Nostrum? More like Noclue!

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, brought to you today by global confusion in Daylight Savings time – after Sunday England, the US and Australia will all be on Daylight Savings time, until next weekend when Australia drops off.

OKeydoke – what have we this week?  Mr E!

There was a lot going on here – the preamble said 2 modified clues, 25 extra letters in wordplay, two modified entries and two jumblies.  Wow that’s a lot.  At least it appeared that the grid was going to contain real words.

Which was a saving grace – I don’t know if it was using very tricky wordplay to get the eventual message in but I had a really tough time with these clues, and a lot of answers went in using what at Times for the Times they call “biff”ing (bunged in from definition).  Fairly early on I figured out DIRECTION wasn’t going to play nice with the rest of the grid, and although I had written it next to the clue with a question mark, it took me longer to realise that PLEASE was the other answer (I already had L from ELMO and R from BRIERED so I didn’t write PLEASE into the grid).

My way to the theme came out of a hail Mary from 2 down – with ??IL?R there and knowing I had letters from PLEASE and DIRECTION, SAILOR sounded like an option – the rest of the letters are an anagram of CENTIPEDE, and Googling SAILOR and CENTIPEDE together brings me to a Huxley reference to the Lewis Carroll “Why is a RAVEN like a WRITING desk”, with the rejoinder “There’s a B in both and an N in Neither”.  THERE’S AN N IN NEITHER is the right number of letters, so that must be what we are looking for.

DRIVING TEST can become WRITING DESK and RIVEN can become RAVEN.  A bit more juggling and I have a grid.

My working grid for Listener 4440, Nostrum by Mr E

What I don’t have anywhere is THERE’S AN N IN NEITHER.  Hmmm.

I drew a line through the middle to see if anything popped out.

And I am stumped.

I never became unstumped.

Victory to Mr. E and the Listener Crossword… no clue what I’m missing here.

Game over – 75% completion?

Feel free to tell me that I need to brush up on my Carroll, or Huxley, or whoever, and see you next week when Colleague describes the state of my brain.

I’ll trade you HS2 for HB2 anyday!

Welcome back to George vs the Listener crossword, the blog that is on time due to Daylight Savings Time having already started in the US.

Hedge-Sparrow time! Interesting grid shape, some jumblies, something in circled cells, two things to change.  This could be a tricky one!  I remember starting this at a small burger chain (I don’t eat meat but this place does a grilled vegetable sandwich I love), and maybe I was so excited about the upcoming vegetable sandwich that I utterly outdid myself on poor starts – I looked at 5 across, figured it had to be some anagram of G-AGED-L (maybe LAGGED or DAGGLE) and confidently wrote it in at the top, which of course was one of the unclued entries.

I don’t think that’s likely to be topped as a pathetic start.

Realising how bad that was, it took me until 23 across, P(HOT)O to finally make a start in the grid.  Very strange grid fill, I had most of the right hand side of the grid done in the first solving session, but nothing other than AKELA with a question mark on the left.  My messages from the words removed in the down clues didn’t make a lot of sense either, it looked like PROPOSED was one of them, but at the end I had T?SE and S?WO which didn’t look promising as the end of messages.

I came back to it after a few days, and the penny dropped on 14 down – B(L)OATING was my entree to the left hand side, and suddenly the bottom left was complete.  LONDON looked good at the bottom right, and some anagram of EUSTON with it – aah – is that RAILWAY NW TO SE at the end of the message?

I had to Google “Proposed railway London Euston” to find out about High Speed 2, connecting Euston with CURZON in Birmingham (BIRMINGHAM doesn’t fit at the top left, but STREET does, so I assume CURZON is a STREET).  Now it looks like the messages read ENTER PROPOSED RAILWAY NW TO SE and REMOVE SIX TREES BUT KEEP HS TWO.  With that I finally finish the top left corner – ZILBAR as an anagram of BRAZIL was the last one in.  CURZON and EUSTON aren’t anagrams, they are just reversed.

Putting the letters of HIGH SPEED TWO across the diagonal reveals the six trees – HOLLY, GARDENIA, SYCAMORE, YEW, ELDER and SALLOW – rather nicely only in the spots where letters had to be changed.  That was a nice touch, Hedge-Sparrow, and the beginning of the phrase CAN’T SEE THE WOOD which means FOR THE TREES goes in the bottom.  I’ve highlighted the trees, I know they have to be erased for the solution.

