Crosswords that unite the various abilities of setters and solvers

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  We are in a transition period here – this one I printed, solved and submitted, but I left before I got a chance to scan the grid, so let’s get it out of the way – the phone picture cropped grid of probable unreadability.

My working grid for Listener 4409,Hidden Philosophy by Xanthippe

Feel free to leave comments on whether it is worth it, because I have two more coming up like that!  There’s a chance there will be some printing facilities available at the conference I am heading to today.

Anyhoo – when this puzzle came up the first thing to notice is the different style grid.  The second is that it is in four quadrants and there is some trickery going on in the clues to each one.  Hmmm, four mini-Listeners in one?

Quadrant A: remove two letters from clues, wordplay only are swimming

I got started on this under fairly uncomfortable conditions – I had just had an optometrists visit, and my pupils were still dilated so I was wearing sunglasses.  And eating tacos at a newish place nearby.  So this is blinding taco corner.

There is a 1 across!  And not only that, it is REAL(is)M and we have an extra A and M (are the removed letters always next to each other?).Woohoo!

I spotted two of the wordplay only clues quickly – SAMLET and SANDER, both of which are fish.  They might be jumbled, since the place where SAMLET has to go starts with an M.  There’s “swimming” in 2 down – aaah, SOLE.  Great – got all the crazy thematic ones, but kind of stuck on the rest of them.  This is frustrating, I can’t move on – I looked at the first part of B and saw what looked like an anagram of SPURIAE but that doesn’t really get me going.

Hmmm… if 3 is an anagram of SOLE, could 6 end with S and be VUGS?  Woohoo!! VUG is a word, and not only that it opens the whole thing up – AMEND A LETTER MISPRINT helps me solve the rest of A quadrant!

Quadrant B:   Amend a letter misprint, wordplay only clues are pollarded

This was two days later, waiting at the hairdressers

It does feel strange to have a completely full area, then move on to a completely empty part of the grid.  Anyway, chunk SPURIAE – it’s a misprint for AROUSE giving UPRAISE.

B quadrant went in very quickly after the struggle on A – maybe it was cottoning on to the style of the clues – ADD A LETTER looked probable as the extra letter, and the wordplay only clues were for trees.

Quadrant C:  Add a letter, wordplay only clues are meandering

Back home now for what I hope is the final stretch.

Well it was easy to see which three were the wordplay only clues since they were much longer than their grid entries and there some extra unclued here. Huh?  Well the first wordplay only clue I solved was MISSOURI do I figured the rest were US states, and yep, there’s MISSISSIPPI but the third doesn’t make much sense.  Anyway, I had ??MOVE?WOR? which makes me think it’s REMOVE A WORD – so I did move on to D before completely finishing C, not knowing what was going on with the wordplay-only answers.

Quadrant D:  Remove a word (I hope), wordplay only clues are up

One of the reasons I’d moved on to D before finishing C was that PSALM was staring me in the face. I started looking for extra words before doing all the solving, and COMPLETE THE QUOTE USING LETTERS FROM was a good start. 43 looked like wordplay for PARROT which could fit in going up.

Finally I am there! Letters from SPRINT ROVER CATCH completing the quote from Adam Smith and quadrant C was meandering (I finished C after finishing D and the quote) – it took a while to find the quote, though it turns out I had it in a collection of essays.

This was a really fun and challenging Listener!  I like it when there are layers to a puzzle and this one had many layers that had to be cracked in order.  Best of all, I think I can claim a Victory to George!

2016 tally – 26-2-3

Feel free to tell me that I should have started with D and worked backwards, and see you next week when Nudd apparently wants us to deface an album.


Trouser snakes and stocking ladders

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, your weekly destination for complaining about stuff.

We appear to have a new setter today, though with the shape of the grid, the name of the setter and the title of the puzzle, I took one look at it and said “is it time for a Snakes and Ladders puzzle again?”.  Damn, I’m getting good!

And as for “again”, Dysart’s puzzle, called Child’s Play was seven years ago.

