Peter Cook: Have you seen that bloody Leonardo Da Vinci cartoon? I couldn’t see the joke.

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, in which I frantically type up last-minute thoughts about puzzles from weeks ago.  So what do we make of Stick Insect?  I have in general really liked Stick Insect’s puzzles, though the world of quotes is kind of new.  Last year Stick Insect gave us a really amazing reproduction of a tapestry that I probably shouldn’t be talking about right now.

Anyhoo – quotes, thematic modification, and an author to draw lines through.  Let’s get going, shall we?  There is a 1 across but I did not see it sraight away, so there was a big fail on the 1 across test!  4 across was intriguing because it looked like it should be an anagram, but there isn’t a 9-letter combination.  Could it be (dun dun daaaah) a thematic replacement?  Well a bit of fiddling with the letters makes (SEANCE,D,CAN) gives ASCENDANCE and yep, there’s a thematic modification.   Oh great, one clue solved, number of grid entries zero (yes, I can gripe about that now, but it goes to extremes next week, doesn’t it?  I’m all about spoilering today).

Well with ANOETIC, SPOT-ON and CAMP in it looks like the thematic modifications are going to be to get rid of some letters, so as I went through the grid I started looking for longer answers that should be shortened – helped me get BLOOD VESSELS, APPORTION, RESTRAINT, CASING and ARYTHMIC without too much difficulty. Not sure how CASING and BLOOD VESSELS are going to go together.  Hmmm…

At this point I’m getting close to a full grid and I have eight of the ten entries that are too long for the space and I’m having a hard time seeing what is going on. So what’s the title of this work.  THE -A-T-T-US- with only two letters left… surely I can find the second word of that title without too much trouble…


Hmmm… is THE part of a longer title… THEAsomething – THEAETETUS!  Socrates time… and everything that involces THEAETETUS has MAN IS THE MEASURE OF ALL THINGS… so we are removing MEASURES and inserting MEN – which makes sense to take care of APPORTION to APRON and my trouble corner is taken care of by putting ROB in there.

That means I need to solve two more E clues, which must be 43 across and 1 down. I got the final answer for 1 down before solving the clue, since with the rest of the checking letters in place, CABRETTA was the only possibility.  Aaaah – it is CA,PIT,A!  They aren’t all shortened.  Is 43 also lengthened?  No – it’s shorter – it is RESTRAINT.

That just left a few normal clues to finish the grid, woohoo!  TREHALA was the last one in.

The last part wasn’t too bad – the quote comes from PROTAGORAS, who appears as a stick-figure in the grid, with the quote used in describing Da Vinci’s sketch.


My working grid for Listener 4470, Rod and Bill by Stick Insect

So this was two pretty long solving sessions with a lot of head-scratching in the middle. It was nice to only have 10 clues pointing at the work, the large number of normal clues helped me get at a theme with which I was not familiar.  I believe I can call this one a Victory to George!

Game over – 97% completion (it was pretty clear where the substitutions took place, so I never checked to make sure they were all measures).

Feel free to tell me that no eyes would follow any painting I ever drew, and see you next week when Flying Tortoise locks seven old ladies in a lavatory.


Vocational guidance chancellor

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, and another late post.  If I was an organized person I’d write these as soon as I get finished, but I usually don’t think about it until Thursday night or Friday morning, and my schedule these last few months has been pretty crazy on a Friday.  So here we are on Sunday, some of the dust has settled, and we all know what was going on.

My working grid for Listener 4469, Follow-my-leader by Harribobs

So what can I add?  I found this one intriguing – I cracked the theme almost immediately, as the crossing of DESKILLS with REIGNITE gave the extra letters that anagrammed to KIESINGER, and having already had GOSSAMER solved, then MILKER was worked out to give the current German Chancellor.  A quick check showed there have only been eight of them (and most of them were fairly well known names), and since we had the enumeration of the clues, it was clear where they should go.

Funny thing was that left a lot of sursolving in the bottom left in particular, where MUSK-COD held me up for a long time. Of course it was one of the entries that I knew I needed for the endgame because I had deciphered the message to use the bottom row and left column as index, which, after placing MUSK-COD and the last few answers in that row (I was still unsure of the wordplay for KISLEU) gave the location as PALAIS SCHAUMBERG.

So it was a quick start, slow bit in the middle and a fast finish once I got those last few answers. It was a clever way of introducing the theme, and I believe I can call it a Victory to George.

Game over:  98% completion (still a bit iffy on wordplay in KISLEU and why there isn’t an extra T in the clue for LOAF).

Feel free to tell me that my solving is the wurst (or my jokes) and see you next week when I will try to be on time and Stick Insect encourages us to fish for pelicans.

I wonder if he would have been found by Marvin eventually?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  The solution to this puzzle is set to come out in 15 minutes, and that is also the time of my next commitment so let’s see how far I get on this one.

Charybdis!  OK, so I have a similar pattern with Charybdis puzzles – I am usually fine at solving the clues, but sometimes make a complete bish of the endgame, which is typically tricky.  And it seems so here, as we have another 9 line preamble!!!!

