Mind your O’s and X’s

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  In this supposed year of domination I’m almost through January with one letter awry.  What I thought would help certainly has helped – making sure I make at least a start on Friday and setting aside some weekend time for each puzzle.  Things I probably should have learned years ago, but I’m not always the sharpest knife in the drawer.

Though normally you’d keep the blunt knives in the drawer and the sharp knives in some sort of vertical position.

But I digress – we’re on to the fifth puzzle for 2012, and the setter is Ozzie.  New setter?  Not so – I wasn’t a regular solver when Ozzie’s last puzzle was published – “Musclied Miss Lued is Clumed”.  I checked it out to see what was, and the thing that caught me more than any other was the note on the Listener website – “There was no prize offered for this puzzle”.  Was that common for December puzzles at one point, or was there something funny going on with prizes in 2005?

Anyhoo – new territory!  Clues are in ranks and files, but may carry across to the next one.  Well at least it’s not a boustrophedron.  All clues normal and it looks like real words in the grid, though finding where they go could be a challenge.

However a lot of the ambiguity disappears in the first line – there is a “1 across” and it’s an anagram for CUISSE-MADAME, and if there is another answer that starts in rank 1, then CUISSE-MADAME has to go in top right, and T(A)LC begind right after it.  That makes it looks like CAST,AWAY similarly starts in the top right.

I did better with the files than the ranks, at least at the beginning.  It was pretty obvious early on there were not a lot of gaps (though I had to find three completely empty cells), but having a complete top rank really helped.

Working on the files first proved useful as in File 7, there we have MULTI, PLY, BYTE – as those went in next to each other it was obvious that there was some MULTIPLY BY TENning likely to be going on.  That N helped solidify the odd little clue for CHALCANTHITE.

Oh – Ozzie, I enjoyed your clues very much – working “CAN’T HIT” into wordplay as “no batsman” is brilliant!  The surfaces of Catholics smeared with mayonnaise, those QUI PEDAL and the cryptic definition for EGGCUP (and I usually dislike cryptic definitions) made this worth the price of admission.

So multiplying by 10 would turn 0 to 0, 1 to 10 and 2 to 20.  I see GAMES at the end of rank 4… can we be playing a number of TIC TAC TO GAMES?  I think we just might!  Especially since I don’t have any of the 2 letters in the grid in places other than Rank 4 and File 7.  That’s very nifty!

It also explains why it appears these three empty cells are down in Florida.  The only tic tac to game we have to worry about is in the bottom right.

The message helped me get the last of the entries.  My last hold-ups were in the middle of the right (I’ll admit I still don’t understand LOLIGO, but all the letters in it are checked), with MIGMATITE, DOGIE and PELTED joining it as the last one in.

There’s far more possibilities for X’s than O’s, so I went through my grid and highlighted all the letters that would end up as O’s.  Here’s my working grid.

My working grid for Listener 4175, The Winning Line by Ozzie

X won a lot of those games around the grid, but it’s clear here that the only way to win the game in the bottom right is quite literally in the bottom right.

Modified grid for Listener 4175, The Winning Line by Ozzie

This was my first attempt at a re-transcription.  I did another one for my submission, and drew a little line through the X’s with “I won, I won!” next to it.  Hopefully this won’t disqualify me.  Maybe since Ozzie’s last puzzle had no prizes, there’ll be double prizes this time and I’ll win something!  It was in the mail on Wednesday.

This was a slow start but a fast finish and overall an awful lot of fun.  Enjoyed the clues and the challenge, and I hope I’ve transcribed everything correctly.  However on that hope, I’m going to call this one a Victory for George!

2012 tally (tentative):  4-0-1

Feel free to leave comments below, and see you next week when we are taken on a form of 3D trip with Quinapaulus.  If you don’t get enough 3D crosswords in your life, might I suggest trying some more for a good cause?

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2 Responses

  1. Dear George,
    Thanks so much for your kind words. I have argued in the past (on the Crossword Centre’s Message Board) that the chief aim of the setter is to give pleasure. So I’m glad indeed that you enjoyed it. There’s a puzzle of mine in the Listener book published by The Times five or so years ago, should you wish to see more. And another in the pipeline. Best wishes,
    Ozzie

    • I have that Listener book, but I don’t think I’m up to your puzzle yet (I’ve only done the first 10 or so… it makes a good plane companion though if I’ve run out of regular puzzles – one thing I do like about the book is it’s introduced me to a few late setters that I ). Hope you got the note I sent with my submission, thanks for checking out the blog, and even better it looks like the letter “z” has been returned to you!

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