Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword coming to you today from Grand Rapids, Michigan, though later today I’m flying to San Francisco, California.  So this may be finished while I’m here, at the airport, in the air or in another state and time zone altogether where the solution has already been published.

Nutmeg time!  I’ve added Nutmeg to the list of tagged setters so you can clicky to see all the battles.  I’ve found Nutmeg’s previous puzzles to take a fair bit of time.  However this came out when I was in Canada at a conference (printed it the last morning of the conference) and the conspiuousness was that little square grid. It’s a bloody Playfair!


I officially begin a group I’m going to call PHUC – Playfair-Hating United Cruciverbalists. Join us!

Good thing I’m in Canada, I’m going to a Blue Jays game in a couple of hours, and I can go to my favorite pub in Toronto to start working on this.  I don’t know if it even has a name – it’s next to the fairly well known The Office Pub on John St and it’s a rathskeller type set up with an exceptional range of taps.  There was a toasted lager from somewhere in Canada that was quite delicious, and took my mind off that I was tackling a Playfair grid.

I was pretty limited in resources at this pub – no wifi, I didn’t get a data plan for Canada so my phone was pretty useless (I do have a small anagram app that doesn’t use bandwidth unless you try to look up a definition), all we have is me and my rapidly-being-destroyed brain cells.  Could be a bumpy ride!

There is a 1 across but I couldn’t get it on a first read-through (though later I kicked myself when I saw what it was) so it was an initial first-beer fail on the 1 across test.  Next up is a clue where the wordplay seems to be pointing at R(ILL)OW but I don’t know for sure if it’s a word, so it went next to the clue but not in the grid.   Nothing doing until ARDS at 15.  Usually I work on crossing clues, but since every down clue is thematic I thought I’d press on and see if anything else came up in the acrosses.  Reward! After a festival of poor solving, BY(T)E, DI(ALL)ERS, STEREO and E,MER(G)E give me the whole bottom of the grid!  And 27 looks like it should be RIDER so there’s half of the theme!

So now to the downs, working up – these starred down clues don’t look too bad… 25 looks like it’s got to be some anagram of DEMO plus a 2-letter term for doctor (MO,DR,GP).  18 looks like it should be TRIST,RAM, 4 some anagram of G+EARTH… GARETH? Hmmm… RIDERS… is 9 LANCE,LOT?  25 could be MODRED and we are definitely in King Arthur territory!  Yep – 24 is GAWAIN and I dunno what 21 is but probably another knight.

At that point I decided it was enough pub solve, and I’ll tackle it after brutal cheating.

Blue Jays lost.  They won about seven in a row after that game, but typical me to go see the game where they got pasted.  They did have Alexander Keith’s Lager for sale at the game though!

The next day I was on my way back to Asheville, and it was time to knock the rest of this out – Quinapalus has a Playfair Breaker (though I suspect many who are reading now know that) and I was pretty sure the title translated to ROUND TABLE… so in it goes and KNIGHT’S MOVE comes back as the only possibility for the keyword, my last knight to be found is LI(O)NE,L and the two hiding in the down extra letters would be PERCIVAL and BEDIVERE.  I encoded the entries I knew (though did myself no favors by entering the first two letters of GARETH in my grid in the wrong order) and set about sursolving.

Wasn’t too much later I had a complete grid, and things were looking good… the last step wasn’t as bad as I was anticipating – with PERCIVAL and BEDIVERE (with a tempting E to catch those who didn’t completely solve the playfair stuff, I suspect) occupying spaces near the top and near the bottom with Knight’s moves.  Oh boy… if there’s any device I like less than Playfair, it’s Knight’s moves, fortunately there were only two to unravel.

Hmmm… I have a begrudging admiration for the puzzle.  The clues were fun, the theme is good, the Knight’s moves makes sense, but was the Playfair absolutely necessary?   Particularly since there’s no real challenge in a Playfair now with online solving tools available.  Maybe this will be the last time we see that silly little 5×5 grid beside the puzzle.

I left before scanning my grid, but I think I can call this one a Victory to George, and a victory to PHUC!

2014 tally:  26-0-3

Feel free to comment in support of (or against) PHUC and see you next week when Ozzie clearly has a puzzle that is about Shane Warneing.


One Response

  1. George – I totally agree with you about these Playfair codes. I used quinapalus as well – put in la from lancelot and wl from 5&12 across and it came up with 15 possibilities one of which (knightsmove) looked too good to be true. What’s the new PHUC website address?

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