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Posts Tagged ‘In-tray’

Listener No 4423: A Bit Up in the Air by Phi

Posted by Dave Hennings on 25 Nov 2016

Buried Treasure: Postscript

SCENE: The Editor’s office, less than a week ago.

There is a desk in the centre of the room. There is an in-tray on the desk. It has a habit of disappearing, but is currently just empty. There is a clock on the wall. It reads 11:00.

There are two chairs: a big one is behind the desk and a small one in front of it. Editor is sitting on the big chair and Sub-editor on the small one. Both are looking out of the window. The postman walks past and there is the sound of some letters being pushed through the letter-box. More letters follow, then more and finally more. They both go out of the office and return, each carrying a large bundle of letters.

There is now also an out-tray on the desk.

Sub-editor: I see the in-tray has got some company.

Editor: Looks like it might come in handy.

They put all the letters in the in-tray and sit down. Editor takes the first one, opens it and reads it. Sub-editor does the same with the second.

Editor: It’s somebody moaning about Poat’s Buried Treasure puzzle. He says that the solution is unfair, especially as he saw the hare in the preamble but decided that would be too bizarre, even for a Listener. (He puts the letter in the out-tray.)

Sub-editor: This one’s crying foul as well. She says that there is a hare running across the top of the grid in a series of knight’s moves. (He puts the letter in the out-tray.)

Editor (reading the third letter): And this one. He says he saw the hare in the preamble, thought that was very unlikely, and spent another 14 hours trying to find another one in a straight line. Having failed, he highlighted the preamble hare, but didn’t hold much hope. He says that “If you’re not 100% sure, you’re almost certainly wrong” didn’t seem to apply this week. (This letter also goes in the out-tray.)

Sub-editor (reading next letter): Somebody here lifted the LIFT in LIFT-GIRL and highlighted the HARE that then ran along row 5. (Letter goes in out-tray.)

Editor (reading next letter): This solver wonders whether highlighting the preamble would have been marked wrong if we had decided on one of the other ways of highlighting HARE in the grid.

DISSOLVE to clock which now reads 12:45.

Sub-editor (taking last letter from in-tray): This one is from a long-time solver who tilted the letters of HARE in SEARCH AREA in the grid and made sure they were in a straight line, thus fulfilling all the requirements of the preamble. That’s what Dave Hennings did. I thought it was far more stylish than the solution that we went for. I think I said so at the time.

Editor (sneering at Sub-editor): Yes, you did! But at least Dave wasn’t an all-correct having made that laughable mistake with his Yellow Submarine highlighting. Plus, he was a prize-winner with Hedge-sparrow’s John Masefield puzzle. Still, I’ll buy Dave a couple of pints at the next Listener get-together. That’ll make him happy.

Sub-editor puts the last letter in the out-tray, which slowly disappears. At the same time, another letter appears in the in-tray. Editor takes it.

Editor: It’s post-marked next January. (He opens it and reads it.) “Roger, Thanks for the drinks yesterday. I’m still not happy. Best wishes, Dave.”

Any similarity to actual events is just wishful thinking.

A Bit Up in the Air

listener-4423-animationA much easier week from Phi, although he has set some toughies in the past. His last was two years ago with Haydn’s Farewell Symphony and before that, Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast (tough).

The clueing was intriguing. Twelve clues contained an extra word which would somehow yield a phrase and an anagram, and eight clues led to two words differing by one letter, only one of which (obviously) would become the grid entry. (I say “obviously”, but in his puzzle, Poat had decided that both letters should go into the relevant square.)

I enjoyed this second clue type, since the wordplay was to the words without their differing letter. For example, 2dn Australian temple recipe used in function (6) defined STRINE and SHRINE with R in SINE for the wordplay. I got that and the crossing SHARING/STARING fairly early in my solve. I wondered if all the differences were H/T when I got 17ac Encourages busy store to stock unknown screws (7): EXHORTS/EXTORTS and STORE* containing X.

I had my eye on the diagonals early on, especially with ITER… running down the NW–SE (ITERATIVELY?). However, it was deeply satisfying to finally discard that, and discover that taking the first/last letters of the extra words in order gave HEADS OR TAILS (running upwards in the right half of the grid) and its anagram I HERALD A TOSS (running down the left).

Actually, I’m not sure that this was 100% fair. You needed to identify the theme ‘Heads or Tails’ in order to determine how to use the extra words, but you needed the anagrams from the extra words in order to identify the theme. (Only joking!!)

listener-4423-my-entryI had heard of these anagrams many years ago, but had also, like many things, forgotten them. Thanks to Phi for a fairly gentle and enjoyable puzzle. If you want to read his setter’s blog, it’s already available on his web site Phi Crosswords.

