Friday, January 22, 2010

Bye bye blogger

You've been my home for two years, but it's becoming impossible to keep out spam comments. So thanks, and I'll see you later. George vs the Listener Crossword has a new home. Comments on this blog are now closed.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Year 2 recap

A second year of documenting my attempts to solve the Listener Crossword has come and gone. And what a year it's been.

I went 33-19. An improvement on last year, I was kind of hoping for better (especially after a great start), but an improvement is an improvement is an improvement. I doubt I'm ever going to be one of those all-correctors, but I drew far fewer blanks (I think I had 4 close to blank grids).

Thanks to all the readers and the commenters, both on the blog and over email. And especially to the setters who take a moment to drop a line, send me extra puzzles and laugh over some of my sillier slips. I've been working on some puzzle ideas, and may get a little revenge in the next year.

Oh, and as for the commenters who want to sell viagara, and lead us into virus sites... I can't find a way to get rid of you on blogger, so I'm most likely up and moving George v the Listener to another host soon (I have a wordpress account, that's looking pretty likely).

This year also saw Listen With Others rise to a new level. Many more reports, and several grids from people with much better handwriting than I. I wonder if it's because of the competition from upstart less competent blogs? You can now waste a rather large part of Friday afternoon reading through a bunch of first-hand solving or non-solving attempts and extra setters comments.

To continue with a tradition of mediocrity, last year I picked my top 3 Listeners that I solved, and the three most impressive I didn't solve. None of these won the Ascot Gold Cup, ummm, so maybe this is a consolation prize or an indication I know nothing (though I did enjoy Conflict Resolution). So here (and I'm sorry if I've just killed your AGC aspirations) are my tops for 2009.

My favorite puzzles that I solved...

4018: In Clue Order, On and On
by Loda. How did Loda manage to get so many steps crammed into this? And a great ending. Nearly fell on the floor when the instruction emerged to read the last letter of each across clue.

4037: S by Hedge-Sparrow. Another great ending with the changing of APE into MAN along the centre squares. Even though (as Duncan pointed out in commments) RANI made an appearance, there was a bunch of thematic stuff that hooked me in and the theme got me to the end.

4025: The Brewer's Ingrdients by Gnomon. The merging of beer and Jewish themes tickled me a lot.

4038: Playtime by Samuel. I was taken by the pachinko-looking grid straight away and was really impressed by those final manipulations to reveal the thematic parts. I had to be very careful writing this one out, which was difficult as I solved most of it on a pub crawl.

4059: Child's Play by Dysart. I don't know if this will get universal phrase, but the idea was so simple and so fun, turn a crossword into a game of snakes and ladders! Even though I saw the theme straight away, I knew it was going to be a blast. Leaving out a bunch of squares made the solving challenge enough to overcome the ease of spotting the theme.

My top 3 I wish I'd solved.

4061: 50-50 by Phi. The solution looked so amazing, and the grid was a beast to put together.

4052: Question by Aedites
. I should have finished this. And after reading the solution (and a helpful email by Aedites), I think I can get over the bell-changing hurdle.

4048: Rules of Construction by Poat
. Almost got there, but that word square in the middle is one hell of a piece of work!

And a final hat tip to 4036: Base Jog by Brimstone. I don't know if it will get much love from the powers that be, being about baseball, but that was a masterpiece of thematic grid, clues (those clues made me laugh out loud) and finale. It would have been perfect if it came out before Henry Aaron's record was broken.

And so we look on to year three? Five questions for Year 3 of George v Listener

1) Will I finally solve a Phi Listener?

2) Keep the fingers crossed - is the Playfair square gone forever? We didn't have one in 2009

3) Will it be proven that Dipper and Hedge-Sparrow are the same person and my life be ruined?

4) Will you read "Dr. George Heard, Asheville North Carolina" in the winners column? Becuase this year, I'm going to submit some!

5) Will there be a Listener themed around The Mighty Boosh, Grand Theft Auto, Blackadder, Tom Holt's J.W. Wells & Co. novels, linux operating systems, or any of the following celebrating their 200th anniversary: Oktoberfest, Chopin, P.T. Barnum?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Die, wren, die!


I took a scan of my grid, but forgot to upload it earlier this morning, I'll add it here later.

I'm probably wrong in the final step, I think I know what I should be looking for, but I can't find it at all.

Hey, I'm working backwards - let's not do that.

This one appeared on Christmas Day in the US. I wasn't sure if there would be an upload on Christmas Day, but there it was. My Christmas Day was a pretty quiet one, up until 6pm. Some bars open at 6, and it was then that I printed off Rentokil and trudged around the corner to the Charlotte St Pub for a Christmas toast and Listener session.