OKeydoke – carte blanche, down answers with extra letters, let’s see what happens here.

Since the downs were normal, I started with them – so let’s see if there is a pass or fail on the “a down” test.  I didn’t get it straight off, so a big fail there.  Next up was R.E., PE(NN)TER for REPENTER with an extra N… Snakes and ladders are looking food, and all but confirmed when clue d is P(KILL)OW for PILLOW with a K.

So knowing what to look for in the down entries I managed to get most of them at a first reading and things were looking good.

There are not enough cells for all the letters in the across entries, so something is getting doubled up – fortunately with DENTAL, LARDER and RENTER being the first three of the across clues, it was pretty obvious that the first letter is going to be shared – aand later on I have RINGED followed by NATION so that must be where there is a snake or a ladder.

From there it was all over bar the solving – except for one very strange diversion – I was convinced that 14 across was TOLARS and that held up the top half of the grid forever – it wasn’t until I saw that LADDERS was rising up from the bottom and there was a possibility of SNAKES above it that I got POLKAS to fit into that space.

My working grid for Listener 4408, Child's Play? by Serpent

Pity about the theme coming so early, but it was a fun and finely constructed crossword, and exactly what I needed too – I solved most of it backstage waiting for Jesus Christ Superstar to start – a fine start to the weekend before killing Jesus a few times.

Advance notice – I’m going to be on the road for several weeks beginning Monday so I don’t know what state my updates will be in.  Today’s Listener is probably the last I will print until mid-September, so I don’t expect to be submitting, and some weeks may look like very neat grids reproduced in crossword compiler.

2016 tally:  25-2-3

Feel free to tell me that I never graduated from kindergarten, and see you next week when Xanthippe has hidden some philosophy somewhere.

What if it was a playfair tree? Would it be OK to have a billboard then?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, still reeling after last week’s debacle (which seems to have gotten a mixed reaction in the other forums).  Let’s see if Chalicea can wipe some of that nasty taste from the mouth, eh?  If you’re a regular here you know Chalicea as the one on the other blogs whose grids are much prettier than mine.

What have we here – normal clues, some clashes, and some modification to the grid at the end.  Hmmm… could be easy, could be sneakily sinister.

There is no 1 across, and I couldn’t figure out 3 across on a first read, so a big fail on the 3 across test (boo).  On the other hand 11 across looks like an anagram for URANITIC – I like telling people about the ways oxoanions and oxocations are assigned names, which could lead to a compound plausibly being called URANYL URANATE.  And we’re off!

Most of the grid fell in the first session of a little over an hours solving, including something suspicious about the theme – SCRAPYARD and BILLBOARD are hiding in plain sight, and if BILLBOARD was removed, BALDER could become ALDER.  Looks like I’ve seen a tree without finding a forest. I was also a little weirded out by having a mostly full grid and only three clashes.  M/N in IMP/NAAM (looks like it should be M for both being real words) and E/A in LIVERY COMPANY/SNACK (looks like an E for both being real words), then lower in the grid ORPHAN/SEDAN (looks like an R for both to be real words).

I had a bit of a blank area in the bottom right of the grid, and 27 looked like it should be LEACHINGS from the definition, but CHING’S doesn’t appear to be a potter – not even a racist one!

The only thing to do is follow red herrings… surely I’m looking for a famous razing of a BILLBOARD… maybe in London?  Is it the 50th anniversary of anything but that fucking soccerball world grand final matchgame?

Opening of a new park?

The National Billboard Association?

Think, George, think… there can’t be more than four or five clashes given the number of empty cells… NA?S? NAS??… NASH?

A quick google of NASH and BILLBOARDS and there it is… by the way, while I was hitting myself on the forehead for missing it, I went to the online ODQ and confirmed – if I’d put BILLBOARD in the search line it was the only entry that came up.

My guess is that OCH gives me the H for NASH turns out correct, as SUDAMEN becomes the last entry, and LEACHINGS goes in by default.  Removing BILLBOARD gives six new trees, some of them only two letters long.

