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If there’s enough deletions you can get to a grid as empty as mine!

While we are hot, here is part 3.  I have to leave for the theater soon, so the next three will come up later.

This was not a puzzle to come back to just a few days before the solution went live having not done any thematic puzzles for a couple of weeks. There’s a lot going on here, most entries are non-words, everything has a letter change.

Hmmm… Ifor. I have a terrible track record with Ifor, and it’s generally a two-parter, I cannot solve the clues and I cannot figure out the theme.


Even after reading the solutions notes to this one, I have no idea how I could have gotten there. I only have about 20 of the clues solved, and the scattered deleted letters aren’t helping me get a verse. STUSHIE becoming SUSHI helped me get HIPPO on the opposite side, and SUNTAN becoming SUNN were the only ones I could write in to the grid with confidence.

My working grid for Listener 4506, Multiple Deletions by Ifor

Ifor remains my nemesis, and you would think that I would be on top of something that has an elements theme (my only published crossword to date had atomic symbols to be entered as the full name of the element). Of course, as happens with Ifor, the quote is by someone I haven’t read from a poem I haven’t heard of. But science!

Game over, 5% completion.

OK, time to get ready for tonight’s show – complete and utter victory to Ifor and the Listener crossword, for two weeks in a row! Maybe Samuel will stop the rot… find out tomorrow!

Percy Bysschylus?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, your weekly dose of confused hung-over ramblings about the internet’s favorite thematic weekly challenge.

What has Ifor got waiting for us this time around?  There’s two blocked-off squares in the middle, some extra phrases in across clues and extra words in down clues, and at the end something needs to be done to the grid, something about titles… OK.  Looks like we are in real words territory in the grid, so let’s get solving!

There is a 1 across for the first time in a while and it gives us the whole top row with DI(VERSION)ARY and we are away!  I wonder if Ifor has given us a similar gift at the bottom of the grid? Yes, it’s an anagram for CONGRATULATE and now I have a crossword sandwich and can work on the filling (it didn’t hit me until much much later the irony of getting the top row and bottom row first).

I did a little better starting from the bottom and working up, and getting the last few down answers made it obvious that it was the first and last letters of the extra words that we were looking for – giving ORDER TO SINGLE WORDS as the end of the message.  OK – well I’ve found ABJECT SUN and CAN BE JUST as extra phrases and they are anagrams of each other and of SUBJACENT, which means “bottomless”.  Hmmmm, OK.  There’s also HAS A COUPLE and CASUAL HOPE which can become ACEPHALOUS, or “headless”.  Wow, that’s nice of Ifor to double up on this… can I get the other two now?  PEARL AT makes APTERAL… hmmm, where else can I find that string… LATE PAR In 10, making the answer CROSSE.

A bit more poking at the down answers and it looks like we are heading to ERASE SOME LETTERS FROM GRID, so it looks like we’re getting rid of the outside of the grid… and it does appear that removing the outside of the grid leaves real words.  Two of my unsolved entries are around the outside, so I guess I could have ignored 8 down and 16 down (which I was pretty sure was ABET but hadn’t looked up that definition).

Running up that diagonal is CPROM??HEUSY…. which doesn’t seem to make any sense before the outside is erased, but when you take the outside away then you can make PROMETHEUS, which was a sci fi movie of a few years ago that started off awesome but got very silly near the end.

Now wasn’t there something called PROMETHEUS UNBOUND?  Wasn’t it SHELLEY? Hmmm… two books?  Traditionally ascribed?  I guess I’d better look that up – turns out it is based on the story of Prometheus by Aeschylus, where he does have his wings clipped (not sure if he ends up headless or with his feet cut off).

Hmmm… so what am I meant to write at the bottom, SHELLY or AESCHYLUS?

Ugh… I am really lost at this point. Have I missed something?

Title to the rescue, I hope – does Aeschylus rhyme with “fast and loose”?  More so than it rhymes with Shelley, so I guess that’s the better option?

I must be missing something, but this is the best I have

My working grid for Listener 4344, Fast and Loose by Ifor

Victory to George?

2015 tally:  14-0-3

Feel free to tell me what I’m missing, and see you next week when Samuel essentialises us.


Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword where a brilliant start to the year has come to a crashing halt in the last two weeks.  Does Ifor allow a chance to crawl out from the doldrums?

We’ve had Ifor three times, and I’ve made a tag for the bottom of the post, though I think it was funny that the last Ifor resulted in a lengthy thread on how to print the Listener, which for me reared its ugly head again last week when the grid printed HUGE (but you’ll find out about that in a few weeks… dear Listener editors, I hope I’m not breaking some sort of rule here).  I have enjoyed the other Ifor offerings, which gave me some hope that I could get somewhere with this.

