Fils Dumas, meet George Dumbass

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, your weekly dose of poor deconstruction of everyone’s favorite barred-grid foe accompanied by shoddy unanimated and unillustrated grids.

Ottorino time! I’ve found the last few Ottorino puzzles quite difficult, so we could be getting a step up in the challenge level after a few easier ones.  It appears the beginning of the difficulty is dealing with the preamble.  Three different types of modification to clues (all of which are in definitions, so wordplay is normal), and then some things to find and change in the final grid after a set of relationships and connections between A, B and C.  Oooo… kkkk…

All real words in the grid and wordplay is normal, so maybe it’s best to focus on the wordplay and work around from there.

There is a 1 across, and I couldn’t make anything from it – though I figured “Rupees” meant it started with R and ended with R or S, but that was about it.  So a big fail on the 1 across test (though later on when I saw it was a modified clue I didn’t feel too bad about not seeing it).  Nothing doing with 7 across either, it wasn’t until the poet GO,E,THE appeared that I made a start in the grid.

OK… I made really really really slow progress through this one – I had a number of short sessions where nothing came, and there were just a few scattered entries.  I see now that I used three different pens for filling the grid (that might not show on the scan).

And then the flood came!  North Carolina was hit by tropical Joaquin and I was trapped in super duper shitty weather and failing power.  Laptop is fully charged though, time to really nut this one out!

First discovery was that I was working on two completely delusional propositions!  I’d messed up a definition change – in 18 across I had CAL becoming PEE to make the definition SPEEDS for RATES.  I also had thought the second type of clue change involved the first letters of the definitions, not the first letters of the keywords – so if it’s A for O making SCOLDS, then my other two definition changes I’d found were ALL for ONE or ONE for ALL and we’re in Dumas territory.

I already had POPADUM and AGMA in the grid so I could see where DUMAS was likely hiding (though 15 across was one of the last clues I got).  A little look at the fortunately still working internet on the phone leads to the connection between the son (in ORISON) and LA TRAVIATA by VERDI – and DUMAS could be replaced by VERDI though that turns POPADUM into POPAVER… is a POPOVER a plant?  No, but a PAPAVER is, and so is an AMARANT.

Guess what, gentle reader?  We now have almost all of the thematic material and still a half-empty grid!  I know I have to find PIAVE in there somewhere.  Bring on the sursolving!

Even with everything there and the hunt for PIAVE on, it took another two hours to scratch together the grid.  Ottorino and I are a long way apart on wavelength of solving clues, and whern STEMS and CZAPKA (I see now that CHAPKA was acceptable too) went in I think it was a bit of a sigh of relief.

My working grid for Listener 4364, Plants by Ottorino

So there you have it – I found this one really tough, but got there in the end, and I think the only weakness was so much of the thematic material clustered in one part of the grid.  I did like a few of the more cleverly-hidden ALL/ONE substitutions (particularly ONE-EYED becoming ALLEYED).  Phew!  Victory to George!

2015 tally:  29-2-5

Feel free to let me know I should have been ALL in on this ONE and see you next week when Calmac introduces us to that little-known war hero General Intelligence.

Check out the ass on Buridan!

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  Posting out of turn since I still haven’t quite gotten around to writing notes on Colleague’s puzzle which seems to have attracted a bit of attention as to whether the endgame was easy to spot or not.  Anyhoo – it’s Schadenfrude time!  Which means taut clues (and look at ’em – 9 down is an outlier but there’s a lot of four- and five- word clues), and usually a tricky theme.  Omitted letters in wordplay, and some erasing in the grid at the end.  Hmmm, OK – well at least it looks like all real words in the grid!

There is a 1 across, but it wasn’t one I got on the first go so a big fail on the 1 across test… better luck with 5 down where T(ALL)IER gets us going.  Shortly after that comes the first missing letter – the D in LENDS not being indicated, and a nice big circle goes around the D.  12×12 grid this week means it’s going to be easier to put extra things in cells, we seem to have had some big grids lately (and many of you know the Big Grids will return next week)

The top right started to pose a problem shortly after that – I saw that 12 across was a definition for BLUE-EYE with the B unindicated, so a big circle went around the B.  9 down looked like EYING – EGG for MINE seems to be popping up regularly, but it really looks like 14 is NAIF with the I unindicated… so can it be that when an unindicated letter is in a checked cell it appears in one answer but not the other?

