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Fired after just one puzzle

I know it’s been a while, but I’ve been working on other projects, and I thought I had landed a sweet job as the setter of the Everyman puzzle.  Well after the debacle of January 27, that spot was one and done.  Which means this puzzle never saw the light of day… until now.

My deliberately bad puzzle


If there’s enough deletions you can get to a grid as empty as mine!

While we are hot, here is part 3.  I have to leave for the theater soon, so the next three will come up later.

This was not a puzzle to come back to just a few days before the solution went live having not done any thematic puzzles for a couple of weeks. There’s a lot going on here, most entries are non-words, everything has a letter change.

Hmmm… Ifor. I have a terrible track record with Ifor, and it’s generally a two-parter, I cannot solve the clues and I cannot figure out the theme.


Even after reading the solutions notes to this one, I have no idea how I could have gotten there. I only have about 20 of the clues solved, and the scattered deleted letters aren’t helping me get a verse. STUSHIE becoming SUSHI helped me get HIPPO on the opposite side, and SUNTAN becoming SUNN were the only ones I could write in to the grid with confidence.

My working grid for Listener 4506, Multiple Deletions by Ifor

Ifor remains my nemesis, and you would think that I would be on top of something that has an elements theme (my only published crossword to date had atomic symbols to be entered as the full name of the element). Of course, as happens with Ifor, the quote is by someone I haven’t read from a poem I haven’t heard of. But science!

Game over, 5% completion.

OK, time to get ready for tonight’s show – complete and utter victory to Ifor and the Listener crossword, for two weeks in a row! Maybe Samuel will stop the rot… find out tomorrow!

I always thought the Wiggles were on acid

It’s the great poor timing catch-up part 2! This puzzle appeared the day I was to fly to Los Angeles, and the day before my flight to Japan. And it’s Sabre, and the grid is already giving me a headache before even looking at the preamble.

OK – so a bunch of five-letter answers, several of which are unclued. Some other answers that start in a numbered square and wiggle around the grid. It may not be the first letter of the five-letter answers that goes in the central square of each entry point.

Um so do what now?

Perhaps it was a good thing that only strangers on planes were going to see me with this. I promised my traveling companions I would not spend the whole trip doing crosswords (though when I got up early enough and the internet was working I kept up with the Times and Guardian dailies). So I had to get this done in one overnight in LA.

If you are in LA near LAX and have an afternoon to kill, I highly recommend the Inglewood neighbourhood. There’s some nice restaurants and bars and even a microbrewery (Three Weavers). The more beers I tried, the more this grid would melt, thaw and resolve into a dew (better start on the Shakespeare jokes early right, we all know what is coming up).

We know this is going to end badly, so let’s get to the misery that is my grid.

My working grid for Listener 4505, Wiggles by Sabre

I think what was the most demoralizing about this one is the very very few filled in squares given the number of clues I really did solve. A look at my complete print-out and I have more than half of the clues worked out, I just have no idea how to write them in. I even made a guess that the last word of the phrase was going to be PAIRS.

Yet again, a complete and utter victory for Sabre and the Listener Crossword, and I know several people were confused by the strange guy at the brewery with his funny looking puzzle that he barely wrote in.

Game over:  50% completion (of clues), 3% completion (of grid)

I was good to my word, and did not look at any Listener puzzles while I was in Japan (I think I got this one back out for the trip back), so I was already three weeks behind in printing out the next puzzle, where Ifor welcomed me back to the country with… well, we will see soon!

Lactose intolerable

It has been a while, hasn’t it? I hope to make up for the complete and utter lack of posts with uninteresting stories and unfunny jokes, as we work our way through a months worth of puzzles, some of which I solved, and some of which I did not. You all love failures, don’t you? Oh you will get failures!

So what happened – well my trip to Japan ended with me going straight into rehearsals for Robin Hood, and then some minor crises at home that ate into my time. So I have been behind on solving, behind on writing and just behind on life in general. C’est la lack of vie!

On the plus side, Robin Hood is doing gangbusters business, and we’ve had nearly 2500 people see the show over the first two weeks.

So let’s set the clock back two months and see what was going on.  Malva’s puzzle was the first that I printed out on my trip, the second place I stayed in Las Vegas had a printer, so I was able to get at the Listener just a few days late.

