I always thought the Wiggles were on acid

It’s the great poor timing catch-up part 2! This puzzle appeared the day I was to fly to Los Angeles, and the day before my flight to Japan. And it’s Sabre, and the grid is already giving me a headache before even looking at the preamble.

OK – so a bunch of five-letter answers, several of which are unclued. Some other answers that start in a numbered square and wiggle around the grid. It may not be the first letter of the five-letter answers that goes in the central square of each entry point.

Um so do what now?

Perhaps it was a good thing that only strangers on planes were going to see me with this. I promised my traveling companions I would not spend the whole trip doing crosswords (though when I got up early enough and the internet was working I kept up with the Times and Guardian dailies). So I had to get this done in one overnight in LA.

If you are in LA near LAX and have an afternoon to kill, I highly recommend the Inglewood neighbourhood. There’s some nice restaurants and bars and even a microbrewery (Three Weavers). The more beers I tried, the more this grid would melt, thaw and resolve into a dew (better start on the Shakespeare jokes early right, we all know what is coming up).

We know this is going to end badly, so let’s get to the misery that is my grid.

My working grid for Listener 4505, Wiggles by Sabre

I think what was the most demoralizing about this one is the very very few filled in squares given the number of clues I really did solve. A look at my complete print-out and I have more than half of the clues worked out, I just have no idea how to write them in. I even made a guess that the last word of the phrase was going to be PAIRS.

Yet again, a complete and utter victory for Sabre and the Listener Crossword, and I know several people were confused by the strange guy at the brewery with his funny looking puzzle that he barely wrote in.

Game over:  50% completion (of clues), 3% completion (of grid)

I was good to my word, and did not look at any Listener puzzles while I was in Japan (I think I got this one back out for the trip back), so I was already three weeks behind in printing out the next puzzle, where Ifor welcomed me back to the country with… well, we will see soon!

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Four and a half percent of the grid filled in, maybe

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, and the next in a series of puzzles that were started during breaks in the performances of Fiddler on the Roof.  And… it’s Sabre!  Hello nemesis – I have a pretty abysmal record against Sabre, and if you’re coming here you are probably expecting to gloat at my misfortune, so let’s get it straight out there – I did not get very far with this puzzle at all.

My working grid for Listener 4460, Four and a Half ...? by Sabre

Yep – a practically empty grid.  So what happened?  Well all we are told is some words have to be removed from clues and there’s clashes.  Gulp.  How many clashes?

Well there is a 1 across, but I couldn’t solve it.  6 across looks like it should be B,LOBBY put it in to check on later.. looks like it might be correct because it intersects BRRR (which appeared in a Times puzzle I blogged this last week).  A few more clues including the long SNOWBALL TREE and I’m thinking maybe this is a solveable Sabre… and then the clashes came!  Six clashes between them in 29 and 30 down.  Eeeek!

Consistency in clashes – well the ones I found seem to be separated by two letters (though how that could lead to an ambiguity is beyond me).  So maybe that is the key?  It really looks like 23 down should have some clashes but I can’t solve it.

I also can’t seem to find words to be removed from clues either, possibly the AT at the start of 27 across and OF in 8 down.  Great… let’s think of a literary piece that includes AT and OF.

Yep.

Stumped.

I kept meaning to go back and spend more time on this, but with the appearance of the next Listener this seemed to find its way to the bottom of the puzzle page and stay there.

Complete and utter victory (yet again) to Sabre and the Listener Crossword.

Game over, 3% completion (reminds me of an old PS1 game where I couldn’t make it out of the tutorial level).

Feel free to tell me that four and a half referred to the number of answers I was able to enter correctly and see you next week when Aedites asks us to call Emma.

As sure as you are you and me am me and don’t pay the quarrymaster

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword – maybe this will be the day I remember to scan the grid and save the draft?  You never know…

Sabre time!  I did not solve the last Sabre and that was even after a discussion with Poat, so let’s see what we have here.  An interesting-looking grid, and a new way of entering in answers, coordinates as letters of a quote.  This probably means there’s some duplicate axes.