What’s going on, editing team? Were you suddenly allocated another 23 column inches and decided to spend it on gigantic floral grids and novel-length preambles?

Anyhoo, it seems like this is mostly in the clues, many are normal, some have to have a letter restored.  So let’s get solving!

There is a 1 across, and not only that but with SHE,EN it is a big pass on the 1 across test, and our first seeker begins with a T.  Well that gives us a start on the grid.

There’s a few unclued entries, and as I was working around the grid, it looked very tempting to see STRANGER THAN FICTION that rings a bell… and so it should – TRUTH IS STRANGER THAN FICTION is a quote from Mark TWAIN so there’s our first one. DAUGHTER also looks like it should go in there, so what’s the chances there is a TRUTH IS DAUGHTER quote out there – yep, it’s Francis BACON (mmm, bacon) – TRUTH IS THE DAUGHTER OF TIME.  This grid is rocketing to a fill, and maybe I’m getting a sense of the endgame before the typical Crosophile stare at the grid stage.

Oh, I got there… with a full grid, I now need to know of what looks like Robert Hyatt, who doesn’t seem to be anything.  Aaah, it’s not producing HEATH it is producing WHEAT and it’s Robert WYATT. A musician I’ve not heard of with an album RUTH IS STRANGER THAN RICHARD

OK – so there’s the uncovering – we remove the first and last letters to get RUTH and TIM. And changing FICTION to RICHARD leads to RICHARD III – wasn’t he the guy found buried in the parking lot?  Yep – and the novel describing it was DAUHGTER OF TIME by TEY (the last of the unclued).

LEICESTER CAR PARK is up there at the top and I think all the thematic stuff is in place!

My working grid for Listener 4468, Hide-and-Seek by Charybdis

Not as much grid-staring as the last one, but there was a chunk of time between finishing the first grid and getting all the thematic stuff in place.  It was rather a fun puzzle though, and solved completely in one sitting, woohoo!  I believe I can call this one a Victory to George!

Game over.  100% completion!

Feel free to tell me that in 500 years I’ll likely be exhumed from a beer garden, and see you next week when Harribobs recommends that he has a much better leader than I do (probably true).

Gumby flower arranging

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, the blog that comes out sometimes before the setters blogs over at that other site.  It’s been a rough week here at GvL central – how bad, do you ask?  I have not had a single drink since last Sunday!  Now I’ll be rectifying that in a big way, as soon as I get this submitted, the new Stick Insect Listener and I will be taking a trip to Charlotte St Pub for some quality time.

OK – Kea time! When the grid came off the printer, I was reminded of the strange grids you would get in the HEX Atlantinc Monthly puzzles (a series that kind of lives on monthly in the Wall St Journal now) where the grids often have a thematic shape.  This one looks like a flower, with answers curling inward.  Not a lot to the preamble, there’s a theme and something unclued. Let’s see how this grid goes…

There is a 1 clockwise, but I didn’t see it at first (it was one of my last in), so a big fail on the 1 clockwise test.  With 2 clockwise being PUP,ARIA we are in to the grid in a big way! Not much to say about the solutions – although there are checking letters a plenty, I treated it like a carte blanche for the first few runs through the clues, eventually jotting in checking letters on the side.  The way in to the theme came from seeing the possibility of CORN MARIGOLD which rang a bell from somewhere – a trip to Chambers tells me it is one of those flowers I can never spell, a CHRYSANTHEMUM.  That fits the number of asterisked cells, and a look through the other unclueds offered POM POM and KOREAN as other types.  I must have done a puzzle with this theme before (Spectator perhaps), as I usually know nothing about botany, but the names of mums came pretty quickly.  There was a grid in under an hour.

My working grid for Listener 4467, Theme of the Day by Kea

Which gave me more time to go bang my head against Somniloquent’s puzzle from last week that I still didn’t finish.  Oh well…

Cute grid, nifty theme, and a bounce back in a big way, woohoo! I believe I can call this one a Victory to George.

Game over, 100% completion.

Feel free to tell me to arrange them nicely in a vase, and see you next week when Charybdis gives us a skin and asks us to visit the king.

Tales of an X solver

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, a weekly tale of someone who should have given up by now.

So enter Somniloquist.

OK… I’m going to risk the wrath and ire.  If I don’t like the preamble, I’m probably not going to like the puzzle, and this preamble gave me a headache.  There’s three wordplay clues and have something to do with exchanges.  OK. Across clues, thematic characters, reflecting fate of character, amended down clues.

OK – so across clues are normal but I can’t enter answers.  Down clues have to be modified but I don’t know how.  Let’s change up how I usually do things and look at the down clues first.  So to the all-new 1 down test.  There is a 1 down and I can’t make sense of it – though it does look like maybe I have to lose a T to make BARON so it could be a term for a stand-off that is B removed from somethign that means fellow club member, but I am not feeling it.  Though later on removing a letter looks good, as CRU(D)D(e),ING looks promising.

It was kind of downhill from there – I got a fair few of the acrosses and I think FOX as one of the characters (Brer?  Redd? On the Fairway?  Mulder?).  It looked like my few down answers worked OK with a few of the across answers, but I didn’t get any further from there.  I think 35 down is JAKE or CAKE and don’t know why.

