Gumby flower arranging

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, the blog that comes out sometimes before the setters blogs over at that other site.  It’s been a rough week here at GvL central – how bad, do you ask?  I have not had a single drink since last Sunday!  Now I’ll be rectifying that in a big way, as soon as I get this submitted, the new Stick Insect Listener and I will be taking a trip to Charlotte St Pub for some quality time.

OK – Kea time! When the grid came off the printer, I was reminded of the strange grids you would get in the HEX Atlantinc Monthly puzzles (a series that kind of lives on monthly in the Wall St Journal now) where the grids often have a thematic shape.  This one looks like a flower, with answers curling inward.  Not a lot to the preamble, there’s a theme and something unclued. Let’s see how this grid goes…

There is a 1 clockwise, but I didn’t see it at first (it was one of my last in), so a big fail on the 1 clockwise test.  With 2 clockwise being PUP,ARIA we are in to the grid in a big way! Not much to say about the solutions – although there are checking letters a plenty, I treated it like a carte blanche for the first few runs through the clues, eventually jotting in checking letters on the side.  The way in to the theme came from seeing the possibility of CORN MARIGOLD which rang a bell from somewhere – a trip to Chambers tells me it is one of those flowers I can never spell, a CHRYSANTHEMUM.  That fits the number of asterisked cells, and a look through the other unclueds offered POM POM and KOREAN as other types.  I must have done a puzzle with this theme before (Spectator perhaps), as I usually know nothing about botany, but the names of mums came pretty quickly.  There was a grid in under an hour.

My working grid for Listener 4467, Theme of the Day by Kea

Which gave me more time to go bang my head against Somniloquent’s puzzle from last week that I still didn’t finish.  Oh well…

Cute grid, nifty theme, and a bounce back in a big way, woohoo! I believe I can call this one a Victory to George.

Game over, 100% completion.

Feel free to tell me to arrange them nicely in a vase, and see you next week when Charybdis gives us a skin and asks us to visit the king.



Welcome back to George vs the Listener Numberword – it’s the final trip into numerology for 2015, and boy have I made a meal of the numberical ones this year!

Fortunately, at a first glance this seems to be more along the lines of the classical numerical Listeners that I used to be able to solve in one sitting – prime numbers reversed, no two adjacent cells contain the same number, and a tight set of clues, in fact the whole puzzle fits on one sheet of US Letter paper – that doesn’t happen often!

The setter is Kea – four years ago Kea also gave us the last numerical of the season, so there is some precedent here, though he is better-known for word puzzles, and I guess editing.

Anyhoo – there does appear to be a way in – N (two characters) is the reverse of a prime, and O (three characters) is N squared multiplied by U, which means N reversed is less than 31 and U is probably 1, 2 or 4.

There appears to be two possibilities for O:  392 and  784, which makes N 14 and U 2 or 4.

N appears again, in the clue for I, which shows B+B has to be divisible by 14, which means B is divisible by 7.  The requirement that both digits of B have to be 1,3,7 or 9 limits B to being 91.

This means that (and I messed this part up three times trying to get there) 13 + Y = 34 or 74, so Y has to be 17 or 61, and there has to have a multiple with 9 as the middle digit that is the reverse of a prime.  This makes D 793, Y 61 and T 13.

Since A is D + O/W and D is 793 then A has to be 797 or 799.  Neither possibility for O is divisible by 6, so A is 797, H is 713, O is 392, U is 2, W is 98 and S is 31.  Wow, that’s a lot sorted out in one logic flash.

Nearly home and hosed – there was a little mathematical fiddling needed to sort out E (made easier by the “no two adjacent cells have the same digit” part of the preamble, but in the end all was done and dusted within about an hour.

I scanned the grid but then switched computers (in a possibly rule-breaking statement, since I’m going to be out of town for the next two weeks I figured I’d get ahead by scanning three puzzles in a row) so I’ll have to add the grid later.

Fun puzzle, not too tricky, definite gateway in and I only had to cheat a fair bit by having a page of the first 1000 primes on my screen while I was solving!  Woohoo and I think I can claim this one as a Victory to George.

