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Archive for September, 2010

Something Brewing by Poat

Posted by shirleycurran on 24 September 2010

The title sounded very promising. Here we were again in alcohol country – the Listener compilers rarely let us down! However, several hours into Poat’s brew and we were not a lot further on than the title. These puzzles seem to be becoming harder week by week (or is it the effect of age and the alcohol?)

The combination of six across entries that were thematic and clued without a definition, and columns each with a ‘letter removed wherever it occurs’ was challenging to say the least – even though we quickly understood that we were dealing with some kind of missive, when MASSAGE changed its A to E and gave us MESSAGE as our first solution (Manipulation when first of examinees replaces answer) Soon after that we saw Poat beheaded in ‘You’ll see me beheaded after conclusion of trial’ (S)ETTER after L.

The numpties found the clues impressive in their variety as we slowly worked our way through them. Three musical references (OBOES, LEHAR and ROSSINI), a couple of modern thinkers (LYSENKO and Dawkins – the one who ATHEISEs) an obscure animal (TAMANDUA) and the threatened MINKE WHALE, a bit of DIY (EARTHS), some modern slang (GREBO and TWOccER) and just a dose of Latin (ARBOR VITAE).

We were about a third of the way up the Matterhorn and I had only my Bradford (Yes, I can’t even climb without it these days!) so solving was really tough and the phrase that was emerging from the removed letters was not proving very helpful. We seemed to be ‘Baking’ something or ‘Laving’. It wasn’t until I was back at ground level that the BABINGTON PLOT appeared and all the extra words made some sort of sense; (MESSAGE, LETTER, EPISTLE, NOTE, MISSIVE, DISPATCH) and the gaps in my grid were filled.

I still don’t understand the wordplay for ‘AT A LOOSE END’ and I had put my entry into a bunghole and sent it to Mr Green before I learned that a CENOTE is a ‘deep natural hole in the ground with a pool at the bottom of it, especially in the Yucatan Peninsula’ (life will never be the same now that I know that!)

Although we knew of the evil betrayal of Mary Queen of Scots, the cipher still had to be worked out – Yes, ‘bunghole’ was a possibility, but so was ‘casket’, or even Walsingham, and I had conveniently recorded my letter equivalency the wrong way up, so the last stage of solving was not as speedy as it should have been but, to our astonishment, we got there. I am amazed at the ingenuity and ability of those Stuart and Tudor women (Mary and her step-sister Elizabeth) and even more at the genius of Walsingham the spy-master. I imagine he would have been among that elite band of Listener ‘all corrects’ had he been alive today.

Poat’s ingenuity amazed me too! After my missive had sneaked into the bunghole, a friend pointed out the astonishing fact that QUEEN MARY appears jumbled on the bottom line of the crossword and SCOTS on the top line. Thank you Poat!

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Listener 4102: Something’s Brewing by Poat (or Is That Why the Pope Came to Visit?)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 24 September 2010

Poat’s last Listener was 4048, Rules of Construction which came close to tripping me up, and before that came 3983, Reappearance … which did! Consequently I didn’t really know what to expect here, but was reasonably sure that the puzzle would be pretty tough. One entry in each column was of the Letters Latent type, and six across clues didn’t have a definition and needed to be encoded before entry. At least it wasn’t a Playfair encoding, which I sometimes find to be a bit of a struggle. Also, there was no mention of what to do with the dropped letters in the down entries, but I was sure they’d turn out to mean something.

Listener 4102The men-only gathering at 1ac should have been either STAG NIGHT or STAG WEEKEND, but neither seemed to work. However, an early visit to Chambers gave STAG PARTY (I’m sure I’ve never been to one of those!), leading to STAGY as the entry. 10ac looked like it might be one lacking a definition with ‘Manipulation’ losing an A and gaining an E. I was just about to move on to 11ac when ‘massage’ popped into my head and MESSAGE was the answer. The car thief at 12ac was ‘twoccer’ (I came across that for the first time relatively recently) leading to TWOER when CC is removed. A good start on the acrosses … but then that was it, apart from ‘widow-maker’ LEHAR at 35ac. The downs were slightly more forgiving: 2dn THAWY (but LL), 4dn GREBO, 5dn GOLFERS (I’d have been ashamed if I hadn’t got that), 28dn OBOES, and EARTHS at 31dn.

Two other undefined theme entries were next to be solved: 13ac LETTER (‘setter’ with the initial S changed to L), and 25ac EPISTLE with a jumble of SPILT (not TEARS) in the middle of EE. So it looked as though the themed entries were types of correspondence, and because of the coding scheme, it meant that, for example, R for S in 12ac could be used in 25ac EPISTLE as well (and eventually in MISSIVE and DISPATCH), a sort of free gift.

