Peter Cook: Have you seen that bloody Leonardo Da Vinci cartoon? I couldn’t see the joke.

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, in which I frantically type up last-minute thoughts about puzzles from weeks ago.  So what do we make of Stick Insect?  I have in general really liked Stick Insect’s puzzles, though the world of quotes is kind of new.  Last year Stick Insect gave us a really amazing reproduction of a tapestry that I probably shouldn’t be talking about right now.

Anyhoo – quotes, thematic modification, and an author to draw lines through.  Let’s get going, shall we?  There is a 1 across but I did not see it sraight away, so there was a big fail on the 1 across test!  4 across was intriguing because it looked like it should be an anagram, but there isn’t a 9-letter combination.  Could it be (dun dun daaaah) a thematic replacement?  Well a bit of fiddling with the letters makes (SEANCE,D,CAN) gives ASCENDANCE and yep, there’s a thematic modification.   Oh great, one clue solved, number of grid entries zero (yes, I can gripe about that now, but it goes to extremes next week, doesn’t it?  I’m all about spoilering today).

Well with ANOETIC, SPOT-ON and CAMP in it looks like the thematic modifications are going to be to get rid of some letters, so as I went through the grid I started looking for longer answers that should be shortened – helped me get BLOOD VESSELS, APPORTION, RESTRAINT, CASING and ARYTHMIC without too much difficulty. Not sure how CASING and BLOOD VESSELS are going to go together.  Hmmm…

At this point I’m getting close to a full grid and I have eight of the ten entries that are too long for the space and I’m having a hard time seeing what is going on. So what’s the title of this work.  THE -A-T-T-US- with only two letters left… surely I can find the second word of that title without too much trouble…


Hmmm… is THE part of a longer title… THEAsomething – THEAETETUS!  Socrates time… and everything that involces THEAETETUS has MAN IS THE MEASURE OF ALL THINGS… so we are removing MEASURES and inserting MEN – which makes sense to take care of APPORTION to APRON and my trouble corner is taken care of by putting ROB in there.

That means I need to solve two more E clues, which must be 43 across and 1 down. I got the final answer for 1 down before solving the clue, since with the rest of the checking letters in place, CABRETTA was the only possibility.  Aaaah – it is CA,PIT,A!  They aren’t all shortened.  Is 43 also lengthened?  No – it’s shorter – it is RESTRAINT.

That just left a few normal clues to finish the grid, woohoo!  TREHALA was the last one in.

The last part wasn’t too bad – the quote comes from PROTAGORAS, who appears as a stick-figure in the grid, with the quote used in describing Da Vinci’s sketch.


My working grid for Listener 4470, Rod and Bill by Stick Insect

So this was two pretty long solving sessions with a lot of head-scratching in the middle. It was nice to only have 10 clues pointing at the work, the large number of normal clues helped me get at a theme with which I was not familiar.  I believe I can call this one a Victory to George!

Game over – 97% completion (it was pretty clear where the substitutions took place, so I never checked to make sure they were all measures).

Feel free to tell me that no eyes would follow any painting I ever drew, and see you next week when Flying Tortoise locks seven old ladies in a lavatory.


Carole King 1, King Harold 0

So the not getting this done in time thing won.

I’ll keep this one simple and hopefully you like Crossword Compiler + Irfanview part 2 (of at least 3) creation at the end.

So… stick insect gave us this 20X10 grid with no symmetry and the title “King’s Album”.  What’s the chances that we are looking at a tapestry? Letter removals, drawing and shading… OK – let’s solve.

While I was solving I put circles in for the clues that I solved without removing a letter, to help find the items to be shaded.  Although I got the message (NUMBER OF CLUES FOLLOWS NUMBER OF ROWS), and the grid filled up quickly, I did not make head or tail of the message. I did notice HORSE and SHIELD in the circled letters and REX INTER in the uncircled, which rang a bell from somewhere.

A little Google later and there it was – the Bayeux Tapestry! I must have solved this back-asswards, because I had the message HAROLD REX INTERFECTUS EST before finding the rest of the items to shade – there was the SHIELD and HORSE… ARROW and EYE, then the SWORD and AXE.

my working grid for Listener 4420, King's Album by Stick Insect

That was a fun grid – a pretty quick fill and an extremely rare case of me getting the theme from the title.  I just looked up the meaning of the message – 10 rows and 66 clues – that was a fun touch that I totally missed.

I’m on the road again next week, in Las Vegas – I’ll try to get next week’s entry written up before I leave on Tuesday, so hopefully see you next week.

2016 tally:  34-2-6

Feel free to tell me that I need to switch editing software, and see you next week when I hope Tramp’s title is what I think it is.

