Listen With Others

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Bearskin by Elap

Posted by shirleycurran on 13 September 2019

Bearskin indeed! We really dislike the three-monthly numerical Listener puzzles so there was plenty of bear-like growling and gnashing of teeth from the other Numpty while I discreetly got out of the way and converted a massive bag of greengages to jam then prepared the supper. Yes, of course I had already hunted for traces of alcohol in those verbal clues and had discovered only a dubious B + ir – i – r. Pretty second-rate beer but cheers anyway, Elap.

The other Numpty’s comment was “Why so many letters in the clues, and why do we have some in both upper and lower case – in particular what was the need for a lower-case l that meant that it had to be specifically distinguished, in the pre-ramble (yes it was a bit of a ramble wasn’t it?) from upper case I?” and “That final clue to ‘pz + Z + L (3)’ must be a gentle joke – or does it have a meaning?”

Clearly it did. After solving U and C the growling began and lasted for hours.

It is only in retrospect that I have wondered how Elap managed to create this puzzle and surmised that he must have struggled initially to create four word squares using only ten letters that could be converted to the digits 0 to 9 (and leaving letters to give ‘A WORD CUBE’ and ‘PUZZLING’) without using any letter more than twice. No wonder he needed that preambular clarification of the lower case l.

With a table of cubes of integers to 100 in Adrian Jenkins’ Number File (you can obtain second-hand copies on the Internet) we constructed a list of potential digits and were ‘puzzling’ from then on for rather a long time, but it was the guess that the first word (‘Sorted by numeric value’) was pUZzLiNG that finally got the Numpty Bear moving forward dramatically rather than sharpening claws (and pencils).

The ‘throughs’ helped us by providing intersecting digits and after many hours of working from letters we had to letters we needed, three of the four layers were completed but we could see no way to produce numeric equivalents for d O u A R and P and fill that bottom layer. It was well after midnight that we decided to place the letters we had in numeric order and that produced:

pUZzLiNG EILaTRS A WorD CBe.

Penny drop moment at last. The final three words were A WORD CUBE and we could place the remaining d P and O to give DEPILATORS. Ha! So that explained the “Bearskin” heard as BARE SKIN.

Finally there was a smile from the Numpty Bear and as it was by now well after midnight, we jointly converted those nine digits to DEPILATORS and produced our WORD CUBE. What was most astonishing was that it didn’t just have real words on all four layers, going aross and down, but also that the through words were all real too. What a fine and challenging compilation.

(Did I say that? I hate the things and am breathing a sigh of relief that it’s three months until the next one and last one of the Listener year.)

 

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