Friday, December 25, 2009
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 Today it's been replaced by a bit of freezing rain just to mix things up.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
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.
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.
Friday, December 11, 2009
All good things must come to an end, and in this case it's my solving or nearly solving the Listener Crossword. Phi was one of the first setters to say he reads this blog and that he was surprised that I had so much difficulty with his Listeners, and, well, here we go again! I'm hoping this was meant to be tough, because I am completely flummoxed.
Phi's 50th contribution to the Listener (and he is almost weekly in the Independent, so that's one prolific setter!) follows two other failures reported here - in "We Interrupt This Programme..." - I had the theme and an idea of where it was going, but couldn't solve a bunch of the clues. Then in "Disorders" I didn't even get to the theme. Well I've outdone myself this time, not sure if I should even have a single answer in the grid. Epic fail!
I tried to make a really good fist of it - we've got an open grid, three complete names, and some of the clues have their wordplay mixed up. The grid is meant to go into two regions... when I read that I was thinking of those sometime Azed puzzles where there's two halves and one word crosses the two and you have to figure out which part of the clue goes into the left half and which part goes into the right half, you get my drift right?
So the clues have no entry lengths, and some of them have the wrong wordplay. This is not just cold solving, this has been put in the deep freeze for months!
Come on, George, you've done carte blanches before.
For the sake of argument, let's call the first clue 1 across... and we have a success on the "1-across" test - PAYS!
Hmmm... if the stars are in alignment, then maybe a clue that I will title "1 down" contains one of those letters. PORT,1,CO! Tempting as it was to bung those two in at the top left corner, I didn't do it straight away. Good thing too, because deep-freeze solving netted me precious little. The next across clue looked like wordplay heading to CHORL (not a word), CEOL (not a word), COL (a word, but nothing that jumped out as a potential definition).
Moving on - looks like an African leader starting with O... OCOMPO isn't a word. VIETASI looks possible for the next one, but also doesn't seem to be a word, maybe it's just VIET. Next one is a soldier, maybe REDCOAT or some variation. OK - then there's T,AS,T.E - which could potentially cross the T in portico, which if it goes in the top right meand unclued C could be Y--S---? ot S--T--. SCOTT someone or other?
Several sessions of this continued, and I'm stuck with the following...
across clues solved: PAYS, TASTE, some form of VIET...
down clues solved: PORTICO, DETHRONE, AFEAR, SUMMA
I found RESELLER as a wordplay in the acrosses and found a definition for it in the downs (subsequent trader). Some other leads from wordplay went nowhere... TASCO, OCTAV(e)IA, SHINED?
There's a lot of effort for very little result here. Trying to play with the symmetry thing, I started sketching in the opposite side of the grid... the last across clue should be 4 letters and so is probably A ONE. But that is all she wrote for me this week, I'm afraid.
Sorry Phi - you've hit everything I can't do here... I'm sure the symmetry is there so that once you get a few answers you know all the answer lengths, but I didn't get that far. I need to go back to cold solving, next time I'm doing a Phi Indy crossword I'll hide the grid and the answer lengths.
Victory to Phi and the Listener Crossword, and congrats on the big 5-0, Phi! (I hit a round number age next year, I'll probably celebrate by bombing a Phi Listener). Focus on the tally, George, it is showing that you're getting better...
2009 tally: Listener 17, George 30. Current streak: Listener 1.
OK - in six months the U.S. will be saying "Lady Who?", but right now Lady Gaga (or as I like to call her, Peaches Lite) is unavoidable. However, a few weeks ago, on "South Park" I fell out of my chair listening to them making fun of one of her songs by just having Cartman sing it. It's spawned a few videos on YouTube, so in case you haven't heard it, check this out.
Feel free to leave comments below - particularly if you want to sell viagara on this site (I'll be checking the solution later this afternoon when it goes online), and see you next week for the last numerical bit-o-fun for the year with Elap.
