It must suck to be a Greek gift shop owner

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, where last week saw a spectacular return to mediocrity!  Let’s see if we can right the ship with KevGar.  Last time we saw KevGar it was a rather fun but not too difficult puzzle with Haydn’s symphonies in mathematical form.  Now we have a spooky ghost story,ooooowooooooo.

Misprints in definitions spelling out something to find… and change at the end.  Hmmm, so real words in the grid and a mix of normal and definitions misprints clues, sounds deceptively straightforward (didn’t I say that last week?).  And for the first time in a while, we have a 1 across!

I couldn’t solve it right away (later on I kicked myself for not seeing it), but I did think “dining” stood out as a word that could be a misprint.

A few clues in and I was getting nowhere, so I resorted to my other sneaky tactic – try the last few clues.  We now have the 35 down second chance test!  L,EP and a quick peek in Chambers to confirm no misprint and we are away!  Not only that, but that P looks like 39 could be heading towards STOREKEEPERS from the definition and it is, woohoo!

This puzzle was worked from the bottom up – and fortunately the grid fill was not too difficult.  I had a few questions marks as I went along, and completely messed up 13 across by putting NAB and looking for definitions.  I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the misprints until I had a full grid.


Really?  Isn’t that like seven bajillion pages and in Latin?  It had better be the bit about the Trojan horse or I’ll be done.  Where on earth do you get started on finding a 25-letter phrase in the Aeneid?

Yay for my library having access to Oxford Dictionary of Quotations… Virgil gets a pretty long entry, though the bits I’m hoping for appear about half way through – the beware of Greeks thing goes TIMEO DANAOS ET DONA FERENTES.  There’s not many F’s in the grid, let’s start there – FERENTES can be made by starting near the bottom right and going across the second last line.  Bingo!

Fortunately it was not too bad from there to trace the quotation.  I worked backwards since it helped me get started with FERENTES.  Inside my rather chess-piece looking horse (if there is a B that needs to be changed to a German B or a Greek B I’m going to scream) there is a mixture of the letters of GHOSTS.  OK, I have to replace them with TROJANS… too many letters.  Duh, it’s not the TROJANS that were in the horse, it was full of GREEKS, all brandishing baklavas and souvlakis or something like that.

OK – GRUNTS could become GRUNGE and that makes AMENDS AMENDE (thanks for the French tip), ONDING obviously becomes ENDING… oh for fuck’s sake read the preamble , George – it’s just entered as GREEKS row by row.  All done!

My working grid for Listener 4353, A Ghost Story by KevGarDespite a little trepidation on having to find the quote, this was overall a nice bit of fun, symmetrical grid, and a rather neat looking endgame, so thanks KevGar, I’m back in town!  At least until next week…

2015 tally:  20-0-5

Feel free to tell me that my scribbled out lines don’t look that scribbled out, and I’ll see you next week when Ilver has clearly dropped a glass at a bar.

Everything’s missing

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, where mediocrity meets jocularity regularly.

Dear readers, I have a confession to make.  Let’s get this out of the way right off – for the past seven and a half years, I’ve written about my attempts to get better at the Listener.  I’ve struggled, I’ve breezed through, I’ve taken a few weeks off when things have become super hectic.  This week, I bring you something first.  The week I chucked it in.

Artix time – odd-looking unsymmetric grid.  Entries wrapping around in all direction.  Unclueds.  Bars that aren’t shown but must not be added (oooo… kkkkk).

Sounds like some super cold solving… There is a first clue, since there’s no numbers, let’s call it, for want of a better name, 1 across.  And it’s a word that is close to my brain often, being a favorite Vonnegut word – C(LAMB)AKE.  Next up is WELLES missing an E to make WELLS.  I didn’t do very well with the rest of the clues, though I got CHELSEA WARE at the end, and a few of the first down clues.  Near the end there is a clue that looks like it is for HI,JACK if JACK is something that matches an unclued.  Cards?

CHELSEA?  Isn’t that a type of a bun?  There’s nowhere CLAMBAKE and WELLS fits… oh – is it BAKEWELL coming out to leave CLAMS and we are in the territory of the Queen of Hearts making tarts and having them all stolen?

About twenty frustrating minutes of solving a few clues here and there I have come to the end of my rope.  Am I meant to find random parts of tarts (hey, that rhymes) in random clues that I am struggling with, even though all clues are normal, and bung them in this unsymmetrical grid with a bar missing?

Sorry, Artix… I lost interest.

My working grid for Listener 4352, What's missing? by Artix

I picked up the puzzle a few more times over the next few weeks and stared at the clues, but didn’t get anywhere else.  Now there’s a chance I have completely misunderstood the challenge, but this struck me as not fun anymore.

Victory to Artix and the Listener Crossword!

