Year in Review

2014 in Review

A year where I started strong, and finished lame, my descent into lack of solving madness meaning that I stopped submitting altogether around the end of September, and didn’t get back into the habit in the start of 2015.  In just a few hours the Ascot Gold Cup will be revealed, and I honestly have no idea what the Listener elite will go for this time around.  An outsider could be Only Connect Two, which seemed to attract a lot of admiration but I was nonplussed with, not having any idea about the source material.  So it’s anyone’s guess, but here’s what tickled me the most.

Here’s the George v Listener Top 5 for 2015

5.  When all Else Fails by Ottorino

Almost an entire Dorothy Parker poem hidden in a grid!  Yes, it was done using jumbles, but it left exactly half the grid as thematic.  Not as tricky as it looked at a first glance.

4.  Off we Go by Phi

Another massive part of the grid being thematic.  What really took me about this puzzle was the hiding of the letters to be removed in the clues and the final jigsaw step to remove those letters and reveal H (for Haydn) in front of the stage.

3.  Movements by Mango

At the risk of making someone even more insufferable on Facebook; this was, in my eyes, the best puzzle produced by the Mango team.  It had a solid theme, jaw-dropping mathematical manipulation, very good clues, and an unambiguous finale that needed to be pieced together.

2.  Godly Mix-up by Stick Insect

Yes, I fell for the obvious trap of looking up pi and writing in the numbers without rounding up, but the audacity of hiding 80 digits of pi and a message in a 10X10 grid was my favorite piece of grid construction all year.

1.  Renewable Energy by ‘Eck

Kind of eerie that this puzzle came out not long after the death of Richard Attenborough.  The more I have thought about this puzzle the more it has grown on me – at the time it hadn’t registered that the outside of a stick of Brighton Rock is usually pink, making the shading of ID EST 18 times around the outside even more thematic.  This was the perfect use of a circular grid, as well as the use of repetition, which isn’t seen often in puzzles.  Wonderful theme and grid!

2013 in Review

I’m writing the 2013 Year in Review in advance (just slightly) of the Listener dinner, so this could be a fun comparison.  I did not have the greatest solving year in 2013, and maybe my poor record reflects that in going back over the list of puzzles, not as many stood out to me as being really outstanding.  I narrowed it down to a top 10 and then down to a top 5 – strangely enough several puzzles I failed to solve correctly were in my top 10, but I think I only had puzzles I solved correctly.  If I was to take a stab at the brains at the Ascot Cup, I suspect Carte Blanche will get a lot of love, but I couldn’t put a single letter in the grid, so that’s going to cloud my judgement.  Also possibly for Nuts and Bolts by Mango, but the preamble of that puzzle is enough to make you want to put it down and walk away.

Here’s the George v Listener Top 5 for 2013

5.  Construction by Shackleton

Way to take a song I’ve never been fond of, a verse from the bible and Bacon (three of my not quite favorite things) and make an exceptionally enjoyable Listener with a lot of thematic material.

4.  Detective Work by Ilver

Constructing the preamble while solving the puzzle from a huge amount of thematic material hidden in the clues!  Sign me up!  This was nothing but fun and really played like a game between setter and solver.

3.  Pipes by Samuel

OK, so I’m biased by being fond of the source material, but this was thematic genius, and a carte blanche that then had to be rotated! Even though I got the theme really early, the sursolving wasn’t that bad.

2.  German Serial Composition by Quinapalus

Old movies, war intrigue, science and the trick with the musical notes below the grid indicating the order the columns had to be ordered in (hmm, maybe I’m a sucker for column-moving).  This was to my mind the best thematic Listener of the year.

1.  Restitution by Schadenfreude

A jigsaw grid with blank entries, four assassinated US Presidents (and their assassins having the same number of letters), an assassin named CZOLGOSZ just to make sure you were weirded out when finding the definition misprints, a cypher…  and in the end a grid with real words (and names) – Sheer genius!

2012 in Review

I’ve gotten behind in doing the Year in Review, but I was prompted to this time, having just read about the results at the Listener dinner (I’ll get there someday… someday…).  For the first time I completely agree with the Ascot Gold Cup voting – Duet for One was by far the most fun I had as a solver over the last year.  As seems to be typical, the rest of my top 5 differs greatly from the Ascot Gold Cup voting.

So here’s the George vs The Listener Crossword top five for 2012.

5.  System Analysts by Stick Insect

Novelty gets me – so the unusual spherical grid, hiding four messages in 16 clues, the fairly logical jigsaw piecing together.  This was a puzzle I really wanted to get everything out of, even though I got lucky and hit on the right orientation of the wedges the first time around.

4.  2X2X2 by Oyler

The original grid fill was not so difficult, but the end game was spectacular, and I did cut my grid up into dice and joined them together to get the final product.  Numericals don’t seem to get much love in AGC voting, but this was a new idea, and well executed.

3.  Breach of Contract by Ron

If numericals get little love, puzzles published in the first three months of the year are nonexistent!  There were three aspects of this puzzle that made it stand out – hiding the message in small words that joined together to give the message, the string of German children’s names boustrophedroning the Pied Piper on the way out, and hiding the title in German so that it didn’t pop out as obvious from the start.

2.  Scattered by Kea

This is just sheer audacity!  Making an anagram of the crossword from three weeks before and then concealing a message by having you use the solution grid that (in the paper version) was sitting in front of you.  Single biggest jaw-dropping moment of 2012 when I realized what was going on.

1.  Duet for One by Bandmaster

Here’s what I said in my letter accompanying my solution

I expect you’ll get a lot of this.  Duet for One was one of the most fun solving experiences I’ll ever have.  The way it came together bit by bit, the realization it was going to be turned into a “Quick” crossword in order to find the theme, and then back to the barred grid was hysterical.  On top of that, the Quick crossword (while it was maybe over-unched) was symmetric, meaning you had to get those N-Z letters in all the right places.

And in the blog…

Like I have a say in things, but I think the competition for that Ascot Gold Cup is OVER!

seems the Academy agreed with me.  A quick crossword hidden in a barred-grid crossword.  Genius!

Since it’s a popular thing to do in the US, my next five out were A Spirited Performance, One Shot at a Time, Sum, and Full Instructions Included (wow, I had really different opinions – not to say I disliked any of the puzzles that made the top 5 in the Ascot Gold Cup).

My reviews for previous years can be found at the old site..

2009 recap

2008 recap

2 Responses

  1. Thanks for putting my puzzle in your top 5 of 2012. It is much appreciated. To my knowledge a numerical has never won the Ascot Gold Cup. Maybe there should be a separate award like the Pythagaros Plate!

    Oyler

    • Hi Oyler,

      Since there’s only four it could be called “top of the square”? I still have fond memories of cutting those dice out at three in the morning and battling bits of tape and what I called “Paper-manipulating ineptitude” in my letter with the solution.

      I rather like that idea… at the end of 2013 I’ll set up a vote for Top of the Square between the four numericals. Winner will receive half a biro.

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