What did Milky present us with? Thematic wordplay-only clues that need replacements, and the rest of the cues in order. Interesting…

I did peek at the thematic clues before everything else, and saw one of them was definitely HUMMING,BIRD and another PETREL so birds sounded promising. Certainly then for FALCON and RINGDOVE.  Usually thematic wordplay only clues are the last for me to solve, but I was definitely on Malva’s wavelength.

Same went for the regular clues – the first one was CONACRE, which most likely went in the top right, and I after one run through all the clues, getting close to half of them, I wenr to piecing together the grid. The first thematic breakthrough came with PRION down the bottom which is both a PETREL and a PATHOGEN, so we are looking for words that connect the birds in the thematic clues with the extra words in normal clues. This came in very handy when you have an entry like C?LIN, and look up COLIN in Chambers to find it is a VIRGINIAN QUAIL which fits one of the unsolved thematic clues.

Only took a little over an hour to have a full grid, and an unmatched FALCON plus MILKY leading to GENTLE.

My working grid for Listener 4504, Milky by Malva

Exactly what I needed for a holiday grid! Smooth, solve I could do while I was re”hydrating” after a session in the pool.  Fun, tight theme and best of all a Victory to George.

Game over, 100% completion!

The day I left Las Vegas (on to LA, and then Japan) was the day the next puzzle appeared, and I just had time to print it out before I left (literally just – I had to check out at 10am and the puzzle appeared at 8am local time). All excited about having a nice simple puzzle for the airport and plane… oh shit it’s Sabre!

Nothing is a property too, right?

Greetings super-loyal readers from Tokyo.

It’s numerical time. I don’t know why, but lately I have gone off the boil on the numerical ones. They used to be the easiest ones for me, often with clear logical paths in and sometimes a bit of lengthy number bashing.

I’m sorry, Smudge, but the preamble to this puzzle made less than no sense to me and surely cannot be correct. It doesn’t seem that any answer can be unique and there be properties like “a square” since there are multiple squares that are entry points. I started at this for a while, figured the one to the power of five had to go in at 1 or 32 and there were only a few possibilities at 32 but a lot at 1. That was about as far as I got. I got an email the next day saying there was an error in the preamble but it wasn’t the one I was looking for.

I gave up. The headache wasn’t worth it. Kudos to those of you who persevered.

Better luck next time. Complete and utter victory to the Listener Crossword!

Game over: 0% completion.

Feel free to tell me there was a logical and unambiguous way in and that the preamble made perfect sense and I’ll see you next week when Malva has a puzzle for the lactose tolerant.

If music is life, then does that make boy bands death?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, coming to you today from an early morning hotel room in Las Vegas. I’m leaving this morning, but there is a printer in the lobby, so I should be able to get a copy of 4504 before I leave, woohoo!

OKeydoke – KevGar time. What have we here – ten letters that need removal, words to be removed from clues, extra letters in wordplay to be removed. Lots of removing here. Let’s solve, shall we? I started this one out over a late morning coffee.

There is a 1 across, and it’s a nice juicy anagram of SURREALISTIC (extra M) so a big pass on the 1 across test woohoo! There’s another juicy anagram at the bottom of SYNTHESISERS (extra word LATER), so this grid is just waiting to be filled! I did pretty well through the clues, in fact by the time the coffee was finished a few things were apparent…

– the quote was something to do with MUSIC IS LIFE

– it was always the last letter that had to be dropped to leave a real word

Nothing else – I tried a little phone googling to see if I could make anything of the quote.  At the time I didn’t have some of the middle down clues solved (one of the ones I had n entry for, but couldn’t work out how it worked was 15 down, which I found out later had a correction), and I was thinking the quote was MUSIC IS LIFE AND I LIKE (not being dead?, being able to hear it?, puppies?).

Finally the grid was complete and there was no I after LIFE.  MUSIC IS LIFE AND LIKE IT … INEXTINGUISHABLE is a quote by CARL NIELSEN, a composer I am far more familiar of in crosswords than from any actual compositions. I figured the word might be in the sign of an infinity symbol, and there it is. Nielsen’s name can be made by a few changes i the diagonal and now we have to figure out another work from the word salad. Scanning a list of his works, THE FOUR TEMPERAMENTS sounds like the best bet. I didn’t work out every possible letter combination, but it uses up those dropped letters and only contains letters found in the rest of the thematic stuff.

