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Archive for March, 2008

3972 – Unusual by Mr Lemon

Posted by Listen With Others on 28 March 2008

Life's a twitch…

Friday 5 pm I’m breaking my usual rule (or rule of this year) of only using the Times itself to solve the puzzle (to avoid transcription errors) because I’m on my way to Oxford for the weekend. Just Oxford, by the way, not Thame – I was nowhere near an all-correct last year, nor was I a setter – but I can pretend by being near the Listener dinner. We’re going down to see my parents for a theoretical weekend of relaxation – I say theoretical because in common I imagine with most young parents, the blessed help and time-off we get with childcare by visiting the grandparents is generally offset pretty equally by the stress of having to prevent our children from tearing apart a house that is as childproof as a bone-china carving knife.

Still, I get the Times delivered at home on Saturday and can’t bring myself to pay Murdoch twice over – and it’s not often that I have a train journey all to myself, so all in it was too good an opportunity to miss. So here I am on a surprisingly empty train on the way to Oxford with a cup of tea and a copy of Bradford’s. And Unusual by Mr Lemon. The preamble is fairly straightforward, although my heart sinks slightly at the clashes, as I’m currently struggling with Magoo’s Magpie puzzle (9,4) which involves single misprints in all entries and am finding it a struggle. Still, although cell by cell single misprints and clashes could be the same, the former has far more variables than the latter so this should be easier. I think Mr Lemon did that Harry Potter puzzle last year which I rather enjoyed, not least for having a very contemporary theme, which doesn’t happen in the Listener that often.

Enough. Let’s get to the puzzle. It’s clearly one of those ‘get started and it’ll all makes sense’ puzzles. Downs would seem to be the place to start as they are unadjusted clues.

For no particular reason, 27 stands out straight away. Dido’s not in favour of taking capital to Carthage looks pretty much like ANTI and C. I’m assuming that Dido will work as a definition of ANTIC. I don’t have Chambers with me, needless to say – and in fact, my parents house has the odd dictionary set-up of having the full OED but no Chambers. Which is fine for the obscure words that I need definitions for, but not great for variant spellings nor for the satisfying sense of finding the exact form of words in the Chambers definition.

Rude rogue pointed is URDE – had that recently enough in the Magpie. And just above that, it’s fairly obvious what’s going on in Religious sorcery changing Eve’s heart into a thousand antelope, but I can’t find the words. Let’s look at antelope in Bradford’s. OK, so there’s KOODOO. I only know it as KUDU, but this makes sense. Another one to check when I can.

OK, let’s be a bit more systematic about this because these clues do seem fairly crackable. 2 down is a classic Bradford clue. I need two words that mean ‘glows’, one with an extra G. That’ll be [G]LEAMS. 3 down is Seaweeds sheltering fine fish. Another Bradford’s one. Three letter word for seaweed around F. ALGA? No, of course it’s OR[F]ES. After all this time solving puzzles I really ought to be able to do that without Bradford’s. Ah well…

Cultivate dog-parsley avoiding what would make gross floral transformation is presumably an anagram of DOPASLEY with some floral definition. DEOPLASY? SEPAL is in there, as is POD. We’ll leave it for now. Reformed lag – one Will’s put inside. Anagram of LAGONE. ENGAOL sounds like a Shakespearian word. Better check it but I have to say I’m rather pleased with how we’re getting on – this is far better cold-solving than I can usually manage. I’m encouraged to see how far I can go as it will make the acrosses that much easier.

Tear apart from either end is probably a palindromic word for tear apart. Can’t think of one or see one in Bradford’s so we’ll move on again. 7 down – Appraiser falsifying labour plus VAT, with no book entry – looks like an anagram of LABOURVAT with no V. VALUATOR, for sure. Didn’t know that was a word, but feels right.

Space to put in knife for cheese. Space is always EN or EM, especially in short clues. And a two-letter knife is DA. EDAM. Alteration and first of bowling changes – right in front of one’s eyes! is yet another anagram – seem to be an awful lot of them in this puzzle – ALTERATION + B. Looks like ANTEORBITAL. Again, not 100% sure that that’s a word but seems plausible.

And here’s yet another anagram, surely. Dark spruce curl in ordered fashion round peak of Annapurna. SPRUCECURL + A meaning dark. SEPULCHRAL – no, no H there. –ULAR? CREPUSCULAR. That’s the one.

