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Taxi! by Ilver

Posted by shirleycurran on 31 July 2015

Taxi 1729 001Ilver! Renowned in the Magpie for the D and E level ‘Child’s Play’ crosswords that his children have put together. What are we in for? A first glance at the grid reveals almost two grids with just two gaps in that vertical line that separates them. There is going to be something fairly dramatic in the grid for that to get past the editors. Otherwise all seems to be normal, just a couple of open lights and a fine average word-length. I wonder what Ilver is up to!

Of course, we check the answer lengths and spot that there are four clues that seem to require answers longer than the space allowed in the grid – but we can’t solve any of those clues, so store the information for later.

Naturally I check Ilver’s membership of the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Club and am initially disconcerted to find ‘To humiliate oneself brew tea with cold rag (7 two words)’ [TEA C* + ROW = EAT CROW] That doesn’t sound like Ilver. Reading on, I come to ‘Essential acid is left in Edmund’s underwear (6)’ [IS< in LYNE = LYSINE – it’s an essential amino-acid isn’t it] – he must be on a health kick. I’m into the down clues before I find ‘Book stay here – exotic drinks (8, two words)’ [B + STA(Y) HERE* giving HERB TEAS] – clearly Ilver is on some sort of tea trip!

A very interesting number!

A very interesting number!

These clues are tough indeed. We struggle with the down clues until a familiar phrase seems to be emerging from the extra letters and the other Numpty tells me about the Hardy Ramanujan number – how Prof. Hardy went to visit the dying Srinivasa Ramanujan in his hospital bed, and, short of conversational openings, commented that the taxi he had come in had a very dull number. Ramanujan’s response is famous. “No, it id A VERY INTERESTING NUMBER; it is the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways.” (I wonder how he would have coped with the three-monthly Listener numerical puzzles – ten minutes? It isn’t the fact that he was able to see that 1729 was the sum of those two cubes in two different ways, so much as the fact that he was able to instantly state that there was no other smaller figure that fitted the requirement).

1729. Clearly that is the ‘key’ we are looking for and as our grid fills, we wonder how we are going to use it. I fiddle with the letters in the grid, taking the first, then the subsequent seventh, move on two, move on nine and get … TOAEHE. Not promising.

Taxi 001The other Numpty has more success, reading the first and seventh of the first line, then the second and ninth of the subsequent line and so on … and it’s rather like the monkeys typing Shakespeare “Look, this one has finally typed something coherent – ‘To be or not to bogzugigubélih8ui*ç%%…” However, with persistence, we find an intriguing HARDY at the end of the grid, so we are clearly on the right lines.

We have also spotted a rather strange version of Euler’s ‘identity’ Ti pi + 1 = 0 when we finally realized that those extra long clues could be resolved by fitting the PI of SNIPING into a single cell, using + as the conclusion of PERIPLUS, 1 for the ONE in CHAMPIONESS, and = as the start of EQUAL SIGN. Obviously the O of GONOCYTE can do double duty as a zero. But there is that odd T where we need an e.

Taxi 2 001We try applying the same method to the clues and Eureka! We discover another familiar quotation: ‘BEAUTY IS THE FIRST TEST’ and suddenly things fall into place. Hardy again! ‘Beauty is the first test and there is no permanent place in the world for ugly mathematics’.

What do we have in our grid? An anagram of MATHEMATICS (so ‘ugly mathematics’) and, as the preamble told us, its author, HARDY. Oh but this is brilliant; it is almost on the Hardy/Ramanujan level! We unscramble MATHEMATICS and, of course, Euler’s identity receives its missing e, which we are told to write in lower case. I have just a small doubt here. Instinct tells me to use the π sign and that is a lower case letter – but what will happen if I use lower case pi?

That slight doubt doesn’t detract from our admiration of a stunning compilation. Thank you, Ilver!



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