Eight by Thirteen
Posted by shirleycurran on 1 June 2012
‘Now this was a real Listener’ I have heard friends say. Well, what is a real Listener? For the Numpties it is anticipation as we deflect Friday evening invitations and commitments, a bit of watch-watching, then consternation as we download yet another carte-blanche grid by …. no setter, no title. A medium-length preamble (hmmm – does that bode ill?) with mention of extra letters, not just in single numbers but groups of varying lengths, that can leave abbreviations, squares and a curved line to draw. There’s a hidden message given by extra letters and OH NO! CLASHES! We have to highlight and insert a title and a setter.
Well, says the other Numpty – there are no misprints and there isn’t a playfair square (well, hopefully not) and it can’t be any more fearsome than the threat of a numerical next week.
We were away from home in a villa that is half way down a cliff, with no Internet connection, so solving was desultory to say the least for a day or two. The obvious solutions went onto our copy: ALIEN, DEERE, ALTS, CAESAREA, EDIT, KAIKAI, ANGLE, LLANERO and SPLICE and we fiddled with a grid, but those nine clashes made the obvious fill difficult.
When we were finally home and able to check that ARRIVISTE really did fulfil the Chambers definition of a mushroom ‘Mushroom dish has won out after cooking rival rinsed a missing piece of lamb (9)’, since both words are ‘upstarts’, and that TESSERAL really is Isometric ‘Isometric tests age learner (8)’ TES(t)S + ERA + L). We were able to construct a potential grid with words appearing magically. ARGALAS, EUK, and SHADCHAN will be this week’s conversation stoppers – new words to slip nonchalantly into table talk.
Was our ‘Thirteen’ compiler the habitual Listener compiler toper? I searched vainly for evidence and found that he was ‘dispensing with the use of liquid’ (perhaps affected by the example of the ‘Stotious Lord Provost, put in position, perhaps murders his wife (8, 2 words)LP in FOU + LAY).
We were (with the wisdom of habitual solvers) keeping tabs of the letters we were extracting from clues in addition to those needed for the message and noticing that there was an intriguing pattern emerging as we solved these fabulously intricate wordplays. We were removing one letter from the first and second of a set of six clues, two letters from the next, then three, then five and finally eight.
ONE, ONE, TWO, THREE, FIVE, EIGHT said the extra letters. First penny clanged into place. FIBONACCI! said a Numpty. There had been a difficult area on the left hand side of the grid where we had CEV?EUBG for ‘Once attending reception of Verhoeven cut one in German government ([VERHO]even = LEVE(l) + EIN + G) Once we had ARIF, LEVEEING and IGNARO in place, we could see our Fibonacci spiral and it wasn’t a huge leap to the squares.
What an astonishing construction! Yes, this was a ‘real’ Listener (though I maintain my position, after almost three years of solving, that a lovely, straight-forward solve has its place in the series and is truly welcome, there need to be some 2s and 4s on a 1 to 10 scale of difficulty as well as the 8s, 9s or 10s like this and Mash’s Klein Bottle)
Our admiration for 13 increased as we began to gaze at our almost complete grid and tried to work out who he was.
Could this be Phi? (the mathematical term for the golden ratio) or was this another Mash miracle of grid construction. He seemed to be the likely candidate but we did a bit of grid-staring before the mathematical Numpty said, ‘Ah, of course, we apply the Fibonacci sequence to the letters in the grid. SPIRAL … SAM…’ We had to go twice round the grid (spiraling, of course, though at first we attempted to operate boustrophedonaly) to get our 144, so that we knew how to highlight SAMUEL in the grid but what a star – he deserved the highlighting. This was masterly. I don’t have enough superlatives!