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Archive for August, 2009

No 4046 Disagreement by Stan. Maths again!

Posted by shirleycurran on 28 August 2009

The 8X8 team was just a little bit troubled by the part of the preamble that warned us about numbers after clues disagreeing with the lengths of words to be entered – this in addition to extra letters in the wordplay and clashes. At least, we have learned what careful attention we must pay to the preamble (those words ‘derived from’ – see below!)

Solving went fairly quickly with some lovely moments: ‘White’ as the definition for CUE BALL ‘cell lab regenerated around nucleus of corpuscle’; that ingenious clue for URETER where we had to remove the letters of ‘clamp’ from ‘permaculture’ and the similar ON HEAT where we took ‘tack’ from ‘on the attack’, producing our extra T into the bargain.

Soon we had a convincing set of letters about THE SMALLEST NUMBER … IN TWO WAYS, and the brains of the team shouted out “Ah, the taxi! 1729”, which was somewhat mystifying to me, even though I had just asked why 17d would be ‘HACKNEY’ and 29ac. CAB(INET). “Ramanujan”, he explained, “and G.H.Hardy” (how useful it sometimes is to have a partner who is a compendium of useless knowledge!) Naturally, the set of putative clashes now sorted themselves into the two names, though I still wonder whether just putting the M an J of RAMANUJAN into those little cubes in the middle was all that was required (or was I supposed to work out the cubes of the letters M and J and add them, or subtract one from the other? But no, that gives 3913 – just an 8X8 red herring).

Still some way to go! CUEBALL, CUTLERY, REBEL, BEARABLE, CUBEBS and BEGONE seemed to be the words with extra letters (though misreading Chambers gave me a potential ON from the end of PLEURON. It took my wise friend to explain to me that PLEURA also fits with the singular ‘side piece’ of the definition – alas the potential pitfalls of the Listener!) CU and BE squeezed into the little cubes with numbers in them at 1, 9, 10 and 12. What a beautiful penny drop moment! Here were the two ways of producing 1729 that Ramanujan, in his hospital bed, provided. (1^3 + 12^3) or (9^3 + 10^3).

A moment of doubt here. What was the subject of the disagreement? Do I enter ‘Cubes’? That was what was in the cells in question. The two men were actually disagreeing about the dullness of the number of a Hackney cab … Hmm. But there were those words ‘derived from’ (at least I had been able to use my highlighter there! I was longing to highlight AACKNEY CAB and RAMANUJAN).

The number 1729 was derived from what was in those cells. How very elegant! Thank you, Stan! From start to finish this was most satisfactory.

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No 4045 Admission by Kea – Astounding!

Posted by shirleycurran on 21 August 2009

Cherry tree before and after

Cherry tree before and after

I cannot tell a lie; (semi colon!) this one was miles above the heads of the Junior 8X8 easy clues team. I should say treetops above our heads – and we were only encouraged to continue and helped to the wonderful solution by our very clever friend. And yet, there was never a moment of despair; just over two days of solid work that ended with the resounding crash of the tree, the laying down (or propping up) of the hatchet and euphoria and sheer amazement at the genius of KEA.

The preamble warned us that here, perhaps, was the Listener we have heard about and were told to expect, yet, with our habitual naive confidence, we began to solve, and fairly soon had the left half of the grid almost complete. Yes, even in an orchard we found our usual red herrings. 35d seemed to suggest CLUES and BLUES, so we proudly flagged our first misprint, but an obvious ACTS at 34ac. left us wondering whether two of the three letters could be the same – obviously not! We produced the same dilemma by opting for STAYLESS at 23d and MOX and LOX at 39ac. Not an auspicious start.

Needless to say, our problems had not even commenced. The difficulty for us was the immense erudition and complexity of the wordplay, coupled with the fact that we were being led to a misprint and a different grid entry, then had to add the correct letter to the two of them and produce a fourth letter.

It didn’t take many flawed readings of the clues to produce a quotation that would have been gibberish in any language – “I can t a…pic lieid …” or something of the sort. The object taking shape looked rather like a cactus, but there were no cacti quotes in the ODQ. I resorted to scrolling (scrowling?) through the on-line Chambers for likely words that would fit the few we had in the grid in that north-east corner.