Young pig eats one Scots raptor. A young pig is an ELT (a word for which I have great affection as it, together with SONGFEST, were the best Scrabble move I’ve ever made, bingoing with an empty bag to win the game. It’s happened once and I’m determined to live off the memory – I am, generally, not a good Scrabble player…), and ONE would make ELONET – I know that ELANET is a hawk, maybe ELONET is a Scots variant. Maybe Bradford’s can confirm.

Or maybe, you idiot, ANE is a Scots variant of ONE.

Too many sons of Jacob to look at the next clue, and the oxide is easily resolved by Bradford’s – It’s clearly another anagram but I can be sure now it’s CERIA.

That’s a reasonably healthy looking grid now. Time to tackle the acrosses.

Explains away defeat in time for getting so extremely short. ‘Explains away’ is the definition and we have -LO- -E- -VER – which makes me think GLOSSES OVER straight away. Defeat in LOSS in GESOVER. SO is in there too. VER is a short version of VERY. Which leaves GE. So that’s [A]GE for ‘time’. A as the extra letter.

Magistrate for 11 across – we’ll check Bradford’s again for a word for ‘magistrate’ with a U in it that can be swapped for an E to make a compound. BURGESS? Doesn’t seem hopeful.

Too many variables in Food and bird missing with girl to be bothered with that. Instead we’ll look at God injured tailless demon. God is generally RA, but there are quite enough 2 and 3 letter gods for that not to be a dead cert. A demon is a RAHU. That would be a tailless version of HURT, and R is the extra letter.

The charming railway announcement tells me we’re 12 minutes away from Oxford. Let’s see if we can complete our first thorough run through of the clues before we get there.

Fish officer may be expected to… has crossing letters of – LALT. LT is surely the officer. Could it be SHALT? SHA – for fish. SHA[D], probably.

16 across (…come out around French department after cutting gemstone for Edmund) begins EME, which makes me think of EMERGE. It’s likely to be a Spenserian word for emerald…

18 across has the shape of -O – -A-NO. Definition of ‘rake’ makes me think of LOTHARIO straight away. Anagram of author and oil – extra letter of U. And next we have Ascend from feast in centre of quod. U – – O? UPGO? Yes, P[I]G=feast.

The German pinches Estonian book. DER? EST? Hmm, not sure. SOP plus an anagram of SORE in 23 across – SOPORS + E? Will check that when I have a dictionary. I don’t quite get Oil rear part of foot and front of hoof – thanks to Bradford’s, I think oil must be OTTO. OT for rear part of foot and [H]O for the front of hoof, but where does the T come from?

In quick succession, I get LOOPY[O], OR[P]RA, DIAP[A]IR and yet another anagram; CANNINESS + ONL – NONSENSICAL + N. And there we are. We’re just coming into Oxford station. Admittedly I have skipped over a couple of clues that didn’t immediately reveal themselves.

(By the way, I’m aware that this type of comment can be a little annoying to some. All I can say is that I’m no great clue-solver normally so this puzzle must have been easier than most in this respect if not others. I know where my strengths lie as a thematic solver (generally, an obstinate refusal to be beaten and an enthusiastic use of any research means to identify a theme) but I simply don’t do enough regular cryptics these days to be that solid a cold-solver. The times that real solvers are embarrassed about with regular cryptics would represent top times for me.

I did fully intend that this blog would, in general, try to record my false trails and bad ideas where clues are concerned but inevitably it’s (a) harder to remember those and (b) a lot more work. In fact, I will try to do more of that going forward as I find it interesting when others do the same.)

8 pm Hurrah and woohoo for my wife – who has brought Chambers with her in the car. That’s feeding an addiction… And shortly before supper, I manage to check EMERAUDE, which is EMER[G]E and AUD (Vaud missing the V). It looks like we have the word GUIDE in the extra letters.

11 pm There’s yet another anagram at 26 across. CURLY + AND + O = CONDYLAR + U. And 19 down (Boosting kinetic energy in Europe has engineered brilliant discoveries) is HEUREKAS, thanks to Chambers’ help.

Hole drilled to get a variable mineral – I wonder if that could be TOPAZ. A Z for ‘a variable’. TOP as three letters contributing to a word meaning a drilled hole? I can’t quite see what that is. But Bradford’s gives me BORAX. BOR[E] + A + X. And Chambers also helps with the young fish that involves a son of Jacob – it’s ALEVIN.

