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.
 

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2 Responses 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!

  2. I’d just like to thank you because this was my first ever dictionary win! Very imaginative puzzle, and nice to do a bit of quadratic solving on the side.

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