My working grid for Listener 4439, Where Falls the Axe by Hedge-Sparrow

Intriguing solve – very slow start but a fast finish (just like the trains, right… I slay myself).  I liked the final grid very much – my only quibbles are that I can’t see the wordplay for AKELA or DEISM, but I don’t think they can be anything else.

Game over – Victory to George, 98% completion.

Feel free to tell me why people need to get to Birmingham in such a hurry and I’ll see you next week when Mr. E apparently tells me to stop playing the guitar.






And the answer to the burning question of whether I can’t do division is…

Yes, I can’t!

First numerical of the year, and I don’t know whether it was having a dentist’s appointment the day it came out, or having a hard time wrapping my head around the concept of permutations of prime factors, but I couldn’t put a single entry anywhere in this one.  I picked it up about a dozen times, read the preamble, and found something better to do.  I hope that doesn’t mean I’m souring on the numericals, but a sudoku grid solved with a formula that doesn’t make much sense doesn’t inspire me.  Apologies Oyler, but you have a definite victory, and an empty gridder to boot!

Game over:  0% completion, epic fail.

Feel free to tell me that I shouldn’t be able to not can’t divide, and see you next week when Hedge-Sparrow finally puts me out of my misery.

Are his books sold outside of airports?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, the place you go when you want to feel better about your solving skills.

Well, well, well, a puzzle from Encota, who recently started appearing in t’other blog.  Welcome to the setter’s circle (of which I am not yet a member… though I do have a puzzle appearing in print very very shortly, I am assured).   After last week’s mini-novel there is a mercifully short preamble – some wordplay only clues, some that have been modified, OK.  All clues have to be modified.  OK.

Well there is a 1 across so let’s get cracking – if there’s a missing letter in the clue then it could be SEEM RED liquid leading to EMERSED.  Sounds good, let’s bung it in and call a pass on the 1 across test, woohoo!

That crosses ERS, which means that either the M or P from EMPRISE needs to be removed.  Hmm… two M’s?  Can we make a third?  3 down is EAR which means we lose an M from MORGAN.  OK, looks like we are adding or removing an M from clues.

This gets me a long way through the grid, knowing that M’s have to come or go (I particularly liked GRIM MACE becoming GRIMACE in the clue for MOUE), but I was struggling with the thematic parts – I had MATTER without a definition, but 14 across looked like maybe something DETAIL – SURFACE DETAIL which doesn’t mean anything, and the three unclued down entries look like gobbledygook.  Yes, I know I should have googled SURFACE DETAIL, I think I would have gotten the theme straight away.

With only two unchecked letters, 35 across eventually looked like TH?ALG?BR?IST – isn’t THE ALGEBRAIST the title of something?  It appears to be an Iain M Banks novel.

Since I travel the US frequently I spend a lot of time in airports.  Airports always have bookstores.  Bookstores always have a ton of novels by a few popular authors.  I recall the name appearing in a lot of “suggested reading for your flight” sections.  I usually do crossword puzzles or read John Barth novels on planes.

Anyhoo – I had to look up a list of his novels to find the thematic ones – STONE MOUTH, CANAL DREAMS, COMPLICITY, which went in the thematic slots.  Wikithingia tells me that the M which has been in all the clues stands for MENZIES (poor bugger, named after an Australian Prime Minister) which is in the other usual hiding spot diagonal, and we are done!

Well, almost – there’s the last letter of 6 down.  I agonized over this a while, was it MADOG or MADOC?  Finally realised that it is CODA reversed at the end.  Woohoo!

My working grid for Listener 4437, Forgotten Middle Rows by Encota

This was all finished in one fairly long sitting, and I enjoyed it, but I can’t say it inspired me to read any of his books.  I guess I’ll know for sure next time I’m on a plane (in four weeks – going to San Francisco, so it will be a long flight – whoever has the Listener that appears on March 31, hopefully it will be plane-friendly).  Game over – 100% completion!

Feel free to let me know that my lips move when I read so I shouldn’t have books on planes, and see you next week when Oyler chastises me for my inability to do division.

Who on Earth paints their doorstep? (or should that be !)

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword. Congratulations to the folks at Listen With Others who managed to recover their archive and save this from being the primary repository of Listener “solving” blogs.

Aragon time! I had thought that it has been a long time since we’ve seen Aragon, he’s probably busy editing crosswords somewhere else, but I had missed the puzzle from two years ago about the Mitford girls (hadn’t added the tag).  Anyhoo, since Aragon used to criticize my clues when I could be bothered entering the Times clue-writing puzzles, let’s have a stab at his latest Listener.

Domestic job, mess, knight’s moves

Oh great… knight’s moves.

