Listen With Others

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Listener No. 4368: The Name of the Game by Harribobs

Posted by Dave Hennings on 6 November 2015

A new setter appears this month in the guise of Harribobs. Moreover he has two puzzles, one here and one in the October Magpie. The latter was a B rated puzzle, so I expected a relatively easy outing this week… but would probably be proved wrong.

Listener 4368The puzzle was based around the game of Life, which I’ve known about since I was in my twenties. We were given all the rules for getting from one generation to the next, which was odd because nothing in the preamble told us that we would have to play the game! Presumably, extra wordplay letters in every clue would tell us what to do.

I made a good start in the top left quadrant with ESTOP, SECO, TRAVELLER and MERLOTS , followed by POILUS, STALL and ASIANS. Twelve entries were soon slotted in their pace in as many minutes. 5ac Dashed small dog attempted to leave shopping centre (8) had SPECKLED starting off the top right corner, only to be replaced by SCURRIED twenty seconds later when the wordplay failed to materialise.

I worked my way down the right-hand side of the grid and found the bottom half to be slightly more tricky than the top. Nonetheless, the grid was complete in less than ninety minutes with solid clues on the way. My favourites were 24ac An imaginary number divides a relative one (5) for UNITY (i in [A]UNTY) and 27dn Superior shock absorbers, having rejected first pair of originals (6) for ABBESS ((ABSORBE[R]S – OR[iginals])*), nicely misleading.

And so we had the “information and instruction” spelt out by the extra letters: Start cells have element of life. Shade second generation. I toyed with the element of life being O for Oxygen with fourteen in the grid, but then we are carbon-based, so perhaps all the Cs, of which there were just eight. Or both.

However, this was the Listener, so it didn’t take me long to try the letters L, I, F and E, with a total of 43 in the grid. Unfortunately, it would be some time before I would be proved right or wrong, but it would be fun finding out… of course, disappointing if I were wrong and had to do it all again.

Playing the game would need to be done carefully. I would have normally have used one of the many web sites that would do all the hard work for me… except this week’s animation was chomping at the bit.

I shaded the starting squares and then converted all the letters into numbers representing the number of shaded squares each had adjacent to it. Any 0, 1, 4, 5 or 6 in shaded cells could be erased (under-population and overcrowding). Any number apart from 3 in a dead cell could be erased (no reproduction). Numbers remaining live on to the next generation.

Listener 4368 My EntryFirst time through, I got a few of the numbers wrong, but I could see that LIFE was trying to appear. My work was not to be in vain. A few minutes later, and my corrections produced the name of the game, and all that remained was for John CONWAY to be highlighted in row 10. He invented the game back in 1970, but apparently wishes he was remembered for some of the other things he’s done.

I suspect that generating a grid that would lead to LIFE in the second generation was not as easy for Harribobs as it might at first appear, so many thanks for sticking at it. And thanks for an enjoyable game.


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