Fortunately one or two of those fiendishly difficult clues yielded something; ‘Query language by a French feminine relative’. That ‘a’ was a giveaway. A compiler of this calibre is not going to include articles haphazardly – so we need UNE in our local language, and that has to ‘comprehend’ Q(uery) L(anguage). This must be UNCLE (the relative) with a Q misprint, and that seems to cross the R of CABIRIC (a lucky find in Chambers on-line!) Do some maths, and we get an L – which is the breakthrough we have been longing for. “I cannot tell a … George Washington!

It was still immensely difficult to sort out the wordplay, even working backwards, numerically, from the quotation via the known misprints and solutions to find the crossing letters. However, twenty-four hours later we had, to our amazement, GROUND CHERRY, BIRD CHERRY, WILD CHERRY, WINTER CHERRY and HAGBERRY, all grafted together to form a fairly convincing tree. This compilation was already spectacular enough for the junior 8X8 team but, of course, felling the tree was sheer magic.

As we realized that every single branch of our cherry tree was being absorbed into the grid and creating new, bona fide words, we were dazzled by KEA’s brilliance. We had to look some of them up: EUGE; SEEDNESS; SONE; ABIR – but, of course, they were there and some were amazing – QUANTITIES emerging from QUARTETTES and … Well, the astonishment went on and on, didn’t it?

It can’t have been pure chance that composed the ground of ASSESSEDAEDES with GROT and a STONY layer just above where our newly hatcheted tree was lying (though I am not sure I have understood the significance of all the S,D,E and As) – ah, but the magic was not completed yet. We propped up the hatchet in the only place it would fit and produced SADHE, TOEA, TEARS, HECATE, BEHIND, EIRACKS and TONYS.

Wonderful KEA. This by far surpasses anything I could ever have imagined as possible in a crossword. It was worth almost three days of agonising. All around me people are saying “However does he do it!”

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Listener 4045 : Admission by Kea

Posted by erwinch on 21 August 2009

A 25th Listener from Kea, a setter requiring no introduction from me.  Two times winner of The Ascot Gold Cup for puzzle of the year and the anticipation is such that this might well be number three.  I always thought that he lived in New Zealand but he seems to spend a lot of time in the UK now – perhaps he did a house swap with Phi.
Generally I found the clues in Admission to be on the straightforward side and with clashes in thematic entries involving three letters Kea had given himself a good bit of leeway to avoid any strain.  In this respect I initially thought that 17ac was weak with the Pope being associated only with unruly man I cut but then I looked up latrocinium in Chambers:
Latrocinium ejects unruly man; I cut the Pope associated with it (4, two words) Lro I (Leo I/Lwo I) – L(AT)RO(C)I(NIUM) (R + E + W = T)
Latrocinium was Pope Leo I’s name for the ‘Robber-Council’ at Ephesus in 449AD.
I was a bit concerned when six of the clashes appeared in unchecked cells, which is most unusual, but I needn’t have worried.
The theme was readily revealed when the part quotation emerged:
I can’t tell a lie …  I did cut it with my (hatchet).  Attributed to George Washington but widely believed to be an invention of the biographer Parson Weems.  It was a cherry tree, five examples of which appeared in the interim grid forming the shape of a tree and removing any doubt about the unchecked cells:
4045 Interim Solution Fig 1
It was clear that we would have to represent the tree having been cut down but how were we to do that?  Looking at the grid on paper made it very difficult to see what might happen so the grid was reproduced in Excel.  I considered placing the trunk diagonally with the branches leaning against the left edge of the grid but that looked untidy and unsatisfactory.  Eventually, starting with WIN overlaying LUR at 20ac, the solution was found and the hatchet placed (probably the nearest I will ever get to appearing in a crossword):
4045 Required Solution Fig 2

Well, that was the required solution but it cried out for some highlighting to really appreciate everything that went on in the grid: 

4045 Final Solution Fig 3
What an amazing construction and dénouement – Kea on top form!  I have no influence over the result but this would make a very worthy winner of his third Gold Cup.
Well, I am away tomorrow for a week’s walking in the Borders around Berwick and shall be offline.  Let’s see if I can get caught by the tide at Holy Island.

