I also posted this one very late, maybe I was staring at it for two weeks to ponder its meaning

And I will put stuff in here too

My working grid for Listener 4462, Squares by Phi

Will the last one actually get put in – we will see!



Let’s play two-up with Phi!

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword!

I’m running just a touch late here due to my rash decision to brave the shops on what should be known as “Do not get up out of bed Friday”.  Nintendo teased me with the release of a new 3DS and it was going to be available at a store near me… well if I was one of the first 10 people in line at 5am and someone in front of me didn’t buy multiples.  Grrrrr…

Phi would understand – he did put a bunch of Pokemon in today’s Independent crossword as a sort of Nina.

We haven’t had a Phi puzzle for a while, and I had the pleasure of starting this one, from a printout no less, on a flight heading to Las Vegas.  Woohoo! So what have we here – words that differ by one letter, extra words in wordplay – seems relatively straightforward for Phi, so let’s see where it is going.

There is a 1 across and it is IS,LAY and not only that but even I know ISLAY isn’t Irish so there is our first extra word!  Woohoo!  It also crosses what looks like it has definitions for SHRINE and STRINE so we are off to a particularly good start – not only that but it crosses STARING and SHARING.

About two thirds of the grid was filled in during the flight, where I had my laptop so I could look at Chambers.  I’d found three of the clashes – looks like there are only going to be four, since so far the unindicated letters are all checked, on the main diagonal, and they are all a clash of H or T. HEADS OR TAILS?  That would work with the words I had found so far as extras – they all have a letter of HEADS OR TAILS as the first or last letter.

I’d spotted TAILS on the diagonal during the solve, and it looked like A TOSS was a possibility on the other side of that diagonal but running in the opposite direction.  OR TAILS could be made from letters in the middle – so what is on the other diagonal?  Taking a punt that HEADS OR TAILS started in the bottom right helped full the rest of the grid and find the last clash.

So what is going on the other side?  I HERALD A TOSS?  That isn’t a phrase, is it?  No it isn’t but it is an anagram of HEADS OR TAILS!  I think that’s the last bit we need.

My working grid for Listener 4423, A Bit Up In The Air by Phi

Fun puzzle, and it seems Phi has decided to go easy on us this week (is there a stinker in the works?).

Lazy solving time – I only found 10 of the extra words (CONVENIENT not being one of them, right?).  Since I’m thinking video games, maybe I should bring some video game notation into the blog.  You can finish a game, but you may not finish it 100% (there are very few games I have tried to get 100% on – a few puzzle games like Picross 3D I have 100% completion).

So let’s call this one Game Over – win, with 90% completion.  I’ve been doing the victory thing for too long.

2016 tally: 37-2-6

Feel free to tell me that I should be reading, writing and not playing video games, and see you next week when Ferret sends us out into the field.  I’ll take gully.


It’s enough to make a Tight-ass Groan

Welcome back to George vs the Listener crossword, and this week we pick up on one of the most notable battles in George v Listener.  Over the time I’ve been doing this blog, I’ve had a number of email chats with Phi, most of them remarkably civil, Phi always being encouraging, yet in the time I’ve been keeping this record, I have yet to complete a Phi listener!  Let’s look through the carnage, shall we – Heart = empty grid.  50-50 = practically empty grid.  Disorders = lots of letters crammed into spaces, few in the right spots.  We Interrupt This Programme = an indication I’ll be first against the wall when the aliens come.

Well, if you’ve been reading here regularly you know I finally cracked it for a VHC in the Azed comp a few months back.  I got a letter of congratulations from Phi – and maybe he was a little naughty in breaking a rule here, but I quote…

As a reward, I’ll let you know that you’re going to hate the puzzle on July 9th.  Just something you wrote somewhere which happened to be about the theme of the next Phi Listener…

July 9th rolls round and here is A Keep, and the penny drops within seconds…  you can go read the whole thread on the crossword club here, but in the middle of the thread I suggested

Finnegans Wake is among a long list of books I've started reading
and never finished - someone should publish a "Great works of
literature up until the point you stop reading" series with just 100
pages or so of Gravity's Rainbow, Finnegans Wake, Titus Groan,
Vanity Fair, and Look Homeward Angel.