That might explain 7 down being LUMA with the U appearing in BLUEEYE but not in LUMA.

Why is this bugging me?

Even though it was bugging me, I think Schadenfreude went a little easier on us clues-wise this time (or after doing so many I’m wise to the tricks), and the grid was completed in a little over an hour.  Woohoo!  Now to the rest of it – I don’t see anything obvious in the grid, and my unindicated letters read BUIDAN SSS.

A poke through Chambers and there is BURIDAN’S ASS…  that looks more promising – where does the R come from?  Oh – 13 isn’t SHARDS, it’s SHERDS and then the R isn’t indicated.  Where’s the other A?  Oh – I thought I’d already circled the A in SARDAR, but it was unindicated in OSAGE, so it’s the other one.  OK…

What’s on the diagonals – there is a DONKEY in the middle.  So there’s food somewhere?  There’s a SATAY in the bottom right corner, I used to love SATAY! Don’t see any other food… would a donkey like a nice plate of BLUE-EYE?  They’re not equal distances, though.  Aaaaah – also diagonal there are two CARROTS.  So the donkey isn’t going to starve, he is going to pick a carrot, any carrot…

One of the CARROT’s (the one on the top left) makes real words when you write over the letters with the DONKEY, the one on the bottom doesn’t… so we erase the DONKEY and put him on the CARROT on the top left.  Here’s the working grid (the highlighting I had for the donkey and carrot, although in the appropriate color) didn’t scan well.

My working grid for Listener 4363, Demolition by Schadenfreude

I certainly learned something there, I wasn’t aware of the story of the ass, and it was a nice puzzle but I was a little annoyed about the omitted letters not being consistent in across and down answers.  I’m sure that’s a minor nitpick for a puzzle I think I can call a Victory to George!

2015 tally:  28-2-5

Feel free to tell me that I should have finished Colleague’s blog first since Schadenfreude doesn’t read blogs, and see you next week when Ottorino finds that his first 18 plans have failed, and it’s on to Plan T.

Where a man is a man, and the children dance to the pipes of pan… until they fall in some holes apparenty

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.

If you’re checking in on Friday, well I’ve done something silly – the opposite of what I usually do.  I scanned my grid, and left it on the scanner.  So I don’t have the notes or the clues.  Check back in tomorrow for some jokes, but I think I managed to get the golf courses in a diamond shape around STONEHENGE matching the Aubrey Holes, which are thankfully in Chambers.

My working grid for Listener 4362 - spots by Colleague

Professor Layton and the cruciverbial conundrum

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, your weekly dose of grids with squiggles.  Last week’s puzzle , managed to generate a fair bit of natter over the positioning of the 1’s in the grid, with some claiming the preamble has to be followed to Aspergers-level of exactness.  Which made me giggle even more when I passed a “Walk/Run for Autism” event last weekend.  I suspect a lot of people just stood at the starting line with internal conflict.

But that is beside the point – it’s Listener Day, and this time we are peeking at Monk… there’s only been one other Monk puzzle that has made it here, but I’m used to him appearing (often on a Saturday) in the Independent, so I’m ready for some tricky clueing.  Odd shaped grid, numbers around the outside – oh, it’s number of train track pieces!

I usually carry around with me a little red Nintendo 3DS and I love puzzle games on there – my absolute favorite is Picross 3D, but there’s a series of puzzle games centered on Professor Layton.  Those games have daily puzzles, and this looks like one of the ones from an early game where you have to lay down train tracks along very specific requirements.  Anyhoo, there’s a puzzle to do first!

Normal clues, but some cells need more than one letter… okeydoke, here we go.

I started on this one during a pretty-hung over lunch, but that’s neither here nor there – there is a 1 across and it is the 1 across to end all 1 acrosses – 15 cells!  Hooley dooley!  Couldn’t figure it out on a first look so although the amount of 1 across is impressive, that’s a fail on the 1 across test.  IAGO at 14 across got me going, and from there most of the right hand side, particularly along the bottom started to fill up fairly quickly.  The first two double-stuffed cells I found both had an S and an N in them, so I suspect we’re looking at directions the train line comes in and out of those cells.  That discovery really helped with filling in the much harder-to-crack left hand side of the grid (and THE TOWER OF LONDON at the top), and one confirmed bend in the track.  It was two fairly quick solving sessions that gave me the grid.

