If you charge it, they won’t come?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, where you like it when I succeed, but love it when I fail – my incorrect grid posted last Saturday ended up being the most-viewed page for almost 18 months.  Most were probably Ozzie rubbing his hands in glee.

My most spectacular failure last year was due to Lavatch, where a carte blanche grid turned out to be exactly that, so I was in more than a little trepidation when I saw the setter’s name, knowing I had only two days before I was off on a two-week roadtrip.  This had to be done in a sitting or two or else it was likely to be three weeks in a row I wouldn’t be able to submit (with apologies in advance to Dipper, who drew the “I won’t even be by a printer by the time this is due to be mailed in” slot this year).

I’ve tagged previous Lavatch puzzles, so you can enjoy the previous battles by clicking the little tag link at the bottom.  There’s usually some grid manipulation at the end, and this appears to be no exception – two letters in 16 cells, and then some grid manipulation at the end – yep, it’s Lavatch!

There is a 1 across, and it looks like it should be some form of L?(AS)?S – LYASES, LEASES, LEASAS, but I couldn’t quite get it the first time so I left it blank, and a half fail on the 1 across test – gulp!  Better luck with 11 across for RED(ECO)RATE.  That crosses ERASES which means I could have been completely off the mark at 1 across or there’s a clash there.  We may have a start, or may not.  Pressing on…

Lavatch pops up occasionally in the Spectator series so I’ve been solving a few more Lavatch puzzles and am getting more into the style of cluing. Pretty soon ANTIS popped up as one that didn’t fit the grid entry… but the clue helpfully had the number of letters so that was a bit of a giveaway.  Silly me wrote all the possible letters that could go into cells before realizing that if it went in a checked cell then one of 4 down, 5 down or 6 down would have one more letter than the grid length… nope – so the N and T go in the same cell.

I had much better luck with the bottom half of the grid than I did with the top half, and two F’s and a J close by in the doubled-up letters made TRAFFIC JAM an likely candidate.  Looking at the rest of the letters I had, HE SOLUTION looked like a good second message.  Probably THE SOLUTION?  So we have ?????N TRAFFIC JAM – if that is an E/L clash at 1 across, LONDON TRAFFIC JAM looks very promising!

To Google!  Enter “LONDON TRAFFIC JAM SOLUTION” in Google and you get messages about the CONGESTION CHARGE.  Although I’ve been to London a few times I didn’t know about this – I’ve only walked or taken public transport.  I did notice pretty heavy traffic at a few times, but didn’t think that there were programs in place to dissuade using cars in the city.  Anyway, it was instituted by Ken Linvingstone who was London’s Mayor at the time and can be formed by tweaking a few letters around the middle.

What a rare delight… a Lavatch puzzle I finished in one go!

My working grid for Listener 4305, Not A Blocked Grid by Lavatch

This was in the mail before I left for my trip.  Has Lavatch turned over a kinder, gentler leaf, or was this just designed for the Listener solver stuck in traffic (confession – I usually have the Guardian crossword on the passenger seat when I drive to work for while I’m stuck at traffic lights).

I believe I can call this one a Victory to George (though I did that last week and look where it got me).

2014 tally:  27-0-4

Feel free to tell me that this isn’t really a solution and the traffic’s as bad as it effin’ was back in the day, and see you next week when Dipper tells us “I’ll be sack”

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