Listen With Others

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Listener 4215: Getting in Shape by Rood

Posted by Dave Hennings on 30 Nov 2012

This week, new setter Rood tantalises us with an interesting-looking grid … that caused me much grief when creating its entry in the Crossword Database. In the end, I described it thus: “A 15×15 carte blanche grid, but missing its top right and bottom left 5×5 blocks. There is also a hole of similar shape in the main NW-SE diagonal.” The puzzle already owed me!

One of the nice things that we were told was that the bars would form both 180° and mirror symmetry, so that ought to help. What’s more we wouldn’t be required to mark the bars in submitted solutions … they can be so fiddly, not to mention exasperating if got wrong. (Has anyone done that?) Finally. there would be two instructions to follow and, of course, a bit of highlighting.

Two types of clue were before us (misprints and missing letter in wordplay). Disentangling them might prove tricky, depending how sneaky the misprints were. Plus, I know that I find wordplay missing a letter much more tricky than misprints with an extra letter. I suppose more is better, as with most things in life.

I was encouraged after a few minutes, with 1dn STUPES, 10ac UGLY and 4dn VENDEUSE in the top left, and 42 PARSEE, 43ac SUES and 44ac ARCHED in the bottom right. This immediately enabled more than the usual number of bars to be entered, and I felt the puzzle was well underway.

Listener 4215Which it was … but fairly slowly. My fear of sneaky misprints was well founded. Take the simple 11ac Tar having jostled having come to lift (5) which was obviously STAIR with a misprint giving ‘home to lift’ or ‘core to lift’, although neither really worked. Of course, the answer was ASTIR defined by ‘having come to life‘. And then there was 1ac Liberation of sodium from salt lake with last pair of eggs in what was spawn (6). Well, there couldn’t be a misprint in there, surely. But there was – spawl is an old word for saliva, with SALINA – NA + [O]VA.

One final point needed clarification. 14ac Editor framing earl after second flush is let down (8). This was obviously ESTEEMED, with ‘s’ replacing ‘l’ to give ‘set down’ as the definition. However, I really couldn’t justify that from the definitions given under esteem; in fact, ‘set up‘ would be more appropriate. Well … if it doesn’t work one way, try the other. Looking up set down gives ‘esteem’ as one of its definitions.

And so, after a fairly long solving process (certainly 4 hours plus I think) I had the two messages. From the correct letters in the misprints, there was:

Letters one and eight in these clues.

And from the letters missing from the wordplay:

Copy shape centrally.

So another message had to be found, this time from positions 1 and 8 in the misprint clues:

Link points where the same letters meet NW to SE and join up eight corners.

I have to confess here that, for about half an hour, what was fairly obvious totally eluded me. I started by highlighting those squares where a letter would be mapped to the same letter if the grid were folded NW to SE. I don’t remember now what that gave me, but it was rubbish. But making me think in a NW-SE way, I eventually saw the four letter pairs around the central space: C, U, B and E.

Even the next step proved tricky as I tried to join up the opposite NW and SE corners of each of the pairs to make a little cubic shape. But that made the finally instruction about copying the shape centrally a bit odd. Were we just supposed to do a freehand drawing of a cube in the middle? That didn’t seem right, so it probably wasn’t.

At about this time, I realised that I had forgotten about the hidden nine-letter word. Although I’m normally fairly good about seeing in both directions when scanning diagonals, even that eluded me this time. Eventually, though, I found TESSERACT, which I ‘knew’ to be what a cube looks like when extended into the fourth dimension. “The tesseract is to a cube what the cube is to a square.” (Now, I’m not an expert in all this, so I don’t want an expert in all this sending me a dismissive email pointing out why I’m wrong!)
So back to the linking and joining of points and corners. And looking at the big picture with a tesseract in mind, I realised what needed to be done. Basically, what was needed to be done was to follow the instructions given in message 2. I joined the meeting points of each of the pairs of letters to form a square, and then joined the eight corners of the two ‘overlapping’ squares that formed the grid. What I ended up with was, of course, a cube. Voilà!

So I did have to draw a freehand cube in the centre of the grid? Of course not! The little blank area in the middle was the same shape as the grid for a reason, and I joined its corners together to form a nice little second cube.

Listener 4215 My EntryI was finished, wasn’t I? Well, not completely. A tesseract has, according to Wikipedia (to which thanks for the stunning little animation below) each of the eight corresponding corners of the two cubes linked. But we weren’t told to do this. Surely that was a flaw, and I was tempted to draw the lines in anyway. However, if in doubt, consult the BRB. There, the definition for tesseract is ‘a figure of a cube within a cube’. Whether that’s right or wrong, I didn’t really care … it explained everything.

Many thanks, Rood, for an excellent puzzle … good clues and a superb denouement.
Listener 4215 Tesseract

One Response to “Listener 4215: Getting in Shape by Rood”

  1. […] and 2012’s Listener series included their debut “Getting in Shape”, Listener 4215, about Tesseracts (or at least Chambers’ dodgy definition of a tesseract), which was also […]

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