Is this as close to a vacation as JEG gets?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, and it seems last week’s puzzle caused a little kerfluffle in Listenerland, with some solvers liking it, some having problems with it, and most of us opting for “Swingin’ In The Rain” instead of “Sinning in the Rain”.  Well this week it’s Stick Insect, so let’s hope there’s no controversy (except for how to round up pi).

Let’s see – there’s a message in the perimeter, and the unchecked letters in it are extra letters in wordplay and then there’s something to do at the end.  OKeydoke, looks like real words in the grid, so let’s get started…

The perimeter message means there’s no 1 across, so we have to go all the way to 8 across for the test. NOW,A,Y,S – and that’s a big pass on the 8-across test, woohoo!

I made a steady start across the top and right of the grid, and saw the possibility of DELETE PERIMETER (what? after feeling good about spotting it I have to go scrub it all out?) before realizing that the extra letters in wordplay were in the exact order of the misprints.  So a big hand in solving the whole puzzle was figuring out the message of DELETE PERIMETER MESSAGE AND ALTERNATE ROWS.  I needed that to solve 20 (RUN,KLE) and 31 (SEND inside DUE, extra S).  Eventually there is a grid!

My working grid for Listener 4328, Reducto ad Absurdium by Stick InsectOK… that’s a lot of deleting – if I get rid of the perimeter and half of the rows and columns then there’s not a lot of letters left.  Hmmm…. do I delete row 2 or row 3?  If I delete row 2 then the leftover letters say DELETE ALL SEND UNFILLED GRID.  Which makes more sense than OASEAETESNLIDUKENSRLRDBGNMWEFAINRDUI.

I didn’t get to this until the deadline was done, so I didn’t send in an unfilled grid, but here was a good opportunity to set the whole thing on fire and send in the cinders!  Fun puzzle, with an amusing ending.

Clues of note:

I guess the restrictions on hiding so many elements restricted the grid, so there were some unusual words to clue.  I’m a sucker for slapstick film references, and clear wordplay for obscure words, and two stood out for me here

17A:  Bumbling inspector’s lost half the main point:  CLOU(seau) – with an added bonus that the word came from French, while the inspector came from an American director and British actor’s interpretation of a Frenchman

4D:  Whine of Angus adolescent with pressure to replace top:  TEENAGE with P for T, extra letter A giving PEENGE.  Excellent wordplay for the extra letter and an unusual word.  I wondered if there could be a more surface-appropriate word for replace.

I didn’t get to submit either of the first two for the year, but I think I’ve got them done so I’ll call this one a Victory to George!

2015 tally:  2-0-0

Feel free to tell me that you got it from reading the title and sending in an empty grid without solving a clue, and see you next week when Hedge-Sparrow doubts our associations.


And this is why I found “Life of Pi” disappointing

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, inexplicably still in existence, at this point probably just to annoy a certain setter.

This week we recommence battle with Stick Insect – I have very much enjoyed the last few Stick Insect puzzles (Systems Analysts made it into my top 5 for 2012), and so I was looking forward to this one.  What have we here – blank grid, entries going every which way, and encoding to a digit.  I wonder how many people of the anti-number brigade read that bit and stopped?  Hmmm… this sounds intriguing.

OK – I have to put something in here.  While I was typing this up, I just got a call from tech support, where I had called in a problem with my computer.  The first question?  “Have you tried turning it off and turning it back on again?”.  Yep – the IT crowd lives!

Back to Stick Insect.  There’s not a lot of guidance here, but let’s get started – there is a 1 and it is in the conventional direction of across, and it’s a pretty gentle anagram for KISLEV with an extra D so that’s a big pass on the 1 east test.  Wooohooo!  I approached this by going through the clues from top to bottom rather than looking for crossing letters – this was working out pretty well, since there were, as the preamble said, lots of clashes, but the clues were, for the most part, straightforward.  I suspected that the letters of the title would be in separate groups, and it started off that way, but then an error put M and Y in the same group.  That can’t be right.  At this point I decided to start again, and take advantage of something silly my printer does, which is default to printing a huge grid.  Here’s the first attempt…

My first working grid for Listener 4299, Godly Mix-up by Stick Insect

Take 2.  Yep, I had some entries going in the wrong direction.  Near the end I had trouble finding which groups Q and K fit in, so to get those last few entries, I was making liberal use of Word Matcher’s “any of a set of characters” option but including Q or K as an option either time.  Eventually – full grid!  And not the best idea of what to do next.  The message read DIGITS KEY LETTER FROM EACH CLUE FOR NEXT STEP READ ZERO AS TEN.

Hmmm… do they mean the digit of the misprints?  That doesn’t seem to give anything.