Friday, December 4, 2009
Hi again, gentle reader... George vs Schadenfreude is heating up again. My theme with Schadenfreude appears to be "close but no cigar", with a few entries in the blog so far. There was "Overhead Reduction" this year in which I was one letter wrong (In George v Listener terms, that counts as a win), last year was "Terminal Suspension" where I got some of the thematic material, but didn't manage to figure out the true nature of the end game. So here's BAT. And a rather odd-looking preamble. There's a substitution cipher, a three word phrase (28 letters for a three word phrase???) and four little squares at the bottom, no idea what they are for, but probably have something to do with those decoded first letter of the missing words.
1 across is part of the three word phrase, so we can't test that out, but 11 across is going to be an anagram of either ALL VIDEO or THE VIDEO, and it's LIVE LOAD, so first extra letter is T (or more exactly, not T,G,J,K,Q,Y, or Z). So we're away! I started to make a royal mess of things almost immediately by seeing 6 down as PIPAS (A in PIPS), check of Chambers to see it's something lutey (yip), and thinking that the PIPS were a group, that PLUCKS was the extra word. I had a few incorrect extra words later on, but managed to figure them out in the end (I think).
Back to solving - the middle of the grid was to me a lot easier than those entries jutting up or down into the top and last row that I need. I had all sorts of issues with the top right hand corner (hippy corner) - I had VOLED and for the longest time I had the erroneous TAR-LINE at 13 across. This was looking like a goner! I was about to coneded to Schadenfreude that I was going to have a nearly full grid and nothing else.
Steady on, George, there's got to be something to hang on to, right? In the grid, my coded letters looked like
- - - V O - O P - H - T - - A
U - M O R - E - T - - L F - -
Not a lot to go on... BUT! That O has to become an A... A level to O level and ANNATTO to ANNATTA. And that R has to become a T - REHEAR to REHEAT was the only possibility I could find. Word Wizards says that P should become N. The extra letters I had a lot more of...
There's quite a few S's... wonder if S becomes E? Since R is now T that could be ENTER as a first word of the instruction? That would make sense since the instruction has to tell me something about those four little cells at the bottom. Oh, but that means P isn't N? Word Wizards isn't totally up to date, and a thumbing through the alphabet and there's LIPAS!!! OK, so now I know ENTERL - and right at the end there's EL-- and one of the possibilities for the as yet unsolved 36 down is PLEASING - so if the end is CELLS. Work backwards... C-NT - VACANT CELLS!!! Yes, yes, yes, I'm getting there! Putting some of my new-found letters into the grid, there's F-CAT-ON so that looks like IDENTIFICATION - PERSONAL IDENTIFICATION NUMBER!!!!
Finally I've settled on ENTER DECODED ROEFOUR AS NUMBERALS IN VACANT CELLS. OK, well I guess I have the wrong word as an extra word in 40 across... ROW FOUR? If I decode row 4 I'll get some numbers and they go in the boxes.
This is even better news, because I don't have all of row 4 yet! Here's what I had...
- (whatever I codes to) - O N E S I (whatever C codes to) T - R E E
Haven't used X yet, so C has to be code to X, that leaves W to be I so we have TWO ONE SIX THREE. In they go, and I have a few more letters in my unknown entries.
Wow - all the thematic stuff taken care of, but I am still missing a bit in that top right. BARREL works out to mean TUBE so we're good for 1 down, and 2 down must be NITE (T for C in NICE, and my final extra letter WOMAN). We have new words all around and I call this a done grid. The title is PIN encoded - it all comes together in the end!
I solved this all back-asswards, but solve it I did! I hope that this time I have 100% cracked a Schadenfreude Listener, and in anticipation I'm calling this a victory for George!!! Tough puzzle, but a lot of fun.
2009 tally: George 30, Listener 16. Current streak: George 8!!! This is my new record streak.
It's always a long shot, but I am going to be performing in Chicago in January at the Chicago Sketch Fest with the Feral Chihuahuas. So any crossword or bizarre comedy fans in Chicago, let me know and I'll get details as soon as I know them. I mostly know that there's going to be a lot of booze at this festival and that's fine by me. Also performing at the Sketch Fest is Three Dollar Bill, who posted this YouTube video that tickled me a while back - trust me, at about 1:25 in, it becomes hysterical.
Feel free to leave comments below and see you next week to see if the streak is broken by Phi's 50-50.