Listener 4203: Hedgehog’s Sad Hummer (or Me and My Big Mouth)
Posted by Dave Hennings on 7 September 2012
A couple of Oyler Puzzles back, I finished my LWO blog with the comment “knowing Oyler, the preamble will probably include the clues detail all the statements that apply to the associated entry, except each contains a misprint for one of the letters. Imagine my shock when I read in Hedgehog’s preamble that “each clue contains a misprint of a single letter”. This is his first Listener, although he has about a dozen Magpies under his belt. One of those, Dumber Muzzle in March 2011, also had the misprint device. In this case, the correct versions of the misprints in the 20 asterisked clues would spell out the title of a novel. (I assumed that ‘novel title’ didn’t mean an unusual one!)
I took the puzzle on the train with me for the morning commute into London. This was not a good idea as it made me feel even more sleepy than I already was at 6:45am. I decided a more focused attempt at home would be more condusive. Sadly, this was not the case, and it took me a significant time to spot the entry point into the solution.
This turned out to be 18ac I^(L^S) (5) (although for some reason the entry lengths were not given), which had to be 4^(2^3), 65536, since all other combinations of the numbers 2, 3 and 4 proved too big. This was followed by 14dn IIIT (2) and I soon had I=4, T=2 and S=3. The other early helping hand was given by 16dn DKSTZ (3) which had to be 720, 840 or 960. Things went pretty smoothly, although somewhat slowly, and I was pleased as entries were slotted into the grid without any anomalies appearing …
… until an anomaly appeared! I had about nine pages of scrawl, with the novel title appearing to start August is a q…. Despite trying to find my mistake on pages 8 and 9, I was forced to go back to the beginning and check all the logic.
The first problem I found was that I could not see why I had decided that the corrected form of 18ac was I^(T^S) rather than I^(L^T). It took me some time to resolve that two of the numbers in that clue had to appear in DKSTZ, and I^(T^S) was the correct version. Unfortunately, this just meant that my logic leap the first time through had been correct, and there was still a mistake to be found that gave me my anomaly. This turned out to be 24ac B^A which I thought had to be B^T. Goodness knows why I came to that conclusion, since the answer ended in 2, and no square ends thus. In fact it had to be T^B, with T=2 and B=9.
It was now the Tuesday before the deadline, and I was beginning to worry. The following day was another day in the big city, and I would only have time to do a final check of my solution before submitting it. The problem was that I was still a (large) handful of clues away from finishing the grid. In fact, it took the whole of that Tuesday evening and into the early hours of Wednesday morning to finally crack it, and reveal the novel as August is a Wicked Month by Edna O’Brien. At first, I thought the puzzle’s title might be a Spoonerism for Had Summer, but it seems to be a misprinted form of Bad Summer.
I posted my entry, not in a local Maidenhead postbox, but at Trafalgar Square post office. I hoped that being one of a few thousand letters deposited there during the day, as opposed to the dozen or so in my local box, would still enable it to find its way up the road to St Albans.
Thanks to Hedgehog for this interesting puzzle, and a hope that it hasn’t given Oyler any ideas for his next offering!