2015 tally:  19-0-5

Feel free to tell me that I should have persevered and there was a delicious lemon filling waiting at the end, and I’ll see you next week when KevGar brings us a ghost story, maybe this crossword coming back to haunt me.

Edit:  well the joke was on me even more, wasn’t it?  Completely on the wrong footage, but the theme was a musical I didn’t like in the first place.  Looks like every letter I had in was correct and although I had CULCULLATE I’m kicking myself for not letting it wrap around with IRE (I thought that was a darkened line at the end of the row).  Not sure if any of this would have helped, but now I’m feeling even thicker than I was before.  Thanks, Artix!

re: nets I, Leno did one listener

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, the second-longest running Listener blog, now with 300% less criticism (than other short-lived ventures).  It’s tea at the cricket, coffee here, and Wiglaf time.  I thought Wiglaf was a new setter or newdonym, but according to the Listener website, there was a Hitchcock-themed puzzle in 1999, well before I started trying the Listener.  So hi Wiglaf if you are checking in.

OK – what have we here – some definition-only clues, some extra letters in wordplay – normal definitions all round and a grid of real words, wooohoo!

Yet again we are denied a 1 across!  It all begins at 6 across with a SATRAP losing an A to make STRAP and no extra wordplay letter, but a pass on the 6 across test, woohoo!  STRAP does not appear to be an ideal starting point as it crosses two of the definition-only clues, and two I couldn’t solve on a first pass through.

Back to ye old drawing-board!  There’s a homophone for OLIVE OIL that slots in nicely under SRAP and means we have a TE and a RO to start two of the unclued.  Hmmm… I wonder if the soil-tilling machine is a ROTAVATOR, which is also a palindrome?  It fits the grid entry, and is checked by REPAID (extra E) and RAI (extra I).  That would make the thing held a TENET, and the language (which had just popped up in a daily Times puzzle) MALAYALAM, and worshipped DEIFIED.

I popped them in the grid and checked to see if they fitted with crossing answers… all well and good.

That was the end of my first lunchtime solve, and I put it away for a few days.  The theme came so quickly, that I was faced with rather a lot of sursolving.

A few days later I was craving a burrito for lunch so I grabbed this one from the pile to polish it off – the rest of the clues slotted in pretty nicely, and I was left with the extra letters reading AS I PEE SIR I SEE Esomething or other… I didn’t quite work out what was going on in the last five or six down clues… but clearly PISA was needed to complete the palindrome and there it is, leaning over.

My working grid for Listener 4351, Failed Attempt by Wiglaf

Do you think the Pisa tourism board gets pissed off when people come and all they want to see is the tower?  I’m sure there’s other nice non-tower related stuff there.

Anyhoo – a fun finish, I ended up enjoying the finale more than I thought I was going to, so sorry Wiglaf for putting it down and going “oh, hum, palindromes”.  I believe I can call this one a Victory to George.

2015 tally:  19-0-4

Feel free to tell me that I cheated myself by not working out the last part of the failed attempt, and see you next week when Artix informs us that what has gone missing again.  Silly what.

I think it’s gonna be a long long blog

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, and this time I think wordpress is behaving properly and saving my images (fingers crossed).  Today is the holiday for US Independence Day, since July 4th falls on a Saturday, so happy ‘Merica day, yeeeeha!  I floated the idea that we do this weekend’s performances of “The 39 Steps” as American caricatures, and treat all the Scotland scenes as if they were done in Canada… “This is the CBC… the suspect, Richard Hannay escaped by jumping on to the Confederation Bridge, just outside of Prince Edward Island”.

OK, let’s get to Elfman.  What do we have – some highlighting, and decoding of letters in clues.  Hmmm… normal clues and all real words in the grid?  This could be deceptively easy… or hard.

We are denied a 1 across yet again – we have to rely on the 3 across test, which gives us a gentle anagram for GURGOYLES.   We’ve been told that this means I need the seventh “character”… I suspect that means that spaces and punctuation marks (hopefully not the numbers at the start of the clue) count – which gives us as U instead of the G for the message.

I don’t have many notes from solving the clues – I think one of the weird parts about hiding the message in the n’th character is that I spend more time worrying about counting characters than solving the clues.  Sure enough it appears that there were some spaces in the message.  I also noticed LAUNCH PAD on the bottom as being a potential theme part.

In the end I had a full grid and the message USE HIGHLIGHTED CELLS ON OTHER CLUES… Huh – ON?

So I have to find the highlighted parts first.  Well, there’s LAUNCH PAD… and we know there’s something symmetric…

Somewhere in the middle it looks like SEVEN is in evenly distributed cells… is it a countdown to a launch?  Yep – there’s the numbers 10 to 1.  So we take the 10th letter of 11 across etc… and get ROCKET MAN.  Aaaah, Elton John (though I’m partial to the WIlliam Shatner version).

