOUTH already in the grid (and all in unchecked letters!).

Phew… nearly there – DASHPOT and ERNANI were the last two in, and wow was that a sneaky clue for ERNANI, had to read two articles on the opera to find out that the character was originally named Don Juan.

Full grid – looks like DIVIDE goes in the unclued entry and now we just have to find what is there to highlight – NORTH DIVIDE SOUTH?  The circled letters are an anagram of WATFORD which when I enter it into Google immediately comes up with the NORTH-SOUTH DIVIDE, which the confirms the title which is one way of thinking of an EAST-WEST divide (though some will use the Colorado or Mississippi river for that in order to put themselves in their favored demisphere).

My working grid for Listener 4443, Not The Rockies by Kruger

OK – this was a monster solving effort – I think five or six sessions poking at clues, and I dread to think how much time was invested.  It all came together nicely, and I don’t know how much it would have helped to get the message earlier.  I never did see the wordplay for INYALA but I don’t think it can be anything else (I just looked up the solution).

Game over – Victory to George, 99% completion!

Feel free to tell me that I need to ditch the lack of EA and see you next week when handyman offers to pay me in vittles for brainpower.