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.


Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword – the blog that is updated far more regularly than the Listener Crossword site.  By the way – that site appears to be up to date again, and it tells me that this truly is Towser’s first Listener, so welcome Towser if you happen to stray into this darker corner of the interweebs.

OK – what have we here?  10 wordplay only clues, and an unclued thing in the middle.  Not a lot of extra guidance, but we could be in another week of real words in the grid, woohoo!

There is a 1 across… and it looks suspiciously like a wordplay only clue, most likely an anagram leading to CHRISTINE.  I wasn’t 350% sure on this one though, so I wrote it above the grid in case I wasn’t on the right path.  Though since it intersects what looks like another wordplay-only clue, CARE,R, TAENIATE and ENOW, then CHRISTINE looks like a good option.

I made a pretty good start on the grid and immediately went up a number of garden paths…

My set of CARER becoming CARR, CHILL becoming HILL and OVINE becoming VINE means that I’m definitely in the realm of comedians.  From the title, alternative comedians?  Was there another HILL besides BENNY?  Cue smacking bald guy on the head and chasing girls in nurses uniforms.  Members of the Comic Strip?

Didn’t Tim VINE win some joke award at the Edinburgh Fringe?  Joke of the year award winners?

I didn’t abandon this comedian thread until CHANDLERY appeared in the bottom row… aaah, it’s RAYMOND CHANDLER and BARBARA VINE.  They’re pseudonyms!  The rest have to be pseudonyms.  That doesn’t conform!

But it turns out DOROTHY SAYERS was her real name.

A bit of Googlyooglying brings up the DETECTION CLUB, but they weren’t all members.

Yes, dear reader, it took me that long to realise they were all mystery writers.  Actually it took all the way to a full grid, a list of names and getting the circled letters to read CONAN DOYLE (well – one O short since I didn’t know which letter needed to leave from TOEY) before I had the head-smack, rather than the penny-drop moment.

OKeydoke – now we are left with that middle entry.  Since it’s CONAN DOYLE we’ve got to be in SHERLOCK HOLMES territory, right?  A crypric clue for SHERLOCK HOLMES… maybe TRESS and IN somewhere…



A cipher maybe?  Isn’t there a Sherlock Holmes cipher?  Nope, that has something to do with stick figures, and the letters here don’t look like stick figures.

And stuck…

In fact, stuck until my blue pen ran out – it took a few days before I looked back at this to see if I could work out what on earth was going on with the middle row.

We haven’t used the title yet, since mystery writers who are not Thomas Pynchon seem to be conformists of the utmost degree, by the end of the book the case is solved and the detective is most likely still alive.  So what about CONAN DOYLE associates with NONCONFORMISTS?  IRREGULARS?  The BAKER STREET IRREGULARS… although maybe there’s just one in this grid, since if I add two E’s then there is an anagram of BAKER STREET.

Sly, Towser, sly.  And you created a puzzle where the last two letters took almost fifty times as long as the rest of the grid.

My working grid for Listener 4346, Nonconformist by Towser


Clues of note

I may damn with faint praise here, but Towser’s clues were gentle, to the point the only mess I made was in a wordplay-only clue where I had NOPE instead of PONE for “Open out”.  I’ve never tried writing a wordplay only clue, and maybe without having to worry about both parts it makes the surface easier to keep together but I was pretty taken by some of Towser’s wordplay-only clues

45 across:  Scotsman follows curling closely (8)  CRISP,IAN

I know plenty of Scots-Canadians (I lived in Nova Scotia for two years) who follow it religiously!

12 down:  One who sets the table on board? (7)  S(LAYER)S

This and 47 across were the only “wordplay-only” clues that didn’t strike me as “wordplay only” right off the bat.

Anyhoo – time got away from me while I was typing this, and it appears I have a correct solution, so Victory to George, and thanks for a fun debut that lead me all over the place, Towser – maybe the next one could be about alternative comedy and you can reuse some of the devices!

2015 tally:  16-0-3

Feel free to tell me that I have an unhealthy obsession with non-viable themes and see you next week when Elap rubs it in that I’m single.

All I learned from orienteering is how to start a fire by rubbing two boy scouts together…

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword – coming to you today from Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.  I’m plugging my upcoming show – a new production of “The 39 Steps”, which I understand is also running in London at the moment (timing!).  Of course I forgot to scan my grid before I left, so this may get updated with a picture later.

Samuel time!  If there’s one thing we can be sure about with Samuel there’s going to be a lot of thematic stuff in the grid (sometimes even a build-your-own grid).  This time it appears we have to draw lines on the grid, and there’s going to be lots of thematic stuff hidden in clues – some in the form of extra wordplay elements, some in the form of definition misprints.  Looks like it could be tricky, but it’s another week of all real words in the grid!  Not that I’m complaining, but letters latent and the like seems to have fallen out of favor.

