Twisted sisters

Welcome back to George vs the Listener crossword.  I would like to announce that there is a major crisis brewing (or not brewing).  Both espresso machines are out at my local coffee place, and so I am utterly deprived of coffee!  This could be the shortest post ever before I crawl limply towards either my grinder at work, or somewhere open for lunch that has the beans.  The beans!

Time for The Tall’n! I’ve found the last few The Tall’n puzzles to be quite challenging, and the preamble here is a head-swimmer.  There’s thematic entries, extra words and two messages.  Hmmm… well there’s at least real words in the grid.

Both answers in the top left corner are thematic so The Tall’n has deprived us of a 1 across.  There is a 7 across, which looks like it would be easy if I knew where Dushambe is.  Eh, let’s turn to electronic aids right off the bet – it is in Tajikstan, where they pay for their goods and services in DIRHAMS and SOMONIS – one of which matches the wordplay nicely.  So a kind of a pass on the 7 across test.  Woo-hoo?

OK – so a few runs through the across and down clues and I had a pretty sparse grid.  This is not looking promising!  Usually when there are separated thematic clues I leave them for last, because after seeing ASTRONOMY, MUSIC, DEATH and HYMNS straight off giving a message that read ??ACEM – it sounds like we are in mythology area – any chance that M could be the start of MUSES?  SP,LEND,OUR – yep!

Funny coincidence – I’m a member of the National Puzzlers league and sometimes play their online games on Monday and Thursday nights.  One of the more interesting games they play is called “Anti-match”, where someone calls out a question with a limited number of answers and you have to try to pick the one that is going to be the least popular.  A week before this puzzle came out one of the question was “Name a Muse”.  Given only a few seconds to write one I came up with CLIO but that was picked by a few.  I was in awe of whoever managed tocome up with and type POLYHYMNIA correctly in 10 seconds.

Since they were fresh in my mind I tried to fit in the names of the MUSEs and the GRACEs in the grid, and saw a spot where CLOTHO could go, so it looks like the MUSEs, GRACEs and FATEs are all there.  Aaaah – and THALIA appears to the name of both a MUSE and a GRACE.

Goody, that’s all the thematic stuff done, now it’s time to… ummm… solve about half of the clues.  Whoops.

Fortunately – THEY ARE ALL GREEK MYTHOLOGICAL SISTERS as the message helped me see what the remaining extra words were and it wasn’t too long before I slotted in POISHA as the last answer.  THALIA has to replace another six letter word that is not thematic and it was another of my last in that can go – GOALIE.

We have a grid!

my wotking grid for Listener 4447, Influence by The Tall'n

Kind of like last week, slow start, fast finish, though it was a very different style of solve in getting all the thematic material early and filling the grid with the non-thematic stuff (is that maybe the way the puzzle was constructed?).

Nice clues though, and with everything being thematic to a certain extent, it all had to be solved to get the final grid.

Game over – Victory to George, 100% completion.

Feel free to tell me that I’d be good if there was an opening for a muse of stupidity, and see you next week when Nemo writes a puzzle with all the ME’s removed.

What did Calais do to deserve Hitler?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, your occasionally timely dose of weekly Listener nittering and nattering.  To make up for the last few weeks, this may even appear an hour early… oh dear, will I get letters?

The Tall’n!   What have we here – a ten-word message, wartime achievements, and codes.  OK… well it might be Turing and Enigma, or it might not.  Let’s find out…

1 across is part of the message, so we begin with a 4 across test… which I can’t figure out at all. Hmmm…

None of these clues seem to be making much sense… aaah, the wordplay has the encoded form.  Might help to know which letters are encoded.  I was stuck at a bar without a highlighter (now that’s a wonderful phrase) so I put circles around the letters that were part of the message.  OK – looks like most of them are across, so let’s start with the clues (mainly downs) that don’t have any coded letters.

Now we’re cooking!  Particularly in the bottom half of the grid, where 32 down seems to confirm we are in Turing territory, and that long entry at 5 down is likely to be an encoded form of BLETCHLEY PARK.

Now I had almost all of the normal clues it was time to look at these coded ones – again working from the bottom up, it became pretty clear a few letters in (although I wrote an alphabet to the side to code) that it was just a ROT-3.  So I penciled in what BLETCHLEY PARK would be in the circles and I was off.