This elicited a reply from Radix

George, I am currently working my way through the Penguin edition of Vanity Fair. The last time I embarked on this voyage, several years ago, I sank without trace after about 400 pages (out of about 800), and I am not altogether sanguine on this second occasion.

But Titus Groan? Come off it! I could not put it down! Any more than I could Gormenghast or Titus Alone.


I’m sticking to my guns, I tried to read Titus Groan and I got bored to tears about 30-40 pages in.  A quick check of Wikipedia and it is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Mervyn Peake (I believe also noted in a Guardian and an Independent crossword that week).

So… mind you another one of Phi’s anniversary puzzles went exactly the same way, I knew what was going on – we’re going to get some sort of representation of Gormenghast, and the creator will be MERVYN PEAKE which has the same number of letters as GORMENGHAST so they’ll be symmetrically placed somewhere and so on and so forth.

Good thing I know all this because we’re in super-duper stone freeze solving world here with no enumerations, an unspecified number of misprints, clue numbers which don’t mean anything (I assume the clues are in some sort of order, since it comes up pretty quickly they are not alphabetical) and only a part of the grid has symmetry.

Well I made a pretty good fist of solving a bunch of clues on a first run-through (I’ve been solving Phi’s Friday crosswords in the Independent regularly, so I’m getting used to his style) and was surprised to find a number of very long answers.  There was a warning 32 across wasn’t in Chambers, but it was a word I have run across before – NGOMAS and cheekily armed with an H, O, F and L as misprints, a check of Peake’s works led to “The Rhyme of the Flying Bomb” – a quick peek at clue 43, where the wordplay is crying out for ITCH and I’m feeling good about this.

Armed without about 20 answers and the clue for the misprints, most of the rest of this fell out in an airport waiting room.  I hazarded that MERVYN PEAKE would cross MASTIC adnd NGOMAS, which let STATIONERY and TELESMS in, and gave a home to REALIMAGES and CAMPESINO.  So Merv is probably at the top of the castle, and GORMENGHAST at the bottom – if we use the symmetry that puts CREDIT and probably ITCH, GERM and PINNER, allowing OSTICLE and UNENTITLED in.   CASTAVOTE and EASYLISTENING could also slot into Merv… and if ERADICATING was at the end of Swervin’ Mervyn, then those two Gs in GORMENGHAST slot in and we have those 10 rows taking shape, and some of the other answers poking up – presumably turrets or something.

The bottom half was considerably easier to piece together than the top half, mostly due to being stuck on 23 and 25.  I had DINGO down as the answer for 23 and nowhere to put it, and had no idea about 25.  There was still a level of bad symmetry at the top of that keep, so I’ll admit, I had to do a search for “Australian” and “cheat” in the online Chambers to get RORT (then smacked myself in the head, as I’ve used that word a bunch, particularly at University, when we would start student organizations for the express purpose of getting stuff).  So that left ?NBEG as a hold-out with no matching words.  Not so the case for ?NBE which gives UNBE (of course, SUNBED without the S or D) and we have a grid!  Behold the mighty A Keep.

My grid for Listener Crossword 4145, A Keep by Phi

Inside this castle you can hear the sound of dreary prose being churned out

It was a long time coming, but I do believe that in a Phi Listener we have a Victory to George!  I rather enjoyed the puzzle, despite not being big on the source material.  Now I wait to see whether Phi will tap into my inner disinterests and produce puzzles based on Vanity Fair, the works of Thomas Wolfe, Gravity’s Rainbow, Finnegan’s Wake, Phish, NewsCorp and preserved meats.

2011 tally:  George 22, Listener 6.  Current streak:  George 5.

