Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin

System Analysts by Stick Insect

Posted by shirleycurran on 21 Dec 2012

Voyagers 1 and 2 001A circular carte blanche – now that is a surprise! I love the circular ones and I rather like carte blanche puzzles as they often have easier clues than the ordinary sort with numbers. Clearly there has to be a ‘way in’ for the solvers if there are no numbers to help them slot the solutions in. However, the numpties almost abandoned on reading that complex preamble. What on earth did it mean? ‘Of the eight orientations for grid entries, half of them generate a thematic hint as follows: reading the clues in the order given by the numbers appearing clockwise in the outer ring from the dotted cell, take the Nth letter of each clue, where N is the number in the dotted cell. The hints identify which of these orientations is the correct grid arrangement.’

This was another preamble that reminded me of Asterix struggle with bureaucracy where he needed paper B to get paper A, but couldn’t have paper B if he didn’t have paper A. It sounded as though we needed to know what clue number was in the dotted cell, in order to work out which clue number went into the dotted cell. This is Listenerville isn’t it?

Ski season has just begun and there is powder up the hill and sunshine (but a temperature of minus ten!) Is this the moment to abandon? Well, no! “CABER, CIMAR, COMAL, OLLAV, GONYS” said one numpty. “VAULT, VOUGE, VOLAR, DOHYO” said the other, “and could that be RABIC?” (I hope it was, as I’ve mailed my entry but still can’t quite see how ‘Switch opening from language of disease (5)’ gives RABIC. The BRB tells me ‘switch’ can mean ‘prune’ so I hope I am allowed to ‘prune’ the A from ARABIC.)

With only sixteen clues and all of them in place after about thirty minutes of solving, things were looking up. What’s more, we could see how these words were going to fit together. Certain pairs of letters had to fit into the centre of the grid, the AV VO VA OV group, the OO, OC, CO OY group and so on. This was great fun and before very long we had all sixteen words neatly meshing to complete the grid.

planets 001‘Eight possible orientations’? I could see four, as there were four sets of four clues that had to move as a group. I must have been extraordinarily lucky to have put my clues in the grid in the direction that  gave 2, 9, 1, 14, 10, 12, 5, 4, 7, 11, 6, 16, 13, 8, 15, 3. It was long after completing the solve, finding those wonderful hints and understanding where the lines had to go that I suddenly understood that the entire set could have been entered in reverse. Would we ever have seen the hints?

It took us long enough, anyway to understand that we were using four of the possible orientations (we had only seen four!) but those seemed to suggest the 2nd, 10th, 7th and 13th letters of the clues reading round the grid in the (fortunately) clockwise order I had entered them in. (Well, actually my first message read ‘IONS TWO SPACE MISS’ so clearly there was some adjusting to do. My Voyager would have been one of the ones that exploded or disappeared!)., to our absolute astonishment, Stick Insect had managed to place not one, but four letters in each clue. (No wonder we had that rather clunky clue, ‘Is it Tufty in middle of road, with principles  of mummy’s crossing lessons thrown into confusion (5)’ giving COMAL.)

Voyagers 1

The remaining hints appeared, LEAVING FROM EARTH PASSING GAS GIANTS FLYING TO THE STARS, and although my grid was launching them from somewhere in the South Pacific rather than Cape Canaveral, I managed to work out that the letters in those cells were spelling out Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. Amazing, Stick Insect! Of course, Wikipedia produced exactly the diagram that Mr Green will be looking for. This really was a spectacular puzzle.

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