Alice’s adventures through the owl service?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword. the only place where you can read about spectacular honest failures on puzzles that are being heralded as masterpieces.  Well, if you have the patience!  In any case, this is the last week of my regular Friday morning commitment, so maybe things will get back on track.  Or I’ll start writing earlier, like now, writing on Thursday and taking a punt on WordPress’ improving scheduling feature.

But I digress… Nudd! It’s been a while since a Nudd Listener, so I’ll add the tag in and you can read about previous battles at the bottom.  Funny thing is that last week’s Wall Street Journal puzzle had an entry technique Nudd used in “Full Instructions Included” where a word in the clue showed how to modify the answer.  Anyhoo here we have definition words jumping around across clues, and extra letters in down clues.  Looks like all real words in the grid, so away we go.

There is a 1 across, and it looks like a straight-up charade for FLASH(pool),BACK, so for the first time in a long while there is a big pass on the 1 across test.  Woohoo!  That crosses a nice chunky anagram of FOOL’S PARADISE plus D so the instruction begins with D.

This was an intriguing solve – most of the grid only took about 45 minutes to put together – the down clues were pretty accessible, but even when I was close to finished, neither message was making sense… downread DECODE CARROL something something OSW, and I was having trouble seeing where to slot several moving definition words, particularly those that were proper nouns.

In the end I had to resort to two things – the wikipedia entry for the Lewis Carroll cipher, and entering the across entries in to excel and sorting them so that I could figure out the other message.  Eventually KEY IS AN AUTHOR’S NAME appeared for the across message.  Hmmm… I can see ALAN and GARNER in the grid – is he an author?  Yep, turns out he is – and he had a book called Red Shift.  So that’s the keyword in DECODE CARROLL CIPHER NE to SW.  Good name for a Carroll cipher with all the A’s in it – and that changes the reverse diagonal to THE OWL SERVICE, leaving real words in the grid.

my working grid for Listener 4340, Red Shift by Nudd

I suspect this may polarize crossword fans, depending on whether they are fans of the material.  I had never heard of the book or the author, so I learned something, but I don’t think I’m going to run out and buy a copy. I don’t know if there’s any deeper meaning to the ciphers and the theme.  After a few super frustrating weeks, I believe with some relief I can call this a Victory to George.

Clues of note

I did like that the across clues had good surfaces before and after substitution, though I think my favorite was…

44 across:  Partners from French Republic eat with voracious yokozuna (5)

S,N(partners),A(from),RF(Republic Francaise) and a substitution needed of APPETITE for YOKOZUNA.  A nice surface in both versions of the clue.

The down clues were economical, particularly since each clue included wordplay leading to an extra letter. Here’s a classic example…

6 down:  Join soul dance (5)

SEAM,BA for SAMBA with an extra E.  A thirteen-letter clue that has a definition, wordplay and an extra letter!

2015 tally:  11-0-2

Feel free to tell me I need to read more kids books with shorter words and more simplistic relationships, and see you next week when Nod asks us if we know our definitions of electrical switch positions.

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