Merry Christmas, and look over your shoulder, someone may be following you

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, coming to you live from Christmas Day central in Asheville, North Carolina.  The latest Listener has just gone live and it’s a f**king Playfair.  Ack!  What happened to the u and c key?

But before dealing with future misery, let’s see what Poat has for us, shall we?  A code of adding together entries, something to find and an unclued top entry.  Hmmmm, OK.  Around this time last year I had a beer with Poat, and I’ve found his puzzles fun, so away we go.

There is no 1 across, and I couldn’t make sense of the first clue initially, so no inroad into the grid is made until 11 across with (MISNA)*ME.  The good news was that entry opened the floodgates, and it was a kind of a rip through the clues from there, I think it was a little less than half an hour before the grid was close to full and it was time to work out what was going on with these encodings.

The way in turned out to be ULEMA + ?IMTD = ?URGE which looked like it could be PURGE or BURGE – I doubt there would be a Listener about Aussie batsman-turned-umpire Peter BURGE, so it could be part of BURGESS – either the author or the spy, which fits the one-time pads theme better.

I read about the spy ring in high school and was fascinated by it at the time, so I knew where there’s a BURGESS there’s a BLUNT, PHILBY and MACLEAN somewhere nearby so that takes care of the rest of the codings.  They were recruited by ARNOLD DEUTSCH, who can be anagrammed to HUNT OLD CADRES in the top row, and so that leaves the mystery fifth man, who I seem to remember from the 80s as being unknown.  Wikioogle tells me that it is most likely CAIRNCROSS – who appears as CARP(cairn) and CATTABU(cross) in one row.

Woohoo!

listener_xwd_4375

This was all very neat, and in the end everything fit into place, although there was one I never solved along the way (OPING, which ended up being encoded to HILBY anyway) so a masterpiece in not needing sursolving!

2015 tally:  40-2-5

OK, since the Times Christmas gift appears to be a steaming pile of Playfair, I’m going to go see if the coffee place is open. Feel free to tell me that I should have seen OPING right away, and catch you next week (and next year) as we start to wind down the year with ‘Eck opening his trap. Merry thingthing!

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