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.