Four and a half percent of the grid filled in, maybe

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, and the next in a series of puzzles that were started during breaks in the performances of Fiddler on the Roof.  And… it’s Sabre!  Hello nemesis – I have a pretty abysmal record against Sabre, and if you’re coming here you are probably expecting to gloat at my misfortune, so let’s get it straight out there – I did not get very far with this puzzle at all.

My working grid for Listener 4460, Four and a Half ...? by Sabre

Yep – a practically empty grid.  So what happened?  Well all we are told is some words have to be removed from clues and there’s clashes.  Gulp.  How many clashes?

Well there is a 1 across, but I couldn’t solve it.  6 across looks like it should be B,LOBBY put it in to check on later.. looks like it might be correct because it intersects BRRR (which appeared in a Times puzzle I blogged this last week).  A few more clues including the long SNOWBALL TREE and I’m thinking maybe this is a solveable Sabre… and then the clashes came!  Six clashes between them in 29 and 30 down.  Eeeek!

Consistency in clashes – well the ones I found seem to be separated by two letters (though how that could lead to an ambiguity is beyond me).  So maybe that is the key?  It really looks like 23 down should have some clashes but I can’t solve it.

I also can’t seem to find words to be removed from clues either, possibly the AT at the start of 27 across and OF in 8 down.  Great… let’s think of a literary piece that includes AT and OF.



I kept meaning to go back and spend more time on this, but with the appearance of the next Listener this seemed to find its way to the bottom of the puzzle page and stay there.

Complete and utter victory (yet again) to Sabre and the Listener Crossword.

Game over, 3% completion (reminds me of an old PS1 game where I couldn’t make it out of the tutorial level).

Feel free to tell me that four and a half referred to the number of answers I was able to enter correctly and see you next week when Aedites asks us to call Emma.

If this puzzle was about the current President of the USA, the hairpieces wouldn’t be so nicely arranged

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  I thought this might have been the first Serpent puzzle in the Listener (I have seen Serpent elsewhere), but it is the second, and the last one was the snakes and ladders game I also solved during breaks in a musical last year.

Two weeks in a row for an unusual clueing system – we have many entries that wrap around the grid, and down clues that are either jumblies or lead to an extra letter in wordplay.  Interesting concept.  There’s no clues for 8 or 9 down.  Hmmm?

OK – so I know I usually do the 1 across test, but when the acrosses don’t even start until 19, I got started by scanning the down clues for a way in. The hidden ECRU at 41 down (with an extra A) seemed as good a place as any to start, and there I did.  Even though the across clues were fairly brief and had extra words, I had a hard time with the across clues, and ended up fitting most of them in from the bottom half of the down clues I had solved.  One of the good things about solving so many of the bottom half was that I had quite a number of letters for the top replacements, and HAIRPIECE stood out as a possibility for the end of the row, with TOUPEE and WIG making up the rest.  Shark is giving us a little hair replacement therapy?  My first solving session ended with a remarkable grid – the top replacements were written in across the top, the bottom half was close to full, the top half was practically empty.

Oh, I checked the puzzle again when I got home and it appears my printer is back to an old trick of not printing a few lines at the bottom of the page – so there were clues to 8 and 9, they just didn’t print for me.

Back to it the next night of the show, and I was starting to fill in the rest of the puzzle.  I don’t know if I did this the correct way or not, but a number of the top down answers I got retroactively, finding a definition for an extra word that fit, and rearranging to get the original answer (DINGY at 17 down was one like this – not sure why, since looking now it seems like a perfectly solveable clue).

Somewhere along here ALOPECIA appeared – so with the wrapping around, it is probably another word that goes along with ALOPECIA… ANDROGENIC ALOPECIA?  Quick check of the phone, yep, that’s a thing (not a thing that appears to be in Chambers, but a thing nonetheless).

Everything is in there – so there was just a little sursolving – the last one to fall was CLOVEN becoming ELEVON (how tempting was it to write ELEVEN in there knowing that FIGURE was an extra word).

