Welcome to the Excel Inn

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  If this is the first post you’re seeing, you need to see more posts… and my little bit on Pointer’s from last week should be right below this.

Numberword time! First numerical of the year and it is Botox.  The Listener Crossword site tells me that Botox is a hybrid of Artix (who we had not that long ago with a puzzle I didn’t get), and Shark who we last saw under the guise of Handyman last year. Pseudonyms abounding! Neither of them have set a numerical Listener that I know of.

I have no shame, dear readers. I saw the sheer number of numerical clues, that all the numbers 1-26 were used, and that there were several letters in many of the clues, and a few of them had two equations that worked out to the same value, and went straight to Excel to make a spreadsheet.

Now of course this doesn’t take all the logic out of the equation… it was still a hunt and peck around the grid. I made some notes of what was divisible by what, but with the number of linked clues that had to be solved together, I really needed that sheet that populated multiple entries when I tried a new combination of numbers.

I do remember wondering if I’d ever figure out which letter was 1… and that was a stroke of genius on the setters part by only having 1 (which I think was W) appearing in only 1 clue.

OK… now what.  32 cells stay as numbers (out of 66).  For the rest, there’s a cipher, where each number stands for 1-3 letters… Both end columns are the same…  the columns might be a key here – I see a column with 1111 and 2222… but 3334 and 4445.  Huh?  Next to those is 4321 three times.  Maybe the cipher will helps… it sounds like we should arrange the letters we just solved for in order, and use the second digit.

I tried that, and got nothing from the title.

What if isn’t the order of the letters in the answers, but just the normal ordering of letters?  That would probably have made the grid construction easier, right, if you didn’t have to come up with a code and the method of clueing letters together.  That looks more promising – REJOB could become HOTEL.

Aaaah… the identical columns are STAIRS.  There’s the RECEPTION at the bottom, a PENTHOUSE at the top and a LIFT in the middle.

I guess there’s no room 13? In the US that used to be a big thing, but I don’t recall the number 13 being left off of room numbers lately.  I’m traveling next week, I’ll check… though I am going to New Orleans, and if anywhere is going to be a superstitious hotel town, New Orleans sounds like a good option. Anyhoo – we have a grid!

My working grid for Listener 4490, REJOB (or HOTEL) by Botox

This wasn’t too bad – I did this all in one long, three hour session. About half an hour to write the Excel code, about another two hours fiddling with the numbers to make them fit, and not too long head-scratching about the cipher.

The last few years I’ve made a mess of the first numerical, but this time I think I’ve cracked it!  Victory to George.

Game over:  100% completion.

Feel free to tell me that Excel is far worse than anything else I regularly do, and see you next week when Dysart describes me in puzzle form.


Care to stare?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, your place to hear the unfounded rumblings of an insignificant aficionado.  Pull up a chair, it’s going to be rant week, as this week, for the first time in a long time, we hit my all-time pet peeve – the endless stare at a completed grid.

My working grid for Listener 4475, Follow The Directions by Artix

All clues were normal, all grid entries were real words, it was all in the endgame this week. This is typical for Artix, and I either get it, or I completely don’t get it, and this was a week where I completely and utterly didn’t get it.  The grid fill wasn’t too difficult, another one that I did on a plane with no internet but access to Chambers on my laptop.

So here’s the thing – there was (and I’m sure I will be corrected on this in other places), there was absofuckinglootely nothing in the clues to signal the theme, except for a pretty useless hint of Devonians being thematic. Is the hero SHIRE CREAM?  So at the end I’m left with a complete grid and a hunt to find a hero (5,5) with no other hints at all.

Nothing in this grid looks like a 5,5 name.  I checked acrosses, downs and diagonals.  So what does this mean?  I’m going to kick myself if it is a theme I know, but my guess is I’m hunting for something I’ve never heard of with no guidance other than it is something that can be chopped out in a seven-sided figure.  And I love mutilation of crosswords!!! Still waiting for the one you have to burn and now I’m being tortured by a crossword begging to be hacked to pieces but I have no idea where to make he first cut (be lucky I am not your doctor).


Total and utter Victory to Artix and the Listener Crossword.

Game over… can I say 30% completion?  What is the point of a complete grid and nothing else?

Feel free to tell me that I need to start cutting myself into a heptagon, and see you next week when Nebuchadnezzar gives us several greetings.