This grid entry method intrigued me, so without really looking at the clues that much I tried to see what I might be able to learn from the coordinates system.  After spending a lot of time getting my X and Y mixed up I came to the following set of conclusions…

  • the last few columns were likely a set of W,R,H,D,O – maybe WHO or HOW
  • the last few rows were likely Y,O, and U which sounds like a word
  • A and S were near the top and the left hand side
  • There’s definitely two A’s and two S’s in the x-coordinate and two A’s and probably two D’s in the y coordinate

OK, let’s work on some clues – some real stone-cold deep freeze solving again.  Maybe Sabre reels it in a touch on the carte-blanches, but I had pretty good luck with a number of the longer answers, and the ones where the coordinates were the same (not that it really means that they will start in the same place).

With more than two thirds of the clues solved you would think that I would be able to start putting this together, right?  Well just trying to match up acrosses and downs was getting me nowhere… even more so since it appeared there were far more letters in the clues than there were spaces in the grid.  Are we two letters to a cell in some place?  Do the clashes involve a ton of letters?

Time to go back to what I originally thought of – if the last three letters on the y-coordinate are YOU then NOTODONTIDAE can go all the way across the row, meaning opposite it is probably UNFATHOMABLE or WITHSTANDING. O contains PUNISHMENT and U contains RASPY and SCANTS.

Of all things, I can now line up THC, placing the N in the x-coordinate… this probably means OAT is 180 degrees separate and it’s UNFATHOMABLE that goes in the fourth rwo (R and one of the A’s placed).  Lining up THC gives me the ANT that is probably the end of GRANT (so it probably ends WHO) and on the opposite side RUNTS (one of the S’s placed).  THEGNS and SHEETS make up all of the O column, so two six-letter answers take up the left hand side – ABUSED and DAWNER are both A’s, and fit.

There’s nowhere at all to put QUARRYMASTER, WITHSTANDING and NAILROD. Hmmmm

I must be close to being able to figure out this quote, with about half of the letters placed…   AND YOU AND WHO SAID HE ASSURE?  Nothing doing with looking that one up.  It looks like the unclued entry across the top is going to be ARE YOU and another is AS?A?I  Taking “ASSURE” out of the search and putting in AS I AM I hits paydirt – Tristram Shandy!  So that means QUARRYMASTER and WITHSTANDING cross with the clashing letters jumbling to TRISTRAM SHANDY!

At this point my grid was a disaster area

My working grid for Listener 4367, Identity Crisis by Sabre

Time to use the strange feature of the Times website – when I print default size the grid is HUGE.  Plenty of space to cram in all these letters and work out the clashes.  I also looked up the characters from Tristram Shandy, which I will admit I have never read.  Fortunately the character list is not too long, and I could resolve UNCLE TOBY, DR SLOP and the rest.  I was held up a while over the last unsolved clue – HAYRICK… kind of sneaky that there is really a 7-letter answer with only one truly checked letter, the rest being part of the thematic material.  Resolve the clashes into the letters of STERNE and at last a grid!

The rest of the quotation is DON’T PUZZLE SAID I – DON’T is already in the grid, and underneath it can be made PUZZLE and SAID leaving real words in the largely unreadable grid, and the I goes down the bottom.

Final grid for Listener 4367 Identity crisis by Sabre

What an intriguing solve – painfully slow at the start, must have taken three hours before I put a single entry in the grid.  Once I got the quotation it was a big cascade until about another half hour looking for that last solution.  Very tricky stuff there, Sabre, but I think I can cautiously call this one a Victory to George.

2015 tally:  32-2-5

Feel free to tell me that alas I have not known this well, and see you next week when Harribobs bases a Listener on an obscure ABBA song

 

Eeeeew, the hands are touching, maybe.

 

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword – and more potential fun and games with either my scanner or WordPress.  Got some bad news for regular readers – my Friday schedule has changed and I now have no break between 10am (an hour before the Listener is released) and 2pm, so unless I get in the habit of writing these up early, which I will shoot for, then posts won’t appear until later in the afternoon, well after the new Listener is out, as is the case today.  So I’ll try, but who knows…

Sabre rounds out the year!  This is another that I printed off in Australia (I thought I had printed the next weeks, but I lost it and had to start again when I got to the US, but you can read all about that next week), which means it came with an even teeny-tinier grid than I’m used to.  OKeydoke – what have we here… every answer needs a letter replaced, and some replacements are identical, presumably to allow for the message to have duplicated letters… hmmm…  tricky.

Well nothing to do but start solving, right?  There is a 1 across and it is a fairly gentle SO(U)L so we are away, woohoo!  In the first session of solving I thought I was making pretty decent progress, clues didn’t seem too bad, I was finding plenty of clashes… but writing the letters that clashed next to the clues didn’t seem to be getting me anywhere… and in some clues like 16 across there appeared to be three clashes (though looking back now I think the N/H clash had to belong to 2 down since it was the only clash in 2 down… though 2 down could be a same letter clash. GAK!