My working grid for Listener 4407, Ad Nauseum by Chalicea

Should have been done with that in one session instead of needing to sleep on it, but it was a fun representation of a poem I should have found using the usual methods.

Clues of note (yes, I said I’d do this all the time and I’m doing it sporadically):

There was a lot of wordplay misdirection (and I still don’t know what is up with LEACHINGS, but since Chalicea sent me a note this week saying my entry wasn’t on the naughty list, it must be correct), but one that gave me particular trouble was this one

2 Down:  Native bass embraced by tenor evoking laughter.  TRIBAL:  B in TRIAL

Trial with a capital T is in Chambers for a comedic tenor, but that’s a pretty sneaky usage.  What I was really hoping for was T, then RIBALD with the D missing, but it was not to be.

Anyhoo, Victory to George, we’re back in the game!

2016 tally:  24-2-3

Feel free to tell me that I should really know my ribaldery from my leachings, and see you next week when Serpent has some play with a child in it – that silly Harry Potter one perhaps?

The Bard’s Coupling = Fucking Shakespeare

My working grid for Listener 4406, The Bard's Coupling

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, the blog you can all fell free to leave in droves.

There have been puzzles I have persevered with even when it turns out the theme is one I actively dislike (Pink Floyd, the musical Wicked, the works of Mervyn Peake).  There have been puzzles I have persevered with even when I have figure out the thematic material very early on and the novelty has worn off.

When I saw this puzzle had no setter and used two separate Playfair grids, my first inclination was to bin it immediately and download Pokemon Go. I only did one of those things (I’m level 15 on Pokemon Go now).  Let’s combine two of my least favorite elements in puzzling.  And here’s why…

1 – expecting the solver to work out who the setter is discourages new solvers, who would have to troll through a very long list of setters.  Since there is a loose rule that a setter doesn’t appear twice in the same year, a solver who has been at it less than a year would necessarily have to back in a search.

2 – I’ve made no bones about how much I despise Playfair encoding on here.  There’s an even more important reason why it needs to go – only about three people on the planet can solve the things by hand. I’ve freely admitted that every one I have “solved” has been completed by entering letter pairs into Quninapaulus’ wonderful decoder.

So how many people actually solved this thing on their own, or with minimal correspondence?  When I asked on Times for the Times almost 10 years ago if anyone wanted to try to help me get better at Listeners by comparing notes online, I got a bunch of emails telling me that was against the sport of the puzzle.  I dread to think how many posts there were about this puzzle on the reviled forums.

I tried – I really tried – I solved some clues, I made a list of which letters had to be in the same row or column of the first Playfair.  I started to make tenable anagrams of THE BARD’S COUPLING.  Hours later, I had a bit of a grid, and realized this wasn’t fun anymore. There was no clear path to the ending, and I wanted to do anything else but finish this puzzle.

So congratulations setter, whoever you are. You have created a grid of misery, and inspired me to go catch Pokemons.

2016 tally:  23-2-3

Feel free to tell me that you solved it without using any internet aids and I should be ashamed of myself, and see you next week when Chalicea creates something Latin that hopefully does not have a Playfair.


I have a rendezvous with Playfair next week… but for now, something completely different

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword – a little late in posting this week, ended up having a surprise guest over so my “usual” routine was thrown off.  Plus the increasing amount of time I have to devote to Pokemon Go is eating into crossword blogging.

Tangram! This is the third Tangram puzzle, and all three have been Letters Latent (I wonder if that means tangram is a Letters Latent pseudonym, maybe for Stan Grasms?  Anyhoo, the Latent Lettters are pointing us at a poem, and there’s one row that is both Letters Latent and modified.  That’s a new one! Let’s get solving!

There is a 1 across and I’ve been doing Listeners long enough to think OS when I see “opening” so ST,CH,OS is there for STICHOS missing I and we are away – big pass on the 1 across test.

