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Archive for June, 2009

4037 S by Hedge Sparrow (S)urvival!

Posted by shirleycurran on 26 June 2009

Yes, we the easy clues junior 8 X 8 team did realise that S is the origin of species – one of the many onion layers of this challenging crossword, but, for us, it was, at times, a matter of (S)urvival.

Naturally, like most solvers (I imagine) we have been expecting this theme to appear – a bit like Haydn (or Bloody Haydn again, as Dave put it) but we had gone a long way before Galapagos and Evolution tempted us to look for Darwin in the middle of the grid.

Those four asterisked clues jumped out at us – GAMMON, ATTEND, SAPOTA and BOTTLE but we had our usual depressed moment when we realised that they were going to be jumbled.  I imagine the compiler has to do this to enable his endgame, but what hard work and frustration for the solver!

We are Darwin and Galapagos enthusiasts so ‘the voyage of the …’ soon led to B(EAGLE) but we could hardly believe the P?PAAA that we had as six extra letters – it took our wise crossword genius friend to explain to us the last of the six – SAG from GAS(P) – another P.

We can’t have been the only solvers to be struggling to find our ten clashes and, worse, to be unsure how we were to resolve them. Lots of lucky guesses almost filled the grid but we were really floored by 14ac. Now I know that LEI is the Romanian capital (of course, I was having difficulty fitting Bucharest into the grid!) and 7d. G(O)ALL seemed likely but how was it going to fit with PLAINER and DESTINE? The same occurred in the south-west corner. We liked our DIV(A)E and NICE(E)LY but, of course, they meant that we had to find a word for some sort of force that was L??V? (Yes, TEETH – (S)HEET rev. round Tories’ leader) This is almost beyond the comprehension of the junior 8 X 8 team! Again, I wonder how many other newcomers were nearly beaten by the fact that two of the final words to enter contained four of the clashes.

‘Survival of the fittest’ took a long time to tease out and it took even longer to work out which Chambers accepted as the fittest. What an amazing pdm to see that, in order of grid entry the winning letters spelled out THE FITTEST!

That S of the title suddenly made sense but we still had to put what we thought were going to be a set of apes (lots of As and Ps) into the grid. Of course, we produced one of those evolutionary chains we used to have to create as word games at the end of term.

I think we survived this one – acknowledging that it was clever and difficult – tough for learners. Thank you Hedge-sparrow.

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4037: Hedge-sparrow’s S (or First in a Series!!)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 26 June 2009

After the trials and tribulations of last week’s Brimstone numerical, down to earth with extra letters and my far from favourite puzzle feature … clashes! They are sadistic little things, taunting you with a letter that purports to be correct, while giggling behind the scenes at their deception.

A quick run through the clues got a fair response, including BAATHISTS, CONDEMN and three of the four answers in the outside columns. As has happened too often in recent weeks, progress was then a bit slow, but it wasn’t long before I had ?HEVO??GE for the extra letters in the down clues, so the 1976 film “The Voyage of the Damned” was the theme of the puzzle. This told of a ship carrying Jewish refugees from Germany to Cuba in 1939 and was based on a true story. It featured a host of stars including James Mason, fresh from his Enigmatic Variations appearance a few weeks before, and Faye Dunaway, whose Bonnie and Clyde was a recent Inquisitor!

A couple of hours later, and EVOLUTION (1ac), GALAPAGOS (45ac) and SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST in the extra letters of the across answers proved that it wasn’t a movie theme after all, but Darwin, who I’d been expecting a couple of months back at the time of the various TV documentaries, but had since forgotten about. I blame Joe Haydn! So it was THE VOYAGE OF THE BEAGLE and the letters of THE FITTEST which presumably had to survive in the clashing squares. The four asterisked entries just seemed to get jumbled, which I suppose is thematic evolution(?).

Now those clashes again. It’s bad enough when an entry has just one clash, but two or more is just naughty. Here we had DESTINE, TEETH, GALL and ASH with two each, but I have to say that the clues were fair and quite straightforward. But don’t mention Mr E’s golf game back in April where one 5-letter word had four clashes and a 6-letter word had five clashes.

