I guess children’s lit has come a long way since “Bleak House”

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, your home for sometimes solved, sometimes not crosswords.  Now this week it’s Wasp, and I’m three in a row on Wasp puzzles – with SPAD, Phoney, and Symbolism all falling without too much trouble.  Maybe a calm before a storm?  Let’s see what is in Laureate?

Every answer is missing a letter, indicated by wordplay, and there’s some more thematic stuff, and a grid that’s missing bits in the corners.   Ooooh.. means I won’t be able to liberally cheat using electroaids.  Might as well get cracking right?  There’s no sign of a 1 across, 2 across is thematic so we have to go all the way to an 8 across test – fortunately it’s RETINA with the E not given in wordplay… me being me, I still wrote in RETINA and wondered why I ran out of spaces… way to go George!  RTINA crosses something thematic at 8, and that clue for 1 down looks like it should really give wordplay of BTTA or TTAX… BATTA is subsistence money and we are well and truly on our way!

Even with my usual online dictionary hunt-and-pecking I was making pretty good progress with the grid.  The unindicated letters appeared to be spelling out ENTERED WITH A SQUASH AND A SQUEEZE… which if I had Googled at the time, I would have saved myself a fair bit of time and effort.

So about two hours later, here I was – a complete grid, except for the thematic stuff, and none of those empty spaces were making any sense at all, and FRELFCH as the letters of someone’s name.


Illustrative surname?  Let’s Google “chffler illustrator”… don’t you mean “Scheffler Illustrator” – well that’s one more letter than I was planning to have in those circles, but why not?  Scheffler is apparently the illustrator of choice for a book called “The Gruffalo” which looks like it might go at 10 down.  This is when I learned that he also illustrated “A Squash and a Squeeze” (whoops).

Julia Donaldson appears to be our author, and we have MONKEY PUZZLE, THE SNAIL (and) THE WHALE, ROOM ON THE BROOM, (the) GRUFFALO, STICKMAN and TIDDLER.  Not all of those letters are going to fit into the gaps, hence squashing and sqeezing.

Glad this is not taking very long, because I cannot identify with this theme at all, sorry Wasp.  The books look pretty uninspiring.

Now what do I do with these letters…  I’ve got a list of letters that ultimately end up in the spaces, so maybe the others get squashed and squeezed out?  Well, there’s some O’s and Z’s that look obvious… I started with the letters that were the same, and the ones that didn’t appear in the extra letter list to see if that sorted out the squashing and squeezings…

At this point I had a problem… with an N,T,I,L and O unaccounted for, I saw two ways to squash and squeeze the letters.  Grrrr… this is not going to be a single session solve!

I happened to be near a local independent bookstore the next day, so I popped in and asked if they had any of the titles listed.  Nobody had heard of Julia Donaldson, but about three of her books were in their system as available for special order.  So I wonder if we have a theme that (unless you are in the UK), absolutely requires the use of the internet?

Next day, fresh eyes… maybe the letters are squashed or flattened – so an O could become the bottom line of an L or an E could become an I?  That doesn’t seem to help anything.

New approach – write all the names of the books down and start again with the letter that stays… M( )KE( )U( )LE – has to be a P and a Z

TH( )SNA( ) – has to be an S

R( )MO( )H( )R( )M – has to be O’s, and the B, the other could be anything.

G( )FFA( )  – has to be the U

So far I’ve been circling the second of the two letters for all the choices…

George you idiot!

No letters are being lost – I’ve just got to put both letters in the one cell, and it’s the second letter that is indicated by that set… yes, that works… it also gives me the last two letters of SCHEFFLER’s name.

my grid for Listener 4239, Laureate by WaspMy working grid was a mess by this point, so here’s the one I submitted.  Wow – I hope I put that last M in at the end of NEUM(E) before mailing it off… that would be very much like me.

Perseverance!  Not sure what it says when the endgame took three times as long as filling in the non-thematic part of the grid, but I think I can call this one a Victory to George!

2013 tally:  12-3-2

Feel free to tell me I have no respect for children’s literature, and see you next week when Nutmeg gives us a choice of F or L or…




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