Fils Dumas, meet George Dumbass

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, your weekly dose of poor deconstruction of everyone’s favorite barred-grid foe accompanied by shoddy unanimated and unillustrated grids.

Ottorino time! I’ve found the last few Ottorino puzzles quite difficult, so we could be getting a step up in the challenge level after a few easier ones.  It appears the beginning of the difficulty is dealing with the preamble.  Three different types of modification to clues (all of which are in definitions, so wordplay is normal), and then some things to find and change in the final grid after a set of relationships and connections between A, B and C.  Oooo… kkkk…

All real words in the grid and wordplay is normal, so maybe it’s best to focus on the wordplay and work around from there.

There is a 1 across, and I couldn’t make anything from it – though I figured “Rupees” meant it started with R and ended with R or S, but that was about it.  So a big fail on the 1 across test (though later on when I saw it was a modified clue I didn’t feel too bad about not seeing it).  Nothing doing with 7 across either, it wasn’t until the poet GO,E,THE appeared that I made a start in the grid.

OK… I made really really really slow progress through this one – I had a number of short sessions where nothing came, and there were just a few scattered entries.  I see now that I used three different pens for filling the grid (that might not show on the scan).

And then the flood came!  North Carolina was hit by tropical Joaquin and I was trapped in super duper shitty weather and failing power.  Laptop is fully charged though, time to really nut this one out!

First discovery was that I was working on two completely delusional propositions!  I’d messed up a definition change – in 18 across I had CAL becoming PEE to make the definition SPEEDS for RATES.  I also had thought the second type of clue change involved the first letters of the definitions, not the first letters of the keywords – so if it’s A for O making SCOLDS, then my other two definition changes I’d found were ALL for ONE or ONE for ALL and we’re in Dumas territory.

I already had POPADUM and AGMA in the grid so I could see where DUMAS was likely hiding (though 15 across was one of the last clues I got).  A little look at the fortunately still working internet on the phone leads to the connection between the son (in ORISON) and LA TRAVIATA by VERDI – and DUMAS could be replaced by VERDI though that turns POPADUM into POPAVER… is a POPOVER a plant?  No, but a PAPAVER is, and so is an AMARANT.

Guess what, gentle reader?  We now have almost all of the thematic material and still a half-empty grid!  I know I have to find PIAVE in there somewhere.  Bring on the sursolving!

Even with everything there and the hunt for PIAVE on, it took another two hours to scratch together the grid.  Ottorino and I are a long way apart on wavelength of solving clues, and whern STEMS and CZAPKA (I see now that CHAPKA was acceptable too) went in I think it was a bit of a sigh of relief.

My working grid for Listener 4364, Plants by Ottorino

So there you have it – I found this one really tough, but got there in the end, and I think the only weakness was so much of the thematic material clustered in one part of the grid.  I did like a few of the more cleverly-hidden ALL/ONE substitutions (particularly ONE-EYED becoming ALLEYED).  Phew!  Victory to George!

2015 tally:  29-2-5

Feel free to let me know I should have been ALL in on this ONE and see you next week when Calmac introduces us to that little-known war hero General Intelligence.

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