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Archive for March, 2018

Listener No 4491: A Dreadful Puzzle by Dysart

Posted by Dave Hennings on 16 March 2018

Last year’s Dysart revolved around Edward Lear’s Jumblies with lots of (un)jumbling going on. This week, we only had nine entries to be jumbled before entry, mostly resulting in non-words. Mostly!?

Solving was relatively steady with some good entries going in, including FENG SHUI, ON TAP, OURIAL and CYTON. Unfortunately, most of them ended up having to be rubbed out and jumbled!

It was only when ORNITHO was probably the entry going in the middle column — more likely than ORTINHO — that a quick check in Chambers showed that it signified ‘bird’. Well, I knew that, and having clocked the extra bird word in 21dn Tree-like object blocking road to the north, deserted apart from five birds (8) (END in RD< + VOID – V) that ORNITHOPHOBIA revealed that we were talking about fears of the irrational variety. Okay, HYPSOPHOBIA isn't too irrational, but you get my drift.

I would seriously like to meet someone with PANTOPHOBIA, fear of everything, to see how they exist in the real world. I’d also like to meet someone who has PHOBOPHOBIA, which is apparently the fear of fear and begs the question “What is fear of phobophobia?”

The extra words and their phobias were: daylight/PHENGO, work/ERGO, crowds/OCHLO, night/NYCTO, pain/ALGO, cats/AILURO, everything/PANTO, birds/ORNITHO and heights/HYPSO. The only extra word that wasn’t an extra word was PAIN and that was part of the entry PAINT in the top row.

Next we had to change BEAR at 14ac to FEAR, a synonym of PHOBIA, and lastly highlight a cartoon character noted for one of the thematic items. Fear of work seemed the likely phobia, and Homer Simpson was the first character to come to mind. He was nowhere to be found, but ANDY CAPP, Reg Smythe’s character in the Daily Mirror was there, running NE to SW.

Thanks for a very entertaining puzzle, Dysart. Amazingly, it doesn’t seem that phobias have been used as a theme before, apart from the good old TRISKAIDEKAPHOBIA, fear of the number 13. Now I’m sorry, but that is irrational!

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

Posted by Listen With Others on 12 March 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.

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‘REJOB’ by Botox

Posted by Encota on 9 March 2018

What a class act!!
The numerical part of this puzzle was tough enough in its own right: I had a spare grid of A-Z by 1-26 where only very slowly did I manage to exclude enough possibilities.  For me it needed a mix of pencil, paper, calculator, Excel and a small amount of code (for time saving purposes only, rather than brute-forcing) to solve – i.e. it required the full armoury – quite rare for a Numerical in its own right.  This stage probably took about 90% of the time.
I was fortunate that, after my initial (wrong) guess of letters on an old telephone dial that, in initially incorrectly guessing whether A or J etc were going to represent 0, that the title still re-coded to HOTEL, which gave me a good clue as what to look for.  Using the phonetic alphabet, including Hotel, was of course a beautiful addition, as was the lack of a Room 13 (aside: our road doesn’t have a house no.13, for the same reason, presumably).  And did Botox use two and only two occurrences of each letter’s phonetic equivalent?  I didn’t double check but if feels like they may have done: if so then do have Double Bonus Points 😉
Setting A=1 rather than 0 gave me all I required for working out the five Letter-based entries and so all was (finally) sorted.  Took me until late morning Sunday, so definitely in the Fiendish category.
2018-02-18 11.58.40 copy
And I spent a few days last week looking for a suitable photo for Grid B.  Herewith the side elevation of the closest I could find:
Very enjoyable – thanks again!  I look forward to catching up with several of you in a few weeks in Paris.


Tim / Encota

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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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Rejob by Botox

Posted by shirleycurran on 9 March 2018

It’s the dreaded numerical again and my fears are confirmed when I download not one but two grids. That X at the end of the pseudonym causes only foreboding too. We’ve encountered Botox in a Magpie C level puzzle that depicted a Picasso painting in the final grid and are aware that Artix, Nudnix, Charismatix etc. all have that hint of the setter’s identity in the final X (even if Charismatix produces rather groan-worthy but very popular Christmas cracker jokes – his/their puzzles are never easy). Of course I scan the clues before handing over to the more numerical Numpty and they produce a wide smile when I see that we go from ALPHA to ZULU, via BRAVO, CHARLIE etc. and, of course WHISKEY, so no need to search any further for confirmation of Botox’s right to prop up the bar at the Paris dinner.

I hand over and sheets of paper and pencil sharpenings pile up, as he immediately homes in on clues 11ac and 21d as the way in but, after filling a couple of pages, decides that he has to produce a programme which tells him that D = 6, E = 2, L = 9 and T = 12 and that that is unique. He moves from there to O but I can count on the other bloggers to give the details of the heap of paper, drained glasses and snapped pencils that led to a completed grid of numbers.

Now what? We have to produce Grid B by copying the digits in 32 cells from Grid A and decoding the rest to letters (using a systematic cipher where each digit represents any of two or three letters). Which 32 cells? Head scratching, then a joyous penny-drop moment when we see 4321 in descending order four times in the heart of the grid, accompanied by 1111, 2222, 3334, and 4445. Hotel rooms with no 13, of course, omitted. I draw a symmetric arrangement of bars around those rooms and, eureka, I am left with 34 cells to somehow convert to letters. It has to be simple – only the numbers 0 to 9 (with no 7) are available to convert to letters so each number is going to represent any of two or three letters.

“It’s obvious” says the other Numpty. “A =1, B = 2 etc, in the usual way then after 9 we have to use J = 0 and begin again. Repeat the cycle twice then U = 1 etc. to Z = 6.” Of course it works. but now the inevitable Numpty red herring! The bottom row gives SHOW OPTIONS and, sure enough, I find STAIR at each end and LIFT in the centre, all leading up to a PENTHOUSE. Well, we have the option of a stair or the lift. But wait a minute, that’s six words: head scratching until I realize that 90189 at the two sides of the HOTEL gives two sets of STAIRS, with the alternative of a LIFT up the centre leading to the PENTHOUSE from RECEPTION. Five words!

What about REJOB? Are they renovating the hotel? It gives 85052 which, of course, can also spell HOTEL using the same cipher. How very clever! Thank you, Botox!

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