Mind the Watford Gap

Welcome back to George vs the Listener, the blog that occasionally catches up.  Now go back and read my notes on the last two puzzles, that were added late and out of order.

Did you do it?  Slacker!  You’re as bad as me.

Kruger time – what have we here – a strange grid with almost symmetry, carte blanche, lots of 6 and 7 letter entries, extra letters in wordplay, an unclued entry.  Gee, Kruger, why don’t you add knight’s moves and a playfair while you’re at it.

It appears that the key is solving 1 down, which I could not solve on a first read. So a big fail on the 1 down test.  However I was a sneaky bastard and did a chambers text search for “orbital” to learn that INEQUALITY can mean a deviation from orbital motion.  Thanks for the definition, Kruger!  We are away.

So then it was some stone-cold solving, and a few lucky finds after two passes through the clues – UNIT, ANCHOR. DYNAMO and ELTON work well and confirm INYALA (which I never did figure out the wordplay for). Since neither of OAST or FRIS begin with an I, they have to go in the bottom right, which might work well with EASIER, allowing SERAI and CRUSE to go in.  Not sure if it was by design but I didn’t have many words that sat around for too long looking for a place to fit – OCEANIC, GENTEEL and CESTUS were among the longer waits, and eventually I took a punt on CESTUS going in the bottom left because it didn’t look like it was going to fit anywhere and they appear to be nice word-finishing letters.

I was about two-thirds through the grid fill when the message started to make sense – ANSWERS CONTAINING N  TO THE TOP AND S TO THE BOTTOM and lo and behold there was NORTH and SOUTH already in the grid (and all in unchecked letters!).

Phew… nearly there – DASHPOT and ERNANI were the last two in, and wow was that a sneaky clue for ERNANI, had to read two articles on the opera to find out that the character was originally named Don Juan.

Full grid – looks like DIVIDE goes in the unclued entry and now we just have to find what is there to highlight – NORTH DIVIDE SOUTH?  The circled letters are an anagram of WATFORD which when I enter it into Google immediately comes up with the NORTH-SOUTH DIVIDE, which the confirms the title which is one way of thinking of an EAST-WEST divide (though some will use the Colorado or Mississippi river for that in order to put themselves in their favored demisphere).

My working grid for Listener 4443, Not The Rockies by Kruger

OK – this was a monster solving effort – I think five or six sessions poking at clues, and I dread to think how much time was invested.  It all came together nicely, and I don’t know how much it would have helped to get the message earlier.  I never did see the wordplay for INYALA but I don’t think it can be anything else (I just looked up the solution).

Game over – Victory to George, 99% completion!

Feel free to tell me that I need to ditch the lack of EA and see you next week when handyman offers to pay me in vittles for brainpower.

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