And hope was what I needed, desperately, since I started this in one of the dourest of locations, the waiting room of the Social Security Office in Asheville, North Carolina.  Hells waiting room has no wifi, and I forgot to bring Bradfords, so I was there with just my phone and a grid.

All answers have something leave, and across ones are real words or phrases, so down is gobbledygook.  Some extra wors in down clues help us out and there’s a blocked in cell for an authors name.  Hmmm… that’s obscure, maybe it will make sense later.

There is a 1 across, and it appears to be a straightforward one – LOG(ORRHEA) and we are away.  I have to take five letters away and be left with a real word, eh? LOGO?  RHEA?  GORE?  None of the checking down answers were particularly helpful so I moved on.

13 turned out to be the lucky start with OUTER HEBRIDES having to coexist with NEROLI OIL, TURCOPOLE,  SMARTENED, CORIOLANUS and RESIDENTS, all of which were losing a pretty large number of letters.  If we lose all the E’s R’s and the S and H we can have OUTBID fitting with the down answers, also missing those letters.

Aaaaah… there was a similar trick in a domino themed crossword last year, where only the letters in DOMINO showed up in the grid.  Let’s go solve and see what letters need to be removed.  Some hunt-and-pecking later and it appears C,R,A,H,E and S are the extra letters.  What’s the significance of that?  It could be ARCHES (and there’s SPANS as an extra word in 38 down)… it could be CHARES (there’s HOUSEWORK).

Double aaaaaaaah!  Oh dear what an unfortunate coincidence!  There was a very recent Spectator crossword where the unclued lights were definitions of the various anagrams of TREES… that must be what is going on here!

At this point I was in good shape – I knew how many S,E,A,R,C,H letters had to be let out of each entry, and there were some pretty impressive deletions – I wonder if Ifor intended the lengths of answers to be given, since taking INANENESS all the way down to INNN was very sneaky.

Finally it was down to one answer… ?OOING with only one deletion… you can see my scribble… Chambers suggests B,C,L,M and W for the first letter… LOOSING looks kind of like the definition.  Aaaah – is it LOO(can),SING(produce tinnitus)?  Hmmm… it’s the best I have to go on, and the LOO part seems solid.

Woohoo – we have a grid!

My working grid for Listener 4296, Playgroup by Ifor

But the work is not done… the central square has to be filled in to produce an author… something to do with the removed letters, and if it’s diagonal it has to be something to do with LIPPIN?LLINON or NITTDU?IODIII.  The former looks more promising.  The first name could be CHARLIE?  Or ALICE? Google for authors named CHARLIE… this isn’t going to work.

OK… titles… titles with ARCHES in them?  Titles with CHASER in them?  Titles with SEARCH in them…. “Six Characters In Search of an Author”… we’ve had that before in a Listener – back in 2009 with “At Arm’s Length“.  PIRANDELLO could be made out of the letters in the middle, just not using the whole diagonal.

Aaaaaah… I think I get it – although HUNTING and TO FIND are both in down clues, they’re all needed for the clue, so SEARCH isn’t defined?

Anyhoo… I don’t need to point that out, so I think I can call this a Victory to George.  A bit of confusion, and that rare case where it took almost as long to find the theme as it did to complete the grid.  And thanks to two previous crosswords for showing me the way.  The ship may have been righted.

2014 tally:  20-0-2

Feel free to tell me that I still haven’t found what I’m looking for (but I’m still looking), that it’s great that the US outlasted both Australia and England in the World Cup, and see you next week when Aramis brings the Listener into the world of 90’s video games.

Dam I missed

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword – I had a minor panic attack last night when I logged on to the Times Crossword club late on Thursday night and there was a link to Listener Crossword 4244!  Not sure what’s going on over there in crosswordclubland, but I wondered if I’d slept through a day and it was Saturday already.  So I now have four Listeners sitting in front of me… weird!  Not sure if I like this new setup or not, I guess it does give me a chance to get a Listener in the mail before the weekend starts, but Thursday is usually a night to try to catch up on sleep.  Maybe it was just a scheduling flub.

Ifor time!  This is Ifor’s third Listener, last year we had A1 with the Flying Scotsman which was a pretty speedy solve, needing a bit of poking around in Brewers, and Frightened Catherine, which I thought I had, but fell for a trap with Fahrenheit and Celsius conversions.  Rubber match, here we go!

OK – a block has to be rebuilt, real words in the end.  Eleven letters dropped in wordpay, and some complicated instruction to get a thematic number.  Hmmm… well it looks like real words before and after in the grid and that sounds good to me!

OK – there is a 1 across and it looks like the answer should be POSIT but I don’t see a definition?  Could it be our wordplay only clue right off the bat?  It could be I in POST or I in POS,T… Maltby makes me think of Richard Maltby, who writes a thematic crossword once a month for Harpers (they’re usually pretty easy and have a ton of Americanisms).  Anyhoo, let’s put POSIT in and see if it works… it works with the compound anagram OARS, STILL, another subtraction anagram in IDOL and whatever 5 down should be that was left off my printout.