I was looking for a very long one-act play where Horatio Nelson and Horatio Hornblower meet and discuss painful deaths.

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, for those of you who are taking a break from catching wild Pokemon.  Time to reminisce over a puzzle we all had a bash at three weeks ago and are eagerly awaiting the decision on if we have submitted an entry of correctness or not.  All will be revealed in about 10 minutes according to my watch so let’s get cracking.

Artix!  Most Artix puzzles I find bloody difficult, often with tricky endgames.  So what have we here – remove a letter and treat thematically… clues in groups.  This does sound tricky.

Fortunately there is a 1 across, and even more fortunately it looks like an easy one – M,OTHER with “one choosing” as extra, becoming a definition somewhere.  Woohoo!

SOPHERIM was my lead in to the deletions and treatments – with HORN, EMPALE and OCTUOR (which stupid me wrote in the grid as OCTOUR and so got stuck beyond belief on KAURI later on) in place, delete a letter and jumble to a real word looked like a good prospect, and ORPHISM took its place.

I made a much better fist of the across clues than the down clues, and saw what looked like it was going to be REARRANGE from the extra clues.

I had a P in the extra letters from down clues – was REARRANGE PERIMETER a possibility?

Next dawning was ACT and whatever the extra letter in 29 across was… ADMIRAL NELSON ACT ONE?  I don’t know a play about Admiral Nelson?  Wasn’t there a SCENE in the downs – yep, SCENE and 19 across has FIVE (which I thought was part of the clue).  HORN BLOWER.  SCENE FIVE.  Is there a play about Horatio Hornblower?

Oh… Admiral Nelson is also a HORATIO – it’s bloody Hamlet.

Earlier this year I saw a show that was called a “Radical Hamlet Remix” which was kind of Hamlet told in flashbacks.  It was interesting, but not my favorite thing I’ve seen.

OK – Hamlet Act 1, Scene 5.  Mid way through there is I’M SORRY THEY OFFEND YOU HEARTILY, YES FAITH HEARTILY – there’s our title.  So now we just have to work out the rest of these extra letters (it was around here that I figured out what I’d done wrong with OCTUOR), and there was a grid.

Huh, but what did the perimeter have to do with it?  There’s ghosts and spooky things, and references to Hamlet, but aren’t we meant to rearrange it?

Right next to it is a line from Horatio – THESE ARE BUT WILD AND WHIRLING WORDS MY LORD.  Aaaah, aren’t all of those letters in the perimeter?  Got out the highlighter… Dammit, I’ve still got leftover letters!

Oooooh, I do, but they are the letters of HORATIO, so everything that needed to be written in the bottom really did come from the perimeter.

My working grid for Listener 4403, No Offence by Artix

OK – this was a kind of a perfect storm of a crossword.  Just as I was getting frustrated at having found the theme, and using the theme to sursolve what was mostly my own stupid mistake, it then fell together rather beautifully, and that perimeter is something to behold!  Lots of Hamlet references, the letters of Horatio, and the quote, and with only one iffy (I rescind “iffy” – Artix popped in to show me that it is part of the text, making it very much a part of the thematic material) spiffy entry in I WILL. Masterful construction, Artix – I think I may have damned you with faint praise in the letter that accompanies my entry.

I believe we can call this one a Victory to George, woohoo!

Feel free to tell me I should really brush up on my Shakespeare (though this year I’ve been to productions of Much Ado About Nothing and Hamlet, so I may have hit the annual Shakey quota), and see you next week when Tut wants to shake us up.

Everything’s missing

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, where mediocrity meets jocularity regularly.

Dear readers, I have a confession to make.  Let’s get this out of the way right off – for the past seven and a half years, I’ve written about my attempts to get better at the Listener.  I’ve struggled, I’ve breezed through, I’ve taken a few weeks off when things have become super hectic.  This week, I bring you something first.  The week I chucked it in.

Artix time – odd-looking unsymmetric grid.  Entries wrapping around in all direction.  Unclueds.  Bars that aren’t shown but must not be added (oooo… kkkkk).

