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Sum by Hotspur (ergo SUM!)

Posted by shirleycurran on 13 July 2012

I read the preamble and said “Turing!” Well, you would have to be more than a numpty (if that is possible) to be unaware that there is a Turing anniversary at the moment. I won’t be mentioning a current puzzle will I if I say that we numpties have already struggled mightily with the endgame of another Turing puzzle in the Magpie this month? (Time for a Magpie plug again, six Listener style puzzles delivered to your computer once a month for a very modest fee.

So we had guessed the theme by 16.05 on Friday and I am writing my account of our solve on Sunday afternoon. What happened? Phi wrote a substantial essay to the Crossword magazine (time for a plug?  that included the information that he thinks twice as long spent on the endgame as on filling the grid is far too long. I wonder what he would say about my couple of hours filling the grid and about 24 puzzling about how to set the Turing machine in motion. Well, he would probably just comment that I must be fairly slow on the uptake – and the comment would be fair enough.

This endgame, for me at least, put this puzzle among the truly difficult ones (almost one of those fearsome numericals) at about 8 on the 1 to 10 scale.

The northern half of our grid and the south-east quarter filled with relative ease with those lovely generous 12-letter words across the centre. ‘At a climax, crushed the cry within — just like the old firm! (ARCHETYPICAL: APICAL around THE CRY* giving an O misprint in fOrm) and ‘Air cut loose in concert, giving distorted effect’ (CARICATURING: AIR CUT* in CARING – giving us a ‘concerN misprint).

The quotation leapt out at us and we didn’t need the ‘Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Quotations’, “I propose to consider the question, ‘Can machines think?” the focus of Alan Turing’s work. The recent Magpie puzzle led the scientific numpty to take a text about Turing down from the shelf and to reread it for bedtime fun (!) It happened, perhaps ironically, to be here on the table. Ironically? Well, Turing’s answer would be ‘Not yet’ and that was what we were expecting if we could ever unravel that infernal code that seemed to be appearing in the south-west corner of our grid.

We were not too sure about 1d (and I am still not too sure!) ‘Cousin of bonny woman wanting male — hot! (4)’ Hotspur, unlike the typical Listener setter, didn’t give us much of a sprinkling of alcohol but we had a couple of libidinous clues with ‘Woopies see hint of levity in Grables sHanks?’ (L in GAMS) and this hot lady hunting for a man. We decided the E misprint had to be on the end of ‘bonny’ so that this ‘bonne’ was an AMAH (MAMA less M(ale)) + H(ot)) but the ‘cousin of’ is still puzzling me. Chambers tells me that ‘cousin’ can be ‘something kindred or related to another’ so I imagine that must be the explanation.

Oh dear the south-west corner! The problem there was, of course, that even if we had sorted out the misprints and got a likely solution, we still had eight of our ten jumbles to find and, without a full grid, we were stymmied for sussing out which were the ambiguities.  HUSSARS clearly had to be jumbled, but I was playing with MATURING at 20d (‘Still developing cold in cooler area temperature stops’) It wasn’t quite right and led me into more than ten jumbles. Of course, I needed IMMATURE (Hold in cooler = IMMURE keeping A(rea) and T(emperature)) to place SUSASRH and REGIMES correctly.

Then the frustration. Clearly some sort of alphanumeric calculation was going to lead from REGIME to SHORAJ and I quickly produced a set of numbers that were the numerical difference between those two sets of six letters. 1,3,8,9,14,5. …and fiddled … and gazed … and fumed (no point detailing my 24 hours of frustration as I am sure they were shared by lots of others) until the other numpty, about an hour ago, said ‘Got it! It is so obvious’. He had simply reconverted that to ACHINE (the row above) and, of course, pointed out to me that subtracting the second six from the first was not the method. Simply add the previous output to the following input, so that ACHINE + REGIME = SHORAJ (thus SUM). Simples!

By now a message had gone the rounds. The input on the bottom row should be XAXBGN. Add that to ENIGMA and you get COGITO (ergo the title SUM! – what a clever play on words.)

What a dazzling piece of compilation. I do hope Hotspur will honour us with a setter’s blog. I shudder to think how long it must have taken to find the words that (even jumbled) would create a symmetrical grid and a working system with a repeated process where the results from one iteration provided the input for the next.


One Response to “Sum by Hotspur (ergo SUM!)”

  1. Phi said

    Well, there you go. I filled this one reasonably quickly, gazed at it for a couple of minutes, checked the preamble (where I found a useful turn of phrase acted as a clue), wondered about the split in the bottom row, and got the modus operandi first guess. But it does bear out my additional comment that it is fiendishly difficult to judge how these endgames will work out, and I was only ever suggesting my criterion for a pleasurable solve. But one can extend the concept by suggesting that if a lot of people are taking twice as long over the endgame than the gridfill, then you probably haven’t given enough information (even if some people are relishing the tussle).

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