# Posts Tagged ‘by Stick Insect’

## System Analysts by Stick Insect

Posted by shirleycurran on 21 Dec 2012

A circular carte blanche – now that is a surprise! I love the circular ones and I rather like carte blanche puzzles as they often have easier clues than the ordinary sort with numbers. Clearly there has to be a ‘way in’ for the solvers if there are no numbers to help them slot the solutions in. However, the numpties almost abandoned on reading that complex preamble. What on earth did it mean? ‘Of the eight orientations for grid entries, half of them generate a thematic hint as follows: reading the clues in the order given by the numbers appearing clockwise in the outer ring from the dotted cell, take the Nth letter of each clue, where N is the number in the dotted cell. The hints identify which of these orientations is the correct grid arrangement.’

This was another preamble that reminded me of Asterix struggle with bureaucracy where he needed paper B to get paper A, but couldn’t have paper B if he didn’t have paper A. It sounded as though we needed to know what clue number was in the dotted cell, in order to work out which clue number went into the dotted cell. This is Listenerville isn’t it?

Ski season has just begun and there is powder up the hill and sunshine (but a temperature of minus ten!) Is this the moment to abandon? Well, no! “CABER, CIMAR, COMAL, OLLAV, GONYS” said one numpty. “VAULT, VOUGE, VOLAR, DOHYO” said the other, “and could that be RABIC?” (I hope it was, as I’ve mailed my entry but still can’t quite see how ‘Switch opening from language of disease (5)’ gives RABIC. The BRB tells me ‘switch’ can mean ‘prune’ so I hope I am allowed to ‘prune’ the A from ARABIC.)

With only sixteen clues and all of them in place after about thirty minutes of solving, things were looking up. What’s more, we could see how these words were going to fit together. Certain pairs of letters had to fit into the centre of the grid, the AV VO VA OV group, the OO, OC, CO OY group and so on. This was great fun and before very long we had all sixteen words neatly meshing to complete the grid.

‘Eight possible orientations’? I could see four, as there were four sets of four clues that had to move as a group. I must have been extraordinarily lucky to have put my clues in the grid in the direction that  gave 2, 9, 1, 14, 10, 12, 5, 4, 7, 11, 6, 16, 13, 8, 15, 3. It was long after completing the solve, finding those wonderful hints and understanding where the lines had to go that I suddenly understood that the entire set could have been entered in reverse. Would we ever have seen the hints?

It took us long enough, anyway to understand that we were using four of the possible orientations (we had only seen four!) but those seemed to suggest the 2nd, 10th, 7th and 13th letters of the clues reading round the grid in the (fortunately) clockwise order I had entered them in. (Well, actually my first message read ‘IONS TWO SPACE MISS’ so clearly there was some adjusting to do. My Voyager would have been one of the ones that exploded or disappeared!).

However, to our absolute astonishment, Stick Insect had managed to place not one, but four letters in each clue. (No wonder we had that rather clunky clue, ‘Is it Tufty in middle of road, with principles  of mummy’s crossing lessons thrown into confusion (5)’ giving COMAL.)

The remaining hints appeared, LEAVING FROM EARTH PASSING GAS GIANTS FLYING TO THE STARS, and although my grid was launching them from somewhere in the South Pacific rather than Cape Canaveral, I managed to work out that the letters in those cells were spelling out Voyager 1 and Voyager 2. Amazing, Stick Insect! Of course, Wikipedia produced exactly the diagram that Mr Green will be looking for. This really was a spectacular puzzle.

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## Lawbreaker by Stick Insect

Posted by shirleycurran on 30 Dec 2011

Two for the price of one this week! What fun! The numpties seemed to have no trouble at all deciding where the clues split and gave us our two solutions. Our gridfill was unusually speedy – he solved almost as fast as I could write (which, by the way, does make me wonder how Mark Goodliffe can do his astonishing solving feats in the Times competition each year. I don’t think I would be able to read the clues and write the answers in the time it takes him to solve the whole crossword – in fact, I would probably still be sharpening my pencil as he finished!)

There were some easy clues here, though, weren’t there? It was a pleasure not to feel stupid and incompetent for once, as words like CYST appeared (‘Lucy Stoner secures a home for dominant organism’ – hidden) accompanied by DORS (‘mocks antique dodo half forgotten by eminent scientists’ – DO[do] + R[oyal] S[ociety]), PIE (‘chattering bird from island in Peru’ – I in PE) and URSA (‘collection of stars is restrained by our sanity’ – hidden).

I had to hunt for the habitual Listener compiler’s alcoholic tipple but it was there – “Kiss by mother was her ruin” – an obscure reference to the obsolete MAX for ‘gin’ and to the almost equally obsolete notion that vast quantities of inferior gin caused spontaneous miscarriage. (What a lot of useless knowledge we hoard!)

Even better, the long clues yielded solutions fairly quickly too. We soon had our EMMENTALER in place (‘Eternal shambles surrounding two maiden overs with England’s opener – hard cheese’ – an anagram of eternal + MM + E) and the DATAGLOVES (Computer interfaces are a little bit backward with balls, getting 5 for 11′. ‘Data’ gave this one away – a tad, reversed, though we had a moment’s doubt about how the B of Globes was ‘eleven’ – it’s hexadecimal isn’t it?)

No numpty hiccups until we reached CEILIDH, which wanted to go into the grid upside down. After a moment’s consternation (was there really going to be an entire device not signalled by the preamble?) we realized that something similar was occurring wherever we had a C or an H. So much for our initial suspicion that these two squares represented the two halves of a football pitch and that our lawbreaker was going to be offside! (Celtic playing Hibernian?)

We did wonder whether our C was going to be the speed of light and whether Stick Insect had managed to race off a crossword about neutrinos going even faster and get it published without the current Listener 7-month queue (though a CERN friend, who worked on the original GPS timing circuits involved in the measurements of the aberrant neutrinos, assures us that the time it took to feed the neutrinos into the system accounts for that anomaly there has been such a fuss about).

Before dinner, we had our twenty clashes and a full grid. We stared at it for a while and the physicist numpty muttered about ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ but we put our full grid on one side as the Alps have had a metre of fresh snow and even our little ski resort is opening in the morning. An early start is called for.

Coming off the slopes rather cold and leaping into the hot tub set the neurons moving; ‘Maxwell’s Demon’ appeared with a DOOR neatly situated in the centre of the grid.  In response to my total incomprehension, the physicist numpty produced his well-thumbed ‘An Introduction to the Kinetic Theory of Gases’, Sir James Jeans, CUP, 1962 (just 17s 6d!) and there it was, clearly explained.

So yet again, a Listener crossword proves to be a learning experience (and this wasn’t quite as difficult to grasp as the Klein Bottle theory!) so it remained to decide which side had to have the warmer particles in it – the H – HEAT appeared on the right (once I had chopped up my original grid and sellotaped it back together with RPRINCIPLEACCELERATO and OFTHEWEDGETHETHINEND producing ‘The thin end of the wedge’ and ‘Accelerator principle’) so I happily put the Hs there and the Cs on the other side.

Many thanks again, Stick Insect for an entertaining puzzle that was not too challenging and that left us some of the weekend for gardening, cleaning, ironing .. Oh dear!

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