If golf is a good walk wasted, is fishing getting wasted in a boat?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, your weekly source for poor taste jokes and ruminations on a weekly puzzle.  Quiver in antici… pation for the big edition in two weeks where there is a numerical playfair, and wait to see whether today’s puzzle has something to do with the 40th anniversary of Star Wars.  You never know.

Anyhoo, we have a Nutmeg puzzle this week!  Extra letters in some clues, others lead to entries too short for the grid… Looks like another week with all real words in the grid, so let’s begin.

There is a 1 across – we haven’t had one of those for a while!  And it’s wordplay you may have seen before – reversal of STAB for BATS and an A that needs to be removed from the clue.  Woohoo!  Big pass on the 1 across test, this could be a good sign.

BATS is an interesting place to start, as it crosses what looks like it should be AIRBAG but I thought the Listener team frowned on cryptic definitions.  It went in with a question mark.  It also crossed SOW which is definitely too small for the entry.  16 across is BARES, and with FORCEPS and ON TO crossing it, looks suspiciously like BARES becomes BARCODES which means COD is added – could SOW gain PARR to be SPARROW and we are adding fish to the answers?  FRANCE could become FREELANCE.  This is looking promising!

OK – so we are pretty early into the process and I think I know what has to go in – now what about that message?  I have the start of ARE FISHERMEN and that’s all that is needed in Googleworld to come up with ARE FISHERMEN ALL LIARS OR DO ONLY LIARS FISH.

Armed with the phrase in extra letters and what has to be done to the short answers, the rest of the fill was a breeze, and this one was all done in one fairly long (two hours or so) session.

my working grid for Listener 4449, Whoppers by Nutmeg

I had more fun with this than I should – my father and grandfather both took me fishing as a boy (my father still goes out when friends are in town), and I can’t think of anything more tedious that doesn’t involve Playfair squares.  I like eating fish though, so I appreciate someone has to catch them.

Still, I think I can call this one a Victory to George

Game over:  100% completion!

Feel free to tell me that a stunned mullet like me should find another hobby, and see you next week when Calmac has a puzzle based on all those offers I get in the mail.

In North Carolina, a bifurcation needs to use the bathroom of their birth certificate

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  Oh boy, last weeks was a polarizing puzzle, wasn’t it?  I expected to cop a bit more grief than I did, and it seems that my opinion was shared by a few out there.

This time around we have Nutmeg, and so I’m not expecting anything controversial.  Apart from one puzzle where Nutmeg dragged out the insufferable Playfair code, I’ve found these fun and pleasant, same can be said for Nutmeg’s occasional outings in the Guardian.

Tiny New Laptop came in handy this time, as the puzzle appeared shortly before I was to leave for San Diego, which meant a four-hour flight awaited!  This flight was full and noisy (and I got moved – my new seat, 45C was scribbled on the top of the grid).  Hooray for noise-cancelling headphones and a tiny laptop with the WordWeb version of Chambers on it.

OK – jigsaw grid, clues in alphabetical order of answers, no tricks in clues, but some answers need to be added in a thematic way.  A quick look and it seems there are some three-letter entries in the grid but none in the clues, vertical symmetry rather than rotational and writing down the lengths of answers around the grid, nowhere near enough six-letter lights. Hmmm…

I guess I should start solving, eh?

There is a space that would normally be labeled 1 across but we have to go with the first clue, and I know it’s near the top of the alphabet and it is A(BR)IM so we have a big win on the first clue test!

I mentioned before that I enjoy Nutmeg’s clueing style, so it wasn’t much of a surprise that even with stone cold solving I had about half of the clues on a first run through.  Even better, one was the 14-letter entry NATURAL NUMBERS and the only two 8-letter entries, positions confirmed by VENT and LAID.

