Listen With Others

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Listener 4256, Boxes: A Setter’s Blog by Radix

Posted by Listen With Others on 20 Sep 2013

I submitted Boxes to John Grimshaw on 18 May 2006. At the 2007 Listener dinner, Derek Arthur drew me to one side as I toyed with my pre-prandial drink and said that he liked the puzzle but unfortunately the solution was not unique — which rather spoiled my evening! A few days later, he rang up and apologized — he had inexplicably overlooked the fact that the three dimensions of each box were to have no factor other than 1 common to them all (he may have made the same mistake as quite a few of the 2013 solvers, having a = 10, b = 315, c = 270 in clue U, which is illegitimate, of course, as these three numbers share a common factor of 5) — and assured me over the phone that the puzzle had now been accepted. In spite of this good news, I heard no more until I emailed Roger Phillips on 18 May 2012, who kindly agreed to re-open the editorial process.

In the puzzle as originally submitted, the preamble pointed out that an integer cannot be written as the sum of two squares if its prime factorization contains a prime of the form 4m – 1 raised to an odd power. This piece of information was intended to assist solvers, but Roger decided that it was likely to do little other than put off the average not-so-mathematical solver. In its place, I added that solvers may like to notice that exactly one of each box’s three dimensions must be odd and also that the letters in the four central cells may be arranged to form WHAP (a different kind of box!).


One Response to “Listener 4256, Boxes: A Setter’s Blog by Radix”

  1. Phil Caine said

    Although not a setter my understanding is that the editors make a note of their solving time when testing submissions. I would be interested to know if, back then, Derek Arthur and John Grimshaw made a similar note, and if so how long it took them using a standard calculator only.

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