Welcome to the Excel Inn

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  If this is the first post you’re seeing, you need to see more posts… and my little bit on Pointer’s from last week should be right below this.

Numberword time! First numerical of the year and it is Botox.  The Listener Crossword site tells me that Botox is a hybrid of Artix (who we had not that long ago with a puzzle I didn’t get), and Shark who we last saw under the guise of Handyman last year. Pseudonyms abounding! Neither of them have set a numerical Listener that I know of.

I have no shame, dear readers. I saw the sheer number of numerical clues, that all the numbers 1-26 were used, and that there were several letters in many of the clues, and a few of them had two equations that worked out to the same value, and went straight to Excel to make a spreadsheet.

Now of course this doesn’t take all the logic out of the equation… it was still a hunt and peck around the grid. I made some notes of what was divisible by what, but with the number of linked clues that had to be solved together, I really needed that sheet that populated multiple entries when I tried a new combination of numbers.

I do remember wondering if I’d ever figure out which letter was 1… and that was a stroke of genius on the setters part by only having 1 (which I think was W) appearing in only 1 clue.

OK… now what.  32 cells stay as numbers (out of 66).  For the rest, there’s a cipher, where each number stands for 1-3 letters… Both end columns are the same…  the columns might be a key here – I see a column with 1111 and 2222… but 3334 and 4445.  Huh?  Next to those is 4321 three times.  Maybe the cipher will helps… it sounds like we should arrange the letters we just solved for in order, and use the second digit.

I tried that, and got nothing from the title.

What if isn’t the order of the letters in the answers, but just the normal ordering of letters?  That would probably have made the grid construction easier, right, if you didn’t have to come up with a code and the method of clueing letters together.  That looks more promising – REJOB could become HOTEL.

Aaaah… the identical columns are STAIRS.  There’s the RECEPTION at the bottom, a PENTHOUSE at the top and a LIFT in the middle.

I guess there’s no room 13? In the US that used to be a big thing, but I don’t recall the number 13 being left off of room numbers lately.  I’m traveling next week, I’ll check… though I am going to New Orleans, and if anywhere is going to be a superstitious hotel town, New Orleans sounds like a good option. Anyhoo – we have a grid!

My working grid for Listener 4490, REJOB (or HOTEL) by Botox

This wasn’t too bad – I did this all in one long, three hour session. About half an hour to write the Excel code, about another two hours fiddling with the numbers to make them fit, and not too long head-scratching about the cipher.

The last few years I’ve made a mess of the first numerical, but this time I think I’ve cracked it!  Victory to George.

Game over:  100% completion.

Feel free to tell me that Excel is far worse than anything else I regularly do, and see you next week when Dysart describes me in puzzle form.


In the follow-up, did they harvest meat balls?

Welcome back – it’s Listener 4444, so may the 4’s be with you!

I thought we had a new setter this week but it appears to be a newdonym – the Listener webpage lists Handyman as an alias for Shark.  There’s a lot in the preamble – modified entries, wordplay only clues, missing letters in wordplay, things to highlight and a strangely large number of non-Chambers words.  Hmmm?  An asymmetric grid too!

A look back shows I failed miserably at the last Shark offering (Quads II), so here goes nothing!

1 across was unclued so we have to look at 10 across, which I’m afraid to say was one of my last solved, so a big fail on the 1 across test.  Next up was OOMPAH – MA in OOH with the P unindicated. Nothing seemed to fit along with that, although it struck me that 9 down looked like an anagram clue with far too many letters.  Pity I was on a plane without wifi, I think if I’d put it in to an anagram solver straight away I could have made this one a romp.

Instead I managed to get myself in all sorts of messes – one being rather amusing – at 23 across I had TAT as half of TATTOO since I’ve seen a lot of henna tattoos around.  I shrugged at TESH as looking like it kind of fit, and went on from there.

Eventually I got to an anagram solver, put in the letters from 9 down and there was SEVEN HILLS OF ROME – which would fit if the first character was the numeral – is it 6-9 that give us a year?  If so, then 6 would be 1 something – ONE-MAN!  7 would be another number – 9PENCE!  So the top row was P?N?RAM?19?7.  PANORAMA?

A googling of PANORAMA shows me that in 1957 they ran the Spaghetti Tree video! So the extra letters read APRIL FOOL (confirming AMUSER), and there’s TRUNK in broad daylight in the zigzags.  On one side, a BOUGH hangs out with SPAGHETTI draped over it, and on the other side… well there’s BRANC which is nearly BRANCH and a SPAGH but no ETTI.  There’s an ITT?

Took me a while to convince myself that there was an option for TAT.  MEH fits the definition and puts an E and a H where they need to be – and there is MEHNDI in Chambers to fix up that mess.  Woohoo!

My working grid for Listener 4444, Food For Thought by Handyman

Oh boy did I make that harder than it was – fun puzzle Handyman!

Game over:  Victory to George, 100% completion, woohoo!

Odd postscript – NUNGA was quite vulgar slang in Australia in the 70s, so I was surprised to see it here.

Anyhoo, feel free to call me a nungamuncher and see you next week when eXternal requests some strange.

