Or in my case, few grey cells

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, and happy 2018, which means, yikes, I’ve been at this thing for over ten years now, about seven since it was relevant and eight since I ran out of good jokes. Have I gotten any better?  Yeah, a little. Have I achieved smug perfection – oh far from it.

Just three more Listeners to close out my less-than-stellar 2017 (and isn’t it nice to see Jago being one on that list) – the first of which comes from Twin, which the Listener website tells me isn’t two setters separated from birth but is a single new setter, so hi Twin if you are looking in.

OK – extra words that are jumbles of names plus a letter.  Eeks – last time I ran across that device was in an EV where they were all sportsball commentators or something.  A few unclued entries and something that needs changing in the end.  OK – let’s get to solving!

For the first time in a while there is a 1 across, and it is the outside of HOneST, no extra word and a big pass on the 1 across test!  Woohoo, we are away!

My first solving session was fairly slow – I remember getting a fair chunk of the grid filled, and a few of the extra words, but none of them seemed to jumble to obvious names.

A few days after this appeared, a sudden cold snap drove me to the inside of my usual outside coffee drinking spot.  I don’t often do the Listener there, but this seemed like a good chance to get a little further.  It turned out to be a good idea – finding JONAH, SYMAR and AWARDED as extra words revealed a few more likely thematic names, and with HERCU appearing on the main diagonal, and the title seemingly referring to the number 12, I wondered if it was HERCULES and we were going to have twelve tasks.  Nope – that was a blind alley, we are back in literaryland with HERCULE POIROT – even more likely since 25 across and the unclued entry at the bottom could be AGATHA CHRISTIE if 23 down was not LO,RE (of course it wasn’t, it was LA,RE).

A leap of faith with the letters of HERCULE POIROT and LITTLE GREY CELLS going in the appropriate places was enough to get me a complete grid with that sneaky clue for FEET being the last to be slotted in.

I’d already sussed that EDWARD, MARY, JOAN and HECTOR were characters in Murder on the Orient Express, which was recently remade into a movie.  It looked like ORIENT EXPRESS could replace HERCULE POIROT (that sounds so familiar – was it used in another puzzle somewhere?) and make real words in the grid, but I went further to confirm this by unraveling the rest of the names to get EASTERN as the first part of the extra letters.  I figured the rest had to be STATE but I couldn’t quite get all the letters, so I can’t give myself 100%.

My working grid for Listener 4481, Jury by Twin

This one looked like it was going to be more difficult than it ultimately proved, and it was a rather fun voyage of discovery, with a very nice grid in the end.  Best of all, looking like a strong finish at the end of the year with a Victory to George!

Game over:  97% completion.

Feel free to let me know that I couldn’t find a clue if it grabbed me by the nose and said “Monsieur, je suis un clue”, and see you next week when Zero has us write a paper.  I hope there’s extra credit.

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