The rest of the puzzle provided a few problem clues: 5ac had nothing to do with vegetable gardens, but just gardens, with (MAY)ORS around CHARD; ‘do as Dawkins’ really was ATHEISE; 8dn was DUMFOUNDS, not DUMBFOUNDS which I tentatively had to start with (entered as DMBFONDS); and ILL SEEN wasn’t to be found under ‘ill’, but under ‘see … and not under ‘ill seen’, but as an aside to ‘well seen’ under W!! I suppose that can be forgiven by 22ac Tell scorer to cover cross in international? The reverse for ROSSINI!

The keyword gradually got worked out to be BUNGHOLE, which rang a few bells, but not loudly enough to get the final component provided by the dropped letters latent. These initially spelt out ABGOOTNNLBIPT, but, remembering the preamble and its one letter per column, it didn’t take long to put the letters underneath. Voilà … BABINGTON PLOT, the attempt by the Catholics to overthrow Elizabeth I during which the correspondence between the plotters was put in the bunghole of beer kegs by a local brewer … hence the puzzle’s title.

Someone recently commented on the Crossword Centre Mesage Board that one of the reasons he doesn’t make ‘silly’ errors with his submissions is that he can spend up to an hour checking (and rechecking) his final grid. Luckily I’ve started spending more time on this, probably 30 minutes or so, and on this occasion I found that I’d coded the third letter of 39ac the wrong way, and had GATMBSNE instead of GARMBSNE. A lucky escape!

So, another good puzzle from Poat, with only a self-inflicted trip-up nearly catching me out this time (as far as I know).

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Listener 4101, Primordial: A Setter’s Blog by Viking

Posted by Listen With Others on 18 September 2010

Mathematical puzzles appear four times per year and the series editors like to offer a variety of style and difficulty in any one year, to help retain the attention of solvers who do not attempt word-based puzzles. It turned out that the puzzles currently available failed to achieve either objective and so I reluctantly decided to try to construct one myself.

I started with the idea of prime numbers since they are fascinating for many. I soon thought that a grid consisting only of primes might work. There would need to be a reasonable number of two-digit ones, and it might be ill-advised to exceed three digits. I constructed a grid and filled it. Then I noticed that few of the cells contained even digits, so I wondered if I could banish them altogether. I made the number of two-digit cells equal the number of such primes and started to play around with the three-digit slots, with particular attention to the centre, aiming for palindromes to help fix the two-digit entries. It was only much later that I realised I could perhaps use all three-digit primes of this form. This was duly achieved.

I now considered how to clue the puzzle. The traditional way would be to use cross-references, eg, 28ac = 5 x 23dn + 2, but this looked unpromising because of the very nature of prime numbers: there could be no factors to use. Also, I reminded myself that the puzzle was meant to be of a different style. I was starting to realise that the nature of thr grid fill had opened up the whole puzzle to attack by treating it as a jigsaw of primes. This was unfortunate but I reasoned that the intention was to have a puzzle that was on the easy side and that it was up to solvers to decide for themselves whether they wished to flex their arithmetic muscles. So, I set about providing clues that would allow a reasonably easy computational solution. I was gratified to hear that some solvers deliberately chose that route. Another factor influencing this was that the puzzle would appear at Bank Holiday time and some solvers might be abroad with no access to lists of primes or even a calculator.

Test-solving of the first version proved that it could be completed by arithmetic (and some easily constructed sub-lists) but that some of the test-divisions needed a calculator. The final two lists were added to temper such divisions and I believe nothing worse than division by 11 is needed until very near the end.

See for a full explanation.

Viking (Derek Arthur)

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Primordial by Viking, Enjoyable numbers!

Posted by shirleycurran on 17 September 2010

Anticipating this one ruined my week. (Yes, I can hear you, “Get a life!”) It is frightening how addictive this Listener habit has become, though I am capable of kicking the habit with the three-monthly numericals.

Surprisingly, Viking’s ‘Primordial’ looked relatively approachable. We didn’t even need the Internet to identify all the ‘distinct prime numbers with all their digits odd’. The university Handbook of Mathematical Tables and Formulas (Burlington) came out and we soon had our list.

From that point on, there was work to be done identifying the two and three-digit twin primes, the palindromic triples, the  two and three-digit mirror-image pairs and the double-digit primes (and, of course, very tellingly, the numbers that figured in none of those lists).

We attempted our grid fill and found ourselves going round in circles. There had to be a unique solution that would give us our starting point, but we seemed to come up against ever-increasing possibilities or dead ends. After several false starts, Mr Grumpy went to bed with “Tomorrow will be soon enough!”

We had recognised two useful pieces of information. Only ten two-digit answers were clued but there were twelve spaces and two primes, 59 and 53, that were not in our list and had to go into the unclued lights at 32ac and 20dn. The primes 191 and 313 also fixed themselves in either 8dn or 24ac, since they were the only two that occurred in lists of both ‘three-digit twin primes and three-digit palindromic primes’. ” That gives four different possible combinations”, announced Mr Math before retiring.