My working grid for Listener 4501, Never-ending by KevGar

This was pretty straightforward, about an hour at the coffee place and maybe another 90 minutes at home to get everything done and dusted.  I learned something, and even better I think I can call this one a Victory to George!

Game over: 100% completion

I am about to leave for two weeks in Japan. I’m going to try to write up the next two weeks in advance, so hopefully they post at appropriate times. Since one is a complete and utter abject failure, I don’t think the powers that be will mind. So feel free to tell me that I should be extinguished, and see you next week when Smudge becomes a slumlord.


I didn’t know Lewis Carroll named a poem after a fantasy magazine

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword. I’m on the road the next few weeks, so we will see what happens. The Listener that comes out today I may have to do using crossword compiler rather than the regular pen and paper version. It makes for nicer images. Speaking of which, this is about to be the messiest grid ever posted.

Quinapalus time! What have we here – clues leading to definitions differing by one letter (Phi used that in last year’s APEX puzzle, so I was familiar with that gimmick, don’t recall it in a Listener before). Carte blanche grid, some symmetry. Quinapalus often presents a tough challenge, so let’s see what we have here.

I jotted beside the grid where I thought the across answers were going to go based on the symmetry.

There is a 1 across, but I could not figure it out at the time. I could tentatively place the third answer, BERK at the top right of the grid.

It was helpful to find early on that the clues with the one letter differences all crossed where I was pretty sure early on that 5 down was going to go, or across where 38 and 41 across were going to go. One of the letter permutations for 5 down looked like PHANTASMAGORIA which I know as a magazine of original science fiction and fantasy published in Melbourne in the 80s… surely that is too obscure even for the Listener? Ahh – it is also the name of a poem by Lewis Carroll!

I did not know the poem, so it was a bit of fun discovery to see that it was in a collection called RHYME AND REASON, taking care of the other 5 down, we have LEWIS CARROLL and REV C L DODGSON at 38/41 and the poem includes a mathematical equation with an imaginary solution, which expains the ARGAND DIAGRAM at 14 down. The extra letters say to MOVE BOTH X’S VERTICALLY

Well I was feeling very smug with myself. This looked like it was going to be a beast, and I was all done and dusted in about two and a half hours in one setting. Pats on the back all around right…

However now I have seen the solution… and I messed up that very last step. I didn’t move the X’s to the middle of the squares, I just put another X in the empty squares.

My working grid for Listener 4501, Two Solutions by Quinapalus

Well bugger!  I Really liked the puzzle but the very very very last step was too clever for this moron! Big Victory to the Listener Crossword – can you have 99% completion and a fail, yes you can!

Game over:  99% completion (but no final victory)

Feel free to tell me that I need to count my X’s before they are snatched up or down, and see you next week when KevGar has a puzzle that describes my idiocy


We are going to have to wait a while for a puzzle based on “20,000 Light Years From Home”

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  You’re still here? How nice!

And with this I may have caught up.  Woohoo, baby steps!

Kea is here – one of the editors stepping in. Last year Kea had a rather fun grid design around a flower. A few years ago, there was a particularly fun (for me) puzzle that Kea was involved with.  This time, regular symmetric grid. Normal clues, and it looks like all real words in the grid, just something to highlight. Maybe something to do with the round number of the puzzle. Let’s go for it!

There is a 1 across but I didn’t get it right away, so a fail on the 1 across test.  It was SAUNAS that got me going, and fortunately from there most of the left hand side of the grid came pretty quickly.

I was working on the message as I was solving the clues, and it was clear that there was SIX PARALLEL LINES coming together out of the down clues and SONG FROM ?E?LO AND BAND from the across clues.  I started scanning diagonals, and since the left side was full, there was the band – STATUS QUO!  Nice.  Quo had an album HELLO (that helped me get 17 across), and on HELLO is the track FORTY-FIVE HUNDRED TIMES.  Nice spot, Kea!