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Listener No. 4386: Hailstorm by Elap

Posted by Dave Hennings on 11 Mar 2016

SCENE: The Editor’s office, December 2015.

There is a desk in the centre of the room. There is an in-tray on the desk containing a letter. There is a clock on the wall. It reads 11:00.

There are two chairs: a big one is behind the desk and a small one in front of it. Editor is sitting on the big chair and Sub-editor on the small one. Next to the small chair is a stool. Elap is sitting on it; he is hugging his briefcase.

Elap: Nice in-tray.

Editor: Thanks.

Editor takes the letter. As he does so, the in-tray slowly disappears. Elap either doesn’t notice or is used to that sort of thing happening.

Editor: This is the letter I mentioned on the phone. (Reading from letter) “The amount of Listener real estate that is wasted by the mathematicals having small grids and a puny set of clues is unacceptable. Do something about it… or else!” It arrived a week ago after the last mathematical.

Sub-editor (to Editor): That was yours, wasn’t it?

Editor (ignoring Sub-editor): Out of all the mathematical setters, you were the only one who said they had something in the pipeline that might help.

Elap (removing a thick sheaf of about 50 A4 papers from his briefcase): Yes, you’re lucky. I’ve just finished my latest effort. Given the title of the puzzle, I managed to con the Meteorological Office into giving me use of their old supercomputer for six months this year. It produced this.

Editor: We need to fill eighteen column inches, not three newspapers.

Elap: Oh, this is just the computer output. Here’s my preamble. (He takes another wadge of about 40 sheets from his briefcase and hands it to Editor.) I’m sure you can whittle it down a bit.

Editor (reading page 1): “The Collatz conjecture is a problem posed by the German mathematician, Lothar Collatz, in 1937. It is also called the 3x+1 mapping, 3n+1 problem, Hasse’s algorithm (after Helmut Hasse), Kakutani’s problem (after Shizuo Kakutani), Syracuse algorithm, Syracuse problem, Thwaites conjecture (after Sir Bryan Thwaites), and Ulam’s problem (after Stanisław Ulam).

“Collatz was born on 6th July 1910 in Arnsberg, Westphalia. In 1937 he posed the famous conjecture, which remains unsolved. The conjecture can be summarized as follows. Take any positive integer n. If n is even, divide it by 2 to get n / 2. If n is odd, multiply it by 3 and add 1 to obtain 3n + 1. Repeat the process (which has been called “Half Or Triple Plus One”, or HOTPO) indefinitely. The conjecture is that no matter what number you start with, you will always eventually reach 1. The property has also been called oneness. The sequence of numbers involved is referred to as the hailstone sequence or hailstone numbers (because the values are usually subject to multiple descents and ascents like hailstones in a cloud), or as wondrous numbers.

“For example, the sequence for the number 27 is as follows: 27, 82, 41, 124, 62, 31, 94, 47, 142, 71, 214, 107, 322, 161, 484, 242, 121, 364, 182, 91, 274, 137, …”

DISSOLVE to clock which now reads 12:25.

Editor (still reading): “…the second part explains how solvers must apply the results of the first part, after erasing the contents of all but the circled cells. In each version of the grid, the 38 entries are different and none of them starts with a zero.”

The last page contains a grid and some clues. Editor puts it down on the desk. His eyes have glazed over.

Editor: Well, it’s not a particularly large grid…

Sub-editor (glancing at last page): …but bigger than yours was…

Editor (ignoring Sub-editor): …and there could be more clues…

Sub-editor: …more than yours had…

Editor (glaring at Sub-editor): …but with a somewhat cut-down preamble it should do the trick. Thanks, Elap.

Any similarity to actual events is entirely unlikely.

Listener 4386An Elap mathematical again this time. Last year’s (no. 4347 Pairs) used squares or numbers which were concatenated squares. With Elap, I always think back to his Three-square puzzle in 2010 which needed us to realise that all rows and columns consisted of triangular numbers. I nearly failed on that one, and I knew that an Elap endgame could be the cause of potential grief.

This week’s puzzle was based on the Collatz conjecture where x/2 or 3x+1 repeatedly would lead us to 1. 1dn looked as good a start as any, NNNN being 2 digits had to be 16, not 81 which would have 8ac as 1• but had to be greater than 1dn. So N was 2, which meant that 8ac was 2P + P² and only P=7 gave a number 6•.

From there, progress was fairly quick, with 2dn, 4dn, 10ac, 26dn, 10ac and 28dn leading the way. There were a couple of long pauses as I progressed, and care had to be taken to ensure that all the options for the hailstone numbers were accounted for. I made one mistake with H=28, where I initially overlooked h=9 as a possible option; luckily h was 56.