2015 tally:  38-2-5

Feel free to tell me that I should have memorized those primes by now, and see you next week when Salamanca finally gives us a chance to lay out a setter!

The Listener, a play in one act

Scene 1:  The Headquarters of the Listener Crossword.  Kea is drinking just the right amount of port from six bottles lined up so that when tapped with a shrimp fork, they emit exactly the tone that is needed to be reproduced in his next puzzle.  Tiburon is destroying mere mortals at Words With Friends.  A dozen grandfather clocks strike 12, and John Green, like a ninja, enters and winds them all so that they will strike another day.  Kea and Tiburon nod approvingly.  It is February 19.


We must have something for the middle of April.  Maybe some light relief after all that Morbid March we’ll have coming up


Aptil 11 is Jeremy Clarkson’s birthday.  Maybe a grid that the solver has to scrunch up and medically sew back together?


Too current.  It’s the 100th anniversary of the first performance of Pygmailon. Maybe the wordplay will leave out all the aitches and the solver has to replace them, and we’ll have GEORGE BERNARD SHAW in the diagonal?


That would be a 17 x 17 grid, my good chap.  200th anniversary of the exile of Napoleon?  We could have the solvers mail their solutions to Elba and send John Green over there to pick them up.


How about that one that we wrote?


We could… how do we know it’s any good?


How about we send it to the most dimwitted test-solver in the universe?


I know the very chap

Scene 2:  The basement lair of George vs the Listener Crossword.  George is double-fisting coffee and real ale, and checking his laptop to see if any more hits on his blog have come from Nigeria.  The “You’ve got Mail” voice sounds, which confuses George because he hasn’t had AOL since 2003.  There is a message on the screen.  Names have been omitted to protect the guilty.

test solving

Inbox x


Feb 19

to me

Hi, George.

My co-editor XXXXX XXXXXXX and I have written a Listener crossword for which we’re interested in a variety of solvers’ reactions. Would you mind test-solving it and letting us know what you think? This wouldn’t disqualify you from entering when/if the puzzle is published, as there may be later changes (and we won’t tell you whether you got it right).


That’s awesome!  How do you get an email address?  Do all setters get them?  I wonder if you email whether you would get a reply?

George gets to frantically typing a reply…

George Heard <>

Feb 19



   Sure I can give it a go. What is the expected turnaround time?

Scene 3:  The Listener Crossword secret HQ.  Kea and Tiburon nod, link keys together and open the secret folder containing the files of Listener Crosswords.


This is madness? Do we really trust him with a crossword of this importance?


I don’t know, old chap.  What’s the worst that could happen?


He’ll make some silly transcription errors and have terrible jokes. Maybe write a blog making us out to be evil masterminds


It’s a risk we have to take


Feb 19

to me

Thanks, George; the puzzle is attached. As soon as you can, please, though it won’t be urgent for a few weeks yet.

Scene 4:  A laboratory in a college campus.

Students are running riot, using acid to torture stinkbugs, setting each other on fire with bunsen burners, and tearing pages of their lab books out.  George is completely ignoring the mayhem – at the demonstrator’s bench sits a dog-eared copy of Bradfords, a surprisingly neat copy of Chambers, a few sheets of paper, and a laptop.

George Heard <>

Feb 19

You hit a strangely good day for me… I wound up having to supervise a 3-hour lab in the afternoon which gave me plenty of time to poke and prod.  I think I’m all done bar the understanding of the definition for TATHS and the wordplay for TAMARAO.  Total solving time around 2 hours.

The way in to the theme was pretty straightforward – after solving the anagram for ANAHEIM, then 9 down looked like an anagram of (HERIDEAS) + 3 of the same letters… I tried O then N, then T in Word Wizard to get THIRD ESTATE, which means we’re looking for some sort of group of people, maybe the masses.  Solving CHENGDU and seeing that 1 could be COMMONsomething – COMMONALTY confirmed the theme early on in. The first two circles having ES strongly suggested ESOTERIsomething – wasn’t too confident so I didn’t put them in.  The K from RUC left the message at MO????K?THI?  which was the point where I figured MORE LIKE THIS was going to be the message – knowing there would be two R’s let me reverse engineer GRASSROOTS and RABBLE-ROUT.  From there on it was sursolving.