Saturday morning I’ve done the usual pancake marathon and we’re going to be heading out soon. But there’s a little time and as is often the case, a fresh eye after a break provides fresh insights. The extra letters fairly obviously spell EUROPEAN – which means that the oil clue is OT + TO[E] (which I really should have spotted earlier). In fact it looks like A BIRD GUIDE EUROPEAN. Funny word order. Wonder what’s going on there. But presumably something to do with birds.

So that German clue is [D]ESTHER – I didn’t realize that ESTH could be Estonian as well as EST. Interesting. The last two clues that I manage to prise open are KA[I]REN (Food and bird missing with girl – I’d never have got that without crossing letters – there are just too many options in food, bird and girl) and ZERO (Queen’s cross about nothing – I always always forget about ZO, DZO etc as possibilities for ‘cross’). Hmm, with that ZERO, is this a pangram? We seem to have had quite a few unusual letters. X, Z, K, V – nope, no J or Q.

Well, the obvious thing to do here is to check out the clashes and see if something comes out of those. I’ll write them down in pairs and see what we get:

S/R T/E R/D – OK, this has some potential.. STR and RED both good starting points. H/F H/L U/A – not so good in one line. But RED FLA is good.

Continuing, we get a line of gibberish and RED FLANKED BLUE TAIL. A Google search confirms that this a rare sighting in the UK. So that’s the unusual. Can we find the commonplace? I can see ORBIN at the end of the list so I think we may be looking at some ordinary birds hidden somewhere. In fact, here’s a thought. The Bluetail came from down clashes listed in across order, so what happens if we list the clashes in down order…

…and sure enough we get THRUSH, ROBIN, SPARROW. So that’s the commonplace that we need to let slip away.

Well, that’s a perfectly fine puzzle, and an excellent introduction to The Listener for anyone who found their way to it today. The clues may have been a little more straightforward than some but the theme held out to the end. To my taste, that’s more interesting than a puzzle like Franglais or Inflation, which tell you the theme right at the front and leave you with essentially a straight cryptic with a twist to the clues. Still, I can’t say – with apologies to Mr Lemon – that it’s my favourite puzzle.

My puzzles of the year so far:

Carte Blanche by Homer
Mercury’s Whereabouts by Dysart
Solitaire by Xanthippe

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Listener 3971: Franglais by Nutmeg

Posted by Listen With Others on 21 March 2008

6pm on Friday. Not feeling up to anything terribly hard this evening. The name of Nutmeg doesn’t set alarm bells ringing as far as difficulty goes, though I do remember she was responsible for ‘As Easy As Pie’ in the Magpie last year, which I’m still cross about getting wrong (though I’ve yet to come across anyone who’s ever heard of the phrase ‘as pleased as a dog with two tails’, harrumph). I made that mistake through assuming the clue was wrongly printed, which did occasionally happen in the old version of the Magpie, but I suppose there’s no chance of that in the Listener.

This is one of those simple-looking puzzles where the preamble explains everything you need to do; no penny-dropping moments expected. It seems such an obvious idea I’m surprised it hasn’t been done before – although those with longer Listener memories than I might set me right on this. In a way the theme is reminiscent of ‘D’ by Alban a few years ago.

So, once more unto the breach, dear friends, with 1a: Unstable Trucial State losing leader (joint) (12). Could be an anagram of ‘trucial state’ with an extra word in the clue somewhere, but a minute’s thought doesn’t get me anywhere useful. Not obvious; move on. 10a is unappealing too. Next one is Brainbox promoted in Council of Europe (5), which must be COUPE, but I can’t wrench ‘brainbox’ from either the English or French meanings. Irritating. And 12a, Endlessly stir round a second excellent cordial (6) is a clear enough construction with an extra word somewhere, but there are too many synonyms of ‘stir’ for me to want to spend much time on this without some crossing letters. I’m feeling rather mentally lazy just now.

13a is Amorous milk supplier finds uncle returning – tricky situation for Adelaide! (6): ‘Amorous’ is clearly the extra word here, but COWMAS doesn’t appear to be Australian slang for anything. It’s a relief to break my duck with 14a, a nice easy ABB. It’s properly woof- or weft-yarn, Chambers tells me, but sometimes warp yarn. One day, perhaps, I’ll know what any of that means. So now 2d has a B in it: Vehicle on test reversed into metal derrick (6). I know derricks are named after a hangman, but that doesn’t mean I can do the clue.