This was a pretty smooth solve – the clues were fun and concise (I was rather taken by “Changes sign” for VARIES with a latent V.  I was having less luck with the message, certainly got the I HAVE and THAT SOME, which doesn’t eliminate a lot of poems.  It was the end of the message – SEEGER to me only means the crooner Bob, but a check of poets named SEEGER brings up ALAN SEEGER, and I HAVE A (rendezvous) WITH DEATH AT SOME DISPUTED (barricade), and the anagram of SHADOW(shade) and the reversed BRINE-PIT(spring) fill up one row.

My working grid for Listener 4405, Revision by Tangram

That was short and sweet!  I did not know the poet nor the poem, and it is rather a nice one (apparently JFK was a fan), so thanks for alerting me to it, Tangram.

So sorry for the late post, and I think I can call this one a Victory to George.  2016 tally 23-2-2

Feel free to tell me that Alan Seeger should have been on the citizenship test, and see you next week when. Shakespeare gets to roll over in his 400-year old grave by being commemorated by two playfairs.


So if he’s the viceroy, who is roy?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.

OK – confession time.  I’m late writing this up and there is no good excuse, but there is one particularly bad excuse.  I’ve been swept up in the plague that is Pokemon GO.  I blame it being released on the same day as a Listener crossword with TWO PLAYFAIRS!!!!!  But more about that in two weeks.

There were two pokemons I had not caught on my walk in today, which extended the walk considerably.  I used to take the most direct route anywhere, but now I have to carefully map out routes that take in the most pokestops.

So there was this Listener.  Tut – there was one Tut puzzle before and it invovled a quote I did not know (three quarks for muster Mark).  This time it’s a poem, bet I don’t know it!

Extra letters in wordplay and clashes… hmmm… OK.  Not too many clashes, so mostly real words in the grid.  Let’s get solving!

There is a 1 across, but I could not get it on a first pass, nor could I get the second one, so the start point was that Y(UR)ET giving YURT with an extra E. That crosses AURORAL with an extra F (don’t see a lot of F’s in messages) and finally a grid starts to take shape.

I thought I was doing pretty well with the clues and puzzle, after an hour or so I had most of the bottom of the grid filled in, and the extra wordplay letters were starting to make sense – we had SHADE AUTHOR’S JOB at the end (ummm, doesn’t he or she have a job, an author, duh), and with ??ETRY ?USIC and F?IENDS as things that are not vital, it sounds like the author is anti fun (maybe the author is a Listener Crossword Editor who allows two Playfairs in one puzzle to be published).

I also had found only one clash – between CROWN ROT (clever clue that one, with the A from CARROT being the extra letter) and BOOKS.  That seemed odd, with only a dozen or so unsolved clues to only have one clash when five are needed.  It looks like the rest are clustered up the top.

Anyhoo – POETRY, MUSIC, FRIENDS pointed me at the source – The Dinner Hour by Edward Robert Bulwer-Lytton.  LYTTON could be slotted in at 1 down, which could make 1 across LATENCY – TEN C for “dime” is a nifty bit of clueing – extra P that I already suspected was there.  But what does that make the unmodified 1 down.  PYTHON?  A trip to Chambers confirms – I was looking for a mythological character named PHYTON.  That leaves two clashes to find, and really only 42 across and 6 across with question marks – from definition 42 really looks like LAVEER, but I can’t see the wordplay.

The Wikipedia page for the author shows that there was a set of poems called LUCILE – ah, and so 6 across is LUPINE – LOU(t),PINE with an extra O I was already sure of.  It also says he was Viceroy in India, so there is the thing to be shaded across the middle.  We are done (if LAVEER is correct).

My working grid for Listener 4404, Earthquakes as Well by Tut

Pretty weird solving experience this one – it seems odd to me to have those five clashes so close together, though there is thematic material in the middle of the grid.  The clues were very good though, and I learned something in the poem.

I hope that we were meant to keep COOKS and not BOOKS in the final step – that’s what I sent in.  I guess I could go look at the solution since it’s been out for an hour.

