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Listener 4312: Elementary Deduction by Rood

Posted by Jaguar on 10 Oct 2014

If there’s any defined schedule for my own blogs then it’s “when I can, on puzzles that I find particularly interesting.” After that long fortnight in Southampton I’ve found three interesting puzzles in a row awaiting my return… This was the pick of the bunch.

Rood is actually two setters, who come together “out of desperation”, according to a setter’s blog on the Magpie. The results, though rare, have been fairly spectacular. Magpie solvers among you might have seen “Fourplay”, featuring a grid where every single cell was thematically fixed to give a “connecting wall” of linked nine-letter  anagrams; and 2012’s Listener series included their debut “Getting in Shape”, Listener 4215, about Tesseracts (or at least Chambers’ dodgy definition of a tesseract), which was also special. I actually completed neither of these, being not good enough to get into their Magpie effort, while a typo cost me in the Listener. Anyway, reading the setter’s name here was already a sign of a tough, but hopefully superbly rewarding, solve ahead.

First came the clues… thankfully that “elementary deduction”, so suggestive of chemical elements, turned out to be just that, as 19ac was clearly RONINS (hidden, Lu extra for Lutetium), and I was away. Sort of. But these were hard, hard clues all the way! And with chemical elements being one or two letters long, it was often very hard to fathom the wordplay. As Friday evening came and went, I had managed the bottom right and most of the top-left, but that was about it, and a lot of the time having to go backwards with the clues anyway. But there were some gems in there, my favourite being 30dn “Islamic body has collapsed laughing” (Has*+Ria[n]t; is the delicate situation in the Middle East really so funny? Perhaps not…). The rest of the grid would have to wait for Saturday.

And it did, at last, fall out, those clues eventually yielding one-by-one, mostly, until at last I was staring at an almost-finished grid. Now what? Unfortunately my first solve through the clues had led to a garbled message with a few annoying gaps. Obviously 14ac was VARIX but it took a while to find Va[in]+R+(F)ix for the extra In; while Fit = song in 23ac was a new usage to me and I found it only after I’d figured out that the message should read “Column Five…”. And so on. Along the way I had to sort out the clashes; clearly 1ac ended in S, so I had 6 clashes presumably in my first attempt, but it turned out that 31a was SITE (Si[N]te(r)) rather than SPAS (hot springs; Spy = locate, Ash = deposit? Seemed plausible at the time…). Once all that had been cleared up I was staring at a rather bizarre message. “Initiating at column five, Using D, Obtain every fifth clockwise; Care with tiny particles.” (Particles at the end was a surprise, I’d been seeing “articles” for so long and was almost expecting one of those quotes where you ignore “the”, or something.)

At least that wasn’t too hard to interpret. In the fourth row from the bottom, there is a little two-word phrase ROW ONE. DRAW RINGS soon appeared in the outermost parts of the grid, starting from the D in row one, column five. Well done, Rood, for hiding that… now draw those rings where? Let’s follow that spiral round a bit… “DRAW RINGS CHROUU…” Oh. Hmm… Not following an inwards spiral, then? I suppose we’ve done our spiral hiding for the year with Wan’s effort recently. Can’t just be “draw rings”, can it? But then, I’ve not finished going round the outside of the grid… so, DRAW RINGS OF ATOM… Oh, this is promising! Keep going round the outside? Nice! We’re going to have a pretty picture of electron shells in the middle!

So, “Draw rings of Atomic No.”… number what? Five or Six, presumably, but then five uses all the clashes and six doesn’t. So it must be five. Element five is Boron, of course, and there it is, sitting proudly at the centre of the grid, with a few electrons dancing round the centre… hang on. There are six e’s… Unless this is some sort of ion, of course, that’s a bit of a problem. And then for that matter there’s a seventh e at the end of the five. And that preamble tells us that the rings will include “all occurrences” of the letter E. So perhaps it should be SIX(S) and Carbon?

Sure enough, running up the diagonal, there is CARBON. So after all there are six electrons in the shell, and order is restored to my vague knowledge of GCSE Chemistry. My goodness me, what a lovely puzzle this has been!

But wait, there’s more!! I still have a bit of uncertainty about 24ac. Could be TIRR or TIRL, and I can’t parse it. Ir, or Irl, is Ireland, which isn’t much help to resolving the problem. I do hope I don’t get caught out by a 50/50 choice. But running in that outer ring is yet another hidden element in the grid: VALENCE E?ECTRONS. So it’s “Tirl” to make Electrons. This is the puzzle that just keeps on giving.

With not much of the year left to go, this has to be a serious contender for the Gold Cup. A stunning effort. Thanks Rood. More desperation please!4312

One Response to “Listener 4312: Elementary Deduction by Rood”

  1. […] 4312: Elementary Deduction by Rood […]

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