Dimensionally challenged

Welcome back to the lateish post for Quads II by Shark.  Still in the land without printing, so all of the grid manipulation sounds like it might be easier if I get to start in Crossword Solver, especially since symmetry can be set.

We start off with a carte blance, and a 1 across – not only that but it was F(w)ASTED and we are away!

I got off to a pretty good start with the first part, though the bottom half of the grid came together faster than the top, despite thinking that 30 down was ENTER with the E and N being unindicated.  I guessed FOURTH DIMENSION pretty early on and that helped guide the top left entries in particular.  After two solving sessions I had a starter grid

my first grid for Listener 4414, Quads II by Shark

The next set of instructions proved to be my undoing. I know that the 90-degree symmetry means that certain cells need to be kept, so I shaded those in green.  I started looking for good places to bar off and remove cells, and the creation of EMO/OBI/RET/ITA gave me a starting point, but after an hour of playing, I just could not figure how to remove 40 cells to get to a reasonable blocked grid.  I’ve read the solution and looked at the other blogs, and still don’t see how the blocking out seemed to be so easy.  Oh well… here’s as far as I got.

My attempt at finishing Listener 4414

And so we have a Victory to Shark and the Listener Crossword – there was a lot to do here, but I couldn’t get through that middle step.

2016 tally:  29-2-5.

Feel free to tell me that for someone who blacks out as often as I do I should have been able to finish this one, and see you next week when Ploy gives us a choice of political parties.

Well that’s exercise for at least one type of muscles

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword – the last few weeks have been some of the busiest I can ever remember – I took a professional acting gig to do a regional show for a long run.  Five weeks later, we debut tonight!  Check out this promo video…

Which means that this Listener (and the next few following) were mostly done in various bars as I investigated new watering holes.  There’s no food there, but I highly recommend Bear Waters Brewing for a drink if you decide to come see the show.

OKeydoke – it’s Shark week!  Been a while since a Shark listener, however Shark is part of Rood, and we’ve had a few Rood puzzles (that I haven’t always been stellar at).

What have we here – paired entries.  Oh goody – I have a fondness for paired entry puzzles, though I usually have to get a spreadsheet out to keep everything lined up.  No access to a spreadsheet here, so lots of scribbled notes in the tiny spaces next to clues, which must be even harder in the paper version.

What struck me while I was solving?  The clues weren’t that difficult but several did seem rather long.  I managed to put the grid together in about three pub solving sessions, the major difficulty being pairing the last clues (and trying to figure out where the extra words were from unpaired clues).  I didn’t pay much attention to the extra letters, though I did see LETTERS and GRID there in the message.

my working grid for Listener 4348, Quads by Shark

Now what… five words… TURN NW QUADRANT TO SE… well we have been told to keep orientation the same… so that makes ANIMAL LAMINA and if we over-write SQUITTERS it becomes SQUAMELLA… so that looks OK.  The leaves the top left empty.  Next instruction… five words…


Now the first four words make sense… the fifth?  Aaaaah… initial entries of… something.  Extra words are SUCCESSIVE LETTERS FROM ORIGINAL PAIRED CLUES.  Hmmm…. so do I take the first letter of 10ac and the second letter of 16ac and so forth?  Nope…  Do I take the first letter from 10ac, the second letter from 12ac, the third from 14ac, the fourth from 15ac (looking good so far, DEMI and then the fifth from 18ac since 16ac is already paired?  Nope.   Do I just barrel on through all the clues taking the successive letters omitting the ones that aren’t paired?  That gives me DEMIMO(to make DEMIMONDE) and ELD… so that looks promising.

Aaah, and there’s exactly enough clues to do that – looks like the letters going in are also the initials of the answers that were in the original grid.

Don’t think I’ve ever picked through a clue for the 32nd letter before.

This works well and good until… 31 down (where I am looking for letter number 36) only has 35 letters.  GAK!

Hmmm… OK – well I know finally I have to make a word from ANAGRAM SAME EIGHT LETTERS… I’ve been keeping track and there’s only five letters the same after this re-fill.  Hmmm… I guess I should check that other quadrant – there’s a D,E, and C in there which makes the anagram ACADEMIA.

So what goes in that last cell (the bottom right corner of the top left quadrant)?  According to Chambers it could be an E(that’s out, since that would make nine same letters), a P or a K.  Hmmm…. well it is the initials of the answers to the paired clues, so let’s grab those 36 letters and check them off.

Yep, did all that before realizing there wasn’t even a P in the set of initial letters.  Way to go, George!

My final grid for Listener 4349, Quads by Shark

Wow that was a lot of effort.  I admire the puzzle, but I’m concerned for Shark’s sanity!  How long does it take to make a grid that has a reflective corner, which has initial entries that are an anagram of the new corner, and then writes clues with swapped words and hidden letters in very specific positions.  No wonder I thought the clues looked odd!

Victory to George, a Xanax for Shark!

2016 tally:  17-0-4

Feel free to tell me that there’s no P in pool either, and see you next week when Pilcrow tells us about his favorite Michael Jackson song