Now to the other puzzle… well the bottom row only has two so that’s the ways in and out.  There’s a 7 on the top right, so the track has to go all the way down from the top cell to the second from the bottom (it occurs to me now that I was excluding some zig-zagging, but since most of the numbers across the top row were fairly small, I didn’t think this would zig-zag much).  The path through the left hand side of the grid seemed to be easy enough to figure out from the double-letter cells and the numbers at the top, and I used the numbers on the sides more for joining up the right hand side of the track.  Practice with Professor Layton helped – it was less than 5 minutes to have the complete train track.  Woohoo!

My working grid for Listener 4361, Two for the Price of One by Monk

I liked the combination of crossword puzzle and logic puzzle, and as happens when I do his puzzles in the Independent, Monk’s clues never cease to amaze me, which means it’s time to bring back something I had planned on doing every week, but when I don’t write these early enough, they get lost in the rush.

Clues of note:

19 down – Zip closed up to the front (5):  O then DRAWN reversed for ONWARD, N and W in the same cell

300% style points for the surface there, Monk

12 down – Old Scandinavians run into neutral territory, avoiding capture (6)  NO MAN’S LAND with an R inside and losing LAND to make NORMANS, N and S in the same cell

Another brilliant clue, and one of the clue types that I used to mess up a lot when I was getting started with the long subtraction

So I think I can claim this as a Victory to George – woohoo and choo choo!

2015 tally:  26-2-5

Feel free to let me know that wriggly trains are a thing, and see you next week when Colleague asks us to look at his spots and see what we think

Am I the operator of my pocket calculator?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossnumber – yep, it’s that quarterly trip to numericalville.

And shall we shed a tear for the near end of LCD computing?  I still have an ancient sharp calculator (I think I got it for university in 1988) and one of the last Texas Instruments calculators that used the single screen, but the 7-line number system is on the verge of extinction.  Soon kids will not know the fun of typing 0.7734 and turning the calculator upside down (or 5318008 if you were so inclined).

Whoopsy – I seem to have posted this rather than saving it as a draft… that’s odd.

In general the numerically ones print on one sheet of paper for me so yay trees!

What an interesting prospect – these are minimal clues, particularly the downs.  The 180-degree symmetry means there can’t be any 3’s 4’s or 7s in the grid, and that numbers transpose specifically:  0. 2, 5 and 8 to themselves, and 6 and 9 to each other.

There seemed to be a way in – 6 and 16 had to be squares that transposed to each other, combined with pretty specific requirements of 10 and 18.  Filling the grid was only about 40 minutes of playing with an excel spreadsheet to look at lists of primes, and a handy web app that calculated prime factors.

My working grid for Listener 4360, What a Turn-UP by IOA

1 across wasn’t clued, so with 6606655 there – the last two digits suggesting SS then CLUELESS (and I’m guilty of once setting a crossword with that chestnut of not writing a clue for the entry CLUELESS) it wasn’t too difficult to verify the letters could be generated by removing a few segments.

Woohoo – that was a rather fun little puzzle – not as challenging as it looked at first glance, and an interesting theme for numericals!  Thanks IOA, and I think we can claim a Victory to George

2015 tally:  25-2-5

Feel free to tell me I shouldn’t have given away the answer almost two hours before the solution came out, and see you next week when Monk asks us to BOGOF!

What did Calais do to deserve Hitler?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, your occasionally timely dose of weekly Listener nittering and nattering.  To make up for the last few weeks, this may even appear an hour early… oh dear, will I get letters?

The Tall’n!   What have we here – a ten-word message, wartime achievements, and codes.  OK… well it might be Turing and Enigma, or it might not.  Let’s find out…

1 across is part of the message, so we begin with a 4 across test… which I can’t figure out at all. Hmmm…

None of these clues seem to be making much sense… aaah, the wordplay has the encoded form.  Might help to know which letters are encoded.  I was stuck at a bar without a highlighter (now that’s a wonderful phrase) so I put circles around the letters that were part of the message.  OK – looks like most of them are across, so let’s start with the clues (mainly downs) that don’t have any coded letters.