Work area, perpetrator, column, clash, symbols, mishap.

Should a preamble take 20 minutes to read?

At least there is a 1 across, and it is a perfectly normal L(OC)UM, so a big pass on the 1 across test.  OK – I suspect I do an Aragon daily puzzle about once every two weeks, so I was used to the cleuing style, and I raced through these clues – found the clashes, including one with I/DOT and this grid was done in a little over an hour.  I’d spotted DOORSTEP at the bottom, but the trail of moves up to the top didn’t mean much.  I had ERASE ALL TRAIL CLASHES, and those clashes (apart from BOHEA), once removed, lead to real words. The rest of the message is to arrange DOWN TRAIL CLASHES, which are IPONATT which can anagram to POINT AT.  Maybe that helps?  The rest of the across clashes are ARKBROW which with the D from DOORSTEP can make DARK BROWN with the N of… I have no idea what the N is.

At this point I got frustrated and put it down for a bit.

Which turned into a long time.

Which nearly turned into forgetting about it entirely, in fact I didn’t look at it again until after trying the next puzzle that appeared.

A week later.. surely the DOORSTEP is the workplace and N has something to do with it… NAMIES?  Oh – there’s POSTMAN in a diagonal.  So the POSTMAN is the one that made a mess.  BEWARE OF DOG?  Can I make a dog out of those letters?

Let’s put it down again.

C’mon George – don’t have a completed grid and 75% of the thematic material.  Push through this… is it one of the columns that crosses what is now the non-word BOHE? Something DOORSTEP?  Something ON DOORSTEP?  Oh – the DOT and I could be an exclamation point.  Something ON DOORSTEP!  WET PAINT ON DOORSTEP!

Here’s the grid (without the clashes being whited out)

My working grid for Listener 4436, Clean-up Operation by Aragon

This may be some sort of record time between completing the grid, and getting the thematic information.  I think it was about four times as long staring and poking as it was solving the clues.  Hmmm…

Game over – 100% completion (but if it was being timed, a massive fail).

Feel free to tell me that I don’t understand the struggle of having a house with no mailbox, just a letter-slot in the front door, and a housing association mandate that the steps be whitewashed every other week, and I’ll see you next week, when Encota forgives us the tiffs we had in the meantime.

Does the island have wi-fi? Did anyone ever say they would bring skin mags?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, the blog that survived the blogacaust on WordPress.  All rumors that I destroyed Listen With Others are blatantly false.

Speaking of destroying – here comes Ifor’s latest, The Harmony of Ratios. I have found most of Ifor’s last puzzles tricky and confusing.  Ifor seems to dwell way outside of my realm of expertise, with puzzles about Greek plays, Dam Busters and the like.  Here we have four letter entries that are shortened words, and two letter removals (are they together, are they separate, do they always leave real words?).  Something to be written under the grid and something to be highlighted.  And one clue that leads to two answers that differ by a letter.  Hmmm…

The day this appeared I was at a small symposium where I was only interested in one of the talks, but I was stuck there, so I thought I’d sneak peeks at the puzzle… there is no 1 across but there is a 2 across.  Wordplay looks like an anagram of IN TO TEST, which my crossword app says TOTIENTS works, and it appears to fit the definition, so woohoo, a big pass on the 1 across test.  Though I can’t write anything in the grid yet.  Boo.

Next up is another anagram for INTEGRA with the extra letters inside DEBATING.  OK, so the removed letters are not sequential.

Well that got me a start on the grid, but this was a long and painstaking process.  I was rarely on Ifor’s wavelength, and most of the California quarter of the grid was empty for days.  I did early on spot the clue that I thought at the time was BACKER/BARKER.

It seemed there was an inordinately large number of anagram clues – maybe because those are the most amenable to adding in two extra letters?  Finally I cracked the crossing pair of HEINOUSLY and ACTUARY and was in to that pesky last sector.

I had a few of the subtractions, and some were songs but there was also BARD which didn’t seem to be a song.  This was getting dire.

I was about three clues away from completing the non-four-letter clues, when I decided to try to piece together the message.  I could see BY THE something, and the other letters were going to DESERT something – DESERT ISLAND DISCS?  That’s a radio thing, isn’t it?

A trip to Google and it appears DESERT ISLAND DISCS was created by ROY PLOMLEY and the theme tune was BY THE SLEEPY LAGOON by ERIC COATES.  Everyone who was about to be stranded on the island was automatically given the complete works of the BARD, I guess because when there’s nothing to do, reading Henry V sounds like fun, and a Bible – which confirms OT and NT being removed from TOTIENTS and leaving TIES (and unfortunately not TITS). OK, that explains the songs… they’re also allowed to bring a book and a luxury item (could a boat count as a luxury item?).