Anyone else in the US have this problem?  A question or two is cut off between page 1 and page 2 of the printout? It happens with the Jumbo as well, though usually you can figure out what was meant to be there from checking letters.

Continuing with this top left corner… looks like there’s a MALTBY appearing again, across MALT and BYLINE.  That’s weird.  Surely the Listener isn’t producing a tribute to Harpers?  On we go…

The first missing letter appeared for me in 24 across – MOONTYPE…. oh great, it could be either O.  There’s another in ANGORA, no doubt about where that could be – and it’s another O.  NONQUOTA crosses ANGORA and is also missing an O – maybe it’s the same one… it’s yet another subtraction anagram.  With QUORUM it looks like a pattern is appearing in those O’s.

In about two hours I was in a very interesting (but not unusual for me) place – I had a complete grid.  I had a pattern of O’s that looked a bit like a metal detector.  I had a pattern of numbers to apply to the rest of the clues, took a few false steps before I eventually got REPEAT ONE ENTRY NUMBER SIX PLACES EAST.

And I am completely stuck…

My working grid for Listener 4241, skippers by Ifor


Hmmm… those O’s look like they could be bouncing – is it The Dam Busters?  To Brewer!  Hmmm, there’s an entry but not much there.  To Google!!! Aha – MATLBY was one of the Dam Busters!  But the first attempt was a failure, and had GIBSON instead of MALTBY in charge, and didn’t blow up the MOHNE (though in Brewer it’s MOEHNE) dam.  So replace MALTBY with GIBSON and rebuild the MOHNE dam gives us all real words.  The squadron was 617 – so moving the 1 from 1 across six places to the left completes the number.

Wow – I don’t think I’d ever gotten to the bitter end of a grid without having a clue about the theme before!  I got a phone call while I was writing this up so the solution should be online now, let’s take a peek…

Looks like I can call this a Victory to George!  I really liked the puzzle but I thought it was odd that the final solution (ulp) contradicted information in one of the usual sources.  I don’t think any of it is in Chambers, but hooray for the interweebs!

2013 tally:  14-3-2

Feel free to tell me I don’t know my dam business, and see you next week when gwizardry tries to kill us with a queen.

In which we go to Brewers to learn about a chugga chugga woo woo

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, where the last few days have been particularly hectic, and I didn’t get a chance to post, and forgot to put up a “there will be a blog post soon” notice.  Today there were more important things to do like watch the World Twenty20 replay of Australia clobbering India.  It’s very weird to see Australia playing on US TV with American ads in between overs.  ESPN hasn’t quite figured out how long there is between overs, though they’re getting better in the Super Eights and I think only two balls of the game were missed (and it seemed Watson and Warner only missed two balls of the Indian bowling).

OK, enough of this, there’s a Listener to talk about.  This is Ifor’s second Listener – last time was an embarrassing end-of-puzzle gaffe in Frightened Catherine where I thought I had gotten it, so time to right the ship.  What have we here – letters to be removed from clues, cryptic representations in the grid and a connection joining them.  Looks like down clues are normal.

Which meant an abandonment of the usual protocol, and a start on 1 down.

There is a 1 down and it’s a gentle subtraction SEPARATION-RAN= OPIATES so a pass on the brand new “1 down when 1 across could be thematic” test.  That means 1 across could have the RAN unnecessary and start with O(over).  playing with anagrams containing O+CHANCE produces OROBANCHACEAE which works with RAN removed, so we’re doubly away.

Having the long entry across the top early helped a lot, and I also saw the MONOCOTYLEDON anagram at the bottom (the same word appeared in a Times Jumbo a few weeks ago), so this grid started filling from the top and bottom towards the middle.   First find was APTERAL as a “no definition” clue, and that most of the across clues seemed to need something removed, the only few that stood out as not having removed letters were LOGE, OIL, STREESS and EMEU.

I couldn’t make anything out of the removed letters, but L on DON stuck out at the bottom of the grid as a possible finishing or starting line.  I circled all the answers where I knew there were removed letters – a little staring at the area near LonDON using the circled entries showed me FLYING.  FLYING DUTCHMAN?  The preamble says Brewers could be recommended, so to Brewers I go – under FLYING there is FLYING DUTCHMAN and also FLYING SCOTSMAN – a train line between LONDON and EDINBURGH!  So if I can find an ED in BURGH I’m good – and there it is, up the top, along with the rest of FLYING SCOTSMAN.

One little tricky bit – there were two possibilities for the first S in SCOTSMAN – did it pass through DISCS or SET.  SET was one of those close I didn’t actually solve, since I got the three down answers that contribute to it before looking at the clue.  A trip to Chambers and a SET can be a cutting, so there’s no removed letters and the answer has to pass through DISCS (on my working copy, both are shaded).