Hey hey hey, I’m coming to the UK.  If you are reading this, consider signing up for the All-England RNIB 3D Crossword Cup.  I’m going to be in Leeds from August 1-4, then Cheltenham 5-6, then London 7-10.  Drop me a note if you’re interested in a pint or seven.

Feel free to leave comments below and check back next week where internet access and sobriety permitting, we’ll be doing what Waterloo says to it.

Earth-shaken but not stirred

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, and from the Listener that could be done in the pub over a few beers we now have Phi.

Oh what fun times it’s been.  Despite finding out that Phi is a fan of the blog, a very cool guy, and I even scored a few votes in his clueing competition last year, I am YET to finish a Phi Listener.

Let’s take a walk through the litany of failure…

50-50:  practically an empty grid, precious few clues solved

Disorders: About a half of the grid filled in, some of it incorrect. APOOP across the middle really summed up my effort.

We Interrupt This Programme…: Got the theme and thought it was going to be a cakewalk.  It was a cake stagger followed by a cake flop.

So now we come to Heart.  I’m determined!  We’re going to do this.

Carte blanche, but not even really a carte blanche, since it doesn’t fit the grid provided.  Why should it?  Maybe it’ll fit in a heart.  180-degree symmetry.  Throw out heart idea.  Answer to first clue not at its natural location (maybe it’s at the pub).  Multiple letters in cells, OK.. that’s enough preamble for me.

Basically what you’re saying, Phi is that we’re in stone-cold deep freeze solving with some clues that are normal (except for some extra words), we don’t know how long the entries are (though they won’t fit into this grid or even another grid we’re meant to come up with ourselves).


The first chance I got to look at this was while I was supervising a laboratory.  You may be surprised to hear that a student asked me why I looked at a crossword for over an hour without writing anything in it.  Must strangle student.  As is par for the course, a first run through the clues yielded very little.

A second sit and a few breakthroughs… LEAF BEET sounded like a go, and with KAABA, POTVALOROUS, ORMOLU, PERTER, URGE, OUPA, EPACRIS and TENSENESS surely I can start to fill out the top half of the grid.

Problem was I didn’t have much of what I figure must be in the down half… it looks promising that ALES, FORCE, EORL and EUGE can cross LEAF BEET, POTVALOROUS, PERTER and URGE.  That foesn’t seem to give me much room to cram in ORMOLU, unless there’s a lot of bunched together letters in POTVALOROUS.

Well, there’s 180-degree symmetry… so if the downs start with ALES, then acrosses end with whatever 19 is.  And I can’t figure that out at all.  Though that’s not going to work out, is it?  EYEBATHS has 8 letters, and won’t fit into the spot that KAABA fits into (not that I’ve found where to put KAABA).

And why do most of the “downs” I’ve found look to be 4 letters… except for NERVATED, TSETSE (which at least I can fit) and what might be PUPAE?  The only other downs I have are OPAL, SNIFF, NOSE, IN RE, FILO, CLOY, HEME and BEST.  You would think with all those Ps I have in the top, I could find a spot for PUPA.  And what is going to cross BENJAMIN?  There’s no B, J or M to be found.

To make matters worse, I have a feeling I know the theme… I’ve found superfluous DISH, DENTURE, ANODE, ENGRAVING, SILVER, ARMOUR and maybe TABLEWARE and that’s all pointing at PLATE.  And wasn’t there something recently about the North pole moving (rent got too high or something?).  PLATES move, so that’s probably what’s going on here.

But not going on in my grid.  I don’t even have enough to scan, just imagine a few pages of trying to shoehorn things into 15 columns that are not going to fit at all.

That’s four in a row for Phi!  Victory to the Listener Crossword.  I got a lot closer on solving the clues (now watch a bunch of them be wrong), but still couldn’t pull it out of the fire.  Not the most auspicious start to 2011!

2011 tally:  Listener 2, George 3.  Current streak:  Listener 1

Feel free to leave criticism below, and see you next week for Les Sixth Listener of the year with Raich.