Well I now know the last few letters that need to be removed from clues, and I can finish up the grid (though I still can’t figure out the wordplay to ROCK-BASIN I don’t think it can be anything else).

OK, what next – something to highlight.  If you’ve got all these bloody records, won’t you need a TURNTABLE?  There’s ABLE right under the C/R but I can’t see where to make TURN.

Something’s not right here – let’s check those sneaky diagonals… aaah – CHAMBERS is there.  So if you were stuck on a desert island with Chambers you could still do crosswords… except you don’t have any crosswords.  I guess you could set them.  Somewhere are a bunch of floating bottles with hand-written grids, waiting to wash up on the Rotter’s gate entrance to The Times.  Is that how Schadenfreude sends crosswords to the editors?

So it isn’t BARKER/BACKER, it’s BACKER/PACKER, and we’re getting closer.  A name has to be written at the bottom – I automatically wrote in RAY PLOMLEY, but then had second thoughts… it’s the HARMONY that has to be found… surely that’s the song, right?  I don’t think a radio show could be a harmony.  So it’s meant to be ERIC COATES that goes across the bottom?  50/50 chance?  Am I missing something?

My working grid for Listener 4435, The Harmony of Ratios by Ifor

With apologies to Ifor this is one that I can’t say I really cared for.  I’ve never heard the radio show (I have heard of it, mostly when shows make jokes about it). The clues tended heavily towards variations on anagrams for obscure words (very few entries went in without aids) and I’m still scratching my head over what was meant at the end.  I’ll call this a guarded Victory to George but may have to come back and correct it.

Game over:  Victory, 80% completion.

Feel free to tell me that if you were stranded on a desert island you’d take a printout of this blog to use as loo paper, and see you next week when Aragon cleans up after me.

Och the haggis, it burns!

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, battling deadlines and being pretty terrible at these things for nearly a decade.

I’m going to work in reverse order and hopefully get caught up over the weekend.  My crappy grids for the last two are posted for your confusion and vicarious enjoyment.

So what’s next?  KevGar!  Wasn’t all that long ago we had a KevGar challenge – and thus far KevGar has regaled us with Wittgenstein, Haydn, Virgil and Carroll, so this is likely to be musical or literary.  We have an address, stuff to highlight, jigsaws and two letters in some cells which are missing in wordplay.  Gak!

On the plus side, all four 12-letter entries interlock, so maybe I I can work with that.

There is a first clue, and it’s one with missing letters – A,BA(+CI), so woohoo and a big pass on the first clue in a jigsaw test. My approach to jigsaws with the clues in alphabetical order is to do two runs through the clues, first one to see how many I can get, and then go back to see what I can get the second time perhaps knowing what the first letter is going to be.  This approach netted me two of the 12-letter entries, both of the 8-letter entries and three of the 7-letter entries.  That was enough to get going on the grid!

Other discoveries popped out – I wasn’t sure if any clue was going to have more than one set of unindicated letters, but surely that was (+EN)(+IS)LE with only two of six letters indicated.  If that was the case then maybe (+LI)(+EG)E worked as well.

This was a puzzle the rewarded poking and prodding – it took about four solving sessions before I had two-thirds of the grid filled, and the spotting of AULD LANG SYNE as a possibility down the long diagonal helped in the final hurdle of grid filling.

With just a few clues left, I was trying to decipher the message – I think I googled “FAIR FAIR YOUR FACE” to eventually find what we were looking for – ADDRESS TO A HAGGIS by Robert Burns.  Must have been a significant anniversary, as there was another puzzle with this as the theme that I started on just after finishing this one.  Is that puzzle still live? Whoops.

I’d seen EDINBURGH appear reversed in the final column, and a quick trip to a page of Burns poems shows that there was an address to EDINBURGH, also to the UNCO GUID (how do you become a member of that?), the DEIL and a TOOTHACHE.


My working grid for Listener 4434, Addresses by KevGar

Another intriguing literary challenge from KevGar.  I found it the most difficult of the KevGar puzzles so far, but I think I’ve got it all out, and can call this one a Victory to George.  Game over – 100% completion!

Feel free to tell me I should not even bother to go back and update the last few, it’s not as if Schadenfreude cares what I think, and see you next week, possibly in a timely fashion, when Ifor attempts to harm us with fractions.