Sounds like some super cold solving… There is a first clue, since there’s no numbers, let’s call it, for want of a better name, 1 across.  And it’s a word that is close to my brain often, being a favorite Vonnegut word – C(LAMB)AKE.  Next up is WELLES missing an E to make WELLS.  I didn’t do very well with the rest of the clues, though I got CHELSEA WARE at the end, and a few of the first down clues.  Near the end there is a clue that looks like it is for HI,JACK if JACK is something that matches an unclued.  Cards?

CHELSEA?  Isn’t that a type of a bun?  There’s nowhere CLAMBAKE and WELLS fits… oh – is it BAKEWELL coming out to leave CLAMS and we are in the territory of the Queen of Hearts making tarts and having them all stolen?

About twenty frustrating minutes of solving a few clues here and there I have come to the end of my rope.  Am I meant to find random parts of tarts (hey, that rhymes) in random clues that I am struggling with, even though all clues are normal, and bung them in this unsymmetrical grid with a bar missing?

Sorry, Artix… I lost interest.

My working grid for Listener 4352, What's missing? by Artix

I picked up the puzzle a few more times over the next few weeks and stared at the clues, but didn’t get anywhere else.  Now there’s a chance I have completely misunderstood the challenge, but this struck me as not fun anymore.

Victory to Artix and the Listener Crossword!

2015 tally:  19-0-5

Feel free to tell me that I should have persevered and there was a delicious lemon filling waiting at the end, and I’ll see you next week when KevGar brings us a ghost story, maybe this crossword coming back to haunt me.

Edit:  well the joke was on me even more, wasn’t it?  Completely on the wrong footage, but the theme was a musical I didn’t like in the first place.  Looks like every letter I had in was correct and although I had CULCULLATE I’m kicking myself for not letting it wrap around with IRE (I thought that was a darkened line at the end of the row).  Not sure if any of this would have helped, but now I’m feeling even thicker than I was before.  Thanks, Artix!

More sixes than a smacky-smacky cricket match

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, coming to you live from sunny Melbourne.  Christmas has happened and I hope everyone got what they wanted/deserved.  I got two beer coozies and some beer to go in them, this will probably disappear during the first day of the Third Test (I’ll be at the third day, if India last that long).

Four more Listeners to go before the end of what has been a pretty poor year, so let’s try for a strong finish!  Carte blancheish time – there’s a cross in the middle and all answers are six letters long, so looks pretty likely that there’ll be one nudged up under that cross, most likely 24 since that’s the only one with two clues at the one number, and with the 90-degree symmetry that means I think I know where eight of the answers go without getting started.  A phrase around the perimeter and something to be highlighted, and we know where 6 and 12 are.  But there’s no clue for 6.  We have to eventually shade the word that goes there, so maybe it’s just a placeholder.  OKeydoke…

There is a 1 across but it looks like it refers to another answer, so a big fail on the 1 across test.  Bugger it, let’s go straight to 24 – excellent… WAR GAS and SUIVEZ.  Hey, wait a minute – they don’t start with the same letter!  If WAR GAS was reversed they could go together… let’s see what 12 looks like (unless things wrap around the grid, 12 is a down answer).  RES(OR)T.  Carte Blanche and jumblies?  All real words at least, so WAR GAS becomes SWARGA which checks RESORT (please tell me RESORT isn’t RESORTed – none of its anagrams have the R in the fifth position so I think we’re safe there).

At this point, especially with the 90-degree symmetry it is time to bust out Crossword Compiler.  I’ve used it for solving far more crosswords than I’ve compiled!  Add in the 90 degree restriction and start slotting in words or jumbles.

Fortunately the clues were not too difficult, though I got myself really bogged down in the top right and bottom left – part of this was a lucky stab at HEXADACTYLOUS when looking at possibilities for the last 13 letters around the top left corner.  It was a while later that SIX OF ONE AND HALF A DOZEN OF THE OTHER appeared around the perimeter.  OK, so it’s sixes and twelves, that’s why we have 6 and 12 in the grid. Some of the jumbles were tricky – when I had three answers left to go, two of them were jumbled (INROAD as resort of ORDAIN, IRADES as resort of RAISED and the found-by-pecking VIVDAS). Finally, after one long long session, there is a grid!  Woohoo – been a few weeks since I’ve actually filled one of those in!