My working grid for Listener 4459, Shock Therapy by Serpent

Not as tricky as it started out, though cottoning on to the theme helped. Funny story around hair loss – my father, brother and both grandparents went close to bald at fairly young ages.  I just went grey.  I’m not sure who has it easier – I keep my hair pretty short because it becomes an unruly grey mop at the drop of a hat (sometimes my hat), so I’m forever visiting Kim for a trim.

Anyhoo – two sessions of solving waiting for my cues, so a slight notch up in difficulty, but a rather fun puzzle and a nifty way of getting to the theme, and best of all a Victory to George.  Woohoo Serpent!

Game over, 100% completion.

Feel free to tell me that even though I have an unruly grey mop I should shave most of it and get a combover, and see you next week when… oh, it’s Sabre, isn’t it?  When is my week off?

They hauled a little bee juice and ample ready cash, wrapped in a fiver

Greetings, and thanks again, regular readers. Friday again, and puzzle time awaits us.  Chalicea this week with a preamble referring several numbers.  I started this puzzle at the “Fiddler” debut.  There is a first clue – DINE A MITE translating as DYNAMITE and a pass in the first clue test!

By the play’s end I had LEAR (and with Chalicea that is likely Edward), PUSSYCAT and NIGHTBIRD in place.  It must have been first night nerves, but I didn’t see the theme immediately.  Next time I picked it up, all became clear – it is the pea green vessel.  There was a further false start as I imagined a glyph replaced the letter that didn’t fit in the perimeter, but eventually it became clear it wasn’t entered at all!

A grid.

Scratch grid - Listener 4458, Difficulty by Chalicea

It wasn’t until the full grid I saw why NIGHTBIRD and why clues weren’t given in the usual way.  A certain letter is absent in preamble, clues and grid.  That is pretty neat!  I have attempted the same in this review.

Win me!  Game finished, 100% achieved!

Feel free in telling me it wasn’t executed perfectly, and see readers next week when Serpent zaps us all.

I’m strange and loopy!

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword. New setter this time around, though Apt is a familiar sight on social media, so hi if you are checking in, Apt.  What have we here?  Roundish grid, a reference to the Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Quotations, which is apparently a thing, and some misprints.  Let’s begin, shall we?

It is worth noting that this puzzle came out two days before dress rehearsals began for the show I am currently in, a revival of Fiddler On The Roof at Haywood Arts Regional Theatre.  So taking advantage of an opportunity to not be stone cold sober, I first worked on this one at Tipping Point Brewery, a highly recommended stop.

There was no 1 across, however there is a 7 across, and in goes TOIL,ET and maybe there is a lavatorial theme with the shape of the grid. Has the Listener ever done a dunny theme?  At the end you have to flush your grid to Green Lane.  Unfortunately the only crosser I could get was ITEMED and so that was that.  In the first session I only managed a few patches of grid.  On the other hand, I was pretty good at spotting misprints in Apt’s clues, so I had quite a few letters of the message.

Solving session 2 was back home and with access to all the electronic dictionaries, and a trip to my campus’ library website to find that indeed we do have a subscription to the Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Quotations.  Hmmm… maybe that’s as good a place as any to start.  My extra letters were HOSTTERLAN… no, they’re not – HOSTTERLAW (I always get thrown when it is the misprints we keep – I did write FCWKCIAJCWLBEN next to the clues in case something came of it.  Anyhoo – isn’t there a HOFSTADTER’S LAW?  “Godel, Escher, Bach” was pretty much required reading when I was in college, and whenever I have had a student who is mathematically or cryptically inclined, I’ve given them a copy as a graduation present.  There is only one quote attributed to him in the ODSQ – it always takes longer than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.  And there it goes (with “think” rather than “expect” and “that” being added to the end) to complete the circle.  I didn’t check with the unchecked letters given but I think that is right.

There was a little bit of sursolving left, the CESSER and CSARDAS area of the grid being helped greatly by having the quote in place, and at the end of two sessions, we have a grid!

