City Crossing Tour by Merlin
Posted by shirleycurran on 19 October 2012
This was one of those rare occasions when we knew where we were heading even before the very first solution was slotted in (and that was the familiar word ULNA, ‘Bone left in possession of girl (4)’. That belongs with TSETSE, ANT, MERI and co. in the ‘Stop me if you’ve heard this one before’ category, doesn’t it?) The other numpty said, “This must be Euler’s seven bridges of Königsberg problem – but he proved that there was no solution to that, so perhaps we should stop right now!”
Of course we continued, with the advantage that a lot of solvers must have shared, of having a good idea what the down clue misprints were going to produce. However, some of those were the last ones we understood. Towards the end of our solve, we needed the B and E of Königsberg and had only ‘Doctor in agreement with thirst to slake (4)’ as the potential B. ADRY gave us a poetic word for thirst, so we decided the misprint had to be Blake for Slake. Now that really is working backwards!
SRADDHA had to be an anagram of ‘Rash dad’ – ‘Rash Dad could make offering to forefather (7)’ in the following clue, so our missing E had to come out of ‘Such as Clegg’s maths in old grammar school initially’ (7) (DONNATS). I had completed and sent my entry before a friend explained to me that Clegg appears in ‘The Last of the Summer Wine”. I wonder how many other people living overseas were stymied by that solution!
Happily, the misprints in the across clues were more generous, alerting us, in good time, that we were to SHADE RIVER BLUE. Of course there is always a numpty red herring or two, so I immediately began to hunt for the Pregel or some modern Russian version of it, but it was not to be, and, in any case, we needed a fairly extensive river that had to circle round the two islands of the classic problem.
Lucky finds of DUTCH AUCTIONS, REVIVOR, REVERIST, SRADDHA, SHAVUOTH, TARLATAN and PALSTAFF (just a few more words to innocently drop into dinnertime conversation this week) had helped us towards a fairly speedy grid fill and we were heartily reassured to see that Merlin shared the usual Listener setters’ love of the hard stuff, with a healthy number of tipply clues (‘Brewery’s by-product, one limited in stuff to be fermented’ (8), giving us MUST around LTD – MALTDUST, ‘Brandy perhaps, grounds for poet’s getting drunk’ (6) MARL + ON – though I don’t really understand the boozy reference – why the ON? ‘This pub in south-east is type from posh area’ (4) Interesting that one, as Merlin has split the hyphenated ‘south-east’ to give himself an S and an E to wrap round (S)LOAN(E) and finally, that ‘Doctor in agreement with thirst to slake?’ (4) AY around DR = ADRY according to Blake, we suppose).
There we were with a full grid and an astonishingly clever reconstruction of the Königsberg of Euler’s day that echoed the map that Google produced. Of course I always head there at once: the librarian in our little French commune would be somewhat challenged if I turned up there to do my hunt. Now we understood why we had those funny new words with all the Rs in them, REVERIST, VAIRY, REVIVOR and RORIER. I can just imagine Merlin’s compiler joy when he managed to find those to produce the bed of his river. Of course we coloured all the letters of R I V E R blue and hunted for bridges.
There they were: TAY, LONDON, FOOT, BAY, PONTOON, HUMPBACK and TOLL. I am stupid enough, after all these centuries, to imagine that Euler might have miscalculated, so, of course, I fiddled for a few pointless minutes attempting to escape from some remote area of Königsberg – was there a hidden airstrip, stilts, a wet suit, a ferry or something that would allow a leap from one side to the other of the grid? Of course, the other numpty is the scientific one. “Euler demonstrated that the addition of a bridge would solve the puzzle – there has to be another bridge!” SEA BRIDGE? It is there, but, sadly, it provides a fourth way off the island, only compounding the problem but EUREKA – sneaky Merlin has offered us an escape route. A TUNNEL!
We weren’t home and dry yet. I had pencilled routes all over my grid and inevitably ended up crossing my own tracks, so I handed over to the other numpty who finally produced the winning route.
What an impressive compilation. Thank you Merlin!