# Archive for September, 2013

Posted by shirleycurran on 13 September 2013

The quarterly numerical puzzles cause havoc in the Numpty household as one Numpty is a double Numpty where Listener numerical crosswords are concerned, and the other one has all the solving to do. There is the occasional exception when the crossword might – just might – be considered to be within the range of a reasonably competent ordinary-level mathematician (as Listener wallahs claim they always are, ha ha!) However, that was certainly not the case with Radix’s Boxes. The first puzzle was attempting to understand the preamble. I got well out of range for a full day then dared to ask for a solver’s blog.  Here’s what the math Numpty said.

“I can only admire this remarkable construction, having finished the puzzle. However, … that little word … did anyone really solve this who could not write programmes to do it, or who is not a far greater expert at Excel than I am? I cannot believe it (but if somebody did, or found a magic method, I applaud with vigour!) I must also applaud the astonishing ingenuity that has gone into such a complex construction. At first, I struggled with what seemed to me to be impossibly vast sets of a,b,c values.

Use of base 24 gives the letters that then provide that subtly ‘hidden instruction’ but were difficult for the ordinary Joe to handle. Even programs proved to be very demanding when both strings and numbers needed to be manipulated. Our household calculators were not capable of the precision required (32 bit integers etc.) and I needed to download a freeware programming support system (Thin Air Basic) and re-learn it. The puzzle crumbled quite fast thereafter, with K and M, for example, offering a unique a,b,c, and E, V and L offering 4, 6 and 7 solutions. Sufficient to start a jigsaw fill with not too many ‘alternative pieces’.

How was I going to find that word that was to be written below the grid? We were told that ‘The 24 integers c (the heights) should finally lead solvers to the thematic word that must be written below the grid, thereby serving to resolve any apparent ambiguity. We should have read this more carefully from the start (isn’t that always the case with preambles?). We know Radix will never waste a word. ‘Finally‘! Finally, we read those final letters and what did we find? TOTAL HEIGHT IN BASE TWO FOUR. We had two ‘ambiguities’ A/M and B/Q. This meant that there were four calculations of the total height (by adding all the heights together) and when I reconverted those figures to base 24 and letters, two possible words of the four appeared. I had CAME and CASE. Boxes? Clearly, I had to opt for CASE:

Indeed, there is no doubt that this was a truly brilliant compilation and I have to applaud Radix  even if this led to even more Numpty head-scratching, cursing and program mistakes than usual. There were none of the habitual Listener tipples in this one (well, perhaps there were, was Radix producing not one but a whole CASE full of bottles?) On the stregth of that suspicion, we decided to have one anyway to toast a compiler who can produce challenging and flawless verbal crosswords and numerical ones too.

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## Round Robbin’ on the Crossword Centre message board.

Posted by shirleycurran on 10 September 2013

Nothing needs to be highlighted!

The Numpties sent off  their entry to the August puzzle yesterday (in July!) That belies the fact that it caused us more than the usual amount of Numpty head-scratching. Had it not been that we were part of this creation, we might well have abandoned in despair as, after about twenty-four hours of clue-gazing, we had only my putrid little clue in place (Occasionally recondite unknown book of manuscripts – Well, you try cluing CDEX!) and one other, SENNET (Enter Amiens in error – Marie exits to the sound of trumpets – ENTER AMIENS less MARIE*) Would a purist say that that one also needed an anagram indicator to tell us that the letters of MARIE had to be individually extracted and out of order?

Of course, I was one of the privileged ones whose clue (if I could remember which it was, and, at first, of course, I couldn’t) gave me a hint as to what was going on – that missing O – and the title gave another. We guessed very early on that we were ‘Robbin’ rounds’ from words either in just the wordplay or in the entry as well, with a number of normal down clues.

Fortunately, the other Numpty appeared at breakfast saying ‘WHIPPOORWILL’. I know he has strange dreams but decided that this time, he had decidedly flipped until he explained that he had finally seen the way into the crossword. (W(ith) HIP + PR + WILL and two Os missing).

SECOND GROWTH followed quickly (We had to cut A twice from GARDENS WATCH* – and this time, the As were indicated as ‘separate’ – then again, add a couple of Os to the anagrammed word). The grid began to fill.

Why am I writing a blog? I usually stick to just Listener blogs. Well, in truth, this crossword grew on us as we solved the handiwork of one brilliant setter after another. That list of names (with the odd Numpty blotting it) was an illustrious gathering of stars and clue after clue earned delighted guffaws or astonished intakes of breath.

I marked my favourites as I went along. EEYORE was an obvious candidate, though that must have been set by some modern Yoof as we oldies know very well that our old friend was a rather moth-eaten grey donkey and would certainly be gloomy about being labelled a ‘Blue ass’ in Disney style.

That one is sure to earn its fair share of votes, as is JESUS WEPT, and I can imagine MASS NOUN earning a few too. (That fearsome thing that editors prompt me about when I have a single word like VRILS or HAPPINESSES that is the only one that will fit a light). The trouble is that almost every clue proved to be masterly, but this blog would go on for ever if I listed all the joys. My vote went for OH DEAR. ‘My old man and that woman are intertwined’ (6) I would love to know which star compiler managed to give a two-letter definition (MY!) and a naughtily suggestive word play (O + DA and HER intertwined).

I filled out my grid in ink, ready to be sent to quiz.man at ntlworld and wondered whether I should do the Listener thing and risk highlighting all those Os that had appeared in a circle in the centre of the grid. Didn’t it say ‘Nothing needs to be highlighted’? Oh ho ho! The light dawned. What a fabulous final touch. This one, to my mind, was a compilation worthy of the Listener and definitely meriting a blog. Grid by Paul McKenna – edited by Derek Harrison. congratulations! It was a stunner!