My working grid for Listener 4457, Polo by Apt

Woohoo!  I was a little flummoxed by something – the quote is in EGB, and the title refer’s to a sequel, which I figured to be “The Mind’s I”.  However I had not checked in with Hofstadter’s “recent” books, and it seems there is one from 10 years or so ago called “I am a Strange Loop” which explains the title and the quote running around in the loop.  Neat!  This was a very fun puzzle Apt, and a great debut, and I believe I can call it a Victory to George.

Game over, 100% completion.

Feel free to tell me that I should go hang myself with an eternal golden braid, and see you next week when Chalicea has a puzzle describing an adorable sect of puzzle fanatics.

Pity there wasn’t a white headed eagle

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, serving up only the worst of puns and observations since 2008.

Malva time! It appears Dipper has exhausted the world of gardening and is now on an avian kick.  After Malva’s last listener I wrote that maybe Dipper would be the pseudonym for horticulture and Malva would be the one for birds, so I was primed for the theme that had not yet appeared.  What have we – extra letters in wordplay (there’s a lot of that going around), and different entries of thematic answers.  Extra words, first letters, something else.  OK

There is a 1 across, and it is a term I am extremely familiar with – MAS,HUPS so we have an extra word in the first clue for Propaganda.  Woohoo!

With both Dipper and Malva the problem has not been in solving the clues, it has been with whatever comes next in the grid, as plants and birds are not my strong suit.  I kept waiting for a word that didn’t fit into the grid that needed to be modified, but nothing appeared, and I was getting close to a full grid.  Hmmmm.

It was pretty clear the first set of extra letters were going to be an anagram of YELLOW, and with TAN and SAND coming later on it seems like colours.  It was a mistake that led me to the theme – I had 25 across as ROWS from SWORD and so had an extra D in there, solving ALCHERA meant it wasn’t ROWS, and that made sense.  Probably had to be an extra E so that BLUE could be spelled from the extra letters.  It’s SPEAR leading to RAPS and hiding right underneath in the grid it TIT. BLUE TIT!  It’s like that puzzle where every letter had to be entered in a colour, we’re going to enter some birds in colours.

So with Chambers there the rest was fairly easy – look up the colours as a headword and find a bird that fit. Of course that didn’t stop me from getting excited about GREENEYE, which is a fish.  If Malva had put JACKET in there somewhere I would have totally associated it with YELLOW.

I don’t know what I would have done if I was planning on submitting this puzzle, since I don’t think I have all of the colours handy. If I was more conscientious I would have made a new grid in Crossword Compiler and entered the words in the appropriate colours, I’m sure there’s another blog where you can see at least one of those.

The final part took me almost as long as the rest of the puzzle – I had two dilemmas – first was that I wasn’t 100% on whether the extra word in 29 down was RENAISSANCE or BEING.  RENAISSANCE seemed like the best bet.

There’s 18 letters and we are told it is a 15 letter extra item… so probably RED something… I scoured the RED section in Chambers and there was nothing.  Maybe RED somethingED birdtype?  If the extra word was BEING then it could be a red beaked something… we have exhausted Chambers so I turned to onelook for suggestions (not having a copy of “Olson’s Book of Standard British Birds (minus the gannet)”. RED BEAKED something was not working.

It was a search for RED ????ED ????????? that finally turned up RED NECKED PHALAROPE!  Two checks through to make sure all the letters worked and we are done!

I’ve just written the colours, I haven’t coloured the entries.

My working grid for Listener 4456, Shady Characters by Malva

Woohoo!  Victory to George but that last part – was it really necessary?  And was that bird more obscure than Jude the Obscure’s collection of obscure objects?

Game over – 99% victory (still not sure why RENAISSANCE is the extra word in 29 down).

Feel free to tell me that someone with the brain of one should know birds extremely well, and see you next week when Apt gives us a puzzle featuring one of the more popular shirt styles.

At least the puzzle wasn’t written around the theme “silence gives consent”

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  A few hours late, and I’m not sure if I will get this done before I have to get on the road.

So let’s get down to it – Silence was carte blanche and the top and bottom row were unclued. Clues were normal and sitting right in the middle is a 15-letter entry which looks like it could be an anagram – which it was, of DURCHKOMPONIERT.  Of course I came up with that by myself and not an anagram solver (I can lie as well as anyone else in crosswordland). Anyhoo, we skipped the 1 across test for the “obvious 15-letter answer in the middle of the grid” test.