The other B is in 10d: Productive enterprise from 1 cent invested in super allotment (11). Well, an allotment in the clue means a ration in the answer, which makes this… FABRICATION. So how does that work – is ‘productive’ the extra word? No, ‘fabrication’ is in my Collins Robert French Dictionary, so I suppose ‘productive enterprise’ must be the French definition. The Collins Robert only has ‘making’, but that’ll do at a pinch. There’s no standard French dictionary for this puzzle, so we can be lenient.

17a is _R_ _: Baron and prince combine arms. If an English baron combined with an Ethiopian prince they’d make BRAS, which my GCSE French reminds me are Francophonic arms. Quite neat, that one. So 1d now has AB in it… A y-yarn that’s easy to get on with (7). Yarns again already? AFFABLE, anyway. No extra words to be seen in the clue so this must be French – and so it is. 24a begins EC: Flash church to get grave (6): again, it must be French, but four-letter synonyms for ‘flash’ aren’t leaping to mind just now. This stirred cordial at 12a begins FA… ah, the second was a mo, not an s, and this is FAMOUS with ‘cordial’ extra.

The derrick is _ _MBA_ but no closer to being solved. 3d has an O in it: Popular working party to select… (4). IN something, of course, but it takes a minute or two to get past the nicely misleading definition: ‘select’ is extra and IN ON means ‘party to’. The 10a I’ve been struggling with is now F_N_: Start to build without acceptable base. I was assuming ‘base’ = e, as it so often is, but this is actually ‘found’ minus U, and a French bottom. And eventually I pull TOMBAC out from the thicket of 2d, apparently a variously-spelled metal used for making cheap jewellery.

The unstable Trucial State losing its leader at 1a is now an ARTICUL and an ATION, meaning the same in French. Hmm. I can’t help feeling that ARTICULATION and FABRICATION are both something of a let-down – yes, they’re both English and French, but with this sort of theme it’s much more interesting to be forced to see a familiar word in a new way, like BRAS or FOND. Perhaps the stock of such ambiguous French/English words isn’t as big as I imagine. Anyway, 4d is a simple UPSTAIR and 5d an even simpler LIMA, both with extra words. 16a begins TA: Fashion covering nearly every part of body (5). Is ‘ton’ ever used to mean ‘fashion’ outside the crossworld? This is TALON, a Gallic heel. 6d must be ACOL, quite possibly the only bridge system named after a street in South Hampstead. So 13a begins MO – oh, it’s this dratted amorous milk supplier again. Could TOM be the uncle, as in the one with the cabin? Is a MOTWOC an Australian pickle? Unsurprisingly, no. After a moment gathering my thoughts, I remember that uncles are emes and ooms as well as sams and toms, so here we have a MOO-COW.

TROOPER is a gimme at 7d, and it turns out the brainbox at 11a wasn’t a COUPE at all but a French CRANE. Ah, and that’ll match the extra ‘derrick’ at 2d, good. NEWED at 9d, and another nicely ambiguous French/English PIED at 20a. 8d is Where false teeth are trouble to deal with (11, three words), beginning ONO_E… ON ONE’S PLATE, I suppose – yes, ‘to deal with’ will do as the definition. The grid’s starting to fill itself quite smoothly.

Bad mood among Labour’s leaders (3) is elegant for MAL at 33a. I’m slightly less happy with 22a: Indulge supporters’ requests on radio (6): ‘supporters’ is extra and it’s PLEASE, but given that ‘please’ and ‘pleas’ are etymologically linked I think the use of the homonym is a little weak, even if it does give a good surface reading. More hair-splitting with 23d: EMULSOR is an easy anagram, but I’m not sure ‘apparatus’ is quite precise enough to be the definition. 28a ends –LU so presumably LULU… no, it’s always wise to read the clue before writing in the answer: it’s BALU the bear. Dammit, that’s going to put ‘The Bare Necessities’ in my head for the rest of the evening. Ploughing on regardless, 25d, Enclosure with posts holds German with silk stock (6) starts _AM… ‘stock’ is extra and it’s SAMITE. ‘Enclosure with posts’ is clever for SAE.

