Fbzrgvzrf orvat n pbzchgre trrx cnlf bss!

Welcome back to George vs the Listener, and for a change it looks like I’ll be posting on time.  Miracle of miracles!

On any random day I carry around a little pile of unfinished puzzles – I have one of those omnivorous diets, I usually do the Times, Independent and Guardian dailies, and most of the weekend offerings (Listener, Mephisto, Azed, Everyman, Spectator).  So my little pile follows me around, sometimes with an alligator clip, usually held together by a stiff pen.

While I was in the UK, I splurged and paid 2 pounds and 25p in the hotel lobby to print Toga by Nod, Mephisto 2658, and the Azed competition puzzle.  This was the “morning after” the All-England Crossword competition in Cheltenham, so I was feeling spectacular.

I’ve already sent the Azed and Mephisto to the recycle bin, so this remains my last A4 printout in my pile.  It’s poked its slightly-larger-than-us-letter-size head over the top of my pile for a few weeks, but after today my puzzle pile becomes a homogeneous lot.  So I wave farewell to England with this Listener – cheerio and I look forward to being back someday.

Nod is a new setter or a newdonym, so “Hi” Nod if you’re looking in.  Short preamble – extra letters in wordplay spelling out some advice.  I’ve gotten advice from worse places than a crossword, so why not!  Maybe it’ll tell me to pay my dental bill on time.

I ended up with an unexpected solving opportunity – my flight from Heathrow was delayed by almost 6 hours.  It’s adversity like this that brings out the best in people, and everyone took the delay in their stride with quiet dignity.  I took it as a few hours to settle in to the international lounge bar (which had surprisingly good eggs benedict, and would serve you beer at 8 in the morning) and see where I can get with Toga.

There is a 1 across, and I’m afraid I had to google it (eh… with 6 hours to kill the day pass for Heathrow internet sounded like a good idea) but once I looked it up, we have a start with ARUM and an extra S.  ADAR and RECONNOITERER later, I’m making pretty good progress along the left hand side of the grid.  I think ONOCENTAUR has popped up before, and more googlying gave me TREVITHICK and that TREVOR was a traction engine.

There was a fair bit of back-and-forthing – the advice part came together word by word – it was clear the last word was ADVICE, there’s LETTERS and CLUES (always two good ones to look for when finding messages).  About two hours in I had a full grid, though I didn’t understand all of the hidden letters and a message that read SHIFT FIVE T LETTERS OF THE CLUES FOR MORE ADVICE

My working grid for Listener 4149, Toga by Nod


T’s are playing a big part this year, I guess… there seemed a few strange words in the clues that had T in them – JESUIT, BOSTON, URQUHART.  Hmm, but moving the T’s from these doesn’t give anything.

This didn’t stop me from happily following this path for a while, and I had a message like ESSENTIAL NOT ABOUT THIS YEAR BEAST HEART IT STOPS COURT THIS…

Heart it stops sounds kind of sinister.

Back to the drawing board, I’m not happy with that start of the advice.  SHIFT sounds solid… FI??T – oh FIRST!!!

Moving the first letters of clues forward or back by one doesn’t seem to do anything.

There’s a promising set in the middle that goes GRRAGURA – if I move everything up by 6 then GRR becomes ALL and I have ALLUGX… nope

Am I going to have to go through all 25 possibilities (well there’s 22 left).

Just a second!  I bet Nod just rot-13d it!

ROT-13 was a popular silly cypher when I was an undergraduate.  A quick trip to rot13.com later and there it is – SHIFT A ROW BY THIRTEEN THEN HIGHLIGHT.  So another row has to go into the rot-13 code.  It’s probably one of the middle two – and we hit the jackpot straight away.


Well I guess that means NYP is wrong – if it’s NEP we get CAESAR CIPHER which it turns out is a name for these shifting codes.

My final grid for Listener Crossword 4149, Toga by Nod

Antoher way to fail at the last hurdle – confidently write the changes in on the wrong line!

The final version of the grid had to wait until I was back, and of course I wrote CAESAR CIPHER in the wrong line at first.  Well done George.

This took almost exactly 6 hours to crack which was the time I had – I ended up reading about 20 more pages of my book before getting on my flight back to the US.  So thanks Nod for keeping my company in international departures.  This was a lot of fun, and I did laugh out loud when I saw the decoded advice coming off the rot13 page.

Victory to George!  2011 tally: George 26, Listener 6.  Current streak (it’s getting there): George 9

Nope… I had two very silly mistakes – SOYS for SAYS and that Z in DESENSITIZER – so let’s revise that

Victory to the Listener…  2011 tally:  George 25, Listener 7.  Current streak: Listener 1

Feel free to leave comments below and see you next week when we scrap Colleague’s Garden.


One Response

  1. […]  This week it’s Nod’s turn.  We’ve only seen Nod once before, in a puzzle I enjoyed, but made two silly mistakes in.  Interesting coincidence, that puzzle was one I printed after the last All-England RNIB Cup. […]

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