Gladepressed and brightthick

Welcome to a kind of special but mostly late edition of George vs the Listener.  I had a strange time of it the last few days, my trip back from the UK escalated into a pretty rapid disaster.  My flight out of Heathrow was delayed to the point that I missed my connection and ended up getting back the day after I was meant to, which meant I had to race to another committment, repacking in a mad rush on no sleep so I left my computer charger, which made no difference since there was no internet where I was staying and I was getting by on a trickle of phone signal.  So to cut a long story long, I should write these things up in advance, and I’m sorry for those of you hoping to get a Friday dose of George v Listener.  On the other hand, United gave me a travel voucher to cover lack of sleep and brain cells.

So there will be other posts about Cheltenham shennanigans soon, so check back over the next few days.  We have Theod to consider now.  Theod is only credited with one Listener from before I started trying them, so effectively a new setter.  However I used to share Mephisto blogging duties on Times for the Times with a The_OD, but I don’t know if they are the same.

OZ and WR appeared during my trip to Washington DC (if you’re in the area, I highly recommend the Holiday Inn Rosslyn as they don’t charge for printing and have a very nice business centre) so there was a mixture of being glad that I could print the Listener while I was gone, and then dismay when I saw that little grid of squares.  The dreaded playfair code square!  I think the last time we saw one of these was in Argentum nearly three years ago.  I got a few emails explaining the elegance of the Playfair code, and a few saying I could just bung letters into Word Matcher and it will solve it for me.  Anyway, apart from the Playfairness, there’s an extra word in each clue.

On a stinking hot day in Arlington, Virginia, I had about three hours to kill and found a bar that was open for lunch on Sunday (this is far more difficult than I expected – I was in the centre of the Pentagon area so it’s a wasteland on the weekend).  But I got some food, got some beer and pulled out OZ and WR for a starter.

There is a 1 across and it hit me pretty quickly because it was a trap I missed in an Azed not that long ago – SOJAS.  And with that we were away – the clues were pretty fair and a lot of the extra words kind of stuck out, so within an hour or so I had about half of the grid finished – the bottom left of the grid was the major holdout.

Then I found the problem of sitting at the only open bar in the area doing a crossword – the other 6 or so people in there clearly knew each other very well, so I was the oddity.  Time to be entertainment, particularly for two guys who were clearly devoid of such.  One asked me what I was doing, I said it was a crossword, he said that since I was clearly stuck I needed his help.  He then grabbed my grid and stared at it for a good five minutes before pushing it back and asking what it was all about.  I explained the nature of the clues and what a Playfair square was hoping that would satisfy him, but at least while he still had half a vodka tonic, he was determined to “help”.  In this case it was making a list of words that he thought might fit 35 across.  I should have written a few down.  Anyway, he eventually gave up, finished his drink and left me to my misery.

OK, the grid is nearly finished, I had three of the four coded words, I could see BITTERSWEET running down the main diagonal s it was time to get to work on that Playfair…  YLU, RAG and UTC had to be on the same row or column.  I played around a bit with possibilities until my time ran out at the bar.

Later on at the hotel with internet a-blazing (as opposed to Galtinburg Tennessee) I gave up and resorted to the solver on word wizards, which threw up TRAGICOMEDY as a possibility to convert RANSOM to AGPL?E, which would match up with BITTERSWEET – and we are away.

About 20 minutes later, things are done and dusted – it would be nice if there was a blank playfair grid with the crossword, I wrote in little letters next to the ones that were there.  The message was a little weird, I got A COMPOUND WORD EACH ELEMENT BEING EQUAL IN …. PLAYFAIR CODE WORD HIGHLIGHTED IN THE GRID.

OK, so BITTERSWEET needs to be highlighted.  But what is that bit in the middle?  The title is apparently significant… OZ and WR codes to DV and VA.  Aaaah – there’s DVANDVA in Chambers… A COMPOUND WORD EACH ELEMENT BEING EQUAL IN STATUS (EG TRAGICOMEDY BITTERSWEET).  One of the better penny-drops.

So there we go – a two session solve

My grid for Listener 4147, OZ and WR by Theod

With the theme word DVANDVA

Victory to George, though I’m sorry Theod, apart from the finding DVANDVA part, this was not my favorite Listener and I’m still not convinced about the Playfair square, particularly since it can be cheat solved relatively easily.

2011 tally:  George 24, Listener 6.  Current streak:  George 7

Feel free to leave comments below, and see you next week for a recollusion with the Magpie.


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