Yep!  COOKS is what the Powers That Be (But Still Allow Two Playfairs In One Puzzle) were looking for and I believe I can call this one a Victory to George! Woohoo!

Yikes – look at that tally for 2016:  22-2-2!

Feel free to tell me that I should have gone for COOKS because I’m barely literate – if you are in the area come see me in Jesus Christ Superstar for the next three weeks, and see you next week when Tangram wants us to vision something again (and the week after that if you want to find out just exactly how much I detest Playfair).

I was looking for a very long one-act play where Horatio Nelson and Horatio Hornblower meet and discuss painful deaths.

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, for those of you who are taking a break from catching wild Pokemon.  Time to reminisce over a puzzle we all had a bash at three weeks ago and are eagerly awaiting the decision on if we have submitted an entry of correctness or not.  All will be revealed in about 10 minutes according to my watch so let’s get cracking.

Artix!  Most Artix puzzles I find bloody difficult, often with tricky endgames.  So what have we here – remove a letter and treat thematically… clues in groups.  This does sound tricky.

Fortunately there is a 1 across, and even more fortunately it looks like an easy one – M,OTHER with “one choosing” as extra, becoming a definition somewhere.  Woohoo!

SOPHERIM was my lead in to the deletions and treatments – with HORN, EMPALE and OCTUOR (which stupid me wrote in the grid as OCTOUR and so got stuck beyond belief on KAURI later on) in place, delete a letter and jumble to a real word looked like a good prospect, and ORPHISM took its place.

I made a much better fist of the across clues than the down clues, and saw what looked like it was going to be REARRANGE from the extra clues.

I had a P in the extra letters from down clues – was REARRANGE PERIMETER a possibility?

Next dawning was ACT and whatever the extra letter in 29 across was… ADMIRAL NELSON ACT ONE?  I don’t know a play about Admiral Nelson?  Wasn’t there a SCENE in the downs – yep, SCENE and 19 across has FIVE (which I thought was part of the clue).  HORN BLOWER.  SCENE FIVE.  Is there a play about Horatio Hornblower?

Oh… Admiral Nelson is also a HORATIO – it’s bloody Hamlet.

Earlier this year I saw a show that was called a “Radical Hamlet Remix” which was kind of Hamlet told in flashbacks.  It was interesting, but not my favorite thing I’ve seen.

OK – Hamlet Act 1, Scene 5.  Mid way through there is I’M SORRY THEY OFFEND YOU HEARTILY, YES FAITH HEARTILY – there’s our title.  So now we just have to work out the rest of these extra letters (it was around here that I figured out what I’d done wrong with OCTUOR), and there was a grid.

Huh, but what did the perimeter have to do with it?  There’s ghosts and spooky things, and references to Hamlet, but aren’t we meant to rearrange it?

Right next to it is a line from Horatio – THESE ARE BUT WILD AND WHIRLING WORDS MY LORD.  Aaaah, aren’t all of those letters in the perimeter?  Got out the highlighter… Dammit, I’ve still got leftover letters!

Oooooh, I do, but they are the letters of HORATIO, so everything that needed to be written in the bottom really did come from the perimeter.

My working grid for Listener 4403, No Offence by Artix

OK – this was a kind of a perfect storm of a crossword.  Just as I was getting frustrated at having found the theme, and using the theme to sursolve what was mostly my own stupid mistake, it then fell together rather beautifully, and that perimeter is something to behold!  Lots of Hamlet references, the letters of Horatio, and the quote, and with only one iffy (I rescind “iffy” – Artix popped in to show me that it is part of the text, making it very much a part of the thematic material) spiffy entry in I WILL. Masterful construction, Artix – I think I may have damned you with faint praise in the letter that accompanies my entry.

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

Feel free to tell me I should really brush up on my Shakespeare (though this year I’ve been to productions of Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet, so I may have hit the annual Shakey quota), and see you next week when Tut wants to shake us up.


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