Listen With Others

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Listener No 4460, Four and a Half…?: A Setter’s Blog by Sabre

Posted by Listen With Others on 13 August 2017

The bizarre Longfellow quote came to light while browsing the ODQ, and its seventy-two bees immediately brought to mind a 12×12 grid with half the entries B. How to arrange this? Clashes seemed an easy way: but 72 clashes? I did ponder such, though it seemed a little unfair. But if every B resulted from a clash, a more serious problem would be that the solver could assiduously fill every such cell with a little furry black and yellow bee, and Sabre draws the line at this sort of effort. A compromise of 21 genuine B’s (enough to draw a solver’s attention) and 51 clashes was the end result. The consistency of clashing letters being two apart was intended to aid solvers and soften the trauma of a large number of clashes.

Now, how to ensure solvers correctly solved the riddle, since the solution is not given in Longfellow? Thus enters BLOB/BLOT and the “bathtub” clue: my psychology tells me a solver would at first sight solve this as BLOB, then be puzzled by a B-count of 73 in the final grid. The original submission did not mention this ambiguous clue, but the vetters felt this unfair, and that it should be signalled. I am glad this was done, the wrath-quotient might have been considerably greater otherwise. The vetters also pointed out the use of this quotation in a puzzle by Elgin in the Magpie in 2006 (“Prithee Pretty Maiden”), with a very different interpretation of the theme.

For the record, Four-and-a-Half is also a solution to the riddle if the negative square root is taken.


One Response to “Listener No 4460, Four and a Half…?: A Setter’s Blog by Sabre”

  1. Richard Rogan said

    In the discussions I googled around this, 4 and a half is rejected as a solution as one cannot have half a bee!
    I messed up my entry as I wrongly transcribed one of the clashes as a non-clash, so even with BLOB I still had only 72 bees. I therefore did not investigate further any potential ambiguity. Very careless!

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