In my case, it is kind of a shite kite

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, your weekly dose of poor grammar, solving, and hoping that a grid gets set on fire.

Rounding out the last few Listeners of 2017 is Zero – I had originally thought Zero to be a new setter, but a glance back and I’ve done two Zero Listeners from nearly 10 years ago, so welcome back to the solving fold, Zero.  Fold, geddit?  The instructions say that at the end there’s going to be a set of strange folding procedures.  Hmm. What else do we have – extra words in some clues, and some blank spots and a big gap in the middle that gets some letter spillage.  Hmmm… and look at those 17-letter entries at 14 and 42!!! I don’t recall any 17-letter words outside of a Jumbo.

There is a 1 across, and it is a reversal of LIE followed by D and so a big pass on the 1 across test, woohoo!

This was a strange solve – I had the sides finished well before anything much in the middle.  I was tentative on putting GUTTY, ACUTE and BLAND in there because I was thinking there would have to be some letters poking in from there.  The two 17-letter answers (I was sure that was going to be a gap in the one at the top but that wasn’t the case) opened up the letters that did poke into the middle region and it was clear that LET’S GO was part of it, and ITE down the bottom but I had a stray L from the end of STROLL that I didn’t know what to do with.

OK – something must be going on here – I only had ?RY at 32 down… can it stretch all the way up to that L? Yes, it can… I was making a mess of that clue, looking for a 4-letter answer but really it’s an anagram for FAKERY… LET’S GO FL A KITE – aaah, it’s CHOKEY that is my last one in!  We are going to make a kite out of the grid!  I had been listing the extra words without thinking about across and down, and of course the across ones are all kites.  I should have seen that sooner!

OK – I made a copy of my grid, cut it up and tried a few times to follow the instructions in the preamble.  Those of you who have been around for a while and have seen my poor efforts at cranes and L-shaped rooms know that manual dexterity is not my strong point, and I eventually had to look for a youtube video explaining how to fold a kite before I got this…

my poorly-folded kite

Eh, it is kiteish. The down extra words are ASPECT RATIO OF RECTANGLE EXPRESSED AS SQUARE ROOT – the ratio of 17:11 is close to the square root of 2, so there we go.

My working grid for Listener 4482, A Paper Construction by Zero

Wow.  OK – this was rather fun although I got frustrated by the folding part at the end.  I did like the letters poking into the middle part (thankfully they weren’t in knight’s moves) to get the song.  Best of all, I think I can call this a Victory to George, though I don’t think I can give myself 100% because of the lousy folding job.

Game over, 98% completion

Feel free to tell me that I’m the worst kite flyer since Benjamin Franklin and see you next week when Jago has a puzzle based on my favorite backhanded compliment


Or in my case, few grey cells

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, and happy 2018, which means, yikes, I’ve been at this thing for over ten years now, about seven since it was relevant and eight since I ran out of good jokes. Have I gotten any better?  Yeah, a little. Have I achieved smug perfection – oh far from it.

Just three more Listeners to close out my less-than-stellar 2017 (and isn’t it nice to see Jago being one on that list) – the first of which comes from Twin, which the Listener website tells me isn’t two setters separated from birth but is a single new setter, so hi Twin if you are looking in.

OK – extra words that are jumbles of names plus a letter.  Eeks – last time I ran across that device was in an EV where they were all sportsball commentators or something.  A few unclued entries and something that needs changing in the end.  OK – let’s get to solving!

For the first time in a while there is a 1 across, and it is the outside of HOneST, no extra word and a big pass on the 1 across test!  Woohoo, we are away!

My first solving session was fairly slow – I remember getting a fair chunk of the grid filled, and a few of the extra words, but none of them seemed to jumble to obvious names.

A few days after this appeared, a sudden cold snap drove me to the inside of my usual outside coffee drinking spot.  I don’t often do the Listener there, but this seemed like a good chance to get a little further.  It turned out to be a good idea – finding JONAH, SYMAR and AWARDED as extra words revealed a few more likely thematic names, and with HERCU appearing on the main diagonal, and the title seemingly referring to the number 12, I wondered if it was HERCULES and we were going to have twelve tasks.  Nope – that was a blind alley, we are back in literaryland with HERCULE POIROT – even more likely since 25 across and the unclued entry at the bottom could be AGATHA CHRISTIE if 23 down was not LO,RE (of course it wasn’t, it was LA,RE).

A leap of faith with the letters of HERCULE POIROT and LITTLE GREY CELLS going in the appropriate places was enough to get me a complete grid with that sneaky clue for FEET being the last to be slotted in.

