Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword where a brilliant start to the year has come to a crashing halt in the last two weeks.  Does Ifor allow a chance to crawl out from the doldrums?

We’ve had Ifor three times, and I’ve made a tag for the bottom of the post, though I think it was funny that the last Ifor resulted in a lengthy thread on how to print the Listener, which for me reared its ugly head again last week when the grid printed HUGE (but you’ll find out about that in a few weeks… dear Listener editors, I hope I’m not breaking some sort of rule here).  I have enjoyed the other Ifor offerings, which gave me some hope that I could get somewhere with this.

And hope was what I needed, desperately, since I started this in one of the dourest of locations, the waiting room of the Social Security Office in Asheville, North Carolina.  Hells waiting room has no wifi, and I forgot to bring Bradfords, so I was there with just my phone and a grid.

All answers have something leave, and across ones are real words or phrases, so down is gobbledygook.  Some extra wors in down clues help us out and there’s a blocked in cell for an authors name.  Hmmm… that’s obscure, maybe it will make sense later.

There is a 1 across, and it appears to be a straightforward one – LOG(ORRHEA) and we are away.  I have to take five letters away and be left with a real word, eh? LOGO?  RHEA?  GORE?  None of the checking down answers were particularly helpful so I moved on.

13 turned out to be the lucky start with OUTER HEBRIDES having to coexist with NEROLI OIL, TURCOPOLE,  SMARTENED, CORIOLANUS and RESIDENTS, all of which were losing a pretty large number of letters.  If we lose all the E’s R’s and the S and H we can have OUTBID fitting with the down answers, also missing those letters.

Aaaaah… there was a similar trick in a domino themed crossword last year, where only the letters in DOMINO showed up in the grid.  Let’s go solve and see what letters need to be removed.  Some hunt-and-pecking later and it appears C,R,A,H,E and S are the extra letters.  What’s the significance of that?  It could be ARCHES (and there’s SPANS as an extra word in 38 down)… it could be CHARES (there’s HOUSEWORK).

Double aaaaaaaah!  Oh dear what an unfortunate coincidence!  There was a very recent Spectator crossword where the unclued lights were definitions of the various anagrams of TREES… that must be what is going on here!

At this point I was in good shape – I knew how many S,E,A,R,C,H letters had to be let out of each entry, and there were some pretty impressive deletions – I wonder if Ifor intended the lengths of answers to be given, since taking INANENESS all the way down to INNN was very sneaky.

Finally it was down to one answer… ?OOING with only one deletion… you can see my scribble… Chambers suggests B,C,L,M and W for the first letter… LOOSING looks kind of like the definition.  Aaaah – is it LOO(can),SING(produce tinnitus)?  Hmmm… it’s the best I have to go on, and the LOO part seems solid.

Woohoo – we have a grid!

My working grid for Listener 4296, Playgroup by Ifor

But the work is not done… the central square has to be filled in to produce an author… something to do with the removed letters, and if it’s diagonal it has to be something to do with LIPPIN?LLINON or NITTDU?IODIII.  The former looks more promising.  The first name could be CHARLIE?  Or ALICE? Google for authors named CHARLIE… this isn’t going to work.

OK… titles… titles with ARCHES in them?  Titles with CHASER in them?  Titles with SEARCH in them…. “Six Characters In Search of an Author”… we’ve had that before in a Listener – back in 2009 with “At Arm’s Length“.  PIRANDELLO could be made out of the letters in the middle, just not using the whole diagonal.

Aaaaaah… I think I get it – although HUNTING and TO FIND are both in down clues, they’re all needed for the clue, so SEARCH isn’t defined?

Anyhoo… I don’t need to point that out, so I think I can call this a Victory to George.  A bit of confusion, and that rare case where it took almost as long to find the theme as it did to complete the grid.  And thanks to two previous crosswords for showing me the way.  The ship may have been righted.

2014 tally:  20-0-2

Feel free to tell me that I still haven’t found what I’m looking for (but I’m still looking), that it’s great that the US outlasted both Australia and England in the World Cup, and see you next week when Aramis brings the Listener into the world of 90’s video games.


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