My working grid for Listener 4350, Revelation of John by Elfman

Odd puzzle this one – I wonder if there would be a way of hiding the information in a more logical order?  Fortunately not too difficult and I think we can call this a Victory to George – woohoo!

2015 tally:  18-0-4

Feel free to tell me that it looks more like a penis than a rocket, and see you next week when Wiglaf describes many of my attempts at the Listener.

Isn’t there a THIRTYTOO bridge near Edinburgh, or am I confusing it with the Fourth?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, where WordPress has eaten the original post.  I hope there weren’t any great jokes in there now lost to the cosmos (yeah, right).  It also ate my scan of the grid, not that I know if this is the most exciting one ever.

Pilcrow time!  I’m still a little reeling over Pilcrow’s last few letter-turning Listeners, so let’s see what we have here – that’s a long preamble!  Unclued entries, definition misprints, omitted letters – looks like real words in the grid again, woohoo! I guess we should get to solving and let all this unclued stuff sort itself out.

Sidebar – doesn’t it seem like there’s more unclued lists in the Listener lately?  Seems to be the stock-in-trade of the Spectator, but I don’t recall a lot of it here.

1 across is unclued, as is 6 across, so Pilcrow has me resorting to a 9 across test… looks like an anagram of FLOUNDER and something – UNDERFLO,OR!  So we have a misprint L.  OK, maybe that was word not having a 1 across test as it gives a big word right near the top of the grid.

I should mention the first solving session of this was at the rather wonderful BearWaters Brewery Tasting Room.  It’s kind of out of the way, hidden in the back of an industrial park, but the beer is good and the patrons are friendly, if a little crazy.  Don’t sit too close to the darts boards.

Second sidebar – know what is in with kids these days?  Boy George!  While trying to type this out I was told by a friend’s daughter that her sixth birthday party is going to have a Boy George theme.  There will be much tumblin’ 4 ya.

OK, back to Pilcrow – the left hand side of this puzzle went in far faster than the right – I think I had a complete left side (except for 1 across) before much beyond OCTAPODIC was in on the right.  This meant I had ?YOT down the bottom left which has to be EYOT which is a small island.  Are we doing sizes of land masses?  More disturbing was it looked like the very middle was going to be SIXAINE… sizes of things?

From the omitted letters something was emerging – FRANCIS… Bacon?  But if that bottom right entry could be BENEDICT then it looks like we could be in the realm of recent Popes… FRANCIS, BENEDICT and then two (one rather short-lived if I recall) JOHN-PAULs.  Aaaah!  That is what 1 across is.

The definition misprints looks like they have INSTRUMENT and PEACE in there, so that leads me to LORD MAKE ME AN INSTRUMENT OF YOUR PEACE and now I have the last few sorted out.  I can see what popes might have to do with SIXAINES, but what does a pope have to do with an EYOT?

The top right is still pretty barren…

With EFTSOONS in the grid, it’s time to look at these unclued entries that are not popes…  ?YOT (presumably EYOT), WO?, ?OO, ?OR? and SIXAINE.

EYOT is pronounced EIGHT… WON, TOO, FORE, EIGHT?  But SIXAINE doesn’t sound like SIXTEEN?  Maybe it’s the OED, presumably non-chambers word.  Aaaah – and there’s CARDINALS in a row of the grid!

I don’t have OED, but a OneLook search of the unknown letters yields SIXTINE which is in Mirriam-Webster (hat tip to NPL-folk who are heading to Vancouver soon… I’ll make it to one eventually).  And the highlighting of CARDINALS and SIXTINE makes a cross.

Interesting puzzle – weird combination of elements, but it all works out in the end – and a rare case where there was no sur-solving, the last piece of thematic material was the last entry to go in!  I think I can call this one a Victory to George!

2015 tally:  18-0-4

Feel free to let me know that when you drop a pontiff from a tower you get a pope smear, and see you next week when Elfman strips John.

Well that’s exercise for at least one type of muscles

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword – the last few weeks have been some of the busiest I can ever remember – I took a professional acting gig to do a regional show for a long run.  Five weeks later, we debut tonight!  Check out this promo video…

Which means that this Listener (and the next few following) were mostly done in various bars as I investigated new watering holes.  There’s no food there, but I highly recommend Bear Waters Brewing for a drink if you decide to come see the show.

OKeydoke – it’s Shark week!  Been a while since a Shark listener, however Shark is part of Rood, and we’ve had a few Rood puzzles (that I haven’t always been stellar at).

What have we here – paired entries.  Oh goody – I have a fondness for paired entry puzzles, though I usually have to get a spreadsheet out to keep everything lined up.  No access to a spreadsheet here, so lots of scribbled notes in the tiny spaces next to clues, which must be even harder in the paper version.