Finishing post in sight now. CITE with an ignored accent goes in at 37a. 35a is TRAITS, apparently meaning ‘shafts’ in French, which I eventually justify with the Collins Robert translation of ‘trait d’esprit’ as a ‘flash or shaft of wit’, though ‘shaft of wit’ isn’t a phrase I’ve ever heard. ENTREPRENEUR fills the bottom row, and I guess accounts for the extra ‘tycoon’ in 7d. 18a, Discover agent carrying deadly disease (4), is a hidden RAGE, which I don’t think I knew was French for rabies. ELITE and DENT are easy, but 15d is Morag’s wide variegated plait (5): ‘variegated’ must be the extra word to account for PIED at 20a, but this is a Scottish word so I’m not doing it. 30d (Progenitrix used to be, but head flipped (4)) is a fine cryptic work-out for MERE, but would be even better if the surface meant something.

After LOWER at 36a, 26d looks very like SABLE: It piles up on shore as island’s rising. Well well, French for sand, I expect I knew that once. And a very cleverly misleading clue at 26a (even if, again, the surface isn’t everything it might be): Doctors once let this hospital go, but not completely (4). French doctors used to let SANG, being a san(atorium) and an uncompleted go. I’m held up for a while by 34a, which is BILLET but I can’t fathom the wordplay. Takes a minute to see that BI is (wordily but originally) defined as ‘pulled in both directions’. Finishing off: 24a looked like ECLAIR from the start but only now do I see why. HAGGLER, AGMAS, ATOP, and finally the not-as-nasty-as-I-expected BRAID was the obligatory Scottish answer. Fit the remaining French words to their definitions, double-check and post.

A good one, I think: short and satisfying. With such an apparently simple idea everything’s in the elegance of execution, and I thought this was very well done. Not terribly difficult clues, but not trivial either, and they raised a smile more often than many puzzles. Thanks to Nutmeg.

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3970 – Beating the Bookies by Ruslan

Posted by Listen With Others on 14 March 2008

Friday 22nd February, 6pm Print off the first numerical puzzle of the year, a second Listener from Ruslan whose debut, Certificate 18, was well received last May. After my faux pas over Xanthippe’s gender I will not make any assumptions here. My spell-checker suggests changing Ruslan to Russian but I shall stick with the idea that this might be a contraction of Russ Lane.
The theme is betting on a 12 horse race and finding the first three places. Gambling holds no appeal for me, even down to the Lottery, and I have never attended a race meeting so I am grateful that the preamble fully explains the mechanics of each way betting. Is rounding up on payouts normal practice in the industry? It would seem unlikely that bookies would give anything away – even fractions of a penny!
The opening move is quite clear with the three clues involving Iago (14ac, 16ac and 11dn) intersecting but I don’t plan spending any more time on this tonight.

Saturday, 11am So, the three clues involving Iago:

11dn: 120 + 60x + 60x ÷ 4 = 120 + 75x = ?pq?
14ac: 70 + 35x + 35x ÷ 4 = ?p??
16ac: 30 + 15x + 15x ÷ 4 = ??q
From size constraints, 14ac sets the shortest possible odds (x to 1) at 22 to 1 and 16ac the longest at 52 to 1:
My calculator is programmable but I go through 60 calculations on 11dn and 14ac the long way and find four matches for p:
But only 33 to 1 matches q for 16ac, therefore:
Iago 33 to 1, 11dn = 2595, 14ac = 1514, 16ac = 649
Immediately we can see that 14dn must be 140, therefore:
Tyro 6 to 1, 14dn = 140, 3dn = 100
Now, looking at the two clues involving Ciao:
18ac: 25 + 25x ÷ 4 = ?0
1dn: 25 + 25x = ???
Only one fit is found giving:
Ciao 4 to 1, 18ac = 50, 1dn = 125
Moving on to the three clues involving Lido:
6ac: 85 + 85x ÷ 4 = ???0
17ac: 90 + 90x ÷ 4 = ?r??
12dn: 55 + 55x ÷ 4 = ?4r?
The shortest possible odds, 69 to 1, are set by the size of 12dn and all three can accommodate 100 to 1. I don’t think that I want to go through the afternoon doing dozens of repetitive calculations so time to get some computing power on this. I have Excel and BBC Basic but I think that Excel is more suited to this job. It has a ROUNDUP function that I don’t know of directly in Basic. You can round up to any value so for 7654.321 entering 2 rounds up to two places of decimal (7654.33), 0 the integer value (7655) and –2 the hundreds (7700). ROUNDUP and the related ROUNDDOWN can be mimicked in Basic by using INT(x) and multiplication and division by powers of ten. Before Lido, I do a check on Iago using Excel and find no mistakes.
As it happens, only the top three values for 12dn in range have 4 as the second digit so I could have done this quicker by calculator had I but checked:
Lido 100 to 1, 12dn = 1430, 17ac = 2340, 6ac = 2210
With Excel and a calculator I complete the rest of the grid in about 20 minutes and all the odds are known by 1.30pm.
I make a mistake with Olio by reading the Excel Row Header (17) rather than the odds 16 to 1. The mistake was not corrected until a final check was made, and it would not have made any difference to the outcome had it been left, but using odds of 17 to 1 for Olio has an extraordinary effect that I will come to later.
I suffer a panic attack with Sumo at 3ac. I know the odds are 15 to 1 from 2dn but when I enter the values in 3ac find that the result is not an integer:
3ac: 25 + 25 × 15 ÷ 4 = 118.75
By using Excel I had forgotten that we are rounding up fractions!
I use BBC Basic to do the calculations on Ruslan’s bets. X is the odds on each horse, W the payout on a win and P the payout on a place:
20 W=100+50*X+50*X/4
40 P=50+50*X/4
70 GOTO 10
80 DATA 100, 60, 33, 20, 16, 15, 11, 8, 7, 6, 4, 2
So, 50p each way gives the following payouts for a win or place:
100 to 1
60 to 1
33 to 1
20 to 1
16 to 1
15 to 1
11 to 1
8 to 1
7 to 1
6 to 1
4 to 1
2 to 1
We are asked to find one winner and two places that result in the minimum profit on a £12 outlay – £12.01 plus. Also, the first letters in order spell out how the results may be seen. I am sure that you mathematicians out there have an elegant way of doing this but I am reduced to using trial and error. It is clear that the winner must come from Sumo or below so here are some shots:
·         Sumo (£10.38) plus Ciao (£1.00) and Ergo (£0.75) totals £12.13 – fairly minimal and SEC has five entries in Chambers but nothing to do with results as I see them.
·         Nemo (£7.88) plus Tyro (£1.25) and Agio (£3.00) also totals £12.13 – but NTA does not stand for the National Turf Association but National Training Award(s).
·         Might it be quicker to guess how the results could be seen: on the NET (no – £9.88), by FAX (no – £7.41) or TEL (no – £18.50) – perhaps not.
·         Filo (£6.00) plus Iago (£4.63) and Xeno (£1.38) totals £12.01 – FIX or FXI? Aha! The results might be seen as a fix!
Results of the race:
Filo at 8 to 1
Iago at 33 to 1
Xeno at 7 to 1
Ruslan profits by 1p but wouldn’t one have to pay tax on any winnings, on the full £12.01?
None of the top three favourites are placed – a pretty rare event I would imagine leading to the suspicion that the race was fixed.
All done at 3.30pm.
This is exactly how the puzzle finished for me but it is not a complete account of events. Remember that I had misread the odds for Olio as 17 to 1, which gives £11.63 for a win and £2.63 for a place. Consequently, I found two further combinations that totalled £12.01:
·         Nemo (£7.88) plus Olio (£2.63) and Filo (£1.50) totals £12.01 – NOF or NFO.
·         Tyro (£4.75) plus Iago (£4.63) and Olio (£2.63) also totals £12.01 – TIO or TOI.
I thought that this was Ruslan being incredibly fiendish and rivalling Elap for numerical wizardry – I was really disappointed to find it incorrect.
Sunday Afternoon – Post Mortem For sheer enjoyment I thought that Homer’s Carte Blanche last week would be hard to beat all year but only a week on and surely Ruslan has done it. There were rather too many repetitive calculations to manage with only a calculator throughout but that may have been due to my method being at fault. Nevertheless, I rather wish now that I had waited a bit longer before turning to Excel – I don’t have it but it is perhaps akin to using TEA for word puzzles – it is something that should only be used as a last resort or I feel that I am missing the point.
Unusual features were: the entry, a refreshing change from the likes of x8, the working in fractions and having all stakes a multiple of 5p. However, the latter may be the reason for the artificial rounding up and also the asymmetric grid. Although easy to spot, the entry was a mini puzzle in its own right – could it have existed anywhere other than in a ‘crossword’ grid?
I thought the naming of the horses a very nice touch and it could have been extended to the entire alphabet, with perhaps the exception of Q. I had a quick look in the index of the Times Atlas and couldn’t see any appropriate place name ending in O but there were quite a few with vowel endings: Qena, Qaxi, etc.
I considered the stakes used in clues ridiculously low but this very weekend, by a happy coincidence, a punter won a million pounds on an eight-race accumulator for a stake of just 50p. However, the Ladbrokes Web site says that there is a £2 minimum stake for tote betting, whatever that is.
The scenario may have been a touch unrealistic but I would find it difficult to believe that there was a solver who did not rejoice in this gem of a puzzle.