The grid was completed in about two hours, and all we had to do was “decode it (in a thematic direction)”. For about twenty minutes I tried to use the values of all the numbers in the clues — N=2, R=3, m=4, t=6, etc. I realised that the thematic direction would be vertical, either all down, or down, up, down.

Luckily, it didn’t take too long to realise that it was simple alphabeticala positions that led to Produce 38 hailstone numbers from 988 and fill grid. I listed out the required numbers, a bit puzzled by there being 50, including 988 and 1.

1114 was the first one in the grid, using two of the numbers left from satge 1. 1672 therefore occupied the second 4-digit space, and from there the grid-fill was easy… until near the end. I had options for some of the 2-digit entries — 5dn could be 10, 13, 16 or 19. Most of the options for these digits would fill gaps in the main body of hailstone numbers, and I realised that “from 988” meant just that.

In reading about hailstone sequences, I was particularly struck by 27, a seemingly innocuous number, but requiring 111 steps to reach 1 and climbing to 9232 on its way.

Listener 4386 My EntryThanks to Elap for another excellent puzzle, and thanks to Collatz (or Hasse or Kakutani or Thwaites or Ulam) for his fascinating mathematical conjecture. I await its proof with interest.

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Listener 4289: Popularity Contest by Tibea

Posted by Dave Hennings on 2 May 2014

SCENE: The Editor’s office, July 2013.

There is a desk in the centre of the room. There is an in-tray on the desk containing two letters. There are two chairs, a big one behind the desk and a small one in front of it.

Enter Editor and Sub-editor. Editor sits behind the desk, Sub-editor in front of it.

Editor: I see the in-tray has come back.

Sub-editor: So it has. The last time we saw that was with the Doctor Who puzzle last November. What has it got for us this time?

Editor empties the contents of the in-tray onto the desk, takes the first letter and opens it.

Editor (reading letter): It’s from a Max Turner and he says that he has been grappling with the Listener crossword for a couple of years now, and so far he has had little success. He is coming to the opinion that it is too elitist and needs to include puzzles that the average punter has got at least some chance with. He seems to think that there’s an inner circle that the ordinary solver cannot get into.

Sub-editor: Do you want me to write the standard reply from you, saying thanks for the letter and you’ll pass it to the relevant person… i.e. me?

Editor (handing letter to Sub-editor): Yes, please. Mind you, it reminds me of that puzzle that you and I thought of some time ago which played on the fact that ESOTERIC and COTERIES were anagrams.

Sub-editor: Yes, except that failed because we couldn’t agree on our pseudonym. Neither Edisub nor Kuron seemed to have the same cachet as Mango or Rasputin. What’s in the other letter?

Editor (picking up second letter): That’s odd… it’s postmarked next Friday!

Sub-editor: I expected nothing less!

Editor (opening and reading letter): It just says “How about this?”. It is unsigned. There’s a completed puzzle attached with the title Popularity Contest with circled squares that read ESOTERIC from top to bottom, but COTERIES from left to right. MORE LIKE THIS is the Phrase written under the grid. Well that’s a coincidence.

Sub-editor: I doubt it! Who’s the setter?

Editor: Tibea.

Sub-editor: Sounds like it’s a joint puzzle.

Editor: Why didn’t we think of that?

Sub-editor: We probably will.

Any similarity to actual events is entirely disjointed.

Fast forward to April 2014.

Listener 4289Another new setter this week in the guise of Tibea. From the preamble, it seems that the editors have had lots of letters pleading for the Listener to be dumbed down! Hopefully that won’t happen. After all, there’s the Inquisitor, Enigmatic Variations, Spectator, Magpie and Crossword, all catering for the solver who needs a little bit extra than the daily 15×15 block diagram gives. Indeed, the standard of the Listener varies from week to week, if not from setter to setter. I wonder where Tibea will stand on the difficulty front? And why was he selected as setter for this puzzle?

Twelve answers were of the Letters Latent variety, whereby a letter needed to be removed from the answer, as often as it occurs, before entry. In this puzzle, letters in brackets referred to answer, not entry, length, so a bit of help there.

There was a nice variety of clues on my first pass through them, from the simple anagram at 12ac A he-man, I demolished a West Coast city (7) which gave ANAHEIM, to the misleading use of ‘ground’ and ‘houses’ in 17ac Ground around houses left with small lump (7) for NODULAR. Despite being given entry lengths for the LL clues, I didn’t solve any in my first run through, although 15dn Red shifts (4) was certainly an anagram, given its 3-letter entry slot. NERD seemed likely! I was also perplexed by the wordplay for TABU at 6dn Prohibition is what fills the bath with rum, essentially.

I wish that it had been 11ac Joint badly twisted (9, two words) that gave the game away for me, but HIPLLI looked like gobbledygook. In fact, it was G[r]ASS [r]OOTS at 18ac and MULTITUD[e] at 43 that put me on track. The thematic words were all words for ordinary people. hoi polloi (yes, I should have got that first) defines it best in this context as ‘(derog) n the many; the masses; the rabble, the vulgar’; grass roots also includes the phrase ‘rank and file’, used in the preamble.