What struck me while I was solving?  The clues weren’t that difficult but several did seem rather long.  I managed to put the grid together in about three pub solving sessions, the major difficulty being pairing the last clues (and trying to figure out where the extra words were from unpaired clues).  I didn’t pay much attention to the extra letters, though I did see LETTERS and GRID there in the message.

my working grid for Listener 4348, Quads by Shark

Now what… five words… TURN NW QUADRANT TO SE… well we have been told to keep orientation the same… so that makes ANIMAL LAMINA and if we over-write SQUITTERS it becomes SQUAMELLA… so that looks OK.  The leaves the top left empty.  Next instruction… five words…


Now the first four words make sense… the fifth?  Aaaaah… initial entries of… something.  Extra words are SUCCESSIVE LETTERS FROM ORIGINAL PAIRED CLUES.  Hmmm…. so do I take the first letter of 10ac and the second letter of 16ac and so forth?  Nope…  Do I take the first letter from 10ac, the second letter from 12ac, the third from 14ac, the fourth from 15ac (looking good so far, DEMI and then the fifth from 18ac since 16ac is already paired?  Nope.   Do I just barrel on through all the clues taking the successive letters omitting the ones that aren’t paired?  That gives me DEMIMO(to make DEMIMONDE) and ELD… so that looks promising.

Aaah, and there’s exactly enough clues to do that – looks like the letters going in are also the initials of the answers that were in the original grid.

Don’t think I’ve ever picked through a clue for the 32nd letter before.

This works well and good until… 31 down (where I am looking for letter number 36) only has 35 letters.  GAK!

Hmmm… OK – well I know finally I have to make a word from ANAGRAM SAME EIGHT LETTERS… I’ve been keeping track and there’s only five letters the same after this re-fill.  Hmmm… I guess I should check that other quadrant – there’s a D,E, and C in there which makes the anagram ACADEMIA.

So what goes in that last cell (the bottom right corner of the top left quadrant)?  According to Chambers it could be an E(that’s out, since that would make nine same letters), a P or a K.  Hmmm…. well it is the initials of the answers to the paired clues, so let’s grab those 36 letters and check them off.

Yep, did all that before realizing there wasn’t even a P in the set of initial letters.  Way to go, George!

My final grid for Listener 4349, Quads by Shark

Wow that was a lot of effort.  I admire the puzzle, but I’m concerned for Shark’s sanity!  How long does it take to make a grid that has a reflective corner, which has initial entries that are an anagram of the new corner, and then writes clues with swapped words and hidden letters in very specific positions.  No wonder I thought the clues looked odd!

Victory to George, a Xanax for Shark!

2016 tally:  17-0-4

Feel free to tell me that there’s no P in pool either, and see you next week when Pilcrow tells us about his favorite Michael Jackson song

One for nein!

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossnumber.  Yes, it’s that time of the quarter again!   And it’s Elap.  Oh dear…

Surely every solver has a setter who is a nemesis.  For a long time with me it was a triple-header of Phi, Schadenfreude and Sabre.  As I got marginally better at solving, the fear that those setters brought into my brain was gradually softened.  That doesn’t mean I find them a cakewalk now, but I can usually get somewhere.

I now know who my real nemesis is – Elap!

Seven Elap puzzles, and rarely have I made it as far as a half-filled grid!  A few have been completely empty gridders!  At the end I’ve smacked my head and wondered why, but I bet you know where this is going, gentle readers.

OKeydoke – there’s letters in the clues that are numbers made up of perfect squares… I doodled all the possibilities between 1 and 99 on the bottom of the puzzle (I believe there are 18 of them).  Since 1 is a possibility, it seems the best place to start is to look at the shorter entries and see what appears.  I and Y figure quite prominently, and since IY + YY+ I is a 2-digit entry, that limits I and Y to be 1, 4 or 9.  I + Y is also a 2-digit entry, which eliminates I and Y being 4 and 1.  So I have come to the conclusion that one of I or Y is 9, and the other is 4 or 1.

Pretty slick sleuthing for an amateur, I must say.

My working grid for Listener 4347, Pairs by Elap

It would have been even better if I’d gotten anywhere else!  Hours of playing with the possibilities for I, Y and T got me absobloodylutely nowhere.  From the preamble it appears solving the puzzle should have been the easy part, since there’s a whole second step.  Yikes!

Once upon a time I was good at the numericals – I guess the problem here is there’s either a trick or an obvious logic step that is completely eluding me, and there is probably only one way in.  I’m not about to give up on the numericals yet, but I am really struggling with them lately.

Victory (yet again) to Elap and the Listener Crossword!  This year’s Empty Grid awards may be all numericals!

2015 tally:  16-0-4

Feel free to tell me what blisteringly obvious logical step I’m missing, and see you next week when Shark apparently wants to work a muscle group.


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