Then came the problem that started with 5 across and got worse with 11 across… surely 5 across is BROMHIDROSIS… but that has one more letter than the grid entry and there’s nothing about more than one letter in any one square… similarly with 11 – that looks like it should be EXPIRATION… and 20 ACANTH and I can’t find any clashes.

Settle down, George… OK, we know there’s something strange about that middle row, maybe the coincidence is that both letters go in it?

Hey, are all entries meant to be real words?

Not sure if it’s WordPress or my scanner, but here’s where I had gotten to…

 

my wotking grid for Listener 4326, Coincidences by Sabre

It looks badly pixellated on my end, but so do I on occasion.

It was about then that I had my drinks with Poat, who asked me how I was doing on it… I showed him, and said I think there’s two words in the middle row, but I couldn’t work out what they were (I think I had a half-assed idea and it must have been so half-assed that I completely forget what it was).  Poat said he hadn’t solved much more than me but he thought it was MINUTE HAND and HOUR HAND… though it doesn’t appear my clashes are going to work there (I may be wrong on PREACH UP).

And that was that… I didn’t pick it up for a few more days and never managed to work out the last parts… though I also felt a bit weird about consulting on the answer (not that I was likely to submit from Australia).  I hope Poat managed to finish it off, though!

Victory to Sabre (and there have been many) and the Listener Crossword!

Clues of note:

Sabre’s clues were once described to me as a “model of efficiency”.  You don’t find many link words, and there are many of these oh so short charades that make perfect surfaces.

2 Down:  Raises dangerous issue (6)

UPS,HOT – here’s an example – that’s a common phrase that makes for a complete clue

4 Across:  Monsieur’s horrid BO is compounded by this? (11)

BROMHIDROSIS – anagram of M’S,HORRID,BO,IS – even though “is” looks like it could be a link word, it is part of the anagram

5 Down:  Right, frost in Arizona, twice!  What a to-do (8)

R,AZ,MAT,AZ – A little bonus surface there for those who know where Sabre lives (stalker mode on, though he did put George and North Carolina bars in a clue a few years ago) and the typical temperature there.  I was in Arizona once in July and I thought it was where heat death went when it wanted to dry out.

So we did not hit the magic 40, and end the year without cracking the final puzzle.  39-4-9.  That’s 39 solved, 4 missed the point, 9 silly errors.  What will 2015 bring?  Likely more of the same!

Feel free to tell me that it’s bedtime at Neverland Ranch when the big hand touches the little hand, and see you next week when Waterloo presents us with the cryptic puzzle made of nail varnish (21,3,8)

George vs gravity and troublemakers

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  Let’s get straight into it, shall we?  It’s Sabre time – now last time was rather embarrassing, since I couldn’t finish the Knight’s Moves crossword Translation, even though I may have put in an appearance in a clue.  No luck with the previous set of knight’s moves in Jumping to Conclusions, though I did manage to scrape to the end of Pangrams, and Whirly-Birly. A near miss on Au Contraire and an utter fail on Lip Service and it appears the tally is in Sabre’s favor, 4-2.  Yikes!

Now what have we here – jigsaw with clues in alphabetical order by length of answer, and an indeterminate number of clashes, making coordinates.  So all clues are normal (though Sabre normal, which means degree of difficulty partial differential equations while being tickled by a crocodile).

I settled in to my favorite watering hole for a late meal and an early solve.  There’s only 4 13-letter answers, 2 10s and 2 8’s, so it looks like we’ll be solving from the longest back.

This turned out to be not a bad idea – two of the 13’s were anagrams for PIGEON-LIVERED and GO-AS-YOU-PLEASE, one looked like HE something in CHOPPERS which had to be CHEESE-HOPPERS and the last one looked like it had UB, and an anagarm of HOLE in it which can be worked out later.  Of the 10s, there was another anagram for IREFULNESS, and one of the 8’s is CLEARING.

The 13-letter answers don’t seem to want to fit together though PIGEON-LIVERED would work with CLEARING and since the V had to be a clash, a clash with GO-AS-YOU-PLEASE let’s me fit in IREFULNESS – that gives me –OU as the start for the third 13-letter entry, which could be TROUBLEHOUSES from the wordplay.  I did one more read through the clues, getting about a third of them on an initial pass.. NEONATE looked like it could cross IREFULNESS and OUTROOT maybe with TROUBLEHOUSES… this seemed like a good place to stop for now.