Finally there was Charlie boy appearing in the central down entry. Replacing him with the last six extra letters in the downs, PPPAAA, which had seemed a trifle bizarre at the time of solving, gave MAN-MAT-OAT-OPT-APT-APE. Sorry, I mean the other way round; man is at the top of the evolutionary tree … isn’t he?

A good puzzle by Hedge-sparrow. I look forward to his next … not to mention half dozen or more Darwins over the coming weeks!

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4036: Base Jog by Brimstone

Posted by shirleycurran on 19 June 2009

The junior 8 X 8 easy clues coffee break team shouldn’t, by rights, be here at all this week, as this was one of the dreaded number ones, but it didn’t look too threatening and there was the initial link with letters and the promise of some sort of verbal conclusion.

The mathematical half of the team soon sorted out that according to the lengths and natures of the clues 9, 7, 4 and 2 paired up with U, A, H and B respectively. Y and Z looked like being 0 and 25. With these in place, we were able to use number length and the concatenation to produce values for T, E and S. A lot of the solving was done by looking at the short entries and deducing the clue numbers from those. The clue B^(UR + Y) was the real break-through, and soon Mr Math had it all in place (with the odd characteristic red herring – a long hunt for C).

Naturally, we converted the entire diamond back into letters then sat and gazed at them – mystified. The Listener seems to have this effect on us but we are slowly learning that there must be something there to see. Henry emerged first and, of course, symmetrically opposite, Aaron. With those wonderful clues ‘New York Yankees’, ‘Di Maggio’,’Pitchers’ and ‘Boston Red Sox’, Babe Ruth had to be hiding somewhere, and, of course, he was. (Though we don’t know much about baseball and wonder about Joggers, Bathes, Quizzed, Hubbub and Jaded – were these just convenient words or do they mean something in the baseball world?)

The 8 X 8 red herring you ask? As usual there was one. The endplay should have been obvious. We had to find the number that would fill the central cell as the intersection of two relevant numbers. It looks so obvious now that a wise friend has explained about the significance of that event – the iconic moment in baseball when Hank Aaron equalled Babe Ruth’s record of 714 home runs, then, four days later, beat it with 715 home runs – so 1 had to go in the centre square. However, the Internet produced a batting average of 305 for Hank Aaron and that vertical number intersected with a diagonal that gave his total lifetime number of home runs – 755. I was blandly slotting a 5 into the centre square (until Erwinch’s warning rang in my ears – ‘If you have doubt about your answer to a Listener crossword, it is generally wrong!’ Hah!)

We were astounded to learn that not only had Brimstone fitted all that into his little figure but also that he had given at least a double significance to the title: BASE (2X7X17X3) gives 714 and JOG (11X5X13) gives Hank Aaron’s 715 home runs on that eventful day in 1935; apparently the victorious home runner jogs around the base and, of course BASE JOG almost paraphrases HOME RUN. This was magic!

Surely Brimstone’s masterpiece will figure among the favourites of the old hands. If the mathematical ones can be as rewarding as this one and the pentominoes three months ago, then perhaps we newcomers do not need to be so depressed about them.

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4036: Brimstone Jabs Ego

Posted by Dave Hennings on 19 June 2009

Well, I’ve been in a miserable mood ever since I posted my solution to this numerical puzzle. I am absolutely convinced that I have failed, and have told myself that I will need to see it in The Times on Saturday to experience the full horror of what is possibly my first fail of the year. I say ‘possibly’ because I haven’t checked any of my solutions since the last numerical, Oyler’s Pentomino Factory back in February. It was then that I adopted my ‘delayed checking’ method. I reckon that if I discover that I made a mistake six weeks back, then at least there’s a chance that I’ve got five successes in the bag for my next run of correct solutions. I remember one puzzle last year (3974, Lots by Viking) where I realised as soon as I got back from the postbox that I had forgotten to highlight Marcel Proust! That was truly depressing. Damn these annual stats!

So, I’m afraid that I will not be reading any of the blogs here (except this one!), or posts on the Crossword Centre message board, until tomorrow. It has also meant that uploading Shirley’s blog for her, getting a copy of Erwin’s post and seeing that Robert Bridge had submitted one as well, all needed to be done blindfold. No … don’t ask why I’m doing it like this, I just am!