I managed to place most of the clues I’d already solved into the grid on a first go, with some notable exceptions – there didn’t seem to be any place for POMADE, POMELO, ROSILY, ROSTRA, SCALAR or SCAMPI… and those words all share the same first three letters.  It was pretty clear the unclueds were going to be on the edges – and one had to be BIFURCATION or OBFUSCATION.  Those matching three-letter parts make BIFURCATION look likely – though the other side isn’t looking good at I had ??TH?NG??S which wasn’t leading to anything.  I know this has to be two words… the second one could be ANGLES… aaaah – I had STINT in there twice, and the other one should be SLING.  RIGHT ANGLES!

So those three-letter entries are the start for the six-letter entries I was having a difficult time placing.  This helped in the final set of solving, as I didn’t have BRUTES or BRUNEI, nor did I have BARGEE or BARAKA.

This was essentially done before the plane landed – only catch was that I was going to be nowhere near a printer or a post office, so it didn’t get mailed in.

My working grid for Listener 4389, Teeing off by Nutmeg

Just what I needed and expected!  A fun puzzle, a neat trick, and some fine clueing from Nutmeg.  And above all, I think I can claim a Victory to George!

2016 tally:  9-1-1

Feel free to tell me that I should be spending plane trips harassing passengers, and see you next week when eXternal reminds us of a bad Tom Hanks film.

So close, yet again to a lemon entry

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  Settle in and let me tell you a story…

This summer I had a go at serious(ish), regular, paid acting.  I’ve always thought of myself as a writer primarily, a stand-up and improv comedian second, and an actor third.  Over the past year or so, I’ve been recommended by a lot of friends that I need to do theatre.  It certainly adds lines to the resume while you wait around for writing opportunities to come up.

So there I was, in a semi-pro community production of “Oklahoma”, playing Ali Hakim, sleazy peddlar, and to me the true hero of the show.  Here I am, administering a “Persian Goodbye” to Ado Annie.

As Ali Hakim in Oklahoma, HART theatre, July 2015

Why do I mention this?  My character, while he chews the scenery immensely, is not on stage all that much, in fact I timed it and I don’t appear until 20 minutes into the play.  So that gave me a lot of dressing-room sitting down time.  Where I had to be quiet, since noise from the dressing room could be heard on stage.

In cases like this, obsessive crossword solving is the best addiction to have!

OK – things have gotten crazy busy, so here’s a bookmark post – check back tomorrow for the rest of the story, but I rather enjoyed this puzzle!

My working grid for Listener 4357, Aft by Nutmeg

Well the final part ended up being a week later, but I wanted to note a few fun things about this one…

The first part I noticed was that the letters in the clashes came together to form words – that helped with placing them a lot.

Googling BAND, LEAGUE, CARBUNCLE was enough to lead to the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes.  This may upset the purists, but for all the Listeners I’ve done with a Sherlock Holmes theme, I am yet to read any of the books.

The titles of the adventures all had colours in them, which was useful in finding the FIVE ORANGE PIPS

I had the version that I scanned finished by the middle of the second act!  So definitely on the easier side (and with a theme extremely amenable to being searched on a smartarse phone), but I enjoyed the puzzle from start to finish!

Thanks, Nutmeg, and I can call this one a Victory to George

2015 tally:  23-1-5

Feel free to tell me that I really need to stop reading rubbish, and see you next… well in a few minutes because I’m moving on to it now, when Wan gives us a bit of the other in letter form


Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword coming to you today from Grand Rapids, Michigan, though later today I’m flying to San Francisco, California.  So this may be finished while I’m here, at the airport, in the air or in another state and time zone altogether where the solution has already been published.

Nutmeg time!  I’ve added Nutmeg to the list of tagged setters so you can clicky to see all the battles.  I’ve found Nutmeg’s previous puzzles to take a fair bit of time.  However this came out when I was in Canada at a conference (printed it the last morning of the conference) and the conspiuousness was that little square grid. It’s a bloody Playfair!


I officially begin a group I’m going to call PHUC – Playfair-Hating United Cruciverbalists. Join us!

Good thing I’m in Canada, I’m going to a Blue Jays game in a couple of hours, and I can go to my favorite pub in Toronto to start working on this.  I don’t know if it even has a name – it’s next to the fairly well known The Office Pub on John St and it’s a rathskeller type set up with an exceptional range of taps.  There was a toasted lager from somewhere in Canada that was quite delicious, and took my mind off that I was tackling a Playfair grid.