Do they mean the first digit of each clue answer?  That doesn’t seem to give anything.

Is it a permutation of 0-9 and not just in the order of GODLY MIX-UP?

Is it the letters in every cell?  BINGO!


Hmmm… OK.  I can see POINT in the top row, and YOU PLACES in the bottom row.  POINT YOU PLACES?  What does that mean?  And what is going on with the top left?  PICS?  PIIS.

Clang… PI IS 3 POINT…. TO 80 PLACES!!!!

My second working grid for Listener 4299, Godly mix-up by Stick Insect

The jaw drops.  Did Stick Insect manage to encode pi in a puzzle, and hide two messages in clues to the point that 10 encoded cells are playing double duty, hiding the theme and hiding the information to get at the theme?

I am in abject awe.  This is the best puzzle in recent memory.  Stick Insect has more than cracked the top 5 here, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is Ascot Gold Cup material (what material is the AGC made of?).


In my awe of finishing it off – I didn’t round up the last three digits.  Yes, of course I was working off of a listing of PI, and it wasn’t until after it was in the mail that I noticed – the last two digits, that I wrote in as 8,9,9 don’t match the encoding.  Even though it’s right in front of me.

Victory (and an admirable one) to Stick Insect.

2014 tally:  22-0-3

Feel free to laugh your collective asses off at me in comments, and see you next week when Calmac asks us to put 22 acrosses in a grid 14 entries wide.


And now we’re back… from outer space…

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, if you’re still coming back after our brief hiatus.  Many many crazy things going on but hopefully some dust has settled.  So much for those brilliant ideas of making it through the year – I missed out on submitting two Listeners, one Azed comp clue, the final puzzle and grid of the 3D crossword calendar.

So sweeping the detritus of the last few puzzles aside, let’s see what’s next… it is System Analysts by Stick Insect – we’ve run across Stick Insect twice before – near the end of last year there was Maxwell’s Demon hiding in Lawbreaker, one of my favorite puzzles of the year  and before that Hexes with the Henry VIII theme.  Stick Insect left me a message then, so I may still have one reader left – hi to Stick Insect if you’re checking in.

Well – this prints on one page!  And there’s only 16 clues and a crazy variation on the spherical grid.  Answers in alphabetical order, eight possible orientations, four messages.  Wow… that’s a lot for 16 clues.  Let’s get cracking…

There is a 1 across and a pass on the 1 across test with CAPER becoming CABER and we’re away.  I think I got 10 of the clues on a first go-around.  Originally I thought the central letters were going to be C,S,O and T, and started working on wedges using these, but that T wasn’t quite going to work out, but when VOGUE appeared as the last letter, V became a possibility for that fourth wedge.  Time to start wedging…

Working out what fit gave me the last word (DOHYO) and I’m left with these four wedges.

listener_wedges001I look for ways of putting them together, and see that the the dot could be 2, 13, 7 or 10.  2 sounds like the easiest number, I’m much better at getting the second letter from each clue than the 13th…

TWO SPACE MISSIONS… hmmm… V? VOYAGER?  The lines could pass through V, O, Y…

Did I just get it the first time?  One line would pass through the 1, the other the 2, and we’d have the traces of the Voyager missions.  Wow, that’s awesome.

I wanted to know what the other messages were, so even though I was done I worked my way through to see what other thematic nuggets Stick Insect had left for us.  My working-out version is rather busy, but you can see what happened…


Woohoo!  This was only two short solving sessions, but they were sure fun, and I needed a starter to get me back into it!  I’m going to call this one a Victory to George and the final countdown is on.  I got it in the mail, probably past the deadline, but I wanted to thank Stick Insect for another… ummm… stellar puzzle.

2012 tally:  37-3-7

Feel free to leave comments below – there’s 4 puzzles left for 2012, can I crack it for 40 (and how will my tally compare with John Green’s)?  Check back next week when we do a line with Mr E.



Welcome to church, pull up a pew

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword.  I hope everyone got what they were hoping for over the holiday break.  I got a cricket bat signed by Mike Hussey, some caramello koalas and a sunburn, so I’m deliriously happy.  On the other hand, I started writing this in Firefox and WordPress told me I needed to update Firefox, and so I guess half the world is downloading the Firefox update which has stalled my computer a short while.  I am smarter than the average nobody, so I’ve switched over to Chrome and snuck in through the back door.  Soon we will have more browsers than any other programs on our computers.

All this and a Listener Crossword!  This week the challenge is put up by Stick Insect.  We’ve only met Stick Insect once before with a Henry the Eighth grid in Hexes, which I got out OK, so I was feeling good about this one.