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## On the Rocks by Dipper

Posted by shirleycurran on 6 September 2013

Dipper contemplating his rockery.

What have we here? One of the Listener tipsy setters coming clean and admitting his love of the hard stuff ‘on the rocks’? But no, it’s Dipper. Isn’t he the one who lounges in his deck chair admiring his garden and  inflicts his horticultural passion on us solvers every now and then? I check for the alcohol and sure enough, there’s RAKI (Spirit of Dvorak’s coda in music – K in RAI) but not much else – there are fish in his barrel (Bucket or barrel containing fish – BL round AI) and breadsticks (Grand Italian composer’s one for ordinary breadsticks – G + ROSSINI with I for O) and ONIONS and IMIDE (Translator swallowing this organic compound would be more apprehensive [t]IMIDE[r]): those seem to be the sum-total of his rather monotonous diet.

Nice clues though! We solve with astonishing speed and barely a moan. Soon we have all but four of the solutions and have already managed to get the skeleton of a grid by luckily putting INHARMONIOUS, REDEMPTORIST, NOCTILUCENT and PERSONALISM in the right places. It was fairly clear to us from the start what was going to happen.  We had no other 11-letter or 12-letter clues, so clearly those spaces that were to become rocks would intervene. There was only one place that GRISSINI could go. In it went and the grid fill took us about ten minutes with the happy appearance of IMPS and ONIONS as we filled the spaces.

Mrs Bradford explained the clue to me. Of course PIMPS are solicitors and IMPS were shoots (Shoots once – eliminating leader of solicitors) but I still don’t understand the ONIONS clue (Heads of Province and government number crunchers). Please explain somebody!

STATER was our final solution. We knew, by now, that we need to find our last misprint there and, of course, it gave us an I (CORN/COIN is vegetable = ‘S TATER Hmmmm! Amusing but just a little mutter of disapproval!) so that we had RTENSEGI as our seven letters. We had assumed that the ‘Old woman parking in park’ gave us a PARK/PART misprint. How easy it is to wander up a garden path (especially with Dipper!) From the start we had convinced ourselves that the extra rock was going to be GRANITE, so we had happily accepted that T. A rethink gave us PARE as a far more convincing definition for CHIP so that our correct letters RENSEGI now produced GREISEN – a far more satisfactory conclusion.

I wonder why that extra rock was there at all, sitting outside Dipper’s garden fence. I suppose the Editors must have insisted that some sort of end game was necessary to render this just a mite more difficult. I wonder whether there will be any despairing submissions that take a long shot at GRANITE.

This was a bit of gentle Friday fun. Thank you, Dipper.

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## Listener 4255: On the Rocks by Dipper

Posted by Dave Hennings on 6 September 2013

It looked as though another one of Dipper’s trips into his garden was on the cards this week. His last puzzle was at the beginning of last year and was about Richard Gardiner’s 16th century book on tending kitchen gardens. As I have mentioned before, horticulture isn’t something at which I am proficient, but a quick read of the preamble seemed to indicate that it was just some decorative rocks that we had to locate.

There were only a few bars in the grid, and a single list of clues that were presented in alphabetical order of their answers. All that I do in these cases is to make a list of the numbers 1–38 in my workbook and write the answers against each one as they are solved. Their initial letters would give limited possibilities for the initial letters of the trickier answers that couldn’t be cold-solved. There were some long answers that would provide a way into entry placement later, but I just tackled the clues in order.

There didn’t seem anything too difficult with the left hand column of clues. All but five of the nineteen were solved, although none could be slotted in the grid yet. The right-hand column, however, proved a lot more obstinate: there were twelve gaps staring at me when I had finished. Luckily 21 INHARMONIOUS and 25 NOCTILUCENT (clued with ‘flowing’ misprinted for ‘glowing’) were solved, the latter courtesy of Chambers Crossword Dictionary. CCD also helped me with the ism at 28, having ‘personality’ under the headword character. Mrs B, however, was needed to find the missionary REDEMPTORIST at 32.

It was time to have a stab at fitting the long entries into the grid, and it seemed a strong possibility that NOCTILUCENT and PERSONALISM would fit into the 11-letter spaces in columns 5 and 8, especially as they would enable INHARMONIOUS and REDEMPTORIST to go, respectively, across the top and bottom of the grid. This exercise enabled all my solved answers to be fitted in, and the last few answers to be identified.

The clues were fine with good surface readings. I particularly liked 13 A Lendl shot—and it’s game, set and match (6) (END-ALL), and 26 Heads of province and government number crunchers (6), leading to ONIONS made from O (of) NI (Northern Ireland) and ONS (Office of National Statistics)!

I must admit that, although it was a relatively simple exercise, I did enjoy trying to fit the words in the grid and thus locate the four rocks, each of four squares of different shapes. They transformed the diagram into something quite unsymmetrical, but nonetheless well-constructed. The rocks had to be indicated with any degree of artistic creativity, and I chose zero, shading them a boring grey! I left it to Shirley to be at the other end of the artistic scale.

The misprints in the clues were: 1 expect for expert, 5 park for pare (not mark, as I originally had), 12 mouth for month, 18 tick for sick, 24 marry for merry, 25 flowing for glowing, and 33 corn for coin. The correct letters provided an anagram of GREISEN which needed to be entered in the space beneath the grid.

Thanks to Dipper for an enjoyable, if easy, tour of his rockery, which required only the minimum of gardening knowledge.