Mash! We had been warned. He is one of the smarty pants Magpie gang. There was even insider information circulating that this was going to be a carte blanche, so we downloaded it with some trepidation – then breathed a sigh of relief. Just a sweet little 10 X 15 grid. Even the numpties should be able to polish that off in no time.
Relief was short lived.’In the initial grid (not shown) of 30 rows and 10 columns …’ We were about to set off on a journey with limited resources, so we printed ourselves a few 30 X 10 grids. …’entries are separated by empty cells instead of bars.’ We were helpfully told that all entries were nine letters long, so the task didn’t seem too daunting. Clearly 15 across clues, with blank lines between them, would fill thirty rows. The other numpty, as usual at this stage, made a wild guess that proved to be not far off the solution. “Looks to me as though we’ll be creating a Moebius strip”, he blandly announced.
There was a certain symmetry in the clues. 1, 10 and 19 had both an across and a down clue, so it was likely that we were going to produce three 10 X 10 grids for a starter. There was that insidious little addition that ‘When an entry goes off the right or bottom edge it continues at the opposite edge’. Still, it was worth a long shot that 1 across and 1 down (and their mates) would be on the left hand side of the grid. 3 would have to be on the third row and 2 would go somewhere in between.
‘Answers (…) to down clues must be jumbled before entry.’ CONSTERNATION! Hands up the Listener solvers who loathe jumbles – I see a forest of waving hands. Then we smiled. ‘To aid initial grid construction, the order of the letters for each down entry is given as a nine-digit number after the clue.’ Well, you can’t complain about that can you? (Oh yes you can, if, like me, it takes you a few pages of scribbling, not only to solve those clues but also to be sure the new funny jumbles are right!)
What did we get? WHISKY MAC (KIAHYWCMS) and MALVOISIE (IALMEVSIO) Ah yes, true to Listener setter form, Mash was imbibing a fairly lethal mix of alcohol in his clues, the Malvoisie, Whisky Mac, Guinness and a ‘possible worker’s drink’ within a mere thirty clues. Not surprising then the ‘almost drunk’ in the last clue! THUMB KNOT (THNOTKBUM), COLUMBATE (EMBOUTCAL), APOCOPATE (POPATOAC), CHEMOSTAT (THTOMCEAS), ACUMINATE (AUIANCTME), OUTERWEAR (EARUOEWTR), MITIGATED (GIDMAIETT) – nice one there, a mini plug for the Magpie – but should we be wondering, at that stage about the intriguing structure of some of these clues?
I repeat that tip Samuel once gave. Scan the first and last letters of the clues in both directions before even starting to solve. OK, I know, in retrospect that the message was cunningly (sneakily?) concealed in the eighth character of the clues (not counting spaces): FUNDAMENTAL POLYGON 4th DIMENSION. We had been warned that this hidden message was not needed for successful completion but that it described the submission grid ‘A fundamental polygon’ and what solvers would need to construct an ideal form. I thought the fourth dimension was ‘time’. The numpties certainly needed that!
Onwards! USODICONS (IOSIDNSOC), METABASIS (AISMSABTE), MASTODONS (SOOAMDNTS), ANTISERUM (NUSMTEAIR), TUMESCENT (TUNSMEETC), and BEAUTIFUL (BATIFEUUL). There was a lot of cold solving here, though fortunately the clues were so fair and gave us some hope of finding our way through this maze of letters. Once our gridfill was underway, we were able to work backwards from those number jumblies to find the remaining words and a full 10 X 30 grid appeared.
We had to ‘think this over’ and ‘see through’. Well, it isn’t easy to see through those black lights I had used to construct the grid, so I made myself a new one and thought it over – sadly coming to a speedy but flawed conclusion. It seemed perfectly obvious that those words and spaces in the lower fifteen rows had to be incorporated into the upper fifteen and this worked perfectly well if the lower half were inverted. What genius Mash! Up they went and, sure enough eleven letters appeared. KLEIN BOTTLE. Bit of Google research – those down clues have to twist so that, where they come back into the structure at the top, they are the other way round. EUREKA! Was that all? Time for bed after a whisky mac.
The cold light of dawn produced dismay. Invert the entire grid, read it upside down, backwards, whatever, we could not read that KLEIN BOTTLE ‘partly from ‘right to left’. It invariably went in a single direction. We were travelling by now and the car was soon filled with scraps of frustration, as I failed to find a clash that would combine into a digit.
The clue was there – all those I, A, U, H, T, O, M characters cropping up (or down or backwards) in the down clues but it took me 24 hours before (after midnight at Doc’s Budock Vean crossword-lovers’ gathering) light dawned and the other numpty found me with the grid pinned to the lampshade (using the pin from the Haig’s remembrance day poppy) and copying letters in reverse onto the top half of the grid. YIPPEE!
Of course, the rest is history. One character appeared in both directions. S superimposed on a reverse S gave that little (‘the number of the column it appears in’) and we now understood why those eighth characters had been so suspect. Some of KLEIN BOTTLE was read in reverse – just a couple of Ls and an E but that sufficed.
The other Numpty knows all about Klein bottles (says they are purely theoretical and cannot be produced but he’ll have a go!) and about fundamental polygons. I am not sure how to submit one of those but certainly know that it is not easy to put those letters into the grid in reverse without inadvertently ‘correcting’ one of two. I wonder how many solvers will have done that!
So the Numpty decided to have a go at constructing a Klein bottle. Now where do you find a transparent piece of rubber capable of being twisted and inverted and ending up inside itself? We had a couple of somewhat unorthodox ideas I was not willing to pursue, so we ended up merrily emptying a funny twisted bottle of cheap Chardonnay so that we could attempt to create this wild theoretical thing. The result was rather a boozy disaster.
What can I say? Brilliant, tnaillirB, brilliant! There were pdms all the way through. How on earth did Mash create this spectacular puzzle? I shall be more than miffed if we don’t read a setter’s blog!