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4044: OOOOPPPP by Raich – Setter’s Blog

Posted by Listen With Others on 14 August 2009

As one who works in administration, I had always been very impressed with Parkinson’s Law (Work expands to fill the time available for its completion), which I first heard of way back, fairly soon after it was formulated.

It is a very inventive example of ‘many a true word spoken in jest’ and cleverly made to sound very similar to laws in physics governing gases.

So when I noted the centenary was due (Cyril Northcote Parkinson was born on 30 July 1909), I considered how a puzzle might be built around it.

The basic idea never changed – some way in which the solver would have to apply the law by expanding the letters of WORK into the TIME AVAILABLE FOR ITS COMPLETION.

Ideally I’d have liked to make the surrounding letters comprise a square or perhaps rectangle but, after several attempts, could not manage this. So I had to let some of the letters go into a second layer outside the first one. Because of this, I thought very precise instructions would have to be given to the solver indicating the exact number of letters in the container which the solver would have to highlight. This would surround a 4X4 array which would comprise 12 barred-off cells and in the other 4 the letters W O R K at the beginning or end of words in four successive rows. This grid was very difficult to construct and normal symmetry was abandoned at an early stage. Eventually I succeeded, with the exact number of clues required to enable the message to be revealed by an extra letter in the wordplay of every clue.

This message gave HIGHLIGHT CONTAINER – TWENTY NINE LETTERS – USE PARKINSON’S LAW. The title OOOOPPPP gave an extra hint (or confirmation) to the fourfold expansion of WORK in the array, as OP (work) is an abbreviation frequently used in puzzles.

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4044: Raich’s Work (or ‘ose and peas?)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 14 August 2009

Raich is a relative newcomer to the setting scene (this is his eighth since mid-2007) and I have enjoyed his puzzles a lot. Although most have had a literary theme, they have also covered John Kennedy, Elvis Presley and the Labour Manifesto of 1983 (!). I seem to recall that he is at the easier end of the Listener scale, which bodes well as I don’t have much time this week. There are extra letters in the wordplay, so hopefully fairly straightforward, but those dozen barred-off cells could prove problematic.

As suspected, the answers come fairly quickly, with well over half of the puzzle completed within an hour, including TRANSPLANTING, GRADGRINDERY (lovely word, courtesy Charles Dickens) and PHRENITIS. Also, 38ac broings back memories of Helen Shapiro, still alive, and best known for Walkin’ Back to Happiness in 1961 … OMG 1961!! Surely I can’t remember that!

Back to the present day, and the puzzle starts grinding to a halt. The top is pretty much finished, RECEIVAL taking a bit of time to unravel (RECE[N]T RIVAL – TR for translator), and STARLIT (RATS! = that’s annoying!, reversed + LI[L]T). 16dn is STEW, with a meaning of fish tanks that I have not come across before (and I suspect I’m just being a little fussy in not liking an extra wordplay letter being the S of a plural). At this stage the extra letters in the acrosses give HIGHLIGHT CONTAINER, and the downs have LETTERS.

Unfortunately the bottom right corner of the grid is proving a bit recalcitrant. ABLATE (A BLA[I](n) + ToE) is tricky, and Little time on circuit, had LAP floating around my head for far too long, rather than AND finally yielding TAD. Stupid three letter words 😉

Eventually the main grid is completed, and the extra letters reveal “Highlight container, twenty-nine letters. Use Parkinson’s law”. Cyril Northcote Parkinson’s law states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion, and there, around the block of barred-off cells is the second half of the “law”. The central block now reads ?W?? ???O ???R ???K, so there appears to be WORK in the second and fourth columns. Given the title, it is now apparent that WORK appears downwards four times, ie expanding to fill the available space.

A good puzzle from Raich which I thoroughly enjoyed. It wasn’t quite as easy as I was expecting, which is fine by me, with some very good clues. And little did I realise that I had less than twenty-four hours to wait before his next offering (in the following day’s EV).

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