OK… let’s do this!  There is a 1 across, and it’s a fairly gentle anagram of MISS+E for SEISM and a misprint of F.  So we begin with a 6!  That usually only happens when I’m bowling!

SEISM intersects with SCRAPER (another 6?  Cricket theme?), EOAN (extra S in wordplay) and IMP (another extra S), With ASPER slotting in at 5, the theme is apparent pretty quickly, as the unclued 12 looks close to COMPASS, and all the extra wordplay letters I’ve found so far are S, N and E – there’s going to be a bit of scouting involved!

Knowing this helped the rest of the grid solve, particularly knowing that the misprints are likely to be in the first few places in the alphabet (the grid is only 12×14, so at a pinch misprints could go up to N), and at the end of a pretty long solving session, I had a full grid, COMPASS and SENSE OF DIRECTION as the other essentials, a misprint of A/O near the bottom left, and for some reason GVG near the middle that were omitted letters from wordplay.

OK… what to we get from these extra letters and misprints – N 6, SE 2, NE 2, S 6 – that looks like it makes an M.  NNE 6…  aaaaah – it’s going to be a MAP and the GVG is the crossbar from the A, since that is difficult to draw in a single line.

Good good, now we just have the resolution of the clash… for some reason I was thinking OREINTEERING was only 11 letters, but it’s 12 isn’t it?  And the start of the MAP is at an A or O… aaaaah, and the vertices are the rest of the letters in ORIENTEERING!

Well… after last week’s debacle of the theme (thanks to all of you who pointed out the BOUND/UNBOUND connection, I still think that I would prounounce AESCHYLUS as “fast and loose”), I think I may have all of the thematic material correct this week!  Another very fun and jam-packed grid from Samuel and a Victory to George

2015 tally:  15-0-3

Feel free to tell me which direction my moral compass points, and see you next week when Towser refuses to conform!

Percy Bysschylus?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, your weekly dose of confused hung-over ramblings about the internet’s favorite thematic weekly challenge.

What has Ifor got waiting for us this time around?  There’s two blocked-off squares in the middle, some extra phrases in across clues and extra words in down clues, and at the end something needs to be done to the grid, something about titles… OK.  Looks like we are in real words territory in the grid, so let’s get solving!

There is a 1 across for the first time in a while and it gives us the whole top row with DI(VERSION)ARY and we are away!  I wonder if Ifor has given us a similar gift at the bottom of the grid? Yes, it’s an anagram for CONGRATULATE and now I have a crossword sandwich and can work on the filling (it didn’t hit me until much much later the irony of getting the top row and bottom row first).

I did a little better starting from the bottom and working up, and getting the last few down answers made it obvious that it was the first and last letters of the extra words that we were looking for – giving ORDER TO SINGLE WORDS as the end of the message.  OK – well I’ve found ABJECT SUN and CAN BE JUST as extra phrases and they are anagrams of each other and of SUBJACENT, which means “bottomless”.  Hmmmm, OK.  There’s also HAS A COUPLE and CASUAL HOPE which can become ACEPHALOUS, or “headless”.  Wow, that’s nice of Ifor to double up on this… can I get the other two now?  PEARL AT makes APTERAL… hmmm, where else can I find that string… LATE PAR In 10, making the answer CROSSE.

A bit more poking at the down answers and it looks like we are heading to ERASE SOME LETTERS FROM GRID, so it looks like we’re getting rid of the outside of the grid… and it does appear that removing the outside of the grid leaves real words.  Two of my unsolved entries are around the outside, so I guess I could have ignored 8 down and 16 down (which I was pretty sure was ABET but hadn’t looked up that definition).

Running up that diagonal is CPROM??HEUSY…. which doesn’t seem to make any sense before the outside is erased, but when you take the outside away then you can make PROMETHEUS, which was a sci fi movie of a few years ago that started off awesome but got very silly near the end.

Now wasn’t there something called PROMETHEUS UNBOUND?  Wasn’t it SHELLEY? Hmmm… two books?  Traditionally ascribed?  I guess I’d better look that up – turns out it is based on the story of Prometheus by Aeschylus, where he does have his wings clipped (not sure if he ends up headless or with his feet cut off).

Hmmm… so what am I meant to write at the bottom, SHELLY or AESCHYLUS?

Ugh… I am really lost at this point. Have I missed something?

Title to the rescue, I hope – does Aeschylus rhyme with “fast and loose”?  More so than it rhymes with Shelley, so I guess that’s the better option?

I must be missing something, but this is the best I have

My working grid for Listener 4344, Fast and Loose by Ifor

Victory to George?

2015 tally:  14-0-3

Feel free to tell me what I’m missing, and see you next week when Samuel essentialises us.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.