Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin

Archive for October, 2009

Listener 4054: The Square Root of 576 by Leo

Posted by erwinch on 23 October 2009

It seems totally preposterous now but I once asked Radix in an e-mail if he might be related to Ix – a son perhaps.  I had harboured the similar idea that Leo might be a scion of the mighty Leon but must accept far more likely explanations such as Leo having been born in August or simply given that name.  Anyway, this was Leo’s fifth Listener since 1996 and the title suggested a mathematical theme – my favourite.
 
Knowing how long setters spend compiling their puzzles, I hate to describe them as easy and prefer to think that I must have been mentally in tune with the clueing style.  I certainly was this week and was able to rattle through the clues in a single sitting.  Extra letters spelt out a seven-word message:
 
Letter count gives a second magic square.
 
Identifying the extra material that was to help with filling the nine empty cells that appeared was a bit more problematical.  For example, in 39ac, I originally boxed as surplus the entire second half of the clue – underlined here:
 
What preceded IBM in 2001 – majority had late date unfortunately missing
 
I had known that HAL precedes IBM by one letter in the alphabet (see the interesting Wikipedia article on HAL 9000) so thought that the first half sufficed as a very neat clue.  I started by counting the letters in the surplus material and we had 39 here (the same as the clue number!)  However, the across and down numbers never matched and added together, or otherwise manipulated, did not form a 3×3 magic square anyway, as far as I could see.  There was also the matter that the letter count was to give a second magic square when we had yet to see a first.
 
Finding the first magic square was the most enjoyable part of the puzzle for me.  The extra material in 40dn (adult entertainment) was to match that in 39ac, which of course was majority = 18Two little ducks at 41ac took longer than it should have to fathom – the delightful 22 to match catch.  I spent the 1972 summer vacation working at Kingston’s Top Rank bingo hall but the callers did not use the likes of two little ducks.  That would have been: all the twos, twenty-two then two and three, twenty-three, etc – I won a cash prize for selling the most ice cream anywhere in the Top Rank organisation in August 72.  So, here is our first magic square:
 
4054 Magic Square 1 Fig 1
 
In the meantime, I had been looking at the initial grid and found that there were four possibilities that could result in real words throughout the final grid: twenty-one, twenty-two, thirty-one or thirty-two.  Finishing the puzzle followed swiftly: letter count (two = 3, five = 4, etc) gives a second magic square:
 
4054 Magic Square 2 Fig 2
 
To adjust the initial grid, we had to look at the totals:
 
1st magic square = 45
2nd magic square = 21
Title = 24
 
24 + 21 = 45, which I found to be totally satisfying.
 
So, twenty-one was entered to give the final grid:
 
4054 Solution
 
This puzzle prompted me to have a closer look at 3×3 magic squares.  I wondered for example how many such squares might be formed from the numbers 1 to 30, ignoring rotations and reflections and with no number repeated.  A friend was kind enough to write a program that determined that there were no less than 346 squares that fitted this bill.  I would therefore conclude that they are not particularly magical at all.  Any straight sequence of nine numbers can be arranged into a magic square as can an alternate sequence, every third number and indeed every nth.  The middle number of the sequence always appears in the centre of the square and the totals are three times this number.
 
Our second magic square was a straight sequence (3 to 11) with 7 in the middle and the total 21.  The first magic square was a little more interesting but still had a regular distribution about the middle number, 15:
 
2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28
 
A search on the Net found that this first square is known as an Alphamagic Square.  Note also that the general formula for a 3×3 magic square was first devised by Edouard Lucas who featured in City Tour by Mango (Listener No.3977) in August last year.
 
I do not know if the theme was found on the Net or elsewhere but this was a first-class adaptation into the crossword format and tremendous fun – thank you Leo.  I had thought the title clumsy but it can’t be a coincidence that it requires precisely 24 letters to spell five hundred and seventy-six – nice one!
 
 
 
 

Posted in Solving Blogs | 2 Comments »

Phoney by Wasp – telephony?

Posted by shirleycurran on 16 October 2009

‘Phony?’, I said, ‘I bet one of those eight-letter words is telegram’. But of course, I had forgotten that when this lovely quick solve was almost all in place and we had VIEWS, GENIC, POINT, VI?OR, SC??E, TY?ES, PATHS and CA?TS to tie together with a common link. However, for us, that was the last stage.

spuriousOur grid, all prepared for solving with the five and eight-letter words highlighted, looked rather like a little piece of tartan (some naff and daffy modern clan) and the junior 8X8 team was away like the hound that spotted the hare, solving almost as fast as we could read the clues.  Wonderful Wasp! – We needed a break like this after last week’s bell-ringing. The eight-letter code words were simply fun compared with some of the Listener hoops we have been jumping through since we did our first tentative solve almost a year ago.

There were some unusual words there, though. We know all about PECCAVIS, UNTRUSTY UNGOTTEN things, UNREPAIR and USERNAMEs, and the ARCHDUKE gave us no trouble, but Wasp must have trawled his Chambers to find THEREOUT and ABIDANCE. It was the helpful way these clues intersected that made ‘Phoney’ such a rewarding fill – certainly the one I would recommend, so far, for the terrified newcomer hovering on the Listener fringes.