So how did I get to this sorry state of affairs? Well, entering all the numbers into the grid went fairly well. I’ll leave it to the likes of Erwin to give a full breakdown, but my sequence of solving went something like this: X and Y are 0 and 25 (no entry or clue number); A, B, H and U are 2, 4, 7 and 9 (entries and clues both across and down); then HUH, HUBBUB, MAYS and AS were narrowed down based on length, and the rest of the answers were solved in fairly quick succession. I don’t know how long, but probably 2½ hours.

I then transcribed all the numbers into letters on a new grid, and it wasn’t long before BABE RUTH and HENRY (Hank) AARON popped into view. It had been evident all along that baseball was the theme, Base Jog being translated into Home Run. A quick Google, and it was clear that Hank Aaron’s surpassing of Babe Ruth’s record of 714 career home runs was the event being commemorated. So the central square was a 1, making 714 running through it NW-SE. And 715 going SW-NE, this being the new record. But what did the preamble mean by the title being doubly significant? I could only see the obvious meaning of it.

That was when all the agonising started. It wasn’t made any easier by the fact that Hank Aaron’s career home run record was 755. So was his 755 required to cross in the SW-NE direction. This would have 714 crossing 755, and 15 in the puzzle’s code was D … the abbreviation for diamond, and the grid was in the shape of a baseball diamond! I kept trying to make the title into something else that was relevant. Encode BASE JOG and you get 27173 11513 or 21/1/73 and 11/5/13; that didn’t relate to any appropriate date. And then there was 27/?/55 and 22/?/51 crossing the central square; again nothing seemed to gel.

Base is a common crossword clue for e, and perhaps Jog could mean PS, which would give EPs, or records and that would lead to 714/755. But no way could Jog be memo. And BASE couldn’t be anagrammed into anything, and by then I was running out of ideas.

In the end, I entered 714/715, with a great feeling that it just wasn’t right. What’s more, having bared my soul here on the trials and tribulations that the final step caused me, I will be mortified if the answer can be explained in a way that a 5-year old would have got. I know that my brain is beginning to miss things that I would have found easy a few years back, and perhaps this is one of those occasions. At least I didn’t, as I feared, stumble across the correct solution as I wrote this blog.

So, congratulations to all of you who got it without a moment’s thought. I’m off to check the 12 puzzles since Pentominoes to see if I’ve already messed up an all-correct run for this year.


Saturday Update

Well, I’ve checked it and I’m right! Hurrah! A bit dismayed that having encoded BASE and JOG I didn’t multiply or add or divide or subtract the digits: add to list of things to try for numericals in future.

Ruth Aaron pairs, eh, who’d have thought it!! Great puzzle.

