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If at first you don’t succeed…

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, numerical playfair edition. There are some out there who dislike numerical puzzles.  I’m not one of them – whether they end up being mathematical or logical in nature, they are something different and usually interesting.  There are some out there who dislike Playfair squares.  We call them rational human beings.  So when I saw the title of this puzzle, and then read the preamble, my emotions ran the gamut of fear to disgust.

I made about three attempts to sit down and work out a starting point to this puzzle, but even when working on the clues and writing down little notes (one digit in 4 has to be the same as one digit in 8, no other digit can be the same), I got absobloodylutley nowhere and there was still the looming spectre that even if I got somewhere, I was going to have to go back to that stupid little square.

Zag has set both word and number puzzles, and a look back at my notes shows that I managed to solve both word puzzles, but so far neither of the numerical ones.  Maybe next time… but this one is a resounding empty-grid victory to Zag!

Game over:  didn’t even make it past the tutorial screen

Feel free to tell me I should have scanned the empty grid, and see you next week when Nud informs us who our uncle is.

Breaker breaker, we have a problem

Welcome back to George vs the Listener Crossword, where failure came back to town last week and boy did it feel familiar.  Can we settle back in with the second of the numberwords for the year – this time it’s Zag – Zag entering the list of setters who are a double threat with letterical and numerical puzzles.  I struggled, but eventually came through on the last two Zag puzzles, you can read about them in the tags at the bottom of this entry.

OK, what have we here.  Entries are coded, then uncoded, then recoded, then derecoded and are referenced in the clues in the unredecoded versions.

I read the preamble the first time and went “Huh?”.

I read it the second time and went “Is it a two-way cipher?  In that case this could be easy”.

I read it the third time and went “Oh, maybe it’s not a two-way cipher.  Damn.”

OKeydoke – it looks like a couple of the clues reference each other and some others are squares, and that’s probably as good a place to start.  The top and the bottom rows contain all the digits 0-9 once, which means both decoded and undecoded, so it looks like we’re on the hunt for two squares that share no digits.  Phew, there’s not too many of them.  OK… and 20 codes to 1 (but 1 doesn’t necessarily code to 20), and the last digit of 1 has to be the encoded version of the last digit of 18 and is the square root of 20… which now seems to eliminate 1 to 361 and 20 to whatever digits encode to 361.

Yikes… OK, I drew a line through squares and put the pre-encoded version in the top half and the reundeenencoded version in the bottom half.  There were still four options for unencoded 20, and I got a few more steps in… whatever 1 encoded to had to encode back to 1.  12 down had to be 900 or 961, and 1 had to encode to 4 or 9…

But hours of permuting later… that’s all I’ve got.

my working grid for Listener 4295, Codebreaker by Zag

Once I’m in the failing mode, I’m well into the failing mode!  I have no idea what the next logic jump was that I was meant to have made, but with a crossword this tight, I’m sure that it has to be done in a very linear progression.

Victory (two in a row!) to Zag and the Listener Crossword.  Breathe a sigh of relief fellow mediocre solvers, I am still very much one of you.  I wonder if John Green was nervous over the lack of poorly-addressed envelopes coming from the “deep” South.

2014 tally:  19-0-2


Hello Dolly!

Welcome to George vs the Listener – I’ve resisted looking at the other blogs or the solution for 9 to 5 by Zag, even though I know it came out yesterday.  Got really caught up in the day job and then went straight to a They Might Be Giants concert, so a couple of crazy days.  TMBG are still a great show, for a band that was big when I was in university.  Geek rock doesn’t age… no “Ana Ng” but they did break out “Don’t Let’s Start”, “Istanbul (not Constantinople)”, “Birdhouse In Your Soul” from the classics list along with some new ones.

Oh yes, there’s a Listener I was meant to have written about already, wasn’t there.  9 to 5 by Zag.  We last saw Zag early last year with Bias and the story of the Seven Sages.  Lots of mutated words from the wordplay there.   In this one it looks like we have real words in the grid and thematic columns and all sorts of different types of clues to give unchecked letters in the columns and two other normal clues.  Looks tricky – I started off writing the types of clues to the side.

My first instincts was that this looks tricky, having to sort out five types of clues.