The next day, I was walking home and disaster struck.  I wasn’t watching where I was stepping, and I tripped and landed hard on my left shoulder.  I picked myself up, wandered home and lay down for a bit.  After an hour or so I couldn’t move from pain so I called a friend for a ride to the doctor.  A few x-rays later and I’m told I’ve fractured my shoulder.  Most of the next week is a blur – couldn;t work or focus for a few days, saw a specalist who decided I didn’t need surgery, but needed to keep my left arm completely immobile for the next two weeks at least.  And extreme pain medication was to be had.

Needless to say, solving this Listened took a back-burner, and in fact I didn’t pick it back up until two days ago.  I’d made such a promising start I didn’t want to ditch this just yet.

So back we go… I worked on the clues a bit more and gradually they fell.  My approach was to work on clues of the one answer length and then fitting them in looking for the smallest number of clashes.  This proved to be a good approach – maybe I got lucky but I only placed one answer in the wrong place – I had SCRAE in the bottom left initially.

Pegging back a few clues at a time this way did the trick – near the end I was looking at a few possible letter combinations to get the last one or two of a length group (NIRLY was my last of the 5s).  In the end I was left with four 3-letter entries to solve (though I hit myself when I realised the obvious clue for OWL that was right in front of me), with the last two in being XIS and SOU.

my working grid for Listener 4263, Coordinates by Sabre

Far too late to send in, but I think I’ve finally scraped home. Those were some fiendish clues and an intriguing theme – I didn’t spot TROUBLEMAKING down the left side until I was trying to decide between H and M.  I eventually had a lot of fun with this, so thanks Sabre.

Sorry there’s not as many bad jokes here as normal – feel free to send me walking tips, and check back next week when Aedites sends us out on a commission.

Did the knights drink all the beer in North Carolina?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener.  Done in last week by lack of colour!  Oh the humanity!  And now on to Sabre…

There was only one crossword I flat out gave up on last year, and it was Sabre’s Jumping to Conclusion.  I couldn’t get a handle on all those knight’s moves in the middle.  So as soon as I saw Knight’s moves (and I think Sabre sent me an email saying that he may not be done with knight’s moves), my first instinct was to set fire to the grid (still a technique I want a setter to try).  Clues are normal, and then there’s a misprint in every answer where a letter has muscled in by a knight’s move.

Quick recap with Sabre – I seem to alternate between dismal failures (Lip Service, Au Contraire) and struggling successes (Pangrams, Whirly-Birly).

OK, here we go…

There is a 1 across and a pass on the 1 across tip with LIT,ERAL going in – it crosses 1 down which is LASIKS without the S (my brother and a close friend I room with at various conferences have both had the surgery, I’m considering it), so we have the double 1 across success!  Clashes immediately appear with BLOOP and AHORSEBACK.

Wait a second!  What’s this?  31 across?

Bars in North Carolina deserted:  George is mad

I appear to have been immortalized in a clue!  It was amongst the last I solved (anagram of D,GEORGE,IS for DOGGERIES). Thanks Sabre!  Now I’m stuck – no way I can give up on this one, right?

Similarly to the Kea puzzle of a few weeks back, I got a long way by using the “0 or 1 misprints” feature of Word Wizards, and I was pleasantly surprised at the end of a long solving session to have a full grid.  Is Sabre softening up on the clues, or is there something more devious coming?  It also helped that Sabre and Phi both gave me advice on Sabre’s clues – look for one or two letter abbreviations and acronyms often, which helps in breaking down clues like C,I,R.C.U.S

Working grid for Listener 4201, Translation by SabreAnd now the fun begins.  Wow.  There’s some entries with one misprint, some with several, and ABYE doesn’t even have one at all!  How is this going to work?

There’s got to be six knights in the grid, and CAVALIER (moving the L from LAVALIER) and SPRINGER (moving the T from SPRINTER) look like obvious moves.  There’s a T/G pair a knight’s move away so the G from OVERGOT can move, and there’s somewhere to put the L from LAVALIER.  There’s another I/B pair a knight’s move away in the top left.

