It’s enough to make a Tight-ass Groan

Welcome back to George vs the Listener crossword, and this week we pick up on one of the most notable battles in George v Listener.  Over the time I’ve been doing this blog, I’ve had a number of email chats with Phi, most of them remarkably civil, Phi always being encouraging, yet in the time I’ve been keeping this record, I have yet to complete a Phi listener!  Let’s look through the carnage, shall we – Heart = empty grid.  50-50 = practically empty grid.  Disorders = lots of letters crammed into spaces, few in the right spots.  We Interrupt This Programme = an indication I’ll be first against the wall when the aliens come.

Well, if you’ve been reading here regularly you know I finally cracked it for a VHC in the Azed comp a few months back.  I got a letter of congratulations from Phi – and maybe he was a little naughty in breaking a rule here, but I quote…

As a reward, I’ll let you know that you’re going to hate the puzzle on July 9th.  Just something you wrote somewhere which happened to be about the theme of the next Phi Listener…

July 9th rolls round and here is A Keep, and the penny drops within seconds…  you can go read the whole thread on the crossword club here, but in the middle of the thread I suggested

Finnegans Wake is among a long list of books I've started reading
and never finished - someone should publish a "Great works of
literature up until the point you stop reading" series with just 100
pages or so of Gravity's Rainbow, Finnegans Wake, Titus Groan,
Vanity Fair, and Look Homeward Angel.

This elicited a reply from Radix

George, I am currently working my way through the Penguin edition of Vanity Fair. The last time I embarked on this voyage, several years ago, I sank without trace after about 400 pages (out of about 800), and I am not altogether sanguine on this second occasion.

But Titus Groan? Come off it! I could not put it down! Any more than I could Gormenghast or Titus Alone.


I’m sticking to my guns, I tried to read Titus Groan and I got bored to tears about 30-40 pages in.  A quick check of Wikipedia and it is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Mervyn Peake (I believe also noted in a Guardian and an Independent crossword that week).

So… mind you another one of Phi’s anniversary puzzles went exactly the same way, I knew what was going on – we’re going to get some sort of representation of Gormenghast, and the creator will be MERVYN PEAKE which has the same number of letters as GORMENGHAST so they’ll be symmetrically placed somewhere and so on and so forth.

Good thing I know all this because we’re in super-duper stone freeze solving world here with no enumerations, an unspecified number of misprints, clue numbers which don’t mean anything (I assume the clues are in some sort of order, since it comes up pretty quickly they are not alphabetical) and only a part of the grid has symmetry.

Well I made a pretty good fist of solving a bunch of clues on a first run-through (I’ve been solving Phi’s Friday crosswords in the Independent regularly, so I’m getting used to his style) and was surprised to find a number of very long answers.  There was a warning 32 across wasn’t in Chambers, but it was a word I have run across before – NGOMAS and cheekily armed with an H, O, F and L as misprints, a check of Peake’s works led to “The Rhyme of the Flying Bomb” – a quick peek at clue 43, where the wordplay is crying out for ITCH and I’m feeling good about this.

Armed without about 20 answers and the clue for the misprints, most of the rest of this fell out in an airport waiting room.  I hazarded that MERVYN PEAKE would cross MASTIC adnd NGOMAS, which let STATIONERY and TELESMS in, and gave a home to REALIMAGES and CAMPESINO.  So Merv is probably at the top of the castle, and GORMENGHAST at the bottom – if we use the symmetry that puts CREDIT and probably ITCH, GERM and PINNER, allowing OSTICLE and UNENTITLED in.   CASTAVOTE and EASYLISTENING could also slot into Merv… and if ERADICATING was at the end of Swervin’ Mervyn, then those two Gs in GORMENGHAST slot in and we have those 10 rows taking shape, and some of the other answers poking up – presumably turrets or something.

The bottom half was considerably easier to piece together than the top half, mostly due to being stuck on 23 and 25.  I had DINGO down as the answer for 23 and nowhere to put it, and had no idea about 25.  There was still a level of bad symmetry at the top of that keep, so I’ll admit, I had to do a search for “Australian” and “cheat” in the online Chambers to get RORT (then smacked myself in the head, as I’ve used that word a bunch, particularly at University, when we would start student organizations for the express purpose of getting stuff).  So that left ?NBEG as a hold-out with no matching words.  Not so the case for ?NBE which gives UNBE (of course, SUNBED without the S or D) and we have a grid!  Behold the mighty A Keep.

My grid for Listener Crossword 4145, A Keep by Phi

Inside this castle you can hear the sound of dreary prose being churned out

It was a long time coming, but I do believe that in a Phi Listener we have a Victory to George!  I rather enjoyed the puzzle, despite not being big on the source material.  Now I wait to see whether Phi will tap into my inner disinterests and produce puzzles based on Vanity Fair, the works of Thomas Wolfe, Gravity’s Rainbow, Finnegan’s Wake, Phish, NewsCorp and preserved meats.

2011 tally:  George 22, Listener 6.  Current streak:  George 5.

Hey hey hey, I’m coming to the UK.  If you are reading this, consider signing up for the All-England RNIB 3D Crossword Cup.  I’m going to be in Leeds from August 1-4, then Cheltenham 5-6, then London 7-10.  Drop me a note if you’re interested in a pint or seven.

Feel free to leave comments below and check back next week where internet access and sobriety permitting, we’ll be doing what Waterloo says to it.


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