Not sure how I feel about it – I guess it has been a while since there was a Listener about The Listener Crossword (the one for the 1000th Times Listener?  Tribute to Viking?  The one that had John Green’s address in the grid?), but those aren’t my personal favorite themes.  I like connections to a theme, and clever play with literary works that I can get a hold of.  The grid contains four entries that aren’t in Chambers (CHENGDU, ANAHEIM, BRAHMS and DYFED) – I’ve been to Anaheim, and I know of Brahms, but I had to Google the others for confirmation – though they don’t cross each other in the grid.  A-EFFECT is very well hidden in Chambers.  So it’s a pleasant easier solve, but it didn’t exactly wow me.  Did you consider not giving the enumerations, since it gives away which are the latent letter clues?

Here’s how I had the cluesACROSS:
7)  TAT,HS (googling TATHS COUNTRY DRESS pulls up a few hits, but I can’t see it in Chambers… I thought maybe country dressing was some tongue-in-cheek name for a cowpat maybe)
11)  HIP(<-ILL) – HOI POLLOI latent O
14)  AMEN-RA (hidden, reversed)
16)  NIL (LINe reversed)
18)  GASSOOTS:  ASS in STOOGe reversed – GRASSROOTS latent R
20)  DEEM (MEED reversed)
21)  DI,ZEN
23)  SAM,HT rev, SS – THE MASSES latent E
25)  BARBER(BAR rev),OUT: RABBLE-ROUT latent L
30)  FIXER:  REX,IF reversed
31)  INFO (hidden)
35)  CAN(ALL)E – CANAILLE latent I
38)  RUC – CUR reversed, RUCK, latent K
39)  BR,A,HM,’S – I like when Queen is HM
40)  A(EF,FE)CT
41)  L(O)UNGE
42)  DY(F)ED
43)  M(UL,TIT)UD:  MULTITUDE, latent E
1)  C(HEN,GaoleD)U
2)  OIDIA: sOIl then AID reversed
3)  O,PAL
4)  A,L(S)OON – ALSOON was in a recent Azed puzzle, so it was still in my mind, otherwise this is the sort of clue that will trip me up
5)  LIED (dd)
6)  TAP,rUm
7)  TAMARAO: MARA in OAT reversed
10)  RAMS<-,M,S
13)  UNSEAT hidden alternating
15)  ERD(red) – HERD latent H
19)  THE,ED (I originally thought this was ‘T,RE,ED until I got 23)
24)  SUITES (sounds like SWEETS)
25)  RFFRAFF:  Hmmm… there’s something about this clue that’s nagging me… I see it’s RF(alternating letters in RAFAEL, minus E) surrounding FF(following, though isn’t FF following pages?), RAF.  Anyway, RIFFRAFF latent I
26)  BEN(AME)D
27)  ERECTED (R for L in ELECTED)
30)  FILFOT: hidden reversed (really cunning hidden reversed clue, probably my favorite clue in the puzzle)
32)  UG,LUV all reversed – VULGUS, latent S
36) AITU, “I,too”
37)  LO,LL (took me a while to realize this was a reference to 41 being LOUNGE)
38)  RENT, hidden

Hope this is helpful and please feel free to call on me again or follow up!

Scene 5:  Listener Headquarters.  Kea is lining up executive desk toys, and Tiburon is constructing Playfair squares from 19-letter phrases.  “You’ve got mail” sounds in the room.  They both rise and crane over the official computer of the Listener Crossword, an Apple II LC with a 9-inch CRT screen.


He solved, it, he actually solved it?


He doesn’t just read the solution and make up those blogs afterwards


He doesn’t know what Taths is


Is it a thing?


We may never know.  I guess we should thank him.


Feb 19

to me

Thanks, that’s useful feedback.