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Brimstone’s Base Jog: 4036

Posted by erwinch on 19 June 2009

I was away and offline for this one, in Horsham to look after my mother (91), so bought the Saturday Times for the first time since January 2006.  The paper now costs £1.50 and the Listener has moved to the third from last page of the main section.  The overall plastic cover that some supermarkets once insisted on had gone so I was able to check that the puzzle was properly printed before purchase.
This is Brimstone’s second Listener but the first, Family Planning (theme The Third Man), was not numerical so we may be seeing the emergence of a comparative rarity: a setter who is happy with both digits and letters, one that is perhaps exemplified by Aedites with his almost 50:50 output.
The grid reminded me of BR’s Home Base by Wolfram (No.3290, Jan 1995), which consisted of a 10×10 square rotated 45° and where entries were made in base 4.  This caught out a number of solvers and prompted the following message to appear in the paper a week later:
NOTE: A number of readers have inquired about last week’s puzzle, No3290, BR’s Home Base by Wolfram. The puzzle was correct as published.
I think that this may have been unprecedented at the time, at least in the Times’ era.  A few months ago, Oyler said that puzzles with a change of base were out of fashion but I bore it in mind – perhaps there will be a base jog later on.  I particularly enjoyed those puzzles that Piccadilly set where each row and column were in a different base to be determined, typically from 2 to 12.
At first glance the puzzle looked impossible but then I twigged that we had to consider the grid numbers, clue letters and the remainder, a starting point that I thought most original.  They fell into four categories:
  1. Across only {5, 11, 13, 15, 16, 17, 20, 22, 23, 24} to match clues {D, G, I, J, K, O, P, Q, S, V}
  2. Down only {1, 3, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 18, 19, 21} to match clues {C, E, F, L, M, N, R, T, W, X}
  3. Across and Down {2, 4, 7, 9} to match clues {A, B, H, U}
  4. Remainder {0, 25} to match {Y, Z}
Here are the first fourteen matches that I found, starting with the remainder and Hac:
Hac = B^(UR + Y) but B is greater than equal 2 so Y cannot equal 25 (too big): Y=0, Z=25
4dn has seven digits so cannot equal Adn (M + A + Y + S), Bdn (AS) or Udn (HUH): H=4
U=2, 7 or 9 but the only fit for Udn (HUH) is 144: U=9, 9dn=144
H(4)ac = B^(UR + Y) = 2^9R or 7^9R but the only fit is 512: B=2, R=1, A=7, 4ac=512
B(2)ac = – A  – B + AS – H = 7S – 13
B(2)dn = AS = 7S = ?1?
There is only one fit: S=17, 2ac=106, 2dn=119, Qac(ASH)=476, Vac(R + ASH)=477
Q and V=11, 16, 23 or 24
Mdn = HU – B – B + UB = 50 and will only fit at 19dn: M=19, 19dn=50, 7dn=43
The first part of Dac = B^U + R = 513 and will only fit at 15 or 20ac: D=15 or 20
The first part of H(4)dn = B^(UR + Y)(T – H + E + H) = 512(T + E) =  5???: (T + E)=10 or 11 but can only equal 8 + 3 in some order: 4dn starts 5632 and ends 28 (H + ET)
The first part of A(7)ac = R + ED = 46 and there is only one fit: E=3, D=15, T=8, 8dn((B + A)(T + HE + S))=333, Oac(AT – E)=53, Cdn(TU) starts 72
O=5 or 22 but Pac starts B^O and 2^22 is too big: O=5, 5ac=53, Pac starts 32
E(3)dn starts GO=65 then OD=75: G=13, Iac(GRE(E + T))=429 
Neither I, Q nor V=11 so I, Q, V=16, 23, 24 in some order and all start with 4
The grid now looked like this:
4036 Interim a Fig1
The grid is quite sparse but I shall stop at this point since the full solution will be covered elsewhere.  I still have my notes should further explanation be required.  The twelve outstanding matches were as follows:
  1. Across only {16, 23, 24} to match clues {I, Q, V} and {11, 20, 22} to match clues {J, K, P}
  2. Down only {6, 10, 12, 14, 18, 21} to match clues {C, F, L, N, W, X}
The finish was straightforward and I ended by checking the entries for W(21)dn and X(14)dn to give the grid:
4036 Clues Solved
The title, BASE = 2×7×17×3 = 714 and JOG = 11×5×13 = 715, which meant nothing to me.  The date of this puzzle was 30th May 2009 so 35 years ago would be 30/5/74, which could be represented in the central column and the intersecting number 22/5/51 (1851 or 1951?) could be another relevant date.
Replacing the single digits with letters gave:
4036 Letters Fig3
Well, I could see Babe Ruth, which would account for eight of the eighteen digits to be replaced but nothing else.  Being offline and without my reference books, I reverted to my pre-Internet practices and visited Waterstones on Sunday and found in an encyclopædia that Hank Aaron  passed Babe Ruth’s career home run record of 714 in 1974.  A visit to the library on Monday confirmed that the final grid should look like this (highlighting not required):
4036 Solution
Henry “Hank” Aaron hit his 715th home run on 8th April 1974 but his own career record of 755 was passed by Barry Bonds on 7th August 2007.  If I have ever heard of Aaron, or Bonds for that matter, the names did not linger in my memory but should do so now thanks to Brimstone’s splendid puzzle.  The apparent date in the central column was an excellent red herring and no base change was required to finish.  The title was a reference to running between bases and gave us the two figures 714 and 715.  I can just about see how one would set a puzzle like this, by starting with the highlighted entries in my final grid above, but it must have been terribly time consuming even if computer aided.  I wonder what Rhombus would have made of thematic numerical puzzles – they are almost the norm now.
I get nostalgic about the Listener pre-Internet, when most of us struggled against the puzzles in total isolation, so this was a pleasing reminder of those times.  As if to rub it in, I returned home after 11 days offline to find nearly 1200 spam e-mails and a mere 8 from friends – thank goodness for MailWasher!

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