Listen With Others

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Cleopatra’s Needled by Ruslan

Posted by shirleycurran on 8 March 2013

Yippee! This is a Friday evening blog. Ruslan, wherever you are, thank you! The preamble was just one centimetre shorter than the grid, at least in the version downloaded from the Times Listener site and it gave most interesting reading. I am still not sure what Cleopatra had to do with the puzzle (I just have a rather large question mark concerning that). However, the rest of it made some sense to a very poor numerical puzzle solver.

19ac was strongly hinted at by the compiler who, in effect, said, “Start here!” so we did.

After a few pages of scribbling (yes, it is all done with pencil, paper and old school calculator in this house – no spread sheets) the other numpty came up with his first answer to clue 19 (999) and his second one (1017), both producing entry 1026. The sum of the two clue answers (2016) is a permutation of this as well as divisible by 9 and 7.

Two other answers were produced independently (33 at 8 ac leading to a grid entry of 33 + 6 = 39) and 9ac (8 leading to a grid entry of 16 – 6 + 2 = 8 added to itself = 16).

4 001The enjoyable aspect of the puzzle was that the more answers we found, the easier it became – though I suppose that is true of any Listener puzzle. Answers were slotted in and within two hours we had a full grid with a suspicious number of 2s.

The penny drop moment was instantaneous. “The look like a large Query 002number 4!” We hardly needed to add together all the digits in the crossword to confirm that they would make what that column and row had in common (that surprising figure 4,444,444).

We converted all those 2s to 4s and, sure enough, we had six left over that looked suspiciously like the head-scratching query that we numpties face with almost every Listener crossword.

Would Cleopatra have asked Antony or Caesar when needled by a clue or is there a further subtlety here that we haven’t grasped? I hope someone will explain the title to us as the Internet produces only sales talk about Cleopatra jigsaws. (Since I wrote that, somebody has told me what she would do – she would ‘Question Mark’ wouldn’t she? Well, it sounds perfectly sexist, that the flummoxed wee lassie would ask for help from the big wise Roman. But seriously, wasn’t Cleopatra light years ahead of Mark Antony in intellect with her knowledge of languages, her general culture and her political nous – even if it meant presenting herself to useful and powerful foreign dignitaries naked and rolled up in a carpet?)

Our verdict was that this was a lovely numerical puzzle with a real endgame and one that could be solved with just pencil and paper. We did wonder where Ruslan started. What a pity we can’t ask him for a setters blog. He earns our warm thanks anyway.


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