We also know where the across clues end, and with 15 letters in the row and an entire row unclued, it made sense that the second and penultimate row have these answers completely filling them (though on a first pass I only got OREADES at the top and ONCEOVER at the bottom.  This was enough to make a good start on the grid, eventually running in to a problem where AD REM wouldn’t fit anywhere!  There was an obvious spot for the unclued entries, and AD REM should have gone through them, but huh?

A bit later and there’s another problem – IN KEY, DUE TO and TWO PM also have nowhere to go.  They are all two word phrases… aaaah?  Do they straddle the middle line and the space count as a character?  But what goes in the middle?

I had ANTWO?T in the top row.  Is this a puzzle to do with DIE ANTWOORD?  Hmmm…

There’s no mention of ODQ for the six word phrase… maybe it is one of the ones in Chambers?  Something in Afrikaans?  Nope, turns out it is German – KEINE ANTWORT IST AUCH EINE ANTWORT.  No answer is the same as an answer – so these are left blank. My working copy is a bit of a mess, but here ’tis.

My working grid for Listener 4455, Silence by MynoT

I thought this was going to be a daunting task, but with the symmetry restrictions and the generous long answers in the acrosses, it wasn’t too bad, and was all done in two sessions (the first one being at the rather nice deck at French Broad Brewing).  That was fun MynoT, and I think I can claim a Victory to George.  Though now I’ve seen the solution online and the bigger victory is to M Goodliffe who managed to add to his voluminous crossword swag collection.

Game over – 100% completion, woohoo!

Feel free to tell me to go shove it up my Durchkomponiert and see you next week when Malva introduces us to some leafy trees.

Architecture so organic, it isn’t there!

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, where you can come and feel good about your mediocre solving skills and not fall into the hype of describing an impossibly difficult crossword you cannot solve without excessive consultation as “elegant”.

Augeas time!  I have generally been able to solve (sometimes with some blundering errors) Augeas puzzles and they have typically been on an interesting theme, so let’s have some fun, shall we?

Clues in blocks of four types, hmmm. That sounds complicated. Looks like real words in the grid, so let’s get solving.

There is a 1 across but I had absolutely no clue on a first reading, so there is a big fail on the 1 across test.  I didn’t get started until PRAIRIE at 12 across, which was a normal clue.

Fortunately PRAIRIE got me a good start at the top half of the grid and the penny dropped extremely quickly – it was likely that the thematic entry at the right of the second row was going to be WEST, and with T????SIN in place and PRAIRIE already in the grid, the possibility of TALEISIN WEST beckoned!

It may surprise readers that I am rather a fan of modern architecture styles (though I may have raved here about visiting Niemeyer buildings in Brazil), so with FALLING WATER in the middle of the grid and the beginning of FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT in the bottom half of the grid, the hard work was out of the way in a very short piece of time, woohoo!

The rest of the grid filled up like lightning, and all that was left was to try to piece together the message.  I couldn’t figure out hat the misprint was in 18 across, but it has to be APHAGIA, and there we have the message – HIGHLIGHT THE MAN AND HIS MAIN INNOVATIVE STYLE.  So there must be ORGANIC ARCHITECTURE somewhere in the grid, to go with FRANK LLOYD WRIGHT.  I spent almost as long trying to find ORGANIC in the grid as I did solving the rest of the puzzle.  PRAIRIE is still left, I wasn’t sure if it was a helper entry or part of the thematic material – I guess with no other option that has to be what is highlighted?

My working grid for Listener 4454, Honest Grey Maker

Augeas has picked another fun theme, however one that I knew a fair bit of before I got started, so this time I didn’t learn anything new.  Still a little puzzled by PRAIRIE (which I have now seen as the intended highlighting) and the wordplay for APHAGIA, but I think I can call this one a Victory to George!

Game over – 99% completion.

Feel free to tell me I should be walled up with a cask of organic amontillado and see you next week when MynoT gives us a puzzle that is golden.