In North Carolina, a bifurcation needs to use the bathroom of their birth certificate

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  Oh boy, last weeks was a polarizing puzzle, wasn’t it?  I expected to cop a bit more grief than I did, and it seems that my opinion was shared by a few out there.

This time around we have Nutmeg, and so I’m not expecting anything controversial.  Apart from one puzzle where Nutmeg dragged out the insufferable Playfair code, I’ve found these fun and pleasant, same can be said for Nutmeg’s occasional outings in the Guardian.

Tiny New Laptop came in handy this time, as the puzzle appeared shortly before I was to leave for San Diego, which meant a four-hour flight awaited!  This flight was full and noisy (and I got moved – my new seat, 45C was scribbled on the top of the grid).  Hooray for noise-cancelling headphones and a tiny laptop with the WordWeb version of Chambers on it.

OK – jigsaw grid, clues in alphabetical order of answers, no tricks in clues, but some answers need to be added in a thematic way.  A quick look and it seems there are some three-letter entries in the grid but none in the clues, vertical symmetry rather than rotational and writing down the lengths of answers around the grid, nowhere near enough six-letter lights. Hmmm…

I guess I should start solving, eh?

There is a space that would normally be labeled 1 across but we have to go with the first clue, and I know it’s near the top of the alphabet and it is A(BR)IM so we have a big win on the first clue test!

I mentioned before that I enjoy Nutmeg’s clueing style, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that even with stone cold solving I had about half of the clues on a first run through.  Even better, one was the 14-letter entry NATURAL NUMBERS and the only two 8-letter entries, positions confirmed by VENT and LAID.

I managed to place most of the clues I’d already solved into the grid on a first go, with some notable exceptions – there didn’t seem to be any place for POMADE, POMELO, ROSILY, ROSTRA, SCALAR or SCAMPI… and those words all share the same first three letters.  It was pretty clear the unclueds were going to be on the edges – and one had to be BIFURCATION or OBFUSCATION.  Those matching three-letter parts make BIFURCATION look likely – though the other side isn’t looking good at I had ??TH?NG??S which wasn’t leading to anything.  I know this has to be two words… the second one could be ANGLES… aaaah – I had STINT in there twice, and the other one should be SLING.  RIGHT ANGLES!

So those three-letter entries are the start for the six-letter entries I was having a difficult time placing.  This helped in the final set of solving, as I didn’t have BRUTES or BRUNEI, nor did I have BARGEE or BARAKA.

This was essentially done before the plane landed – only catch was that I was going to be nowhere near a printer or a post office, so it didn’t get mailed in.

My working grid for Listener 4389, Teeing off by Nutmeg

Just what I needed and expected!  A fun puzzle, a neat trick, and some fine clueing from Nutmeg.  And above all, I think I can claim a Victory to George!

2016 tally:  9-1-1

Feel free to tell me that I should be spending plane trips harassing passengers, and see you next week when eXternal reminds us of a bad Tom Hanks film.

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