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Listener No 4341, What’s On?: A Setter’s Blog by Nod

Posted by Listen With Others on 3 May 2015

I decided to investigate the possibility of a puzzle where each entry could be written as a combination of symbols for elements which would then be encoded to their atomic numbers.
 
First I created a database containing a plain dictionary and then I wrote modules to identify letter-pairs as elements and convert them into their atomic numbers or to identify single letters as elements and convert them. The plain dictionary became a dictionary which contained concatenated atomic numbers, the pertinent elements and the original words. Any words that did not lend themselves to such a treatment were discarded. The concatenated numbers were then converted to new “words” by changing 1 to A, 2 to B, etc. Each new “word” was scored from 1 to 100 by a formula derived from the length of the concatenated number compared to the length of the original word. It was now a simple matter to design a suitable grid and use Crossword Compiler to fill it using the scored word list. I increased the score of the fill until I was happy with the final grid.
 
I wanted a title that might hint at the entry method and the homophone for Watson seemed appropriate. Although Sherlock Holmes never exactly said “Elementary, my dear Watson” it is a well-known phrase. I also thought “What’s On?” suggested “What’s Going On Here?”
 
There have been a number of puzzles using elements and their atomic numbers and I was surprised to see AN Others by Radix and AN Other appear in the Magpie well after I had submitted my puzzle to the Listener. Roddy and I had independently set puzzles using a very similar idea but his had overtaken mine by the time it was published.
 

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4 Responses to “Listener No 4341, What’s On?: A Setter’s Blog by Nod”

  1. olichant said

    I really enjoyed this and marvelled at the construction. The information given from intersecting entries was, to be sure, less useful than in a normal crossword, but that gave rise to a new challenge of its own, coupled with some really challenging clues. Thank you!

  2. I agree wholeheartedly with Olichant’s comment above. I found your puzzle tough, but rewarding; and the rather fuzzy help that intersections gave added interest and a different challenge. Thank you.

  3. Jaguar said

    The creation of an entirely new dictionary dismissed as an almost trivial task! I am full of admiration for the compilation, even if the solve was tricky towards the end.

  4. erwinch said

     
    I did not find that there was an unreasonable degree of cold solving required to get started and managed to find the message after ten clues.  MAKinG appeared fairly readily and then ANSWERS and the remainder:
     
    Atomic numbers of elements making answers
     
    Tidying up the loose ends was far more troublesome for me but not at all in a tedious or frustrating manner.  Had I not entered hechs (25dn) incorrectly as (HeCHS) then I certainly would have found gear-case (32ac) much earlier – CASE stood out as a strong possibility for the ending.
     
    I had honestly thought that the use of chemical element symbols and atomic numbers in puzzles had become so hackneyed that I would never see them again as a thematic device or rather hoped that I would never see them again.  However, you came up with a novel twist that I felt went down very well.  Thank you for an enthralling and enjoyable solve.

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