Come back later and don’t forget the dried water

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  Another week where I left the puzzle on the scanner and it has gone to whatever dark side is on the other side of my scanner.  Oh well… what can I remember?

Here’s what I remember the most about Strange Requests – it took a long time to get to the theme, and then a very short time once the penny dropped – it was clear which answers were candidates to have a thematic removal, since the answer lengths were in the clue, and it was looking up DIV as a removal from MALDIVES that got me to thinking that it was words for idiots that were removed from answers – are we in for a second helping of April Fools?

The second part of the theme took a lot longer – in a second run through of across clues I solved MAGNET, but the checking letters read ?OP?E? so that was a replacement.  I hadn’t found any other candidates for replacement, though there were a few listed answer lengths that differed by from the number of lights by one, which are probably replacements.

One of those was GREASE – and it looks like ELBOW would work.  Hmmm – ELBOW GREASE and COPPER MAGNET – where do those ring a bell – a bit of Googling later and it turns out these are both FOOL’S ERRANDS!

This page (despite all the comic sans) helped a lot in identifying the rest of them, including the final LONG WEIGHT.

I didn’t use the last part of the theme, the definitions of the components until right near the end in trying to add up the last few bits.

My working grid for Listener 4445, Strange Requests by eXternal

That was a fun theme – I wonder if the editors were torn between this one and the one from last week and decided to run both.

Game over – victory to George and I think 100% completion.

Feel free to tell me that the blog is as necessary as a bucket of steam, and see you next week when Dysart sends us a really old record player

Needle nardle noooooo!

Welcome back to George vs the Listener.  A little late, and a little tired at the moment, burning the candle at multiple ends and playing a small part in a production of The Man Who Came To Dinner.  I must be looking good these days, because there I am (wearing amazing vintage goggles) in the middle of the promo shot!

Publicity photo for "The Man Who Came To Dinner"

Now let’s move on to Castaways – another puzzle that arrived the day I had to proctor an exam, which means I had a nice quiet two hours to make a good start (today’s puzzle is about to appear, but the setter can rest assured that I’ll be starting it during Act 2 of the play).

In Castaways, eXternal brings us misprints spelling a husband and wife, extra words and some thematic modifications (we are helpfully told where they are).  Looks like it could be all real words in the final grid, woohoo!

Not only this, but there is a 1 across!  BET,J,EMAN gets us going and that means a big pass on the ever rarer 1 across test!  You know how sometimes you unconsciously solve a clue before meaning to do it – while I was looking at the first clue, the one under it caught my eye as being SOBERLY (which we know needs to be modified).

OK – a little while into this, my first three misprints I found in across clues were E,C and L.  At this point I was utterly convinced that eXternal was treating us to a Goon Show theme and I started looking up ECCLES to find out who his wife was.  Nothing surfaced – it seems there was no mention of ECCLES having a wife, and certainly not one that had a P near the start of the name.  ECCLES and PATRICIA maybe?

I’ll admit I got a little disappointed at that point – though back to the solving a P,Y, R and A in the down misprints triggered something – isn’t there a PYRRAH somewhere in mythology?  A quick search leads to DEUCALION and PYRRAH and completely dashes any hope of ECCLES being in there, though it does help solve some of those pesky across clues.

I had to wait until I got home to look up D&P in Brewers, which thankfully spells out the whole deal – they threw stones that became men and women – so SOBERLY loses the anagram of BERYL and gains DOM to become SODOM (famous Biblical city).

Didn’t take long after that to get the first grid.

My working grid for Listener 4390, Castaways by eXternal

The next step was a little trickier – I had BARREL ORGAN and PRAYER left over from the extra words, so they had to go in somewhere.  Knowing that a J had to go drew my eye to that very first answer – BETJEMAN, which had an anagram of JET in it – and BEDESMAN had appeared recently, so that takes care of six of the letters.  OK – so now I have to make a four letter substitution somewhere else to get a BARREL ORGAN.


I’ll admit – I went to the WordWeb version of Chambers and reverse searched BARREL ORGAN to get SERINETTE, which fortunately words – take out the jumble of OPAL from 13 down and insert ERIN.

Nifty use of the theme there, eXternal!  I know it’s a standard reference, but given how crucial it was to the theme, I’m surprised Brewers wasn’t listed as recommended for this puzzle.  In the end I think we can call it a Victory to George!  Not so fast, idiot – eXternal stopped by to point out that I have messed up with TOM instead of TONI in 20 down.  Victory to eXternal!

2016 tally: 9-2-1

Feel free to tell me that ECCLES would now be legally married to BLUEBOTTLE and see you next week when Tibea unleases something truly bizarre!

Shouldn’t this be the Listeno Xword?

Welcome back to George vs an inability to resist bad jokes!   OKeydoke – what have we this week – eXternal!  Usually good for a bit of fun.  Wordplay leading to extra letters, OK… lots of stuff about a brief that doesn’t make much sense.  Change, fallout… might have to wait until the endgame.  Does look like all real words in the grid, so that’s a plus!

OKeydoke – there is a 1 across for the first time in a while, and it’s a reversal of COIN in SER, extra letter C (a quote that begins with a C?) and we are away with SENIOR, woohoo.  Hmmm… and one of the crossing entries has an answer length of 6 and only four squares in the grid.  Even someone as dense as I knows there’s something up here – the answer is NOTATE and it isn’t the N that disappears.

