Listen With Others

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Listener No 4490, REJOB: A Setters’ Blog by Botox

Posted by Listen With Others on 12 Mar 2018

Picture the scene: two setters catching up over a drink in a London hotel bar, October 2013.

S: Times crossword championship tomorrow.

A: What did you think of Sabre’s Listener last week?

S: Mash’s Magpie this month is one for those setters who enjoy both word-based puzzles and number ones.
A: Mathematics twice in a month! Good puzzle though. Much prefer the non-numericals.
S: Me too, but wouldn’t it be ironic if two numerophobes set a numerical together.
A: Could be based on a hotel with the room numbers as entries.
S: Certain letters could code into parts of a hotel.
A: RECEPTION on the ground floor, PENTHOUSE on the top floor, they are the same number of letters.
S: Perhaps a LIFT joining them…
A: … and STAIRS too. No room 13 as most hotels tend to be triskaidekaphobic.
S: Nice touch!

The evening progressed without another word on the subject, but A’s idea never left S’s mind. Two days later S puts the room numbers missing the number 13 and relevant words into an 11×6 grid. Coincidentally, also in the October Magpie, the numerical by Oyler uses the A=1, B=2 … J=0, K=1 etc conversion. He put in his preamble “by a code that associates each letter of the alphabet with a single digit”. It didn’t take long to add the symmetrical bar pattern to create unique entries. But what about the clues? An email exchange started as S sent A the grid:

S: What one does with the clues is anyone’s guess. I like it when the clues are real words … crikey knows how setters make every clue thematic e.g. names of famous hotels.
A: Maybe using some examples of NATO alphabet (ZULU, TANGO, etc) since HOTEL is one too?
S: Your NATO might work. There will be more clues than 26 even with deleting a few bars and so some will have to be doubled up.

A few days later:

S: I did pick away at our numerical this week and have made a start. A to Z using 1 to 26. Tried to get the NATO alphabet in order but turned out too difficult.

If you look at the clues you can see that ALPHA to ECHO and PAPA to ZULU are in order.

A: Another idle thought:
HOTEL = 8 / 15 / 20 / 5 / 12  =   8 5 0 5 2.
85052 can also represent  18 / 5 / 10 / 15 / 2.
That spells out REJOB (could be used in title?), which leads me very prematurely to suggest a preamble…

After a little to-ing and fro-ing of clues and just over a week after the puzzle was conceived:

S: Here is the puzzle so far. All the alphabet are doubled up (except HOTEL where it is only used once).
A: You mentioned in London that Nod is a whizz at numericals… do you want to try it out on him? (And have you worked out yet the famed “logical solution path”).
S: I cannot solve it, but that is no surprise!

Then misfortune struck. A mistake in the HOTEL clue. Despite that and no obvious way in, Nod still managed to solve the puzzle and lived up to his reputation. Whilst correcting the HOTEL clue it became apparent that it could be made with two HOTELs in the same clue and it so happened that HO could be removed to get the same equivalence. At that point the two DELTAs were in different clues, but by bringing one across to the same clue, a “way in” started to appear.

S. Now we know there are no errors we need to find another maths wizard to test it on.

Oyler would be a perfect choice and thankfully cracked the numerical part steadily enough. Endgame was somewhat tricky even though Oyler (and Nod for that matter) worked out the substitution code readily enough.

A few more tweaks to the preamble and some debate whether to send it to the Magpie or Listener ended up with this:

A: Given Oyler’s use of the same alphanumeric code so recently, what do we do now? Send it to the Listener and wait three years by which time everyone’s forgotten? Ha ha!

Indeed A’s prediction was an underestimation as it took 4 years to see the light. Reading feedback from JEG it seems as if it was a brute to get into, but everyone who finished it enjoyed the puzzle and therefore it was worth the wait.

I wonder what will happen next time we meet over a bottle or two in a hotel… Paris is looming.


2 Responses to “Listener No 4490, REJOB: A Setters’ Blog by Botox”

  1. Alastair Cuthbertson said

    Nice to see the star of EV1118 making an appearance at 24ac and 33ac, namely our cat Tango.

  2. For those of you who have forgotten, Tango the three-legged cat featured in Oyler’s mathematical EV back in 2014!

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