Jago is making his first appearance in George v the Listener, though I did complete one of his puzzles before I started this blog (the one about the pretenders... 3796 - Theme and Variations). I winced originally when I saw the device, a definition with letter jumble, since I had tried the similarly-themed Azed crossword and gotten absolutely nowhere. This on the other hand, was a breeze to get started on (PRANK was the entry in), and by the end of my second pint I was almost done with the solving, had found ON THE FEAST OF STEVEN and TROGLODYTE. I still needed some entries in the top right-hand corner, but a poke through Chambers and Bradfords and I had a filled grid pretty quickly on.

The hidden message jumped out when I saw FOLD as the first set of letters in the across clues.

A funny thing is that a few days later, I read this... I had a fun little email chat with Brendan about the solving of this (I suspect Hotspur is also a fan of BEQ and left a message in the comments). I don't think he's going to become a regular solver, though I like the idea of this becoming G&B vs the Listener.

OK... got to fold an orgami bird.

Number of artistic skills George has: 0

Ability to fold paper: zilch.

I tried... I went to about eight websites on how to fold an origami bird, and after three solid hours of paper mutilation all I have to show for it is the crumpled mess you see in the picture. Funny thing is that the word RENT appears across the wing! I am pretty sure we should be looking for WREN, given the TROGLODYTE and the title.

So what looked like it was going to be a walk in the park ends up being a crumpled disaster. It was fun trying, sorry Jago, I can enter words, I can shade and highlight with the rest of them, but when you call for nimble fingers, that's all for me.

Victory to the Listener Crossword! Final tally for 2009: Listener 19, George 33.

Well, it's an improvement. Not a great improvement, but a slight one. Not into the upper echelon of solvers by a long shot. I wonder how long it takes (or does it take more talent, a copy of the Chambers CD-ROM, or something I'm missing) to get up there near the all-correcters? Suggestions welcome, though I did read on the Crossword Centre that having full-text search on Chambers helps, so maybe I'll see if I can get a hold of it.

Onwards to Year #3 of George vs the Listener, the blog for the average (yet hopefully improving) solver!

At the Chicago Sketchfest, we were performing after a duo from Boston called Hard Left productions. A lot of their stuff was really really funny - here's Suicide Baby

Feel free to leave comments, suggestions and help. Check back later for the end of year wrapup, and see you next week where I will be a guest of Mr. E.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Give me 17 words and I will make you a grid


Another late blog... greetings from Chicago, where the opening night after-party for the Chicago Sketchfest had me out way beyond my usual bedtime, and a few friends who owed me drinks decided to cash in on the martini specials, leading to me at one point having three martinis (one Beefeater, one Sapphire and one I couldn't place, possibly Chicago bilgewater) sitting in front of me.

If you're a fan of crosswords and comedy, and can brave the snow in Chicago, some see me tonight or tomorrow night (or both) at 11pm with the Feral Chihuahuas! There will be a Listener Crossword used as a prop.

Now I have a feeling that my first page of X by Pilcrow is still sitting on my scanner back in Asheville, so I have to work kind of from memory. Last year Pilcrow gave us Tour De France which involved entering answers starting anywhere in the entry. I got the thematic stuff but made a few silly slips so didn't have a correct grid. This crossword arrived at the start of a huge blizzard that trapped me indoors for three days. So I had a lot of time to bash away at it.

But we're in again for deep-freeze solving. No clue lengths, misprints in some of the clues but not all (looks like two that do not have misprints). And there's only 17 clues for this huge grid???

The deep freeze solving session went pretty well - I got BERLIOZ, UNNOTICING, HOY, ANUROUS (found out later there was an extra O in it), SMIT, SLOUCH and ICON pretty quickly, which gave a bit of shape to the message - saw PERFECT first and then SYMMETRY. That got me a few more answers. I had a bit over half of the answers, so it was on to the grid.

OK... the grid has to exhibit perfect symmetry. That makes sense, there are 17 unique entries in the fourfold symmetry. And there's only one 3-letter and only one 10-letter word. Taking a guess that the 16-letter entry is that first answer (which I don't know), and that BERLIOZ goes in the first seven-letter slot available, then UNNOTICING (which has to go "after HOY" probably goes in as the last option for an across or the first for a down. Hmmm, but that would put a Z in the 16-letter word. And a U? Ohhh... a Z (unless you draw one with a line through the middle like I do) looks like an N lying down. And a U looks like a C. So maybe that 16-letter word starts UNC-... UNCHARACTERISTIC!!!! So there's the idea - the checking letters also look like letters when they are rotated through 90 degrees or 180 degrees. Lots of N's, S's, O's, H's... that's a neat trick.

