Friday 10th October, 8.00pm Well, an unusual grid and with the title and setter to find this week. We last had one like this in November 2005 where 20 by 10 (also describing the grid size) turned out to be Torus Spiral by Dimitry – a classic. Two each of the numbers one to eighteen in the grid are possibly one set for each half. The crossword part looks to be conventional and rather short but I suspect that the second part will be anything but brief – I am a bit worried by that cutting up the grid business at the end of the preamble.
The grid for the word puzzle is readily constructed from the information given and the first ten clues solved are as follows:
10ac Knight leaves ring for (legion) region (4) area – ARE(N)A
11dn Wasting more energy cooking rissole (7) lossier – RISSOLE (anag)
1dn Man (with a spear) departed in returning storm (5) Edgar – D in RAGE (rev) See first names at back of Chambers.
13ac Christians elect out of ordinary opening of service (5) Copts – CO-(O)PT + S
22ac They're (tripped) trapped by charges spoken about in bridge (8) polarons – ORAL (rev) in PONS
7ac Cut flower for former estate (4) dais – DAIS(Y)
3dn I note one state of (diving) divine woman (7) Isiacal – I + SI + A + CAL
6dn (Bash) bush birds from Uncle … Uncle Sam? (5) emeus – EME + US
9ac Goddess needs egg operation for birth (8) geniture – GE + NIT + URE
5dn Admin trainee stops teaching for ("baddy") bandy? (6) lorate – AT in LORE
I shall leave it at that for tonight.
Saturday, 11.00am The remaining 14 clues offer little resistance with the final:
21ac Wild West's second of years (ago) age (4) eild – E for W in WILD
The condition derived from misprints is revealed as:
NO REPEATED NUMBERS (no surprise there)
And the completed word grid with unwanted clue numbers and bars:
Now we must turn to the task of discovering the real title and setter – might that mean that we must rotate the grid by 90°? We can add 10 partitioning bars immediately since the pairs of 1, 2, 7, 9 and 13 are next to one another in the grid. Perhaps the title and setter are spelled out in block letters but they must then be very short. Another thought is that the path of the bars might separate title and setter but not along the whole length or they would be too long for the box beneath.
I spend an hour or so adding speculative bars but nothing takes shape – there are just so many possibilities. I shall try a more systematic approach tomorrow using Excel.
Sunday, 2.00pm Using Excel is much better and I have the partition in about 15 minutes. Starting with the pair of eights there are few problems once it is realised that most of the top and all the right-hand perimeter cells belong to one side and the left-hand and most of the bottom to the other or else there will be more than two distinct shapes:
Well, block letters are ruled out and there is no single path to follow so, how to interpret the partition? Taking the letters at each number in numerical order gives nothing meaningful and neither does taking them in grid order for each shape. I shall go and cut the grass and have a think about it. This is the 16th cut of the season and 25 years ago it might have been the final but global warming has added some four weeks to the growing season.
5.30pm Back with a couple of ideas but the first, Braille, proves to be futile:
There are some letters there, even a B and Y, but I should have known better than to entertain the idea of such an absurdly random thematic shift – it would never have been acceptable. In any case, the bars that we are to add play no part here and there has to be some meaning in the word puzzle.
But then I have a good long look at what we have. To have it glowing on screen, in full colour, seems so much more informative than on paper:
I had noted earlier that we have GLO and GOO in diagrammatically opposite positions and had thought of Glow-worm and Mr Magoo as possible setters except that the latter is two words. However, the G and O form two pairs so I have a look at all such pairs in the grid and the solution falls out – just like that!
Digonal (a half-turn gives the same figure) by Pieman
So, the completed grid looks like this:
All finished at 7.45pm.
Post Mortem The first really testing Listener since Quadrivium and in many ways similar to Argentum by Radix in that the crossword part took a relatively minor role in the action. The one big difference is a personal one in that this time I readily spotted the solution although certainly more by chance than by skill. So, will Digonal attract similar comments, such as being unfair and too obscure?
Time will tell but I now read the penultimate sentence of the preamble as being a strong hint:
Solvers who have found it helpful to cut up the grid must securely reassemble it for entry.
Cutting out the two shapes and securely reassembling them (putting one on top of the other exactly) gives the entry (solution) – or am I being wise with hindsight?
The dénouement rather eclipsed the crossword part for me. The clues were generally of a high standard and although I am unable to pick out a favourite there was one that I didn’t much care for, 14ac:
Escapes out of sun – in these? (5) capas – (S)CAPAS, & lit.
The capas would surely need to have hoods but there is no indication in Chambers of this. However, my main reason for disliking the clue is the similarity of escapes and scapas to capes and capas.
But I must not linger on what I consider the only flaw. Phrases such as favourite or puzzle of the year are probably overused but this will definitely linger long in my memory.