My working grid for Listener 4500, What Have we Come to by Kea

This was on the easier side, but it was a lot of fun, and the theme all came out at the end. I believe I can call this one a Victory to George!

Game over:  100% complete

Feel free to tell me you should never have caught up and that you preferred “Pictures of Matchstick Men” and see you next week when Quinapaulus gives us two chances to fail!

Hooray for holyrood

Welcome back to George vs the Listener, catch-up part 2. I was surprised to see that it has been three years since the last Elfman Listener!

This time we had long quotation, some of which comes from letters in clues (quick scan… it doesn’t seem to be the first, or the last, or the second, or the first letters of the second words… OK, nothing I can guess).

The grid is square and symmetrical, and it looks like mostly real words and normal clues, so maybe this will be a bit of light relief.  There was a 1 across, but I could not see it originally.  Actually it was OOMPH that was my first in, but that was pretty handy, since the left side filled up quickly, including 11 being HOLLYWOOD (though I thought it was going to be CROSSWORD for a while), and 6 down looking like a thematic alteration to a non-word. 15 down looked like INSTRUMENT PANEL, which would fit in if we chop off the top and the bottom, and with SELLING POINT also coming out, it looks like we are removing an anagram of LISTEN…. well that’s in the title.

I was getting close to a full grid, and had a problem… I had the extra words – LIKE TITLE ACTORS, but that wasn’t helping me pick where to go for the quotation. It is an anagram of SILENT, so I looked for quotes that included LISTEN and HOLLYWOOD.  Nothing was coming up… any other anagrams of LISTEN?  TINSEL?  Aaaah, there’s the quote – STRIP AWAY THE PHONY TINSEL OF HOLLYWOOD AND YOU’LL FIND THE REAL TINSEL UNDERNEATH.  Well that has to be the quote…

My working grid for Listener 4499, Silent Movie by Elfman

The solution has been out for a week and I now know that I was meant to look for silent letters in the across clues. Did not twig that at all… so I can call it a Victory to George but not a 100% solution.  Let’s knock off 10 percent for not getting all the thematic material.

Game over:  90% completion.

Next up Kea sums up this blog.

The man in lack

Let’s play catch-up, shall we?

I have been getting pretty bad at this, and I’m not quite sure why…  middle-age slump, general wear and tear from having done this for a while.  Eh…

Anyhoo, catch-up part one, and it appears I must apologise profusely to The Ace of Hearts.  I see that last year’s puzzle also ended up a week late and at least a penny short. This will probably be so too, as I must say I gave up.

What makes one give up?

OK for a start it is a spherical grid, but a wonky spherical grid. 39 clues?  Well its divisible by 3, so the inner ring looks neat, but the next two are kind of wonky. I’m going to have a hard time reading those. No jumbles, but some inwards, some outwards, OK.  Song lyric, presumably of 39 letters.

I skipped the perimeter at the beginning and went to the radial clues.  I was going OK on the radial clues, and had MAN?NBLAC as the letters latent.  Well Johnny Cash was the MAIN IN BLACK, and with a circular grid, it had to be RING OF FIRE, right?  A peek back at the perimeter clues, and I saw IGNITE, SHOOT, ENLIVEN and SACK.  Yep, it’s Ring of Fire all right.  FOLSOM PRISON BLUES and A BOY NAMED SUE are going to give the rest of the latent letters.

I quite liked Johhny Cash, by the way.  In the recordings he made near the end of his life there was a terrific one of Nick Cave’s “The Mercy Seat”.

Anyway, from EARMARK and MASTFED there’s a good place to enter the FIERY RING part of the lyric…

So here I was… I knew everything that is needed thematically, and all that is left is to do is… solve three perimeter clues, the 22 remaining radial clues, and decide how they get slotted in to the not symmetric grid.  That’s way too much sursolving.  I put it away.

My working grid for Listener 4498, Name That Tune by the Ace of Hearts

So I’m sorry, The Ace Of Hearts… it may be that I knew the theme too well, but when you can have all the thematic material in place so quickly (well, I guess I was missing the three perimeter clues), there’s no fun in the rest.  You can claim a Victory for the Listener Crossword!

Game over:  23% completion.

Check in soon, when Elfman tells me to not speak in the theatre.