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2566 – Lip Service by Leon

Posted by Listen With Others on 7 March 2008

Lip Service was first published in The Listener magazine 25th September 1980 and is notorious for having attracted no correct entries. G Guinness of Richmond managed to complete the grid correctly but failed with the following game of solitaire. Last July, Dave Tilley distributed the puzzle as one of several vintage Listeners. It might have ended there had not Xanthippe also set a puzzle that featured a game of peg solitaire. My admission in the LWO blog that I could do Xanthippe’s version but not Leon’s prompted John Reardon to send me a full solution to Lip Service with notes. This is so impressive it deserves a wider audience so is reproduced below.
Knowing that the puzzle is not impossible might inspire others to follow John’s example but they should note that there were a number of errors in Dave’s version:

Errata to version sent by Dave Tilley, July 2007:
Clues Horizontal
D: 1-4 [(2F-E)2-1] should read [(2: F-E)2-1]
Clues Vertical
2: B-D Rabble should probably read Rabbie
3: E-F should read 2: E-F
7: C-E y2 + 4y2 + 8x + 4 where y is square should read y3 + 4y2 + 8y + 4 where y is square (3)


When the diagram has been properly completed it will contain four digits, which compose a date and 33 letters of the alphabet. No distinction is made between zero and the letter ‘O’, or between unity and the letter ‘I’: solvers please copy. Of the different letters remaining, each has a distinct digital value other than one or unity.
Clues may lead to the numerical or to the literal light: most, however, clue both forms. Suitable comparison should therefore enable the solver to establish the literal / digital correspondences. The lights, in their numerical form all belong to the same notation. In many cases, the literal equivalent is not a proper word.
After completing the diagram, solvers are invited to play the solitaire. They should begin by removing the peg at position A3 and, by jumping orthogonally one peg at a time, remove the remaining pegs, finishing with one peg left at G5. .The pegs in order of their removal spell out a message. Solvers are asked to include this with their solution. (NB: A jumping peg always takes its letter with it. Only the following pegs are removed whilst occupying their original position: A3, B3, B4, C2, C3, C5, C6, D1, D2, D4, D6, E2, E3, E5, F3, F4, F5, G4)
As a check, solvers might like to know that the sum of the three words CHAT MY SERF equals 10216.
Clues Horizontal
A: 3-5               Something for the baby: added to its reverse for MOM (3)
COT + TOC = MOM; C + T = M i.e. 3 + 6 = 9
B: 2-4               x4 + 2x3 where x is prime. Highlight of history? (3)
TOR; hidden and x = 5 means 875 B10 and so 60[11] B12. This clue gave the first indication that we were to work in base 12.
B: 5-6              One less than a prime! Steamer, do we hear? (2)
MR; sounds like mister and 9[11] B12 = 119 B10 and 5! = 120
C: 1-2              Briefcases? Twice E: 1-2 (2)
CA; short for cases and 34 B12 = 40 B10 E: 1-2 = 20 B10 = 18 B12
C: 2-3              Root of 3: F-C’s comicality will look after … (2)
AA; SQRT(1694 B12) = 44 B12 This looks like a rare example of a clue with ellipses that must be read with its partner to be solved:
                       Root of ITMA’s comicality will look after one for the road; prime
                                 One root of ITMA’s comicality was its catchphrases, notably the abbreviated ones ITMA itself and TTFN so the clue could be read as:
                                 Abbreviation: will look after car = Automobile Association
C: 4-6              …one for the road; prime (3)
CAR; 34[11] B12 = 491 B10 which is prime
C: 6-7              Offside = HOT minus B: 2-4 (2)
RH; right-hand side and HOT – TOR = [11]7 B12
D: 1-4              Someone who’s red has sun to excess:   reverse of [(2: F-E)2-1] (4)
CMMI; COMMUNIST minus SUN TO rev[3991] = 1993 = 3135 B10; SQRT(3136) = 56 = 48 B12 = AS
D: 5-7              4 : C –A minus 102 is fifty, except it recurs (3)
