Listen With Others

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Listener 4299: Godly Mix-up by Stick Insect

Posted by Jaguar on 11 July 2014

I came to this one rather later than usual, having spent Friday evening treating my Mum to dinner and a visit to the Grand Theatre in Leeds to watch the hit musical Wicked. I think I first heard about it through a Listener a couple of years back, Flying Tortoise’s Good to Go, Listener 4208, but had never seen it myself. Well worth a watch, I should say!

It’s been an interesting 2014 year of puzzles so far. The run of puzzles over May/ early June saw a whole set of rather tough puzzles that (with the numerical in particular) probably brought several all-correct runs to an end. Safely negotiating that (I think!), I then came up against the surprisingly tough hurdle of Nibor’s puzzle, with at least two answers with alternate spellings that would also fit. ATOC or ATOK? Well, let’s check the wordplay. Oh, it’s A+TOK[ay]. Glad I thought to check that one… wouldn’t want to mess up my run this year by a silly mistake! … oh, it’s TUCUTUCO? Ah, drat! Of course it is (CUT<+UT+UC+O’). Why didn’t I check that one too? Berk. Oh well, I’ll have to try again next year…

I did have the chance to glance at this puzzle on Friday anyway but apart from recognising a few anagram clues it was only around Saturday afternoon that I finally got to starting this. Digits, “(roundly) accurate”… I wonder if this will be something to do with pi (π)?

The state of my grid before I'd noticed the ?4?59 in the 2nd row, having just entered PROYN (Roy in P[e]n).

The state of my grid at the point when I noticed the ?4?59 in the 2nd row, having just entered PROYN (Roy in P[e]n).

For those who don’t know I’m a mathematical physicist by trade and I’ve been interested in numbers and their properties for long enough that I know π to twenty places as 3.14159265358979323846 (almost by accident — I’ve never actually tried to remember it), and so after a while I had solved enough in the second and third rows to see the emerging digit pattern ?4?59???35??????3… and voila, it does look like it’s π after all!

I become even more certain when I check the letters on either side of the 4, see that so far I have “N” and “O”, and determined earlier that these two belonged together and would be entered as “1”… no way that the 14159 is a coincidence. I wonder how far it goes in the grid… google “first 100 digits of pi” and, as I fill in the resulting sequence, I see that it matches the scattering of clashes I have perfectly. The pattern becomes 08998… after 80 digits which would appear to round to 0900 in that ninth row (which at this point was looking like …GEGG). So I suppose this must be π to 80 [decimal] places. No prizes for guessing what will go in the tenth row, then… TO 80 PLACES fits nicely enough and would certainly complete the “roundly accurate statement”. Which means that I just have to work out what the top row will say exactly.  I suppose it will have to run something like “Pi equals 3.”, but then it would be odd to have a cell entered as a decimal point. And then that 5th cell in the top row is a “3”. So perhaps “PI??3POINT” is better? Oh, and 1E was KISLEV so that would make cells three and four read IS…

So I have a final grid that seems to work, but having skipped about half the clues and with still no idea what the extra letters will spell out. Should I now go back and fill in the gaps? That would mean solving some fairly tough-looking clues… but I already have the answer. Well, probably. But I have enough in the top row to confirm the idea there, and the bottom row can’t be anything else really.

So, I suppose I’m done then. I wonder what lay behind all of the numbers, and how you were supposed to get there.

Interesting philosophical question here: is a puzzle complete when you have the final grid, or when you have completed all the steps to get there? I suspect it’s the latter really. Still, no harm in taking a short-cut when you can see one. And it’s nice to see π appearing beyond just 3.142 or something. (That said, these days I almost take π=1 for all the care I have over its value…)

I conclude this blog with a few of my favourite π facts:

  • Decimal places 358, 359 and 360 of π spell out “360”.
  • You can get a 99.5% accurate estimate of the number of seconds in a year by saying that it’s “ten million times π“.
  • Once you’ve got to the 39th digit of π, the corresponding error in measuring the volume of the entire Universe is no more than a single atom. The remaining few trillion digits we know are as a result utterly useless in actual calculation!
  • There’s an argument for making the number 2π, or tau, τ=6.28318… the more fundamental unit, since this is the number of radians in a full circle rather than just a semicircle. Indeed, in many cases π appears only in conjunction with the number 2 anyway. So now you know.
  • Americans have taken to calling March 14th (3/14 in their weird calendar) “π day”.  So next time it’s March 14th, at 1:59pm, celebrate π day with your friends! Or go for τ day on June 28th instead. Or go for neither.

4299 final

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