Listen With Others

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Listener No 4312, Elementary Deduction: A Setters’ Blog by Rood

Posted by Listen With Others on 13 October 2014

RO in a spin (again) – OD resolves “squaring the circle”

If anyone has not been acquainted with Rood’s two previous puzzles, they started with the tesseract Listener puzzle where RO needed OD assistance sorting out an almost impossible task fathoming out how to get across a cube within a cube in crossword format. Then the tables turned fitting a complete “Only Connect” wall puzzle utilising 16 nine letter 3×3 anagrams into a 12×12 grid for the Magpie. This time it is was role reversal again, let us fill you in on how the exchange took place:


I only recall the phrase VALENCY ELECTRONS from my chemistry lessons at school and so was surprised when I stumbled across the variant spelling in Chambers. The fact that the different letter is E (for electron) sparked an idea with a twist. Three and four valency electrons make up the elements BORON and CARBON and there are three or four e’s in the phrase.

How was I going to piece it all together? Time to phone a friend.

“OD what do you think of a puzzle with a solving dilemma that includes both electron rings of two elements. The words valenc(e/y) electrons are in Chambers and could form a ring around carbon and boron, there are no other e’s in the grid and solvers must decide which one to use. Problem is I haven’t worked out how to guide solvers yet”

Silence…I think I stumped OD with my excitement. A day later, whilst OD was brushing up with his science, I had a brainwave.

“OD, I have thought of a way of using the grid to give an instruction that has never been done before in this way (that I know of)…use the perimeter taking every so many letters and clashes to give something like DRAW RINGS OF ATOMIC NO SIX/FIVE. By counting the electrons in the rings only one element can be seen”

I chose SIX, because FIVE has a rogue electron in it. A number of subliminal occurrences then started to form. Because of the recurring letters in the perimeter THREE, FOUR and SIX were ruled out. FIVE was therefore chosen. BOSON a nice thematic word could make a clash and that would result in FIVE clashes. FIVE seemed predominant. The grid was now starting to form, but we still had to lead the solver gently to the correct solution, perhaps giving a warning might help…over to OD for helping sort that out with his clever way with words.


When RO came up with an idea concerning valency electrons, I needed to grab a crash course in particle physics, and by the time I was comfortable with the concept, he already had a working grid up and running. My role at that stage was little more than shouting frequent encouragement from the sidelines as a stunning construction emerged, complete with that ingenious double twist at the end. It’s a privilege to watch a gridmeister at work as the scheme unfolds, and I’m fortunate that I was theminor party involved in the generation of this fine puzzle and to be the first to see that grid emerging. 

Concept firmly in place, it was clear that quite a lot needed to be conveyed to the solver and messages were probably going to need more letters than one per clue, so I concentrated on thinking about how that could best be achieved. Aiming for something thematic, I first toyed with using numbers 5 & 6 (eg those letters from each clue) then it struck me that we could use those elementary symbols. That was not without its drawbacks; it offered a restricted alphabet, so e.g. there was no way to spell ‘GRID’ – but we eventually got a workable set of instructions together. There was even a bonus for those who like balance in their puzzles as RO spotted – we even had precisely the same number of two letter symbols as one letter ones. Our original warning was “CARE WITH RELATIONSHIP OF PARTICLES”, but was changed after an editorial suggestion. Even though a multitude of helpful words cannot be formed from chemical elements it was very fortunate for us that CLOCKWISE can be.

The rest is history (well 2 year old history anyway). The comments from JEG were very positive and we are glad you enjoyed this multilayered puzzle. To those who chose the wrong element, we apologise for leading you astray, despite it having been intentional. At the moment there are no other Rood compilations in the pipeline, but there are enough dilemmas out there, so anything is possible.

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