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Listener 4260, Nuts and Bolts: A Setters’ Blog by Mango

Posted by Listen With Others on 12 October 2013

This puzzle was Mango’s problem child. Steve (our main ideas man) came up with the core idea (pun intended!) as far back as April 2004, and the puzzle was number 14 in our list of puzzles. In fact this ended up being the last puzzle that Mango completed (though there is still one more to appear, number 34, started many years later but completed earlier).

The very first grid actually just had APPLE falling onto a reclining ISAAC NEWTON with the downward force represented by an arrow (4 ‘I’s and a V) intersecting with the ‘I’ of GRAVITATION in the top row. But very early on, Steve suggested an interplay between that idea and a standing William Tell dispatching an arrow horizontally towards the apple on the head of his son. However every attempt to develop this idea either failed or became too complex. We explored many ideas (even including a link to Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code) but eventually gave up and put the puzzle into hibernation.

Listener 4260Roddy resurrected the puzzle in August 2009, and, based on an earlier grid/fill of Steve’s (in which the protagonists were horizontal, and some clue device spelt out an instruction to rotate the grid ‘A QUARTER TURN CLOCKWISE’), introduced HERR HERMANN (GESSLER) to share the bottom row with ISAAC NEWTON (thus allowing NEWTON to disappear in the TELL interpretation). As Roddy wrote at the time: ‘Gessler is appropriately positioned because William would have shot him with a second arrow had the first one killed his son (or so the story goes).’

This was now close to a workable idea. However we felt that there was a problem in that APPLE was upside down for the NEWTON interpretation. After much discussion, we decided that REFLECTION would be a better mechanism than ROTATION, but this continued to be problematic, as it did not allow the solver to submit the rotated solution. We discussed this on and off for over a month until I realised (inspired by a Shackleton puzzle that I had been working on in parallel – still to appear) that we could create a reflectively symmetric grid which allowed both the Newton and the Tell solutions to be validly entered in their correct orientations. It would require side-by-side clues, but it obviated the need for a hidden message.

Having side-by-side clues raised an additional problem, namely – what should we do with the clues corresponding to the 3 unclued entries? This was solved by incorporating 3 clues for APPLES with a misprint in the ‘core’ letters whose corrections spelt out BOW, an excellent idea suggested by Roddy (as he said in one email: I had been hoping to make BOW triply thematic: the apple fell from a bow Tell refused to bow before Gessler, and the arrow flew from a bow — but I don’t think this will wash.)

At this point Roddy started work on the tricky preamble, and we also thought about what the title might be, with some suggestions being NUTTER (N = NEWTON, UTTER = TELL), NONPAREIL (a person or thing without equal; a fine variety of apple), and COSTARD (a large variety of cooking apple; the human head) before finally settling on NUTS and BOLTS.

Clueing was tricky due to the side-by-side mechanism and took a couple of months to complete to our satisfaction. We also had to be careful in that reversal indicators embedded in the clues (‘back’ versus ‘raised’ for example) should reflect the true orientation of the solution (these would also serve as hints to the solver). Hopefully solvers will agree that our problem child turned out all right in the end.

In general the feedback has been very positive, so thank you to all who commented. It is apparent, though, that some solvers felt there was an ambiguity as to whether Newton or Gessler should be shown below the grid; a setter (at least this one) never likes to present any ambiguity that is not resolvable, but I think that in this case the preamble makes it clear that it is the earlier of two events that was to be depicted. The only other general question mark was the meaning of the unchecked letters WM L, N R? HELP! This referred to William left, Newton right? Help! (all standard abbreviations in Chambers).

John Guiver for Mango
 
 
[Ed: For those of you not in the know, Mango is a triumvirate of setters: John Guiver (Shackleton), Roddy Forman (Radix) and Steve Mann (Seth Mould).]

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