I made pretty steady progress through the clues – helped out by getting the quote early on – it appeared the first word was going to be CERTAIN and so it looks like CERTAIN SIGNS PRECEDE CERTAIN EVENTS – CICERO.  Eh?  So is CICERO the brief?

SANDPIT gave me the way to the endgame without quite knowing what the endgame was about – taking AND out of SANDPIT gives a real word, SPIT – MOREL could be turned to MANDREL by changing O to & and the & would come on top of a DRAMA.  Above OPERA, SENIOR could become SENATOR (AT coming from NOTATE), before CENSUS a + (SUM from POSSUMS) and before CIRCUS, SATURN becomes SATURATION with a : (RATIO coming from OPERATION).

Great – an almost full grid, but why the big deal about the brief?  The letters removed for the symbols were I,T,O and R.  RIOT?  Those four letters appear together at the bottom left of the grid – ORIT?  Googling CICERO and ORIT doesn’t help.  Reversed would be TIRO… googling “CICERO AND TIRO” brings up Marcus Tullius Tiro – a former slave of Cicero who possibly invented shorthand.  Aaaaaaah…

Is there some sort of award for getting to a solution without quite knowing how?

My working grid for Listener 4330, Following the Brief by eXternalIn the end I was in complete admiration of the grid construction – given the parameters of locating the thematic material this was a masterpiece.  Is it a flaw that I got there without understanding all of the thematic stuff until the very end?

Clues of note:

I’ve solved eXternal’s puzzles both in the Listener and the Independent, and I am usually pretty much on the right wavelength to the point that I don’t have to unravel clues that much.  So I’ll save my admiration for the final few fiendish ones that eluded me all the way to the end – the sursolved clues.

32 across:  Maybe staged parking is characterised by formality (6):  P,HAS,ICE for PHASIC with the extra E.

The message had a lot of E’s in it, so eXternal must have had fun looking for different methods of burying E.  I thought from the definition this was PHASED and it held up that corner quite a while

19 down:  Nazi with one brown long boot (7):  HESS,1,TAN for HESSIAN with the extra T

OK, the real reason this nearly stumped me was I had PHASED rather than PHASIC.  Got to love that surface though!

OK, I think I can claim this one a slightly sheepish Victory to George and the year is still off to an umblemished (if unsubmitted) start.  Should really use a few of those stamps.

2015 tally:  4-0-0

Feel free to tell me that I should know my TIROs from my RIOTs and see you next week when Loda asks us to solve a puzzle con duit.

This may not be the blog about ladies swallowing you are looking for

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, unfortunately delayed by almost a week – initially by my cable company with what they called an “Accidental Disconnection” which means they killed the cable and internet for my apartment (presumably by torching the entire panel) when the intention was to kill it for my neighbour (and any other poor sod who moves into that place).  So by Friday I was still internetless and relying on my phone, which is not great for writing blogs or scanning grids.

Which is a pity, since last week’s Listener was rather fun.  Hellside by eXternal – I had tried a few eXternal puzzles in the Guardian and enjoyed the sense of humor in the surfaces, so I was expecting something out of left field.  What have we – missing definitions.  Extra letters for definitions, and some highlighting at the end.  So it looks like all real words in the grid and the clues aren’t too mutilated.. could be gentle or deceptive.

There is a 1 across and it’s pretty gentle – C(ASS)IA gets is going and there’s an extra C.  All right,big pass on 1 across test!  The grid fill went pretty steadily, and the clues were pretty accessible – often the extra letters in across clues were kind of obvious, but the message from them was not – CDOCBSPI… has a coded message snuck through?  The first thematic down clue spotted was PL,AGUE, followed by SUB,DUE… hmmm… PLAGUE could be DOG and SUBDUE could be COW… some sort of farm theme (we’ve just had Animal Farm?)?  Old McDonald?  Ylvis?

It was one of the last in that caused the penny to drop – HAR(VEST)E,R.  What does HARVESTER have to do with DOGs and COWs?  There’s one on a farm… a trip to Chambers later and there’s a thing called a HARVESTER SPIDER.  AHA!  DOGs, COWs and SPIDERs all went into that little old lady that swallowed a FLY – and there’s a juicy (presumably) FLY in the middle of the extra letters from the message… which is the animals inside each other (and inside the old lady).  That’s pretty nifty.

All that’s left is to find the representation of the old lady (spoiler alert, she dies at the end).  Hmmm, only 9 characters to describe an old lady swallowing a horse and dying?  There can’t be many letters for horse so it’s probably GG… there’s a GG near the top, and there it is – WIFE on the outside and RIP above!  Woohoo!

My working grid for Listener 4279, Hellside by eXternal


This was two fairly short sessions, and I think I had it in the mail on Monday – so on the easier side for the Listener crossword, but I did really enjoy working through this one – and absolutely no sursolving, since all the grid was needed to complete the thematic material, woohoo!

2014 tally:  5-0-0… and I believe the all-correct is intact!

Feel free to tell me that I need to write these in advance, or anticipate strange things from cable companies, and see you next week (well, tomorrow, almost today) when BeRo gives us a tribute to the greatest film ever to feature both John Travolta and Nicholas Cage