There was a 1 across, but my attention was drawn to the two italicized clues – would they drop a hint?  Well they have 9 and 5 in them… but they’re both easy solves – SA,V,ANT and UN(it),IX (a word I use almost daily).  So let’s work around them…   UNIX crosses S,HUNT and so we have an extra F in the definition.  It also crosses DANDELION (misprint F in wordplay) and this is starting to look less daunting. In fact by the end of my lunch break I had most of the left hand side clues solved, and since I knew all of the definition +1 letters, but one, HALF OF TWELVE was looking like a contender for 7 down.

Aaaaah… HALF OF TWELVE is 6, and the title is 9 to 5, so I wonder if column 7 (where I have about half the entries) works out to be another of the numbers… NINE MINUS TWO.  And it’s just before the 7 column, so maybe they are 9 8 7 6 5 in the five 12-letter downs?

Works for 10 – TEN INTO FIFTY… so now I have a full right hand side of the grid, a half-finished left side, and I think I’ve got the theme. Executive decision – let’s not end lunch right now, I may be able to knock this out in one session!

I got a couple of the left-hand side answers (SEXTET, HIRONS becoming HERONS) from figuring the theme and getting FOUR PLUS FOUR and THREE SQUARED for the left two long columns.  At the end of extended lunch, we are all done.  Pat on back time!

My working grid for Listener 4234, 9 to 5 by ZagAnd then life got crazy, and instead of making a clean copy to send off straight away, I forgot about it or didn’t have time until it was probably too late to get it to Green Lane in time to get comments back to Zag.  So if you’re checking in, Zag, hi – hope you got the letter, and this was really fun – I liked how every clue contributed to the overall theme.

Now to check if I really can call this a Victory to George…

It appears I can – woohoo!

Things start to even out a little after Tuesday of this week, so maybe I’ll be back on track on Friday, so please feel free to tell me the virtues of not procrastinating (or tell me when you get around to it), and see you next week when Ron gives us a taste of his chromosomes.

Let’s go Greek!

Welcome back to George vs the Listener crossword, home to the most spectacular failed effort at an all-correct year in history.  I will, however, press on – who knows, maybe Mr. Green does not read this blog, or thinks my E’s look enough like H’s that I can get away with it.  The new goal is an all-correctish!  So let’s start with Zag

Zag is a brand-new setter to me (Hi Zag if you’re looking in).  Zig and Zag were ancient clowns on Australian TV in the 70s, so maybe one of them quit the duo to write crosswords.

The preamble looks straightforward, all clues have normal definitions, but wordplay to spinny versions.  There’s some undefined entries and something to find and highlight.  This is going to come down to how easy the clues are…

There is no 1 across, so no 1 across test.  There is a 9 across and it’s a nice softball for this new style of clue – SITS,U,E is TISSUE with the first three letters reversed.

Oh, funny story, I started this in the dressing room before an improv show, and I was getting quite a few of these out, and the rest of the group were yelling at me that I was due on stage and should put the fucking crossword down.  I did a pretty good show I thought, so maybe Zag’s spinning words got my improv brain going.

I did find I couldn’t spend long on this at any one time, the spinning words were making my head spin as well.

A few short sessions in and something was appearing – it looked like SPARTA,  CORINTH and ATHENS would fit in the unclued answers. It said all would be revealed in Chambers, so I took my electronic copy of the 11th edition and searched the three to see where they might be – lo and behold, there were the SEVEN SAGES, one of whom is BIAS.  The nine homes of the seven sages fit the unclued answers quite nicely, and there’s SEVEN SAGES running diagonally (in the opposite direction to where we are used to be looking).

Took a while to clean up the top right – with PILOT, DWELL and SLOP being the last to fall.  But by Tuesday, I had a grid that was looking good.

My grid for Listener 4173, Bias by Zag

Neat crossword, and I liked the method of mixing up the entries, though there were quite a few anagrams where the wordplay could have been almost anything.  But I learned something – and it was worth the work for clues like 32 across where BINGO becomes BOGNI!  Thanks, Zag.

So I’m going to call this one a Victory for George and tentatively set the tally for the year at 2-0-1

Feel free to leave comments below, and see you next week for Salamanca’s new literary entry.