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Lactose intolerable

It has been a while, hasn’t it? I hope to make up for the complete and utter lack of posts with uninteresting stories and unfunny jokes, as we work our way through a months worth of puzzles, some of which I solved, and some of which I did not. You all love failures, don’t you? Oh you will get failures!

So what happened – well my trip to Japan ended with me going straight into rehearsals for Robin Hood, and then some minor crises at home that ate into my time. So I have been behind on solving, behind on writing and just behind on life in general. C’est la lack of vie!

On the plus side, Robin Hood is doing gangbusters business, and we’ve had nearly 2500 people see the show over the first two weeks.

So let’s set the clock back two months and see what was going on.  Malva’s puzzle was the first that I printed out on my trip, the second place I stayed in Las Vegas had a printer, so I was able to get at the Listener just a few days late.

What did Milky present us with? Thematic wordplay-only clues that need replacements, and the rest of the cues in order. Interesting…

I did peek at the thematic clues before everything else, and saw one of them was definitely HUMMING,BIRD and another PETREL so birds sounded promising. Certainly then for FALCON and RINGDOVE.  Usually thematic wordplay only clues are the last for me to solve, but I was definitely on Malva’s wavelength.

Same went for the regular clues – the first one was CONACRE, which most likely went in the top right, and I after one run through all the clues, getting close to half of them, I wenr to piecing together the grid. The first thematic breakthrough came with PRION down the bottom which is both a PETREL and a PATHOGEN, so we are looking for words that connect the birds in the thematic clues with the extra words in normal clues. This came in very handy when you have an entry like C?LIN, and look up COLIN in Chambers to find it is a VIRGINIAN QUAIL which fits one of the unsolved thematic clues.

Only took a little over an hour to have a full grid, and an unmatched FALCON plus MILKY leading to GENTLE.

My working grid for Listener 4504, Milky by Malva

Exactly what I needed for a holiday grid! Smooth, solve I could do while I was re”hydrating” after a session in the pool.  Fun, tight theme and best of all a Victory to George.

Game over, 100% completion!

The day I left Las Vegas (on to LA, and then Japan) was the day the next puzzle appeared, and I just had time to print it out before I left (literally just – I had to check out at 10am and the puzzle appeared at 8am local time). All excited about having a nice simple puzzle for the airport and plane… oh shit it’s Sabre!

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.

My Bewick’s swan’s got no bake.

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, trying to escape January unscathed – how are you all doing?

Let me add my condolences to Bandmaster and the Morse family on the recent passing of Sir Jeremy Morse.  I had never had contact with C.J. Morse, but I enjoyed many of his clues in the Azed competitions.  He had great success with clues that had succinct wordplay, which is what I have aimed for when I enter the clue-writing competition (I have high hopes for the clue that is in the mail as we speak).  A few years ago we were both in the honors lists for SNIFTER, and he got one of my favorite types of clue, a triple definition, into the VHC list.

One strong draught to make you snuffle: another to pep you up

Well played, sir, well played.

OKeydoke – what have we here – I presumed a new setter in Malva, but the Listener website shows this is a new (exclusively for avian-themed crosswords?) pseudonym for Dipper, who has regularly terrorised my non-gardening abilities with a series of horticultural-themed Listeners.  I’ll tag both in here, but if you want them separated, Malva, drop me a note.

It’s all listed in the preamble – across answers are normal, but the clues need modification.  Down clues are normal, but the answers need modification, and there’s something that needs highlighting.

Let’s get to solving, shall we?  There is a 1 across and it’s… I have no idea.  I know a letter has to move, but there doesn’t seem to be an obvious place to move (advantage, setter, as well as a big fail on the 1 across test).  Wow – it wasn’t until 16 across that I managed to get one to write in the grid – A,R,CANE with TICKS becoming STICK.  That crosses SUMAC, but I can’t place any of the letters, though if the A is in the usual place, that makes 14 PLAIN.

Working around the grid was a kind of a frustrating prospect – I was doing really well on the down clues, which I couldn’t enter into the grid, and getting nowhere with across clues.  I finished my first solving session with a lot of scribble around the outside of the grid, and very little on the inside.

Day 2… the first Listener of the new year to push me into a second day, yikes!  OK, what am I missing in these across clues – look at the ones I’ve already solved.  Most of them have an E or an S that is moving.  Are all the migrating letters directions?  So far all the ones I have found are though I really think 34 is shouting out for FINGER to be modified, maybe to FINGERS or FRINGE.

If it’s FRINGE… then all the movements I’ve found have been within a word.  I was working on the assumption that letters could migrate anywhere in the clue (I was sure that 7 across was LATE SEA).

New approach – the migrating letters stay in the same words!  Shouldn’t that have been part of the preamble?  Anyway, with that assumption in place, across clues started falling readily, and I was getting closer to a full grid.

MERE appeared on the main diagonal, and it sounds like somewhereMERE would be a good place to spot swans – a bit of googling brings up MINSMERE, which places an S in clue 5 and allows me to get one of the last remaining down clues, OVARIES with the O moving to the bottom.

The final stumbling block was the top right corner, where finally CHAI appears (ATE becoming TEA) and the H in place gave me my last down clue… well… almost – CHAMPAC and CHAMPAK both fit the definition.  Fortunately in Chambers there’s PACA for cavy, so it is the C version.  Wonder if there will be some K’s turned in.

At the end of the second solving session, we have a grid!

My working grid for Listener 4382, Migration by Malva

I wonder if it was a deliberate omission that the letters in the across clues only migrated within the same word, because if I’d known that from the beginning I think this would have been a single-session solve, in the end I think I can call it a Victory to George, and the year of all-correctness lives to fight another day.

2016 tally:  4-0-0

Feel free to tell me that my goose hasn’t migrated, it’s been cooked, and see you next week when Aedites offers us display or datplay.

P.S.  There’s still time to join in the fun of the 3D Calendar Crosswords!  The first one for the year is a thematic grid with fine clues by Samuel.