## The X Factor by IOA

Posted by shirleycurran on 10 Jun 2011

Ah. The numerical one, again. Not a favourite, but in principle it is based on logic, has a solution, and only one solution. The title suggests a common factor, ‘X’, perhaps, but with 2 digit entries at 4d, 12a, 17a and 23d, maybe unlikely. An X somewhere?

The way in seems clear, with A,R and V being 1, 5 and 13 in some order, and V not too likely to be 1 seeing clue L. Clue W limits X to either 2 or 3 as X^5 <= 676, most likely 2 as we divide by it in clue J. Clue K limits H to 10-26, and, in turn, this means that OKKK is the 3-digit answer to clue R. As Clue K is one of 4, 12,17 or 23, we now have K=4. Clue U which depended only on U was next and led (after much calculation) to U=7 or 9 only being acceptable in the grid…

It was possible to get about 10 letters before a real point of indecision was reached: what was S? A wrong calculation first prompted S=15 and B=8 and then after correction, a wrong choice led to a final contradiction evaluating clue G.

Here the fact that we were on a painting trip to Ibiza and lacked scrap paper caused a slight incident as I was writing all over our check-ins for the return flight- fortunately on the reverse sides.

(The other non-mathematical numpty here – I was in a greater panic over the missing return tickets than over the moans and groans being generated by the blind numerical avenues – it took a sift through a heap of scribbled calculations to find them – that’s what it’s like being married to a physicist!)

Our host then showed us how to use the Open Office spread-sheet (Excel-like, but free) to evaluate all the clues, based on what was known of A-Z at any time. This avoided much error-prone calculator and scribble working – just as well, as the digit 7 on our calculator was now responding very erratically or not at all – the island’s very hot climate was taking effect.

Progress speeded up dramatically and the grid was soon filled satisfactorily. Now, what was the coded message? The only reasonable partition of the top line and the first digit of line 2 being SHADE was very encouraging. although the final instruction (SHADE EVENS BUT RUB OUT ALL OF ODDS – ERGO X) removed most of the hard-won digits! At least this one will be easy for Mr Green to correct.

We posted our grid as early as possible, assuming a slowish post. Just as well, as a day later we were blocked from returning to our host’s home for 3 days as forest fires burnt over the north part of the island.

Numericals will be associated for some time now with the roar of the Canadair fire-fighting seaplanes flying just over the hotel where we were kindly received during the worst of the fire.

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