I was pretty limited in resources at this pub – no wifi, I didn’t get a data plan for Canada so my phone was pretty useless (I do have a small anagram app that doesn’t use bandwidth unless you try to look up a definition), all we have is me and my rapidly-being-destroyed brain cells.  Could be a bumpy ride!

There is a 1 across but I couldn’t get it on a first read-through (though later I kicked myself when I saw what it was) so it was an initial first-beer fail on the 1 across test.  Next up is a clue where the wordplay seems to be pointing at R(ILL)OW but I don’t know for sure if it’s a word, so it went next to the clue but not in the grid.   Nothing doing until ARDS at 15.  Usually I work on crossing clues, but since every down clue is thematic I thought I’d press on and see if anything else came up in the acrosses.  Reward! After a festival of poor solving, BY(T)E, DI(ALL)ERS, STEREO and E,MER(G)E give me the whole bottom of the grid!  And 27 looks like it should be RIDER so there’s half of the theme!

So now to the downs, working up – these starred down clues don’t look too bad… 25 looks like it’s got to be some anagram of DEMO plus a 2-letter term for doctor (MO,DR,GP).  18 looks like it should be TRIST,RAM, 4 some anagram of G+EARTH… GARETH? Hmmm… RIDERS… is 9 LANCE,LOT?  25 could be MODRED and we are definitely in King Arthur territory!  Yep – 24 is GAWAIN and I dunno what 21 is but probably another knight.

At that point I decided it was enough pub solve, and I’ll tackle it after brutal cheating.

Blue Jays lost.  They won about seven in a row after that game, but typical me to go see the game where they got pasted.  They did have Alexander Keith’s Lager for sale at the game though!

The next day I was on my way back to Asheville, and it was time to knock the rest of this out – Quinapalus has a Playfair Breaker (though I suspect many who are reading now know that) and I was pretty sure the title translated to ROUND TABLE… so in it goes and KNIGHT’S MOVE comes back as the only possibility for the keyword, my last knight to be found is LI(O)NE,L and the two hiding in the down extra letters would be PERCIVAL and BEDIVERE.  I encoded the entries I knew (though did myself no favors by entering the first two letters of GARETH in my grid in the wrong order) and set about sursolving.

Wasn’t too much later I had a complete grid, and things were looking good… the last step wasn’t as bad as I was anticipating – with PERCIVAL and BEDIVERE (with a tempting E to catch those who didn’t completely solve the playfair stuff, I suspect) occupying spaces near the top and near the bottom with Knight’s moves.  Oh boy… if there’s any device I like less than Playfair, it’s Knight’s moves, fortunately there were only two to unravel.

Hmmm… I have a begrudging admiration for the puzzle.  The clues were fun, the theme is good, the Knight’s moves makes sense, but was the Playfair absolutely necessary?   Particularly since there’s no real challenge in a Playfair now with online solving tools available.  Maybe this will be the last time we see that silly little 5×5 grid beside the puzzle.

I left before scanning my grid, but I think I can call this one a Victory to George, and a victory to PHUC!

2014 tally:  26-0-3

Feel free to comment in support of (or against) PHUC and see you next week when Ozzie clearly has a puzzle that is about Shane Warneing.

Isn’t everyone just texting on the train now?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, your weekly home for unqualified musings and ramblings.  It’s a happy time of the year here, this upcoming week is Asheville Beer Week, which means I should probably try solving today’s Listener today, as my lucid moments will be few and far between.

Nutmeg time!  We last saw nutmeg late last year with a fairly gentle take on the “Grand old Duke of York” in A Noted Performance, a visit to the Hundred-Acre wood in An Unsettled Spell (both of which I finished) and words that have different meanings in French and English in Franglais (nearly got it).  So I’m thinking I may have Nutmeg’s number – let’s find out.