We kept a careful check of those extra digits (the correct ones) and produced another eight-letter code (78784767) Is this a misunderstanding of the preamble on our part ? It says ‘The eight correct digits can be arranged to encode a word associated with an element of the puzzle. Well, yes they can, but so can the extra letters. SPURIOUS leapt out at us immediately, because of the four letters from the 7 group, but then we saw that the corrected letters themselves spelled SPURIOUS.  So what? It is perfectly normal for the Junior 8X8 team to take the steep and thorny way. Of course, Bradford suggested SPURIOUS as another word for PHONEY – Nice!

We learned that INCUDES is the plural of INCUS and we were almost there EARLY ON FRIDAY EVENING! Oh yes, there was the usual red herring or two. We had to link those eight rather disparate five-letter words. First of all, they seemed to all appear in a genetic, biological or communications context when we simply fed them into Google. Too vague. They seemed to pair up VIEWS/POINT, TYPES/CASTS but VISOR/GENIC? We began to fiddle with numbers. When encoded, did they all add up to the same number? (Another idea for some demented setter?)  Fortunately our wise friend suggested attaching a common prefix – back to where I started!

Thank you Wasp! We loved this neat, polished little puzzle. If only the Listener would give newcomers more of this level of difficulty and tempt people to have a go at the holy of holies.

Posted in Solving Blogs | 4 Comments »

4052: Aedites’ Question (or What’s Brown and Sticky?)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 9 October 2009

Aedites is one of that rare breed, a setter who seems at home with both standard crosswords and numerical puzzles. In November last year he had Euclid’s Alogrithm (4010) with its vast array of clues, which totally defeated me and was one of my (many) failures last year. There was also Call Changes (3814) in 2005 which had, like this puzzle, a bell-ringing theme.
An interesting entry technique whereby all letters have been allocated to one of the groups C, D, E, F and G, and are entered using the letter to whose group it belongs. Luckily the clues were, at least to start with, fairly straightforward, and I had about a third of the entries completed in about twenty minutes, in which there were about a dozen clashes. It was fun watching the five groups develop, but somewhat deflating to see my initial solving rate slow to a crawl. JEZEBEL (BEZ back in JEEL) and VERSE (CONVERSE – CON) took longer than they should have done. It’s also interesting how my brain works in initially analyzing a clue: I read ‘Designed sixty walks planted with trees …’ and the idea of an anagram didn’t even cross my mind. I mean, the letters of SIXTY can only be arranged in one way surely. So XYSTI came very late in the day. I think QUICKTHORN, AMMO and FEISTY were the last answers to be slotted in, AMMO being particularly troublesome as I have only known it as an abbreviation for bullets, etc, rather than military stores in general.
So, finally the grid was complete, and the two blocks of changes were fairly easy to find in columns 3-7 and 9-13. Highlighting the lightest bell (G) in each permutation gave a couple of identical curved lines which looked to me like a pair of women’s breats rather than anything to do with bells! Even now, this requirement of the puzzle seems weak and superfluous, but that’s probably because I’m missing something.
On to the question that is answered by the left, centre and right columns of the grid. I thought this would be a relatively simple final step, but after half an hour that idea was discarded. I had TALL something WITH A something AND BELLS. Quite a few attempts later, and BUILDING and TOWER appeared, and gave a definition that wasn’t quite as obvious as I had hoped. Church, chapel and belfry didn’t seem exact enough. Perhaps it was like the old joke: What’s brown and sticky … a stick, and the answer was bell-tower. The previous bell-themed puzzle, Call Changes, had CAMPANILE as the word to be written under the grid. Surely this wouldn’t have the same word! But Chambers defines it as ‘a bell tower, esp a tall one’ (my emphasis), and that was good enough for me.
All in all, an entertaining puzzle from Aedites, probably at the easier end of the spectrum for him. I was just about OK with the final steps, although, as mentioned above, the highlighting seemed somewhat superfluous.

Checking of my Listener entries for this year has continued, albeit at a very slow pace. It is such a nerve-racking task that I can only check four or five at a time. So far I am up to 4043, with an all-correct run of 32 going back to December. I just hope that John Green has received all my entries; I hear stories about various sorting offices going on strike and fear the worst!

Posted in Solving Blogs | 3 Comments »

Question by Aedites (or when is a campanile not a tall building with a tower and bells?)

Posted by shirleycurran on 9 October 2009

The answer would seem to be (according to Chambers), when it is a tall bell tower detached from a church. I imagine this is going to be a very vexed question in three weeks’ time, since, if one hasn’t encountered George Crabbe’s, ‘What is a church?’ – Our honest sexton tells, ‘Tis a tall building, with a tower Champex Eeyore 044and bells.’, one could argue that a campanile is a building in its own right, with a portico, as well as its tower and bells. Hands up those who wrote ‘Campanile’ underneath this grid! The campaniles around us, here in Europe, are not merely towers!