Now we’re cooking!  Particularly in the bottom half of the grid, where 32 down seems to confirm we are in Turing territory, and that long entry at 5 down is likely to be an encoded form of BLETCHLEY PARK.

Now I had almost all of the normal clues it was time to look at these coded ones – again working from the bottom up, it became pretty clear a few letters in (although I wrote an alphabet to the side to code) that it was just a ROT-3.  So I penciled in what BLETCHLEY PARK would be in the circles and I was off.

I knew TURING was jumbled at the top – it looked likely ENIGMA was going to be jumbled at the bottom right, but I needed to use googlepedia to find out about HUT EIGHT and BOMBE to complete the grid, and a little bit of staring before spotting CALAIS and getting the last bit of thematic material.  How much of that is generalized enough knowledge?  I didn’t look it up in Brewers, and that use of BOMBE isn’t in Chambers.

In any case, after a very slow start, this was a pretty quick finish, and rather fun finding out the bits I didn’t know!

My working grid for Listener 4359, Coded Message by The Tall'n

The solution won’t be out for an hour, but I think I can call this one a Victory to George and move on!

2015 tally:  24-2-5

Feel free to let me know that there’s a bomb in the bombe, and see you next week when IOA will turn it up!

Another slight delay – well I’ll B

Been a pretty crazy week here, and I don’t think I’ll be able to add my post on Wan’s puzzle until tomorrow (not to mention I was going to say more nice things about Nutmeg’s Listener, which appears to be damned with faint praise.

Check in on Saturday and have a fun weekend!

Hope you came back for Wan time!  I rather liked the last Wan Listener, so I was curious to see what we were up against here.  Hmmm… part of the preamble makes sense, part of it doesn’t… we’ve got extra wordplay letters in across clues, misprints in down clues, and something thematic.  And then we have…

Solvers must create a representation of the other letter in the grid by highlighting six hidden members of the first group, arranged as overlapping pairs (43 cells in total)

What in the name of the flying spaghetti monster is an overlapping pair?

Hopefully we’ll get there eventually…

With Oklahoma out of the way, I started this one on a plane, on the way to meetings in Boston. There was a 1 across but I couldn’t figure it out on a first look.  6 across looked more promising… NC,RESTED gives me CRESTED and an extra N.  Woohoo!  Problem was the only answer I could get that crossed CRESTED was EVIL.  Hmmm…

A read through the rest of the clues and there was only one other I got on a first try – IDOL down in the bottom left.

I was beginning to get very frustrated with this crossword – how to get through these impenetrable clues.  Fortunately, when there’s room in my bag (and this time there was) I carry my copy of Bradford’s.  I wouldn’t have gotten far on most of these clues if it weren’t for looking up one word at a time in Bradfords – MASTIC for cement, ACARUS for mite, JAGGER for pedlar.

Near the end of the grid-fill things still were not looking too clear – the extra across letters led to ?NATCATCHER which seems to be GNATCATCHER (I now see it was TIG at the end that had the extra G) and then GOSLET, so they are types of birds, and in the down clues I had MINING and DRUMBLEDOR which are types of BEEs so it’s the Birds and the Bees as a theme – probably the letter B that needs to be highlighted in the final grid.

Finally – with HECTIC the last entry in, I have a full grid.  Now to find something to highlight.

Now to find something to highlight.

I see CKET near the left hand side… but a CRICKET isn’t a bird or a bee, and I don’t see an I handy

ARA is in the very middle… birds that have ARA in the name?  I now see that I should have been more failthful to Bradford’s as I might have gotten closer with ARAPONGA

The highlighting utterly eluded me.  I had an idea what I was looking for, and I could not find it.  Victory to Wan and the Listener Crossword!

My working grid for Lisener 4358, The Other Letter by Wan

Congratulations to Shirley on her win, but in this case for me it’s a “found the theme, didn’t make it to the end” situation.

2015 tally:  23-2-5

Feel free to tell me I should have known what overlapping hidden birds meant implicitly, and see you next week when The Tall’n has a message we have to pay for on delivery.


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