Ten entries need alteration, wordplay contains extra letters, and a phrase hidden in the grid.  Okeydokey…

There is a 1 across and the wordplay looks like IONAM – check of Google and IONA works as where Columbus landed, so that’s a pass on the 1 across test and the message begins with M.  That crosses what looks like OMB,RAH – Chambers this time to find OMRAH, and one I can solve without diving straight into aids – NEONATAL with an extra Y in the anagram.  4 down looks like it should be an anagram of NOHELP inside something, but that won’t fit in the space.  Hmmm… Bradfords has ANOPHELINE which could be the anagram of NO HELP in A FINE giving an extra F.  So I’ve got to take some letters out of that one.

OMELET, CANNAE and SENATES later something is emerging – that main diagonal could read I’M ON T??????? – probably I’M ON THE something with 5 letters.  Phone maybe?  Working my way down to the bottom right of the grid, it’s not phone, but ARDEA, BIRDCALL and JAGIR make I’M ON THE TRAIN a likely candidate.

I only had two of the answers to be modified – ANOPHELINE and COPENHAGEN, and all but one letter checked in ANOPHELINE – looks like NOPHE has to be removed.  ARSENAL suggested OPENH has to be removed from COPENHAGEN…  aaaaaah! Funny I thought phone earlier – it’s anagrams of PHONE that have to be removed!

If that’s true, 16 across is probably an anagram of a compound + PHONE + another letter – THIOPHENES!  Aha!

So now it should be a pretty easy crawl to the finish – I believe at that point I’d solved all but about 8 clues, and most of the rest of them needed extra PHONES in them – I had to go to Word Matcher and put PHONE + the letters I knew in to get NEPHOLOGY and STANHOPE PRESS, but eventually I had a complete grid.

My working grid for Listener 4240, Forlor by Nutmeg

Those extra letters weren’t a lot of help in solving as I went along, but I wondered what their significance was – took a bit more googlyling to hunt down that someone actually composed that annoying ringtone!  Yikes!

I’m a little slow in posting this, so I think I can claim a Victory to George, and a rather fun puzzle, Nutmeg.  2013 tally:  13-3-2

Feel free to tell me that people do say that on trains, and I’ll see you next week when Ifor has a puzzle presumably about jumping rope.


Taken another way, this rhyme could be of a voracious homosexual who despised body fat on others

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  I forgot to scan my grid before I left for my Thanksgiving break.  Speaking of which, I am writing this from the Great Wolf Lodge in Grapevine, Texas, which is the most kid-enabling hotel I have ever stayed at.  There’s an indoor water park, pizza delivery to rooms (the only food that can be delivered to rooms), and a live action role-playing game stretched across 8 floors.  I am having a ball, my young nephews are starting to be over it.  It doesn’t appear as of yet that they have a printer, so I’m not sure how I’ll deal with the trip back.

Nutmeg time!  I didn’t pick a theme immediately this week, but I thought it was fun that we had two in a row with similar names.  There have been two battles with Nutmeg – last year was the hundred-acre-wood themed An Unsettled Spell which I got, and Franglais, which I got very close on, so George v Nutmeg is very close indeed.  What have we here – an historical character, linked by a number of clue answers, and down answers are entered thematically.  Sounds like a good idea to start with the acrosses!

There is only the thematic long entry in the first row, so we are left with the 11 across test – S(H)EEN gets us going!  Followed byLOCKKEEPER missing KEEP to give LOCKER, ERE,CT,ERS and WIELDED dropping 1 to become WELDED things were looking very bright indeed!  A run through the rest of the acrosses yields almost half of them – I’m very much on Nutmeg’s wavelength here.  In went GRAND, OLD MAN and BATTLE ROYAL to go with the preamble.