This was only one of the problems besetting the junior easy-clues 8X8 team this week. We set off at a fine lick and had half the cold-solving done by noon on Saturday when disaster struck. It seemed fairly logical to assume that when letters met at intersections, we could allocate them to the same group. With our Scrabble alphabet in place, we were doing brilliantly. Then we encountered that easy clue, ‘Oblong coin masked by iroko banisters’ (5). Did Aedites put that in there deliberately to confound us? Every solver has heard of the OBANG and the OBANI hasn’t he? We ploughed on and letters began to fit into two different groups at the same time – so much so that we started to doubt our solving method.

Champex Eeyore 045Of course, our wise friend suggested that there might be a KOBAN – and we were on track again – for almost 24 more hours before we had cold-solved all but one clue! That was tough going for the team! We are beginning to loathe (with an e!) Spenser with his GRAPLE and TROW and host of other weird spellings. REAME was that elusive last word – why couldn’t he say realm? (And what’s the betting some tricky setter out there is compiling one entirely made up of Spenserian spellings?) Honestly, there are times when we are very nostalgic for the days when crossword solving meant working out ‘Stripey horse’ (5) Z???A

We were not clever enough to work backwards from the changes to the letters, but we did have an almost complete grid to give us our answer to the question. It was something with a ????? and bells. We slept on it and the other half of the team woke up muttering ‘Tall building with a tower and bells’. 

QuestionQuestion ChurchRinging the changes proved to be far easier than we had been expecting and two blocks of permutations appeared. It looks to us as though this is not just a concatenation, but also a sort of perpetual motion, as the last change leads back to the very first of the twenty. So here we go, ringing bells forever. Highlighting the lightest (G) bell seems to give us a couple of question marks – back to that vexed question.  Do we rely on what Crabbe’s sexton tells and write ‘CHURCH’, or do we go to Chambers (the primary reference) and find that a CAMPANILE best fits the definition, ‘Tall building with a tower and bells’? Well this is only a blog, so I can sit on the fence and put both! – and return to my Zebra crossword, with warm thanks to Aedites for entertaining us for almost the entire weekend and teaching us about bell ringing. We liked this one very much.

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Joint Wisdom by Rok

Posted by shirleycurran on 2 October 2009

An intriguing title; a work of art, co-creators and joint wisdom. Was the junior 8X8 easy clues coffee-break team up against Confucius, or Rembrandt or some sort of drug dream this week – Kubla Khan? After a late start, solving was speedy and we soon had a completed grid with no major doubts, but with our usual hesitation about the word play of a number of clues.

We are becoming used to the ‘corrected misprints’ providing the extra letters so this one almost led us into errors regarding the ‘additional confirmation of the theme’. However, we eventually sorted out OYFKDLPNI. One doesn’t have to gaze at that for very long to see PINK FLOYD emerge! With five ‘further words’ to be inserted after THE below the grid, it could only be THE DARK SIDE OF THE MOON.

Our 8X8 red herring? Of course we had one. Drawing three lines through the names of the co-creators wasn’t as easy as it should have been, since MASON and GILMOUR were obviously suggested on the third line up from the bottom but a very wiggly line came down from WRIGHT and it seemed to suggest ROSS going down from the apex to the right. Diana Ross did have something to do with Pink Floyd according to the Internet (did she really?) – but it ought to be WATERS or BARRETT – Aaah!

Then there was the vexed question of Indigo. The white light going into the iconic prism of the Dark Side of the Moon cover was clearly there in 18ac and that slightly unusual Pink Floyd version of the The Dark Side of the Moon cruciverballyoptical spectrum on the other side. Were Pink Floyd in the 90% of us who are supposed to be unable to perceive indigo? We remembered something about ‘Richard of York giving battle in vain’ and our friend remembered something about ‘virgins in bed …’ (clearly their spectrum was the other way up, but the rest is censored!) Well, obviously, Rok had to do it the way it was on the original, and so did we and while Mr Science muttered about the queer version of a prism that appeared on the back cover of the original record, I had the pleasure of getting the coloured pencils out again.

Yes, we had realized that tracks from the album were indicated by the extra letters in the wordplay and some of them were evident, but, with our usual backward logic, we had to go from the solutions to the clues to find ‘Speak to me’, ‘Time’, ‘Money’, ‘Us and Them’ and ‘Brain Damage’ (Was that brain damage the result of the joint wisdom or was the title more subtle than that?)

As usual we resorted to our able friend for help and learned that ERK (17ac One who tightens or adjusts propeller; an aircraftsman) was the aircraftsman who accompanied the SCREW of SCREWER, that ORE was an alternative spelling of O’ER in 15ac, that SRIS are Indian gentlemen in 5 down’s CHOWRIS (They are used to keep flies away from food and Indian gentlemen). What a fine clue! I wasn’t particularly fond of 22d (An ill-educated person; one travels round about North Arkansas). If we got it right, this was I GO with A for about and NAR for North Arkansas – rather laboured (Please Denis, tell us how we should have understood this!)

We are not Pink Floyd experts but we got there with less of a struggle than usual. I can imagine Message Board gurus in three weeks’ time telling us it was too easy, and questioning the work’s validity as ‘a work of art’. It was certainly a work of cruciverbalism. Thank you Rok.

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: | 3 Comments »