Listener 4028: Indication of Height by Mr E
Posted by erwinch on 24 April 2009
If I were to be asked to compile a list of the best ever Listener debuts that I know of there is one that would immediately spring to mind: And One Has Two: An Archaic Alphabet by Mr E (No.3721, May 2003), which had an unusually high number of incorrect entries, 109 of 253 or 43%. Subsequent puzzles were disappointing by comparison but with this his 4th Listener I think that Mr E has produced another cracker and one that will certainly cause solvers considerable anguish.
The crossword part of the puzzle proved to be unremarkable despite a formidable preamble. The numbers 1 to 9 in order readily appeared in row 3 and once the 3×3 key was spotted it was clear that YOU the solver were playing nine holes of golf against MR E. The appropriate outline shapes appeared in the bottom half of the grid as BALL and HOLE linked by PUTT and represented the final shot of the game to be played by the solver who was currently on SEVEN (33ac) shots for the hole.
Is there a solver out there who did not immediately think to move the hole one square to the left? Holes might be moved when redesigning a course but surely never during a match, even a crossword one. And then there was the dilemma of what to do with the L in the adjacent square – would debris from the new hole be used to fill the old or should it be left blank? I thought that the punning title Westward Hoe! would have been a nice way to indicate that the hole and L were to be swapped but neither solution was convincing and at this point alarm bells should have been ringing. Nevertheless, I elected to swap the L (what the ell!) and this was my solution:
As for the loose ends, I thought that the title was just a reference to H = 8 and by association with 33ac G (Golf) = 7 giving us the theme. Also, despite finishing 27 over par, Mr E had overestimated this solver’s ability in the game.
Should you ever aspire to one day lift the Silver Salver then there is a cardinal rule that must be learnt: if you have any doubts whatsoever about a solution then it is certainly wrong or at least not what the setter intended (alternative solutions are very occasionally accepted). I can’t think of an intended solution that did not look so blatantly obvious that you wonder how on earth you could have previously overlooked it. It was exactly the case here when a day or so later a friend pointed out that realistically the only shape that was going to move in the grid was the ball. Mr E’s putative scorecard was correct up to the final instant – the ball was describing a perfect parabola until passing through the second T of PUTT when it suddenly swung to the right and into the hole, an extraordinary dénouement!
I tried to draw my ball in the hole to scale: the ball, no less than 1.68″ in diameter might have an apparent diameter of 1.5″, 4″ down in the centre of the tapered base of the hole, 4.25″ in diameter – I wonder if people with exceptionally large hands have trouble getting the ball out? The symbol of a circle within a circle was an ancient representation of the sun but it might also be a reference to the title and indicate height if considered as contours on a map:
So, my first failure with the Listener for some years (I do not submit entries) but a splendid puzzle and it is great to see Mr E back on top form.