I knew TURING was jumbled at the top – it looked likely ENIGMA was going to be jumbled at the bottom right, but I needed to use googlepedia to find out about HUT EIGHT and BOMBE to complete the grid, and a little bit of staring before spotting CALAIS and getting the last bit of thematic material.  How much of that is generalized enough knowledge?  I didn’t look it up in Brewers, and that use of BOMBE isn’t in Chambers.

In any case, after a very slow start, this was a pretty quick finish, and rather fun finding out the bits I didn’t know!

My working grid for Listener 4359, Coded Message by The Tall'n

The solution won’t be out for an hour, but I think I can call this one a Victory to George and move on!

2015 tally:  24-2-5

Feel free to let me know that there’s a bomb in the bombe, and see you next week when IOA will turn it up!

Where’s Nanny Ogg? Witchypoo? Cruella de Vil?

Welcome back to George vs the Listener.  It’s been a wild week again in the world of crosswording, and we’ve lost a member who I never met, but was always kind and helpful in emails back before I tackled the Listener and was trying to unravel the mysteries that were the Mephisto crossword.  So cheers to Mike Laws and regards to his family and friends.

Back to things Listener, it’s Travellers by The Tall’n (with whom I share a word of a pseudonym).  I’ve only encountered The Tall’n once before, with Closed Doors, where I started to find the spirally theme but did not manage to grip on to the whole thing.  So I had a little trepidation before I got going, and then the dreaded J word leapt out in the first line of the the preamble.  We’re in the land of jumblies, though like with the Tiburon puzzle a few weeks ago we can anchor one letter in place.  There’s 17 jumblies but only 14 or 15 (can’t see from my mess of a grid) where the number appears in the middle of the entry.  A little more sneakiness going on.

I was a little naughty and started this during a very dull seminar where I was probably meant to be paying attention. Within about 20 minutes (this seminar went for almost two hours) there was a small crowd beside and behind me sneaking peeks.  One is (or at least was) a regular Guardian solver, something to do with an Oxford education, so I can honestly say this is a Listener where I cheated and got outside help.  I also loved that she was one of the honorees of this seminar and wasn’t paying attention either!  George “the” Bastard, helping generations ignore the important things for semi-frivolous pursuits.

Alas, I am being called away from here, and will not be back until the evening U.S. time… so return later tonight for a tale of nights Walpurgis, disgusting images of witches riding male goats (set your internet filters 0ff), and black conical brimmed hat(s).  Tall’n – this frustrated the hell out of me, but I think I got it all.  Back later…

And I’m back – though by now I expect everyone will have seen the answer and read the other blogs.  But anyway, this was a tortured slog for me – I got plenty of answers, but my slogging through that outside section of the grid was not doing very well. The top line and left line – TO CAROUSE WITH THEIR MASTER came together first, and I was trying to get BROKEN into the bottom line but that wasn’t coming together at all.  It didn’t help that I had three answers that turned out to be completely incorrect in the grid – GAMUT, CRYMES, and COMPING.

Combine that with not seeing TALI, MOORBURN, MIAOWING  and POKER for a long time – I was on a plane when I saw POKER in Bradfords for both entries.  Putting POKER in gave ECATE with an H to place… and a poke around the bottom of the grid found a reversed BROOMSTICK/S so when I was next near a computer I googled “April 29 Witches” and learned about Walpurgis night and that the .  Which would work if CRYMES wasn’t right.  Looking up Walpurgis night in Chambers and BROKEN should be BROCKEN.  So ON THE BROCKEN… but that wouldn’t work with GAMUT.  A search on GAM?? and there’s GAMME which fits.  OK… so now there’s HECATE, WICCAN, CARLINE(thanks Bradfords) and HAG sitting on the BROOMSTICKS and MALE GOATS.

They’re looking for the Devil, but there’s not a lot of V’s around.  There’s POKER and OLD POKER, which seems to work.  That leaves something for them to wear, which sounds like a hat.  We haven’t used very much of the top half of the grid for the thematic stuff, so I’m guessing something in the shape of a hat, maybe a big crooked hat is up there.

I see BLACK in the shape of a hat.  And it’s on top of HECATE… CONICAL over CARLINE.  Hmmm… over HAG I have H and T, but if an A goes in the middle then COMPING can’t be right…  it’s CAPTION! That leaves four lines – BRIMMED over WICCAN (with a brim, I guess).  And we are done!

Victory to George (though I was well after the submission deadline!  I’m going to be on the next three, since I just got to print them this evening), and the Tall’n is not looking as scary as previous.

2011 tally:  George 14, Listener 4.  Current streak:  George 3

Feel free to leave comments below, and see you next week for… umm… I haven’t looked yet.