Rood’s first Listener (No 4215, Getting in Shape) required the solver to draw a tesseract in the final grid. I believe that caused a bit of a stir regarding how the tesseract should be drawn. Although I got that puzzle right without too much difficulty, I hoped that no such quandary lay ahead of me this week. Mind you, it seemed we were still in the science arena, probably dealing with the elements, and the preamble contained some intriguing — and therefore worrying — phrases!
So on with the clues, with wordplay requiring “an elementary deduction” to give the answer. I hoped my hunch was right that this referred to the chemical symbols for the elements, eg H, He, Li, Be, B, C. These would spell out an instruction and provide a warning. Blocking my path were, among other things, five clashes.
1ac Gazelles run by fertile tract without restriction (4) was probably GOAS, but I had trouble parsing it. Was it GO + [g]RAS[s] with R as the element to be deducted? Unlikely, since there isn’t an element R. I pencilled in GOAS anyway. Next came 8ac Indian clerk to perch on Irish toilet flushing last two letters (6) which was SIRKAR — SITIR + KAR[zy] — but did that need IT or TI removed for the answer? If it was an element, it would have to be Ti titanium. 13ac Madras pot reflected much of coral island with lid (5) came next with LOTAH — ATOL[l]< + HAT. At last, At astatine was the required element, and I felt happy at last.
With two of the three top row answers already in the grid, I decided to concentrate on the top left and top right quadrants. I was rewarded with 2dn Approach committee involved in producing replica (8) which was ONCOMING (the noun) with COM in CLONING – Cl chlorine, followed closely by 3dn Air-conditioned car picked up railway clerk (7) ACTUARY where we had AC + AUTO< +RY – the element O oxygen.
Having been encouraged by some relatively straightforward clues, most of the rest were less so. 14ac VARIX and 15dn VASTY I found especially tricky top right, not least because of that damned clash! However, the top half was beginning to look half-decent, as I dropped down the right hand side and along the bottom.
There was some self-imposed stupidity on the way. 31ac Locate most of deposit from hot springs (4) SITE, had me trying to find most of a word for ‘deposit’ taken away from a word for ‘hot springs’, rather than just SINTER (new to me), a deposit from hot springs, losing its last letter and N nitrogen. I had also entered 49ac incorrectly: Drug users omitting first name circulated postal surveys (7) which I eventually got as MAINLINERS minus its first N to give MAILERS with In indium having been omitted. What it should have been was MAIL-INS with Er erbium the offending element.
Eventually the grid was complete, but those elements really did cause some heartache on the way. Even the final string of elements read in order caused a bit of a problem with the odd sequence SiNGdOBTa, but they finally got disentangled to read Initiating at column five, using D, obtain every fifth clockwise. Care with position of tiny particles. It didn’t take long to find the “two-word phrase in the grid” that helped with positioning: ROW ONE in row 10 confirmed that we had to start with the first D of DODGEMS, not the second.
Tracking every fifth letter around the perimeter (twice), I came up with DRAW RINGS OF ATOMIC NO followed by some of those damned clashes to give FIVE or SIX. Well I should have seen that coming! I was obviously nowhere near finishing this puzzle. After all, I still had no idea what the warning care with position of tiny particles meant. 22dn had ‘tiny particle’ in the clue, but so what!
Near the end of filling in the grid, I noticed the BOSON/SERES clash in the centre. At the time, I thought we might be dealing (again) with the Large Hadron Collider. However, BORON had atomic number 5, so I suspected that was the required element here.
After some time — don’t ask me exactly how long, since this part of my solve was a bit of a blur — I saw CTRON in row 4. Tracing it back, I came upon ELECTRON VALENCE. I looked up electron in Chambers, but that told me nothing. I had the good sense to try valence and got “valency or valence electrons“. Damn! The E/Y were an unresolved clash in GHERAO/YAWING. What’s more, the ELECTRON didn’t run along column 4 as I had first seen, but dipped down to form a circle with the rest of the phrase. Was that the warning that we were alerted to?
A bit of googling followed to acquaint myself with exactly what valence electrons were. I have no intention of embarrassing myself by trying to give a detailed explanation here. Suffice it to say, its to do with the orbits (or shells) of electrons in an atom. My brain was beginning to hurt big time… quantum mechanics is not my strong suit.
And what about the “resultant representation” that included every occurrence of a thematic letter? That could only be the Bs for Boron. But there were only two of those, one in each of rows 5 and 6. More grid-staring time passed, and I spotted CARBON in the leading SW-NE diagonal. This was atomic number six and there were six letter Cs in the grid, albeit scattered willy-nilly.
It finally dawned on me what the “resultant representation” was. It wasn’t the symbols B or C, or even an e-word like electron, but the carbon atom with its two shells comprising 6 electrons which we had been told to draw in the first place. Thus CARBON was the word to be highlighted in the finished diagram.
Was I there? 95% of me said yes, but part of me still had doubts… and that normally meant that I was wrong! Nonetheless, I was running out of time as I was off to Portugal for some golf on the Monday before the deadline. I drew the two circles through the six electrons and converted my six occurrences of the letter E to e in my final submission.
All in all, this was a fantastic puzzle from Rood. There were so many steps along the way, and the grid must have been a real pain to construct. And I do hope that the 5% of me that thought I was wrong was wrong. This week’s animation would look pretty silly if the 5% was right!