YFF; 3[11]0 – 102 B12 = 2[10][10] and rev[fifty minus letters IT] = yff
E: 1-2              Initially Stravinsky’s score (2)
IS; Igor Stravinsky; 18 B12 = 20 B10
E: 5-3              Strain = MA + 5: B – D (3)
FIT; MA + MAY = 94 + 942 B12 = [10]16 B12
E: 6-7              Sum of two consecutive squares = difference of two consecutive cubes.
EI; 5^2 + 6^2 = 5^3 – 4^3 = 61 and in B12 this is 51
                      Set common to Gauss’s 1, 2 and 3 (2)
                                 EIN, ZWEI and DREI
F: 2-3              Prime squared prime (2)
41; 41 B12 = 49 B10 = 7^2 and 41 itself appears prime in B10
F: 4-6              Palindromic prime and ancient plough (3)
ERE; 545 B12 = 773 B10 which is prime
G: 3-5             (E: 6-7) (1: E-D) =   – au – (3)
64C; tac-au-tac; (EI)*(IC) = 51*13 B12 = 61*15 B10 = 915 = 643 = TAC
Clues Vertical
1: C – E           502 – 191 = 201? Yes and no (3)
CCI; 502 – 191 = 331 B12 and CCI = 201 in Roman numerals
2: B – D           How to make nineteen three less? Substitute – we hear. Cap that, Rabbie! (3)
TAM; 649 sounds like 6 for 9 so 19 becomes 16; a TAM is a cap that Rabbie Burns might have worn
2: E – F           Batsman’s triumph in Capetown? (2)
SA; 84 B12 = 100 B10, a century
3: A – B          Square that every army unit has (2)
CO; 36 B10= 30 B12
3: F – C          In WWII it made us laugh. Either way it’s square (4)
1TMA; 1694 B12 = 2704 B10 = 52^2; 4961 B12 = 8281 B10 = 91^2
4: A – C          No sea-force is complete without this killer (3)
ORC; hidden
4: D – E          Unlucky number (2)
II; 11 B12 = 13 B10
4: D – G         (CS)2 (4)
IIE4; 38^2 B12 = 44^2 B10 = 1936 = 1154 B12
4: F – G          Perfect square river (2)
EA; 54 B12 = 64 B10
5: B – D          Permit: anagram of (E: 1-2)2 (3)
MAY; 18^2 B12 = 20^2 B10 = 400 = 294 B12 = YMA
5: E – G          Physician, surgeon or organist? Product of three consecutive primes, first two being squared (3)
FRC; Fellow of the Royal College (of Physicians, Surgeons or Music); 1575 B10 = 3^2*5^2*7 = [10][11]3 B12
6: B – C          Norvic’s abbreviated address: 143 Base X (2)
RR; Norvic = Norvicensis of Norwich; [11][11] B12 = 143 B10
6: D – F          Spent money – au fond du jardin? (3)
FEE; fée = fairy in French (at the bottom of the garden)
7: C – E          Wild plant extracted from two gills, as it were, y3 + 4y2 + 8y + 4 where y is square (3)
HFI: 1129 B10 with y = 9 = 7[10]1 B12; HALF PINT minus PLANT
All the letters assigned numbers are therefore:
The check given in the preamble:
CHAT MY SERF = 3746 + 92 + 85[11][10] = 10216 B12.
Leon did not follow the convention of A = 10 and B = 11 in base 12.

The game of solitaire:


[John has provided an Excel file that shows 37 diagrams – one for each of the moves. There isn’t room to show them here but I would be glad to forward the file to anyone interested.]

The game was started by removing peg C at A3. Pegs in a red font could only be removed if on a green background – these were pegs that were removed when in their original position and there were no cases where one of these moved to an alternative green cell. Bold black pegs could not be removed – whenever they moved from their original position they became regular black and then could be removed at any time. 

The message revealed is:
This can be confirmed in Brewers under Blarney although AD (1446) is missing and they spell Macarthy with one C. It is the inscription on a stone some 20ft above the Blarney Stone and it would be the true stone were it not virtually inaccessible.
Solution received with thanks from John Reardon, February 2008.
So, had Lip Service been published today there might have been at least one correct solution. There were two major stumbling points for me: realising that the notation was in base 12 and playing the game of solitaire. It is bad enough in Excel but spreadsheets were unknown in 1980 and keeping track of the two types of peg with just pen and paper strikes me as being a near impossibility, especially since the quotation was unfamiliar and not in the ODQ.


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