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Listener 4195: Hotspur’s Sum

Posted by Dave Hennings on 13 July 2012

Hotspur’s third Listener, the first two both appearing in 2009. The first dealt with Pirandello’s play Six Characters in Search of an Author, while the other was about Transnistria and the river Dniester. Two very different themes, so I wondered what Sum will bring us, It sounded mathematical, but this is the wrong week.

Correct letters of misprints in clues would give a quotation in The Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Quotations or, as I prefer to call it, Google! Ten answers required jumbling before entry and a two-word phrase would appear. After that, the preamble talked about concepts and imitations and processes and ambiguities … far too much to take in at one go, but enough to make me worry about how I would get on when the grid was complete. There was no point in concerning myself with it too much at this stage, and anyway it paled into insignificance in comparison with the stress that selling a house brings on!

It’s always nice to get one of the acrosses in the top row, and this week I got both. 1ac Lord introduced by Highland priests in aged fane almost shouted out fine as the corrected word, and AMENDE sprang to mind. It did take a minute or so to be sure of the wordplay: D (for Dominus, Lord) preceded by MEN (Highland priests) all in AE (aged). 5ac Primitive individual, half-dozy, grassed earth gave ZYGOTE with some nice letters to begin the downs. With such a start, I was tempted to forget about my pass through the acrosses and move on to the downs straight away, but this was against my routine. Luckily for me, routines can be abandoned, and that is what I did.

This proved to be a fairly good move, and after just over an hour, I had a large part of the top of the diagram complete. I was pleased that the surface readings of most of the clues were enjoyable. Even a simple one like 12ac Chopper gets close to oil leak for AXEL (with a misprinted leap) raised a smile.

I had identified HUSSARS at 18ac and RICIN at 17dn as being jumbles (although the misprint of bane for bone in the latter took ages to suss). It was also pleasing to have got the two long entries across the middle of the diagram, although, in hindisght, I was disappointed that the theme didn’t spring to mind as I entered 25ac CARICATURING. A few minutes after that, I did twig it as I wrote MACHINE in at 30ac. I had heard only a couple of days before that it was the centenary of Alan Turing’s birth, in fact on the date of this puzzle’s publication.

Listener 4195Chambers has two relevant entries: Turing machine and Turing test. I was familiar with the second, which is that (and excuse my layman’s terminology) a computer is considered intelligent if a human cannot distinguish between the responses of the computer to some form of input and the responses of another human. A Turing machine, on the other hand, is a hypothetical computer capable of performing an infinite number of calulations.

I looked forward to quickly finishing the bottom half of the diagram and getting on with the endgame. Unfortunately, said bottom half of the diagram proved to be far from quick. This was where most of the misprints lay, and in the bottom left corner in particular.

I don’t think a three-letter entry has caused me as much grief for a long time as 34ac Starts to scan opening times for protection in shops. It seemed that the corrected misprint would be shoes, but SOT? It looked like it would be a jumble, to be entered as OS•, but sot had nothing to do with shoes. It was only as I read Bradford’s under shoe that I came across ‘sock’ and that was somehow enough to get SOX, with X = ‘times’.

Having got all the answers, I had the wrong number of jumbles, so I needed to create a neat version of my diagram in Sympathy in order to determine that REGIMES at 31ac wasn’t one of the jumbles after all. I must say that I didn’t like the definition for that entry as Clinton and Bush led them, as I thought it a bit too vague, but that was the only clue I didn’t like. Most, as I have said, I enjoyed.

And so, the endgame. The title seemed to indicate that some mathematical operation was required, so I wrote the numbers for each of the squares in rows 9 – 12 below the grid. Row 9 was:

18 5 7 9 13 5 | 19 8 15 18 1 10

I experimented with addition using columns 1 / 7, 2 / 8, etc, but that was fruitless. I then tried subtraction … although, don’t ask me why! (Of course, what was required was to add the right hand side of one row to the left hand side of the next.) I wrote ACHIQE to the right of my figures. Undeterred by the mistake (1 – 13 becomes 27 – 13 = 14 = N, not Q!), I pressed on, and when SHORAJ appeared, followed by HAMUTE and then LIBRAN and ENIGMA, I was home and dry, with COGITO being written in the remaining squares of row 13. In all, only about half an hour on the endgame, and I felt I had got away lightly. “Cogito Ergo Sum.”

So, thanks to Hotspur for a very enjoyable puzzle, and a fine tribute to one of Britain’s heroes. How Turing and his fellow codebreakers at Bletchley Park did what they did would be unbelievable were it not true. We owe them everything.


2 Responses to “Listener 4195: Hotspur’s Sum”

  1. erwinch said

    You have made this assumption before Dave but Hotspur is in fact another of the now dwindling band of current setters to have had puzzles published in the magazine and this was indeed his seventh Listener since 2555 in 1980.

    One possible take on the misprint in the grid is that it was originally considered for a thematic twist – COGITO + 100 = COGJTO.  Also I and J are equal in Playfair code.  However, this would have required some tricky explanation in the preamble and was perhaps too enigmatic.  Unfortunately someone forgot to tell the typesetter that it was to be dropped – or am I being too fanciful?

  2. Thanks, Erwinch. At the back of my mind I thought that Hotspur had had more than three puzzles, but I forgot to check the Listener Crossword site this time.

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