Entering in the answers I had in sensible directions left just a few extra words to get. ZIZZING (which I think appeared in a Mephisto recently) was the last one in and made me smile a lot at the possibility that so many Z's I's an N's in a word.

The last steps were slightly headache-inducing, but that's quite a feat of grid construction. Lots of fun, Pilcrow and that was a really interesting idea. And got me through the great blizzard of late 2009.

Victory to George! With one left for 2009 the current tally is George 33, Listener 18. Current streak, George 4.

I can't do an embed, but the link below contains the not-safe-for-work video from Cell Camp that I enjoyed last night.

Feel free to leave comments, and see you next week to close out the 2009 edition of George vs the Listener Crossword with Jago.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Lett us ttake you on a journey tthough ttime and spac


Happy New Year everybody! I've just crawled out of bed from last night's revelry, so sorry for the late posting. The first Listener for 2010 is hot off the press, but we've got three more weeks to catch up with the last ones of 2009.

And this week it's Hedge-Sparrow. There have been two Hedge-sparrow Listeners in this blog - last year's Travel Agents had wormholes popping in and out all over, and early this year there was acknowledgment of Charles Darwin turning 200 with S. So I have a perfect score thus far with Hedge-Sparrow, let's see if that continues.

Preamble says that all across entries have to be modified, so real words for the down entries. There's some extra letters from wordplay to give two phrases. And since the last two have had some sort of science theme, let's hope that Hedge-sparrow continues on to be the anti-Dipper and keep brings on the techie stuff.

To cut a short story short and get me to lunch - I almost completely finished this over three pints at lunch the Friday it came out. I was very much on the wavelength with the clues, and they seemed to fall into place nicely.


This was my grid (and my lovely personal mug at Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company) at the end of my extended lunch break. First thing I figured out was that there were a bunch of T's in the wrong spot, and that a lot of the across answers had LL in them and there was only room for one L in the answer. EINSTEIN at the bottom becoming EINSTTEIN dropped a not-too subtle hint, and soon I had TIME DILATION and LENGTH CONTRACTION from the extra letters. So it is relativity - and there's SPECIAL RELATIVITY in the shape of a C.

All that was left to do when I got back from the bar was to gind entries for 32 down and 37 across (VILLIAGO sounded like it would fit the wordplay but I didn't have a dictionary on me).

Sorry about the short blog, Hedge-sparrow, but I'm hungry and my house-guest is moaning that we need to go find something to eat. I really loved this crossword, and can't wait for the next installment of science with Hedge-Sparrow (now watch it be a Listener based on the fourth act of Henry V).

Victory to George!!! 2009 tally: George 32, Listener 18. Current streak: George 2.

If you're a fan of American-style crosswords, you need to check out Brendan Quigley's blog and bonus puzzles. This week he did one themed around his favorite albums of the 00s, and declared #1 to be one of my favorites as well - here's "Frontier Psychiatrist" by the Avalanches

Feel free to comment below and see you next week for a word with Pilcrow's X.

Friday, December 25, 2009

In which we learn some geography


It is a cold Christmas morning in Western North Carolina as I type this - I was snowed in for a few days over last weekend (I put my last post up here just before it started to get seriously snowy), and the snow still hasn't melted. Today it's been replaced by a bit of freezing rain just to mix things up. There are things to be thankful for, I keep hearing from friends that they are losing power, or even worse, losing internet. Australia will start playing Pakistan in about seven hours so I'll eat, drink, be merry and imagine the warmth that is Melbourne on Boxing Day.

So I hope readers of George v the Listener have a good one! I've got a few odd things planned for next year, I've been working on getting some crosswords of my own published (you'd be surprised what and where), and I'll be putting some original work up on this page. Not sure if there'll be prizes, I can drunk dial you and leave a rude message on your answering machine or something.

And now to this week's challenge - Resident by Hotspur. I had a bit of luck earlier in the year with "At Arm's Length", and it looks like Hotspur is catching up for his long absence by throwing in the puzzles quick and fast. There's an interesting preamble here, the misprints lead to a rhyming couplet to get the clue, 12 clashes and two "neighbours" to find.

Good news! All real words in the grid, except for some clashes, woohoo. I love me some real wordage.

At the bar solving session to begin with, I could not see 1 across straight away (I felt silly later when I realised it was (B)awls and the misprint was tooLs. But 4 across yielded an interesting problem - I could see the answer was RHOMBOIDAL from an anagram of HOMALOID and BR, but then is the misprint OF, IN, IT? Grrr.... Similar dilemma with the third one, the answer has got to be OIK (unless there's a misprint in YORICK'S), but what do I do to SAD? SOD? GAD? BAD? At least I'm getting entries...