P.S. You know, it would be really cool to have the email address, or

Way to overcomplicate things idiot! I guess it’s time for a cuppa

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword and Happy New Year – I hope 2014 brings you much joy, and the inevitable wait for the next pressing of Brewers.  Maybe there’ll be a new Chambers Dictionary by then.

We still have three puzzles to mop up from 2013 before stepping boldly into the uncharted waters of 2014, but I’m considering it a new year, fresh start. Various complications prevented me from submitting a Listener since 4251 – but I believe I’m going in to the new year cancer-free, with a shoulder operating at about 75%, and at a weight that should keep the heart attack warnings away.  Watch that all unravel quick!

The terultimate puzzle for 2013 is Bun Fight, which as soon as I saw the title, made me think of the Goodies episode “Bunfight at the OK Tea Rooms” so I was sure we were in Wild West territory.  Or at least I hoped we were.  That’s two in a row where I’ve tried to guess the theme at the beginning and been woefully inaccurate.  Why don’t we actually solve the thing?

Kea is making a second appearance for the year, with the first one being back in January in Polar, where one had to change a bunch of words to their antonyms to solve clues.  Took a while, but I got to the bottom of it – before that was Scattered, which was an anagram of a whole other crossword (got it), the numerical eponym 4164 (yup), Table-Turning (fail, and missed a chance for grid mutilation),Admission (which I flubbed mightily on a puzzle many waxed lyrical over), and Conflict Resolution (limped to a finish battered and bruised).

I should probably get around to making keywords for prolific setters so I don’t have to dig through these everytime (or copy and paste from an earlier blog).

OKeydoke – drop two letters to make a word or name in the grid (hmmm… so I guess it’s all real words after the dropping?), then stuff happens to the grid at the end.

There is no 1 across, though there is a 4 across – the definition seems to be pointing at AVERRING, and AV is in Chambers as “Annos Vixit” so we are away!

My hopes for a Western/Goodies crossover was bolstered as I was solving when I saw 32 across – TEAR UP could become EARP.  I’ll admit there was a lot of retrofitting from words that could fit in the grid by adding two letters. I was also pretty confisued in the bottom right, where IOWANS had a few possibilities, and I couldn’t see what 31 down was.

Next spot in the grid was BOSON… which looks very close to BOSTON, which is not a particularly Western town (I’ve been there three times).  What could BOSTON have to do with Wyatt Earp? Was he ever there?  Under BOSON is HRBOR… oh bugger, it’s the bloody tea party!

Everything could be found pretty readily after that – floating on what will later become BOSTON HARBOR are the three ships – DARTMOUTH, ELEANOR and BEAVER.  The removed letters give LAPSANG and are on their way to TWANKAY which means 33 across is most likely IONS… a bit more Chambers searching and there’s TOLSEY as an exchange.  So we’re going to take TEA out of the ships to make BOSTON HARBOR, TAX and REPRESENTATION… there’s an extra E left over so it’s probably TAXES, and the rest of the letters anagram to make PLUNDERS.

My working grid for Listener 4272, Bun Fight by KeaNow this last step bugged me for a while.  Is the 19 non-real words significant?  Does that mean LAMPOONISTS has to stay intact, because it can?  I filled in the grid without the thematic items and started highlighting.  It looks like you don’t have to make 19 non-words, you can do it in 17… after the letters are removed and considering across answers that have to become non-words there’s only 10.

I tried filling in one or two before the light of brilliance hit my head of stupidity.  It’s thematic!  The letters T,E, and A are just sinking to make the new words.  This was all unnecessary…

My final grid for Listener 4272, Bun FIght by KeaOh yes, and now there are 19 non-words.

I was hoping for the Goodies, but I got some Tea from Kea!  That was a lot of fun, though I managed to frustrate myself during the end.  I believe I can call this one a Victory to George

2013 tally:  37-7-6

We’re rolling towards the end of the year, so feel free to reminisce about squirting tomato sauce through those tomato-shaped squeeze bottles (my parents had one like that), and see you next week when Pointer drags us into Conflict.