Listen With Others

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Listener No 4490: REJOB by Botox

Posted by Dave Hennings on 9 March 2018

Spoiler alert: this was bloody tough!

A quick check of the Database shows that Botox had a Magpie C-grade word puzzle three years ago, and the Listener website gives the two setters who were behind this fiendish puzzle. Both are fiendish in their own right.

The way in here seemed to be 29dn (P – A)(P – A) which was (2) and had a limited number of possibilities. Mind you, we had the same old question as to whether (P – A) was positive or negative. After some time, I wasn’t sure if this was the way in or not since nothing else seemed to happen.

In hindsight, I can’t recall how the next four hours were filled, except they weren’t filled very quickly. I do remember spending five minutes counting that each NATO letter was used exactly twice. I also noticed that Z was the only letter that wasn’t used as a multiplier or divisor, so could that be 1 — or did we have something like 4ac (B + RAV)O with O = 1? I decided to park that thought.

It was at the beginning of my second 4-hour session that the suspicious looking 21dn HO – T/E – L = HO – TE + L came to my rescue in association with 11ac D(E + L + T)A = (D + (E + L)T)A. This led to E = 2 followed quickly by T = 12 and L = 9.

Shortly after the start of my third 4-hour stint, the grid was filled and it was time to come up with the cipher for the endgame. Grid B had to have some cells containing the digits they had in Grid A, and the remainder having the digit converted to a letter, where each digit represented any of two or three letters. What was noticeable was that columns 1 and 11 had the same digits, column 7 contained 5–0 in order, and there were some other strange patterns.

It was fairly obvious (I think) that the digits in order encoded to A–J or K–T or U–Z. However, I wasn’t sure whether the order was 0–9 or 1–0 or even 2–1, etc. The basic idea was confirmed by seeing that the code for REJOB could also give HOTEL, although I was unsure as to why that was particularly relevant yet.

My first somewhat bizarre idea was that the hotel would be occupied by those letters of the NATO alphabet that spelt out people’s names, such as JULIET and ROMEO.

I tried encoding the top row using 0–9 and then 1–0, but nothing leapt out at me. I decided, partly for the fun of it, to build a spreadsheet that would have ten grids, each using one of the coding options. My spreadsheet skills are a bit rusty so it took slightly longer than expected.

Sod’s Law and it was the last such grid that enabled me to see the light with the left hand column showing IS/JT/AKU/IS/HR/IS. STAIRS eventually popped out and five minutes later so had RECEPTION, LIFT and PENTHOUSE. That gave the 34 cells with letters and left the 16 rooms to be delineated.

I don’t know whether it is a predominantly American habit of not numbering the 13th floor. Of course, any fool can see that no matter how you label that floor, doesn’t stop it being the 13th! However, it was an amusing touch here to omit room 13 on the first floor — or as Americans would call it, the second floor!

This puzzle has continued the run of tough ones for the start of 2018. Thanks for the entertaining (?) torture (!), Botox. I’m not sure whether I’m looking forward to another from you or not!

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