I’d already sussed that EDWARD, MARY, JOAN and HECTOR were characters in Murder on the Orient Express, which was recently remade into a movie.  It looked like ORIENT EXPRESS could replace HERCULE POIROT (that sounds so familiar – was it used in another puzzle somewhere?) and make real words in the grid, but I went further to confirm this by unraveling the rest of the names to get EASTERN as the first part of the extra letters.  I figured the rest had to be STATE but I couldn’t quite get all the letters, so I can’t give myself 100%.

My working grid for Listener 4481, Jury by Twin

This one looked like it was going to be more difficult than it ultimately proved, and it was a rather fun voyage of discovery, with a very nice grid in the end.  Best of all, looking like a strong finish at the end of the year with a Victory to George!

Game over:  97% completion.

Feel free to let me know that I couldn’t find a clue if it grabbed me by the nose and said “Monsieur, je suis un clue”, and see you next week when Zero has us write a paper.  I hope there’s extra credit.

“” = maybe half (I had a joke in bra – ket notation but WordPress can’t handle it)

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword and it is a Christmas miracle!  I have a new laptop (say hi to the world, laptop), it works with my scanner and hopefully with my printer soon, and it is Friday and I am about to post this one about on time!  Is this a change for the better? Who knows, though I hope so – it would be nice to be back to a regular solving and writing routine.

And so to Agricola – a new setter according to the Listener website, so hi Agricola if you made it to this dark place of the weeb. And what have we here – a fucking Playfair square!

So here’s something new – I had to read some research thesis on Humanities subjects recently and one was on the legacy of Playfair on modern geology! It was hard to read, though it was a pretty well-written paper, about Playfair taking up some of the more obscure parts of Hutton’s work and promoting that geological formations are random and haphazard rather than specifically designed.  So it turns out he was kind of a decent bloke, even if the worst entry device in crosswords ever was named after him.

Oh so ready was I to hate this crossword – not just one but two Playfair squares. Wheee. Two names to be clued and the clues to the names show up as extra letters in wordplay. Joy.

Perseverance, George! Due to 1 across being thematic, we have to start with 11 across and at least there was a pass on the 11 across test, with OU, IT, S, OAR and an I to start with.

OK – the clues weren’t too bad, and since a number of the answers were double clues where the entries differ by only one letter, it wasn’t too long before I had a nearly full grid.  I wasn’t always seeing the extra letters, but the first one really looked like I RODE UNSTEADILY in SEWING MACHINE and the other one looked like it ended in BUDDHIST MOUNTAIN. something ZEN BURG?

That was it for the first session.  I was wondering if I was in for a long fight against this one.

Another day, fresh mind (or less messed up current mind and there was a flash of inspiration.  Sewing machine has to be VIKING or SINGER, surely.  That wordplay is very close to giving SCHRODINGER, though that’s not the right number of letters.  But there has to be a thematic animal, and SCHRODINGER had one of the most thematic of all.  I think more people know of SCHRODINGER for the cat than for the equation stating the the energy of a wave is an eigenvalue of the one-electron Hamiltonian.

So if it’s SCHRODINGER, then the other one has to be HEISENBURG.  That at least has the right number of letters.

Oh… yeah, I have a PhD in quantum chemistry.  Sometimes it comes in useful.

I might have been able to guess the keywords, but I fed HEISENBERG and the letters that I had at 10 down into Quinapaulus’ handy dandy Playfair solver, and hey presto – PARTICLE!  That means that the other one has to be WAVE.  Shortest Playfair keyword ever!  New goal – write a crossword where the Payfair key word is “A”.  A peek at wikithingy shows that Erwin’s name has also been written as SCHROEDINGER, which using wave gives OHGSRWCKMHGY which fits across the top row!  Woohoo.

Encoding HEISENBERG using PARTICLE gives the C in 23 across and shows the CAT, which means the side gets QHTUCQDBAH

My working grid for Listener 4480, The Code Duello by Agricola

And automatic captioning is gone again on the new laptop it seems.

One thing is still bugging me – I went through and finished the rest of the encoding, and my encoding of HEISENBERG by WAVE gives GBNOEMWEYM which doesn’t quite match my original grid. I had NB which should unencode to SH.  It gets obliterated in the solution, so Victory to George but I don’t think I can give myself 100%.

OK Agricola – fine debut.  More quantum physics, less Playfair next time around. Now I wonder if anyone reads this and the next Playfair code UNIFORMITARIANISM. Yes, I know it doesn’t work.

Game over: 99% completion.

Feel free to tell me that my wavelength is definitely below 10-31 m, and see you next week when Twin finds me guilty of something.