Time to look at some down clues – first up is RAWEST, and there’s already a SEW and R in place, so it looks like this is going in reversed or jumbled.  Didn’t get the next down but HEELS at 3 looks like it could go in normally.UNTRUE looks like it’s jumbled, as is SEEDCAKE, AIRBUS has the R and S in place to suggest it could be entered normally… at this point the top row looked like ?H?(U/R)?A???? and the idea that the first word could be THOUSAND started to form… that could make 2 down THRENES and normal – so maybe that 10 is not for the clue 10 down, but there’s 10 THOUSAND MEN from our GRAND OLD DUKE OF YORK… that main diagonal already had ?HED(U/R)?EO??OR? – so that would fit – and if SEEDCAKE went in as SEED-EKAC then we have our methods of entry – UP, DOWN and NEITHER UP NOR DOWN, so it’s not a jumble, it’s the first half and second half of the word written in backwards or forwards.

Woohoo!  About 20 minutes in and I’ve cracked the theme!

But that was not all – I was still left with a big gap on the oottom left hand side.

I had to go to the first night of a film festival that Friday, so the last few entries were solved in a rather sneaky fashion, using the cell-phone to get my last few in – SEDAN and ZOILIST, but overall this was a pretty rapid experience, about two hours in three short sessions, and I was done on Friday and an extremely rare example of a Listener being in Saturday morning’s post!

Still a very fun puzzle but I’m claiming Victory to George!  And now to take the nephews to Legoland.

2012 tally: 36-1-6.

Feel free to send on messages of Black Friday cheer or jeer and see you next week when Rood takes issue with my weight apparently and insists I get in shape.

A Listener for a solver of little brain…

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  Let’s start off with some pirates, shall we?

I was about to accuse Nutmeg of being a new setter, but looking way back in the archive – there was Franglais back near the start of 2008 (and this blog), so hi Nutmeg if you’re looking in.  I came up one entry short on Franglais (but still claimed it using George v Listener fuzzy logic), so let’s see what we have here.

Letters slipping in and out of clues and grid entries, that’s a pretty neat device that I don’t recall being used before.

There is a 1 across but a massive fail on the 1ac test as I have no idea what’s going on there.  Next up is 5 across, where RIFLING looks like it might be TRIFLING, but similarly, no luck.  Nor with 10.

New rule – if you can’t solve the first three clues, start from the bottom and work up!

Excellent – 34 down is PLUG, there’s an E moved into the answer, and I’ve narrowed it down to authors whose name ends in E.  The task is half over!

Working from the bottom up yields a few more results – WRONG PLACE looks like a good candidate for the slippery letters in 6-26 down.  I found it easier to find the extra letters than to solve the clues.

Especially so when I put WRONG PLACE into the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations and up pops:  My spelling is Wobbly.  It’s good spelling but it Wobbles and the letters get in the wrong places – A.A. Milne.

Fits the slippery letters I have, and WINNIE THE POOH going down the middle works with HONEYPOT… actually exceptionally well.

And there was much celebrating, happiness and back-slapping, for the code was cracked and the theme was found.

But I only had about five entries in the grid, and a lot of these clues look like mush and there’s precious few real words in the grid.

One hour to crack… many many more to unravel.  I’m starting to drift back to preferring to get the theme later on in the proceedings.

My worst problems, though now I look at it, I have no idea why, were in the California corner – RAMET is so simple, but eluded me forever, and although 39 really has to be SILLY with an extra G, I can see that from the wordplay – CHILLY losking C and H for S, does SILLY = GIT’S?

And I’m not 100% on 32, it’s either BAR or BAN… I’m going to go with BAR mostly because it puts BEAR in the grid, since HONEYPOT, KANGA, RABBBIT, TIGGER and PIGLET are in (in one form or another).

My grid for Listener 4139, An Unsettled Spell by Nutmeg

here’s that grid!

So a kind of a muffled victory to George – I’m happy to have finished it, but there was something a little… sloggy about the last part.  I liked the number of Hundred Acre Wood characters in the grid, I was a fan of the books when I was a young child, didn’t think much of the animated version.

2011 tally:  George 17, Listener 5.  Current streak:  George 2.

The Keywords shows last weekend were really great and got some good reviews.  Here’s a clip of me in action (I’m playing LiveJournal and LinkedIn) in “A Brief History of Social Networking”

Feel free to leave comments below, and see you next to find out Sabre has me jumping to a completion.