I got a satisfactory distance in the first solving session - the misprint of OIK and TAGS gave me a very sneaking suspicion that those 12 letters were going to be along the main diagonal, confirmed by the intersection of SCORIA and RESETS (actually I had it in as REESTS originally because I am a thickhead).

A restart with Bradfords helped a lot - hat tip to Hotspur for some really amusing clues with even more amusing misprints - HOOKER - OK with a misprint of TART was brilliant, as was NO ONE,R with the misprint of RUN made me laugh.

It seemed every time I got well and truly stuck, a fresh start with Chambers and Bradfords got me another word or two and I was off again. It was the left side more than the right, though I did a lot of it to myself by misspelling LIVRAISON as LIVRASION, keeping me from getting DEIGNS). I also found the down misprints more accessible than the across ones, eventually piecing together TRAINS WITH OTHER TRAINS COLLIDE. I never did get the complete rhyming couplet for the first half.

Piecing together that message down the middle, RIVER stuck out rather nicely as a last work possibility, and OVER THE RIVER emerged, leaving me TRAN-NISTRA (because I hadn't gotten DEIGNS yet). A google of TRANSNISTRIA shows that it is a disputed territory and most importantly the wikipedia article shows this map

And looky there - I can see UKRAINE to the upper right! This sorts out my problems with the bottom right, where already have -OL-OVA and finishes me off with MOLIMENS (MEN in MOL,IS) and SIZED (after finding SIZE=SICE=number on a die).

I've compressed a LOT of time into this! This was one I picked up and did little by little and it took me nearly all the time allocated but I finally have a solution. Never heard of the place, but it's a very interesting theme and a well done crossword. I didn't think I was going to get there for the longest time with that bottom left corner looking spare for a while.

So victory to George! 2009 tally: George 31, Listener 18. Current streak: George 1

This one is definitely not safe for work - the best Christmas song written in the last 10 years...

Feel free to leave comments below, and see you next week for variations of metricality with Hedge-Sparrow.

I wonder if the new Listener is available today on the Crossword Club? Just checked, it is! Woohooo!

Friday, December 18, 2009

That's a lot of work to find one little key


Numerical time! Elap is one of the setters of the numerical crosswords with whom I have the most difficulty. Last year I caught the theme of Big Holes, but couldn't get to the end. This time we're messing around with perfect squares, and there's some form of code involving the numbers.

Well, numerical puzzles are usually a logic exercise, and so with all the single letters being squares, I started by looking for occasions of the same letter more than once in an answer, since there's fewer cubes than squares, and even fewer powers of six. This approach netted me the values of K, U, Y, S and B pretty quickly. E and M had to be 9 and 64 - but in ordering the letters from low to high, I had K - Y S U B - so it was looking good that E was 9 and M was 64.

The grind came near the end to find those last few combinations, particularly the large numbers like J and H. I caved and made a spreadsheet to sort out C and N, which were difficult to separate from each other. In the end, I had a grid, and the ordering of the letters now read KEY SUBMIT XWORD. Well I didn't submit the crossword, but there's KEY (4,9,16) slantwise near the middle of the grid. I don't know whether to put the letters in, shade it or draw a key, so I drew a sketchy-looking key, and wrote K, E, and Y in the squares.

So I think I've finally cracked an Elap numerical Listener. I don't have a great deal to say about it, took me two fairly long sessions with a calculator and Excel. Nifty trick - but I'm not sure if there was any actual ambiguity in the end as stated in the preamble. All the squares I had that could be single digits or double digits ended up being resolved by the checking entries.

I'm writing this blog after the solution has appeared (snowed in today), but haven't checked to see the solution. But I'm going to claim victory to George, unless I've done something truly daft (don't put it past me).

2009 tally: George 31, Listener 17. Current streak: George 1

Bugger bugger bugger bugger bugger, just read the solution and I had a completed grid but totally blew the last part. I thought I had to "find the key" and then "submit the crossword", not turn the key into a crossword.

Victory to Elap and I am still unable to finish an Elap Listener!

2009 tally: Listener 18, George 30. Current streak: Listener 2.

It's cold and snowing here, most of my town is closed down today, and I hear it's not that pleasant across the U.K. either. So let's see if the Fiery Furnaces can warm us up.

Feel free to comment, and see you next week for a Christmas Edition of George vs the Listener, with a nearby resident, Hotspur.