There was another happy occasion here, as the grid appeared just after my last exam, so I was in a celebrating mood.  Off to the bar we go!  Side-by-side siamese twin grids, apparently joined by the 14-acrosses (sounds painful), and non-overlapping clues.  Challenge for setters, try one of these with overlapping grids and really confuse us.  Some clashes to work out along the way (20 of them) and something hiding in the final grid.  So normal clues…

Stick Insect has given us not just one 1-across but two!  And an instant pass on the 1-across test with a gentle hidden AFAR and A,SP,S meaning I can confidently write an A in at each 1 across marker.  Ha ha!  In what was to later prove a remarkable stretch of luck, I tossed a coin and put AFAR in the left grid and ASPS in the right grid.

The clues were fun, fair, and not too too difficult.  I started filling the right hand grid up pretty quickly, the left one was more of a trouble, and by the end of the first pint I was feeling very good about both myself and the grid, but I had no clashes yet.  I was starting to wonder if this was going to be like one from a few years ago where you had to shift words from one side to the other and create extra clashes.  Finally two clashes appeared in the one word!  CEILIDH clashed with both HEAT and CYST.  Hmmm…

You know how sometimes instincts turn out to be right.  I saw two C/H clashes and the title and thought “How awesome would this be if it’s a Listener about the second Law of thermodynamics”.  I’d found ACCELERATOR PRINCIPLE for one of the long answers, and it confirmed my lucky choice of AFAR left, ASPS right.  There’s three juicy Cs in ACCELERATOR PRINCIPLE, and sure enough – they all clashed with H’s in the downs.

OK, so I love the second law.  It’s basically my religion.  The Universe is tending to heat death and we’re just carrying it along.  There’s no point tidying your room, as the energy you expend in reducing the entropy of stuff all over the floor just contributes to the overall entropy of the universe.  How awesome is that!

There was nothing left to do but continue drinking and solving… sure enough there it all was – every C clashed with an H, MAXWELL’S DEMON was protecting a little DOOR and we have HEAT on the right hand side – so all the H’s go to the right and all the C’s go to the left.

My working grid for Listener 4167 - Lawbreaker by Stick Insect

Three pints, 20 clashes

I was an inspired solving monster here and managed a rare feat – a solution on Friday afternoon!  This was even in the mail before the post office closed on Friday.  Here’s the completed grid.

My final grid for Listener 4167, Lawbreaker by Stick Insect

Thanks, Stick Insect – I never thought that I’d hook on to a theme as quickly, and that all those hours in Physics classes in the late 80s were going to pay off.  Let’s call this one a Victory to George!

2011 tally:  George 38, Listener 12.  Current streak – George 1.

Feel free to leave comments below – and check back soon for another edition of George vs the Azed clueing comp and see you next week for a bit of the old Phizzy with BeRo.

Dhivorced, behheaded, died, divhorced, beheadhed survived

Hi there, welcome back for your weekly dose of somewhat capable solving. This week is “Hexes” by Stick Insect which appears to be a new setter or a new pseudonym, so hi if you’re checking in, Stick Insect.  We have a long thin grid and no symmetry.  The preamble says that the wordplay either contains an extra letter or lacks a letter, so it looks like a grid of real words and the definitions are normal. So sounds like we should be looking at definitions to get a start.

There was an initial fail on the 1 across test, similarly the 7 across test – I didn’t really get started until 12 across, with the initial letters CAECHU making CATECHU without the T so first missing letter is found.  It was an interesting grid fill, often I get sections of the grid filled out one at a time, but this time it was really scattered answers, a few at a time coming, and all over the grid.  I found the longer answers easier to get at – TEA WAGONS, SOCRATISE, BARONETESS…

I saw the theme when putting SEY above MOURN.  I’d been watching the show “The Tudors” so seeing SEYMOUR, and a little past it HOWARD, so the set were H’s EXES (a rare case of me getting the title of a Listener before finishing). That helped me get VEST as my last entry. The rest of the names are arranged in the shape of a VIII, with some H’s added (I guess because Henry interrupted them, except for Jane Seymour, who died before he could divorce her or chop her head off).

So this was a slow start but a fast finish. I’m still not sure on 12 down, whether it is CASTOCK or CUSTOCK – I’m pretty sure there needs to be an A in the wordplay so I’ve gone for CASTOCK.

My grid for Listener crossword 4080: Hexes by Stick Insect

That was a fun challenge, Stick Insect, but I’m going to call this a victory for George!  2010 tally:  George 12, Listener 2.  Current streak:  George 3.

Here’s the Horrible Histories version of the rhyme I used as a title.

Feel free to leave comments below, and see you next week to see if I’ve been double-crossed by Radix.