Listener 4222: 27 by Mango (or For Those of You Watching in Black & White)
Posted by Dave Hennings on 18 January 2013
The last puzzle of the year, and the Mango triumvirate present us with 27 and a grid that almost looks like an elongated chessboard. 27 appears a lot in the preamble, and I suspected that it may not always stand for the same thing. For example, “The clues (27 without definition)…” seemed highly unlikely to mean the number of clues without a definition (or so I thought), but was more than likely a reference to clue 27.
With carte blanche puzzles, I tend to start off in the top left corner and concentrate on that section for a bit, rather than spend a short time on each clue in sequence. Here, down clues had to lose a letter before solving, and, since I was flipping between the two at this stage, I was constantly having to remember whether I had to do anything with the clue. I was pleasantly surprised that I started off quickly with MELANOMA, AMUSEMENT, STAYS, MEAT, ALFALFA and ZANYISM in quick succession.
At this point, the dropped letters from the first four down clues read POTT. The next one had ‘thrust’ that could become ‘trust’ and I leapt to the possibility of snooker, with POT THE and a short time later with EMMEW and ALSO solved, it looked like being Pot the six colours. What a great start.
The “one thematic item not appearing at all” seemed likely to be R for the red ball, so Yellow, Green, Brown, Blue, Pink and Black presumably would in the form of Y, G, B and P. I also assumed that the White would appear as well.
Having started off well, I slowed down a lot. The top and bottom sections of the grid weren’t too long (that’s all relative, of course), but the middle half of the grid proved quite a slow process. Eventually though, after about six hours of solving in three sessions, I had a completed grid. I had, of course, forgotten about 27 not having a definition, and it was some time before “Nuits” with Elsie (9, two words) was revealed as WHITE LIES. So there was another white in addition to six that were elsewhere. The grid was incredible: not only were there no Rs, but the only occurrences of Y, B, G and P were in the positions that the snooker balls would occupy on their spots.
As usual with Mango, the clues were flawless, and I can imagine a few eyebrows being raised, or hearts skipping a beat, when the last across clue was solved!
And so the endgame. The dropped letters from the down clues read Pot the six colours in sequence. I initially assumed that each white would be used to pot a colour, but there were seven Ws in the grid. As well as there being simple straight pots like the Yellow, it was obviously necessary for some balls to go round the table off various cushions before finding the required pocket. However, I was perplexed by some balls needing to pass through other colours before finding their home, and that didn’t seem right.
One thing that must be remembered with every Listener, is that the wording of the preamble is chosen with much care to ensure that when the puzzle is complete, everything … everything… makes sense. I had been correct in my assumption that “27 with no definition” referred to clue 27 which led to WHITE LIES. But “…thereby achieving 27” was a little more sneaky, and referred to the score that is racked up by potting the six colours in turn. Yellow is 2 points, Green 3, Brown 4, Blue 5, Pink 6 and Black 7.
That was the easy bit. Next we had “The thematic items stick to the shaded cells throughout (before disappearing in appropriate cases)”. Obviously the colours would disappear, but why use the word “stick” rather that “follow”? It went on “…and at each juncture the 27 in different ones, in the first and last of which the thematic item must be circled”. So, the “white lies in different ones”. Shouldn’t that be “the whites lie in different ones” or “the white lies in a different one”? And how many “junctures” were there — 6 or 7? I was becoming very confused.
It would be difficult to describe all the mental torture that I went through, or at what point bottom spin (screwing) and top spin came to mind. It seemed that the Ws were to represent the various resting positions of the cue ball after each pot. For example, the W of TEWHIT would be used to pot the Yellow ball and screw back to the W in TWO TONE; that would then be used to pot the Green and would screw back to the W in EMMEW. Only time will tell whether I was eventually correct in my interpretation of “stick”, but I decided that all the whites would remain in (stick to) their squares in the grid, otherwise it would be difficult to circle the first and last. The colours would also stick to their cells but would disappear as they were potted.
In the end, I was happy with my interpretation of the preamble and my completed grid. I was also happy that Mango had lived up to my expectation of a tough, fair and beautifully-crafted puzzle, so many thanks to them for that.
Finally, for those of you who didn’t follow snooker back in the 60s and 70s, “Whispering” Ted Lowe (snooker’s own equivalent of John Arlott, Dan Maskell and Peter O’Sullivan) once uttered the immortal words: “For those of you watching in black and white, the pink ball is just behind the green”!