So what do we have to highlight – well starting from the S, that IX is poking out.  But “elements in the grid” probably mean the 12 and the 6 that were indicated… TWELVE AND SIX?  Is that short of ONE POUND?  Looks likely…

My grid for Listener Crossword 4323, ONEPO by Artix

Not 700% sure on the final step, but it looks likely. Could it be that I’ve gotten one right for a change?  I’ll post this and see.  Tentative victory to George

2014 tally:  37-3-9

Feel free to tell me which six or half a dozen I’m not quite seeing, and see you next week when Phi goes off!

A long walk ruined by a dead router

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  Got some bad news, no internet at my place means I haven’t been able to scan the grid (I haven’t even been able to download the last few dailies, I’m stealing work internet to write this up).  Fingers crossed the post will be up tomorrow – if you want the short version of it – Teddy Roosevelt got shot, the bullet stayed in, and I found the front nine far easier than the back nine.

Check back tomorrow for more bad jokes and a grid.

In case anyone comes back to check, I now have a new Netgear modem and router and I am back on the web, just in time to get my Mephisto writeup done on Times for the Times.  So let’s get back to this one…

Quick wrap-up note from last week – I got an email during the week from KevGar with a few notes on the final step – my entry doesn’t quite match what was on the Times site, but I have a feeling I may be marked correct for showing it was the Paul Wittgenstein we were looking for.  I’m going to keep my tally as is and see what happens at the end of the year.

OK – let’s look at this week’s challenge – Artix, who is a new setter or a newdonym, so hi Artix if you are or were checking in.  I saw the grid and the title, and was reminded of a Wall Street Journal puzzle from last year (if you’re not overloaded with cryptic crosswords, and particularly if you like US puzzles, I highly recommend the WSJ monthly puzzle) with a similar idea.  I was on my way to New York City when this crossword came out, so the first sitting was a plane solve on Friday afternoon.

This was a frustrating start, because a first scan through the hole clues only yielded five or six, none of which were together, and only 10 of the ones where we were given a hint on the position of came easily.  I did a bit better with the colums, getting seven of them on the first reading, and finally one entry could go in – KINCOB had to go up and across since there was no I In BLOODSUGAR.  A few more promising developmenst on the front nine – all of the letters in LAPPER are in PERIPTERAL, so maybe that went down the left hand column – that would have the front nine mostly on the left hand and top side, and the back nine on the right side and bottom.  Most of PHAETON is in SYMPATHIES, so that could join to DARG at the top…

It was very much a bits and pieces solve, but I twigged to the theme relatively early – with FUGUE and BLIND ROADS comprising part of the middle section, something twigged.  I had STRONG???B?LL?O??? as the last letters and thought it might have been STRONG and BALL, but when I type in STRONG AS A into Google, it finishs off with STRONG AS A BULL MOOSE… now last year I taught a class on Humanities, and students had to write research papers on a figure or a theme.  I had one student who was obsessed with Teddy Roosevelt, and wrote a paper on Roosevelt’s finest moments, including being shot and giving a stump speech, and the bullet never being recovered.  That’s even in (lucky) clue 13… is this a Roosevelt theme and the BULLET is in the clubhouse?

That would work with UDO connecting the two close together circles at the bottom.

So I have a lot of portions, most of the jumbles, about three quarters of the holes and a good idea of the theme…. time to start putting it together and make sense of this message.  I started with the columns and circling letters I had already placed

working out the positions of the holes and messages in Listener 4211


This approach helped me get the last few columns (MATTAMORES, BROOM and AEROPHOBIC) and confirmed the Roosevelt theme with SPEAK SOFTLY and CARRY A BIG STICK with the leftover letters.  This also confirmed what I thought was DAMOSEL was DAMOISEL.

Still two to go, though – used Word Matcher with the available remaining letters to get MIRADORS (then groaned at the clue), and that left

One last problem… I couldn’t place DAMOSEL in the space that it needed to fit in, and that left the remaining letters to spell SARUM, which works with the clue, but wasn’t a city I had found in previous hunts.

Anyhoo, after a lot of sweating, I finally had a complete grid – this took the whole week and wasn’t in the mail until the next Monday.

my grid for Listener 4211 - One Shot at a Time by Artix


Great fun, Artix – and really stretched me to the limit there, but looks like it’s all in order and I can call this a Victory to George!

2012 tally:  33-1-6.

Feel free to leave comments on reliable web connectivity, and see you next week (on time, I hope), when Raich gives us a resolution well in advance of New Years!