My working grid for Listener 4466 X XX XXX by Somniloquist

Resounding victory to Somniloquist and the Listener crossword, I’m completely stumped as to what was going on here, though I do think that 1-3 letters were removed from down clues, stringing together the few I found doesn’t lead to anything that makes much sense.  Oh well.

Game over:  12% completion (possibly what Anax had on Everybody’s golf).

Feel free to tell me that I need to learn how to solve clues and remove letters, and see you next week when Kea gives us the theme of the Day (Robin? Talk Like a Pirate? Of the dead?)

The shapes of things to come?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, possibly back on track, but still needing to catch up.

The news came across the interweebs yesterday of the passing of Calmac.  I generally learned something from his puzzles but I don’t think we ever corresponded in person.  I didn’t know that he was the editor of the Independent crossword about the time I started doing them on a regular basis.  Au revoir Calmac!

Anyhoo, it’s Yorick time – the last Yorick puzzle had a lot of letter substitutions, and it looks like we are in for another grid containing non-words from the preamble, which has a lot going on in it – it appears we have to pay careful attention to clues, there’s either a misprint in the definition (write in answer confidently), a normal clue with normal wordplay (write in lightly, there will be clashes) or a normal clue with a misprint in the wordplay (write in confidently and hope I can do wordplay).  Let’s get solving!

There is a 1 across, but I didn’t solve it until much later so a big fail on the 1 across test.  The grid did get started with 6 across, FUL(l),CRU,M and a definition misprint R, so we are away!

Fortunately most of the clues were of the misprint type, and DRAW FIVE SHAPES looked pretty good, as did BLANKS in the definitions misprints.  With SHAPES as part of the misprints and a nice juicy ANGLE at 36 down, things are looking promising for a RECTANGLE or a TRIANGLE.

The grid fill wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be, though I was a little weirded out by two blanks next to each other at 24 down and two in the asme word in both 24 across and 25 down.  With the grid almost complete, I had noticed QUADRI going down the left hand side, and the letters to make the rest of QUADRILATERAL  (not beautifully drawn on my grid)…  are these the four-sided shapes?

If SQUARE and QUADRILATERAL share some sides, then that works – it looks like it has to work, since TRAPEZIUM and PARALLELOGRAM share some as well.

Sidebar – PARALLELOGRAM is a word I have a very difficult time pronouncing.  I get all tongue-tied.

So with everything else in the grid that just leaves the RHOMBUS.  The area of 20 is particularly useful here.  That means a rhombus with base 5 and height 4, which means to have the sides the same length, the angled part must be 3 cells wide and 4 cells high (thanks, Pythagoras!).  That looks like it can only fit in the top left part of the grid.

My working grid for Listener 4465, PQRST? by Yorick

That was a tricky one! Yes, I know my quadrilateral needs to join up in the empty cell, but I think I can call this one a victory to George in a squeak.  I’m not going to go 100% because I never figured what exactly was going on with the clue to MARCHESA, which appears to be normal?  Or was it the S in RHOMBUS?

Game over – 99% completion.

Check back next week when Somniloquist gives us a puzzle that could well be my shirt size.

The properties of dumbers too!

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossnumber, the quarterly report on things logical and numerical.

Apologies (particularly to setters) for the last few weeks of being whisper quiet. A big crash of busy stuff, an illness, and a very exciting writing project have taken up a lot of the time that I would usually spend solving and making terrible jokes about puzzles. And I know I should go back and write about the last few puzzles and my various ups and downs on them, but as you can see from the grids I’ve pasted – I actually solved them.

You don’t come to George vs the Listener for smugness and ability to solve at the drop of a hat.  There’s another blog chock full of that.  You come to George v Listener to hear of failure and misery.

Enter Piccadilly.  A setter of both letter and number puzzles, though I have only done one of the letter puzzles before.  This did look rather fun and definitely inventive – look what we have, a symmetrical grid, no two lights have the same starting square, and all of the instructions are statements about numbers that are also statements about their grid entries.

There is also a clear starting point – 1 has to be a cube and a square which means it is a power of six.  That limits it to 15625 or 46656, so 3 starts with a 6 and is a prime.  I marked the end of the prime answers with an x, knowing there had to be an odd digit in those positions, and then fiddled with the possibilities for 14 that narrowed it down to 118.  Working from there to get 2, 3 (and hence 6) was looking good, that set 12 and then 24 has to be 12+12 and oh shit there’s an even digit in a square marked with x.

My working grid for Listener 4464, The Properties of Numbers III by Piccadilly

I tried backtracking and got nowhere.  I don’t think there’s another starting point, surely.

The solution is out now and it seems I had overlooked another contender for 4 down (damn you online lists of squares!).

This was an impressive piece of setting by Piccadilly, and I am a little embarrassed to not be up to the task, but this is a massive victory to the Listener Crossword!

Game over, 4% completion.

Feel free to give me maths lecture after maths lecture, and see you next week when Yorick runs letters by us.