This was painstaking stuff… I started with those and then looked at answers with only one clash.  I put an asterisk at the end of a word when I’ve done one move (since every answer can only have one move).  I was stuck at a few places

– Where to move the G in 15?  Since I still didn’t have a move in ABYE, the G could move to where the A is and the A could move back to ARAIVE

– Where to put the Z in BLAZON?  CHOCBAR and ROSES had no moved letters?  Some creative swapping is in order here.  A series of moves could put the Z down into ROZES, the S into CHOCBAR and that A had somewhere already occupied with an A

– Where to put the P in PRAT?  Aha!  PAARD is a type of horse.  Fingers crossed.

– Where to put the L in STELE – there was as yet no misprint in DEGRADE.  So the A from DEGRADE goes up into FAARD (which is now PAARD).

Several frustrating sessions later, here’s what we’ve got.

My final grid for Listener 4201, Translations by Sabre

Funny how the knight’s move

Now my knights/horses I think are SPRINGER, CAVALLO, CAVALIER, PAARD and FRAT.  But where is the sixth one?  I couldn’t see any other switches that might result in horses/knights.  Maybe OVERTOT for the jumping?

This is what I submitted, and I’ll be happy to find it’s right, but I’m hedging my bets for now.  Thanks, Sabre – that was a frustrating finish (though I persevered a lot more than I did last time).  And a gazillion thanks for writing me into a clue!

2012 tally: TBD

Feel free to tell me where that sixth knight is in comments, and see you next week when Lato och aye the noo.

UPDATE:  Yep, I had messed something up and did not catch the significance of the knights.  So I think my letters may be in the correct spots, but I didn’t have the corrct B in KOLB.  Two in a row, ack!

2012 tally: 24-0-6

Your check is in the mate

Welcome back to George vs the Listener.  I’ve got a show in about 30 minutes, so this will be a rapidish write-up but hopefully we can all have a laugh.

Aaaah, Sabre – veteran of at least 61 Listeners, and occasional reader of this little blog (Hi Sabre) and a setter with whom I struggle mightily.  Let’s recap – Pangrams – yes, Whirly-Birly – yes, Au contraire – kind of, Lip Service – not even close.  Hmmm… there’s a 6×6 bit in the middle with no gridlines.  Normal clues (yay), but once a word enters the fobidden zone it goes bouncy bouncy bouncy like a knight until it stops.

Personal to whoever invented chess – really?  I can imagine castles sliding, priests going in wonky directions, overstuffed kings barely moving (except to hide behind a castle, the only thing that can conceal their fat arses), and queens flitting in every which direction while pawns are destined to trudge one step forward, but how did you get it in your head that knights do this big leap with a sidestep?  Are these ballet knights?

Actually I got off to a really good start here, with KING,C,UPS and MOCH(a) taking up the first row, and I had the whole left side of the puzzle, up until letters entered THE ZONE OF KNIGHTDOOM.  This was the first of many snags – is it Thunderdome?  Once you enter, can you leave?  Because if you can, then JANGLE just backs up on itself.  So much for checking letters?

Either I’m getting used to them, or the clues were tame by Sabre standards.  By the end of my second solving session, I had all of the left and top side, most of the bottom (though I’m not sure about DONNA at 42 across) and a few of the ones jutting into THE REALM OF KNIGHTS.  I can’t figure out 30 or 26.

That’s a lot of blank squares and no real good place to start.  D,I,NOT HERE if it stays in the MIDRIFF OF THE ROUND TABLE would be a good one to check some letters, but there’s five possibilities for that I making more than five possibilities for the N.

And that, ladies and gentlemen was about all time and patience could afford.  Sorry, Sabre, those jumping words got to me and I could not get anywhere near a finish on this one.  Behold the grid of patheticness…

My grid for Listener 4140, Jumping to Conclusions by Sabre

Kind of like a doughnut it’s empty inside

If we call Au Contraire a draw, then George vs Sabre is back to even stevens, but this one is definitely a Victory for the Knights of the Listener Crossword.

2011 tally:  Listener 6, George 17.  Current streak:  Listener 1.

One of the reasons I didn’t have a lot of time lately was that I’ve been involved in the latest Feral Chihuahuas show, Keywords (about to be taken on the road).  I’ll warn you, this is 20 minutes long and I sing in it, but if you’ve got some time, enjoy the finale of Keywords – The Great Domain Grab of ’97

Feel free to leave comments below, and see you next week where we’ll blaze a trail with Dysart.