The last part of the Brewers section on the Flying Scotsman gives the engine number 4472 – so it’s LNER that is the indicator clue, and the other undefined entries – 44 across, and 7 and 2 down.

My working grid for Listener 4206 - A1 by Ifor

On Sunday morning then I had a completed grid, and everything that was required for submission – but I’m still not 750% happy – I didn’t work out what was the message in the removed letters, nor do I know what had to be removed from 13 across to get the answer.  On the other hand, I do get the title – the A1 also goes from London to Edinburgh.  So watch me now check the answer and find out that I’m wrong – but I believe I can call this a Victory to George… let’s go check.

Everything appears to be in order!  And I was overthinking the letters, I was trying to treat the letters thematically to get new words, not just join them together to make Scots names – they’re all sitting there on the right of my scan.

Woohoo – that was a lot of fun Ifor, sorry if I didn’t get everything, but it appears I got enough to squeak by here.

2012 tally:  28-1-6

Feel free to criticize my inability to post promptly or my lack of observance in finding those names, and see you next week (I’ll try for Friday this time) when Ferret will send us Loco!

Is Catherine frightened because Daniel and Anders are coming for her? And is Lord Kelvin watching on? Where’s Reameur? Those dirty scientists!

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword – what an interesting week last week, I ended up with a correct grid for all of the wrong reasons (well in one case a semi-educated guess).  I got a hat-tip from Nudd in Listen with Others nonetheless.

This week we have another new setter or newdonym, Ifor!  In schoolboy alphabet, isn’t Ifor grudge?  And there’s no gridlines… or answer lengths.  Looks like solving is going to be a little cold here.  And twelve clues are definitions that differ by one letter.  Araucaria had a crossword like that around Christmastime in the Guardian and I couldn’t do it.  Mind you, for me that is true of many Araucaria crosswords.

There is a 1 across (and with the lack of a 1 down, unless something funny is going on then this one will go in the top right), and it’s one of those different by one letter clues with AFRIC/AFRIT.  This could be a record for me putting an answer (well almost an answer) in a carte blanche.  I did a run of cold-solving through the clues, and didn’t get that many, but as it turned out, I got just the right ones.

I must have been having a super brain day when I started this one, because realizations came pretty thick and fast.. AFRI? looked like it would cross quite nicely with FRAENA (though I didn’t spell it right first time in), ROSALIA and ITA.  6 across looked like somethingTRAP and in my run through the clues looking for obvious anagrams, there’s PORTERHOUSE and SLIDING SEAT.  So if 6 across does end in TRAP, then PORTERHOUSE can go down the right side, SLIDING SEAT 180 degrees from it, and there’s no more down answers starting on the second line – meaning PROTEST/PROTIST and ERUV fill up the second line to the O from PORTERHOUSE.

Sometimes I stun myself!  That also looks promising as it puts the letters that differ by one below each other.  Toss in LEAST/LEASH and we’re looking really good!  That probably means NOUGHT/NOUGAT goes on the left side to line up with them.

Knowing the shape of the top two lines, means that bottom line must be TANGRAM and EARLS/FARLS… and right above it is GOAHEAD/GODHEAD.

Enter word wizards… hey word wizards, give me all the words that start out [CT][EI].[TH]…[AH]* – CENTIGRADE sticks out… which might make FAHRENHEIT going up in the opposite corner.  CENTIGRADE starts at 5, and the reversed FAHRENHEIT starts at 41, and of course, 5 degrees C is 41 degrees F

I’m on a roll, let’s write it in… SERIFS/SERIES and ONLY/OILY later and I’m convinced.  With the game given away, it’s now just down to solving the last few clues knowing the letters and trying to place some of the words I didn’t have room for originally, like AT SEA, OLOGY and SIR.

39 is our unnecessary clue, and since 40 is below it, that’s what we need – the temperature where Farhenheit and Celsius meet – FORTY BELOW!

My final grid for Listener 4137, Frightened Catherine by Ifor

cold enough for ya?

Loved everything about it, particularly since I used to teach science history, and had students make a Fahrenheit thermometer (almost – we didn’t use cow blood or wine, but we did use sal ammoniac).  This was a long session, but a single session solve and a lot of fun.  Thanks Ifor!

Victory to George!  2011 tally: George 16, Listener 4.  Current streak:  George 5

GEORGE YOU TOTAL DUMBASS!!!  Guess who fell for the most deliberate trap in the world – I didn’t even get the answer to 39 but I did get the answer to 40 so I figured 39 was the omission and FORTY BELOW was the answer.

Grrrrrrr (still liked it, Ifor)

2011 tally:  George 15, Listener 5.  Current streak: Listener 1.

Feel free to leave comments below and see you next week for something that used to be a quiz show with IOA.