I must have attempted the other three before suddenly hitting lucky. Opting for 59 in 32ac and working from there, via the three-digit mirror image pairs, (rather a trial and error system – there must have been an easier way!) I suddenly hit on a fit up at 6ac and 6dn, where the mirror images went and managed to move across to 8dn where we had a putative 191 – that was confirmed!

From this point on, it was magic – just like the massive jigsaw puzzle that sits on the table at Christmas with the picture becoming clearer as the pieces slotted in. I believe those pairs (71/73 at 15ac 41dn, for example) confirm some sort of Heisenberg certainty principle, where you slot one in and the other miraculously wings its way to the other side of the puzzle. They were certainly very welcome confirmation that I was on the right track.

The mathematical half of the team (happily dreaming by this time) had said, “It is important to keep track of what you are doing”. The highlighted list was invaluable at this point, as, when all the clued answers had gone in, there were little gaps and several primes that were in no clue at all. This was where my admiration for Viking developed. Of course, the extra numbers filled the remaining lights. How did he work out that it was possible to fit ALL the odd digit primes into one 9 X 9 symmetrical grid?

I can imagine that the Magpie E solvers are harumphing and muttering ‘Too easy’ but the verdict of a number numpty is that this was tremendous fun and a superb way to convince those of us who go into hibernation once every three months, that the numericals are possible.

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Listener 4100: Kea’s Table-turning (or Cut and Paste)

Posted by Dave Hennings on 17 September 2010

I guess we all remember Kea’s puzzle from last year about George Washington cutting down his father’s apple tree. Quite rightly, that won the Ascot Gold Cup for 2009. It must be hard to live up to such a wonderful puzzle, but I was sure Kea wouldn’t disappoint. So …

First of all, I spied a little hint in the form of the extra bars on the top and bottom edges of the grid. I won’t say they were a giveaway as to what was likely to be happening later on, but they were obviously going to be relevant. Secondly, the seemingly random order of the clues meant that there was likely to be a lot of scanning to try and find a particular clue that needed solving. I decided to snip all the clues into individual pieces and glue them to another piece of paper in the correct order. Much more efficient and one up on Kea for me. Excellent … off to a flying start.

A pity that two thirds of the answers needed jumbling on entry, but hopefully the entries which didn’t need an extra letter added or taken away would be fairly easy. Yeah, right! At this point, I reread the preamble and noticed the extra hint that no two adjacent clues were of the same type. That would obviously be important or at least useful, so I decided to cut up all the clues again, and glue them to another piece of paper in their original order.

Two hours into the puzzle and I hadn’t even looked at a clue. What’s more, I was due to go on holiday for some golf in Portugal the following day, so mild panic started setting in. As I looked at 16ac (the first clue) I realised that having the wordplay refer to the grid entry with the possible jumbling and extra/missing letters would probably make the clues more difficult to solve rather than easier. I raelised that reiliance on the definition jumping off the page would be the only way to solve them. Back to my hope that the normal clues would be easier than normal.

My first answer was 4dn, which was probably WEIMAR, with 1AM in WR. Well that could be IWRAM or IAWRM, with amissing E. Next came TROWS at 1dn, 27ac STROMB and IDOLS at 15dn, two out of three normal clues. 19dn TICKS or TOCKS probably, but the wordplay escaped me, and 27dn UTEOA. That was it for the first pass, and I decided that I would concentrate on the top left of the diagram, since that had a three definite entries.

1ac was probably (I think that word is going to crop up a lot in this blog!) TGOEMI or TIGEMI, but I wan’t sure which. It was only later that I got the significance of It’s game. 17ac WHEY, 3dn KEY and 14ac OZEKI, which I’d come across somewhere else fairly recently … strange how often that happens with a new word. I felt everything was going well. Luckily I had done most of my packing for the golf trip, so I began to relax a bit. Not a good idea, as the answers came fairly slowly. Getting 27dn wrong didn’t help, but solving 31ac UTU fixed that.

Clues like 12ac What industry produces train? took an age to unravel (train referring to a type of whale oil), and 36ac ON THE DOLE was also tricky for me. Eventually, the grid was complete, and the instruction was revealed as CUT IN THREE ALONG GRID LINES; CONNECT AS NEW OBLONG. Now where the hell are my scissors?!
I found WORDSWORTH and MIS-SHAPES pretty easily, and started snipping … and snipping … and snipping. Consequently, I ended up with more than three pieces:

A quick look through the index of my ODQ under Misshapes, Beauteous, Forms and Things revealed nothing, so I scanned the entries under Wordsworth:
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:—
We murder to dissect.

This enabled the perimeter of the grid to be set in place and, after a bit of fiddling around with the remaining pieces, the finished grid was in front of me.
My final thought about my submission was how I should construct it. Would I get marked down half a point if I just keyed the final solution into Sympathy and printed that out. I decided on a different approach, and completed my diagram as printed in the paper and then cut it into the three pieces and stuck them back in the new shape. I must say that I was rather pleased with the result:

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