Listen With Others

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Listener No 4480: The Code Duello by Agricola

Posted by Dave Hennings on 29 December 2017

A new setter this week, and one of everybody’s favourite features, the Playfair Code. On closer inspection, it’s actually Playfair Codes, so double the pleasure for our money.

In fact, I know that it’s not everybody’s favourite, but I’ve grown to have a certain respect for them and don’t normally find them too daunting. Whether this week’s offering will be forgiving, only time would tell.

On much closer inspection, the clues to be encoded were only clued by the extra wordplay letters in the clues. Not only that, they were long entries, 12 letters at 1ac and 10 letters at 10dn.

A speedy zip through the clues, and the grid was filled. This gave us the two clues: I rode unsteadily in sewing machine, said g’day on Buddhist mountain. I wasn’t too sure whether the break in thte clues was at machine/said or machines/aid, although the former seemed more likely. Also, I wasn’t sure if the clues were in the order of 1ac then 10dn or the other way.

SINGER was the sewing machine and BERG was the mountain, and those two elements enabled the answers to be swiftly scribbled in my notes: SCHROEDINGER and HEISENBERG.

The two Playfair codes were polished off in extra quick time: PARTICLE and WAVE.

OK, so that’s how it should have been solved!!

Unfortunately, every step of the way took me a considerable amount of time. Each one which I have described as “speedy”, “swift” or “quick” seemed to take an age. The analysis of the two clues was particularly slow, having got into into my head that it was (I RODE)* in a sewing machine (which I really didn’t expect to be the Singer — ®), and I wondered if there was a holy Buddhist mountain that I’d not heard of.

In the end, the clues were parsed as CH (I, dialect) RODE* in SINGER, and HEISEN (sounds like hi Zen) BERG (mountain).

And, of course, the Playfairs weren’t really straightforward, since SCHOEDINGER could encode to NBQEQLMDOFHE or OHGSRWCKMHGY and HESENBERG to either QHTUCQDBAH or GBNOBMWBYM. It was certainly a way to make Playfair code-squares move from being tricky to diabolical, but I eventually got PARTICLE and WAVE. The latter was the harder since, unusually, most of the square was made up of letters not in the code-word. We were also helped by CAT, not BAT, being revealed by the coded 10dn.

All in all, a real challenge for a puzzle near the year-end. Thanks for the duel, Agricola.

 
PS No animals were harmed in the making of the animation!

 

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