Yikes, I think I got one!

Welcome back to George vs the Listener, where when it rains, it pours Listener write-ups! Two in one day, and now back to only one day late, woohoo!

Salamanca time. OK, Salamanca’s puzzles have generally been on the easy side, but the way things have been going, that is exactly what I need!  Lyrics of a song… well we know it’s not Bohemian Rhapsody since Salamanca put it in a puzzle last year.  Unclued entries galore, and some six letter entries broken up into two three-letter entries.  Interesting…

I got going on this one and was having a really tough time with the bottom half (largely because I figured 33,36 was going to be CESTUI which fits the wordplay but completely misses the definition… the way I’ve been solving lately, why let that stop me?), but the top half was filling up pretty quickly, and in particular the top row was looking like ?EN?THEFO?K?  – BEND THE FORKS!!! That’s not Uri Gellar’s theme song, that’s a little ditty from The Hobbit!!!!!!!

Yes, I’m one of those that has residual memory from practically memorising The Hobbit as a kid. Must have read it 20 times. I didn’t make it through the three-movie version though.

So that was awesome, since the thematic material made up a huge chunk of the puzzle and took care of the CESTUI actually being CITOLE.  I was done in less than an hour.

My working grid for Listener 4479, Postprandial by Salamanca

That’s weird – I added the Windows 10 scanning app to my work laptop and it puts an automatic caption on images that I can’t seem to get rid of.


I saw in the notes that they didn’t worry about the dash at the end of the line, I didn’t think of adding it. Was that a point of pedantry? I haven’t looked at the other blogs.

Anyhoo for the first time in several weeks we have a victory to George! Thanks Salamanca for keeping it straightforward and fun, and picking a theme I actually know something about!

Game over, 100% completion.

Feel free to tell me that not all puzzles can be on the only book I’ve ever read, and see you next week when Agricola… oh shit, it’s a playfair.  Agricola reminds me maybe I should put this blog out of its misery.

No chaps, no stick, no luck!

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  Well my last month or so of hell is over, and unfortunately things did not resolve themselves as I hoped. So back to a number of drawing boards.

I hope there is no video evidence, but I fell trying to get on stage two weeks ago. Outdoor wet stage, so minimal damage.

And just to cap off a stellar couple of weeks, I poured coffee in my laptop and fried it while I was traveling.  I had scanned Listeners 4478 and 4479 so I could get caught up, but laptopless is not helping.  I am writing this on my work laptop.  Since I didn’t get a promotion this year, I’m stealing the work laptop and using it for non-work purposes. Take that state of North Carolina.  Nyah nyah!

On top of all of this came the Tangram Listener.  Now I’ve generally had pretty good luck with Tangram, and the preamble made it sound like at the end there was going to be more grid-starting, though at least this time signaled by something.

Well, as has been the habit lately, I got quite a long way into the solving process, particularly the bottom, but one problem that I have when there is multiples types of clues is keeping track of everything and I was having real trouble keeping track of everything here. My misprints/missing letters were not making much sense at all, with only LINE at the end looking like a real word.  Although I got a few breaks to look at this, it ended up being a mighty victory for Tangram and the Listener Crossword.

My working grid for Listener 4478, Chapstick by Tangram

It has been over a week, and I see it was a poem about cricket. I’ve been a cricket fan since the late 70s, but oh boy do STEEL and ELGAR seem a bit obscure, even though they ended up symmetrical!

Game over, 20% completion.

Feel free to tell me better luck next week (or in an hour or so) when Salamanca puts a prandial in the post


Farewell to Zaphod

I read on the Crossword Club site that Brian Rougvie passed away recently. Brian was one of the first readers and commenters on this blog, and although he didn’t post very often, he would send me nearly weekly updates and comments on solving, music I should check out, and bad jokes.

In 2010 there was no Listener on Christmas Day, and Brian suggested that I write up a report of an imaginary crossword, or on a crossword that he supplied under the pseudonym Zaphod.  So I wrote (with considerable input from Brian) what was one of the all-time most popular posts on this site, the blog of the non-existent Headache by Zaphod.

Brian went one better and gave me a Zaphod puzzle, which we put on this blog three weeks later.  We had plans for more, but neither of us were particularly diligent setters. I do hope to extend the Lessener series to maybe a second puzzle.

I had drifted out of touch with Brian, but hearing of his passing brings back many fond memories and a nudge that I need to indulge in more cruciverbal trickery.  Au revoir, Zaphod!


And then the laptop died

It never rains but it pours.  Though in this case, it was me pouring coffee in to my laptop, frying it and the scans of the last two Listeners.