Although the puzzle wasn’t tough, it wasn’t particularly easy either. I liked the way that most of the LL clues lost more than one letter on entry, especially the three Os in HOI POLLOI and three Ts in THIRD ESTATE. The clues were all spot-on as well, with the likes of 19dn Article on education was blooming written in Elizabethan verse! (5) where the last four words were used to indicate a ‘(Spenser)’ word.

And as for 25dn Rafael regularly, having missed baseline stroke, holds following service (8) for the thematic entry R[i]FF-RAFF: RFE (alternate letters of RaFaEl) holding F (following) RAF (service) with the bottom stroke of the E removed… sheer genius. And not the work of a novice, if you ask me!

For some time 27dn Built in, with one side turning to the other (7) looked like it it was WRECKED, but that seemed unlikely, since neither the wordplay nor definition was there! It turned out to be ERECTED (built) with ELECTED (in) changing L for R.

I was close to filling in my submission grid, and part of me realised that I wasn’t entirely happy with 6dn TABU. It took a bit of time to wonder if there was another word TA·U, and a quick run through the alphabet led me to ‘what fills a bath being a TAP, and TAPU is a Maori word for ‘taboo’.

Listener 4289 My EntryAll that remained was to enter the three words formed by the Letters Latent under the grid: More like this, a phrase that can be read in one of two ways, depending on the stress. Coincidentally, and courtesy of the QI elves and a tweeter called @Grammarly:

“I never said she stole my money” has seven different meanings, depending on the stress.

And so thanks to Tibea for an excellent puzzle. I hope you gang up against us again in the near future.

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Listener 4269: Journey to the Centre by Ilver

Posted by Dave Hennings on 13 Dec 2013

SCENE: The Editor’s office early in 2013. There is a desk in the centre of the room. There are two chairs either side of the desk, a big one and a small one. Editor sits in the big chair, Sub-editor sits in the smaller one with a laptop. Editor puts a piece of paper on the desk. The piece of paper has a crossword puzzle printed on it.

Editor: Well that’s 16th November sorted. What have we got available for the 23rd? It’s the last mathematical of the year.

Sub-editor: Hmmm… why does that date ring a distant bell. Let me google “Anniversaries November 2013”

Sub-editor types furiously on his keyboard.

Sub-Editor (reading off screen): “The first episode of the science fiction television series ‘Doctor Who’ was broadcast in the UK. It is the longest-running and most successful science fiction TV series in the world.” Well, we could commission a special mathematical around the equation of space-time and the twelve dimensions. Elap could write a computer program to work out the interspatial vertices.

Editor: OK, I’ll send him an email tomorrow.

Sub-editor: What are those two envelopes doing in the in-tray?

Editor: That’s odd… I didn’t think we had an in-tray.

Editor takes the two envelopes out of the in-tray and opens the first one.

Editor: It’s a mathematical puzzle from Oyler.

Sub-editor: Well that’s lucky. What does he have to say?

Editor (reading a letter): He says it’s the 600th anniversary of the founding of the University of St Andrew’s, this year and he’s enclosing a puzzle he’s done to celebrate it. He’s also suggesting that publishing it on 30th November would be good as that’s St Andrew’s Day.

Sub-editor: That wouldn’t work… everyone’s just got used to the mathematical moving to the penultimate Saturday of every third month.

Editor: You’re right. I’ll reply that it would be too confusing.

Sub-editor: What’s in the other envelope?

Editor: It’s a puzzle from Ilver. He says it’s the 50th anniversary of Doctor Who on 23rd November this year and he’s enclosing a puzzle to celebrate it. (He pauses.) Oh well, it looks like we’re destined to confuse everyone. I’ll schedule them for the dates they’ve suggested. Sorted!

Sub-editor: Where’s the in-tray gone?

Any similarity to actual events is in the realms of science fiction.

Fast forward to November 2013.

Listener 4269Well, they weren’t going to surprise me this week… I was ready for the quarterly mathematical puzzle. It was just a shame that it fell on 23rd November, the date of the anniversary of Doctor Who that the BBC had been flagging for most of the year! Never mind, I got to blog Stick Insect’s EV puzzle, Distortion, and Nimrod’s IQ, combining the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination the day before.

Upon opening the paper, I had the same sort of feeling as I did with Mr Magoo’s domino puzzle, except that had a grid that seemed too small for a normal puzzle and here it seemed too big for a mathematical. A quick read of the preamble, ending as it did “thus completing a representation of the transport in that row”, and I realised we were indeed in Doctor Who country, the transport being the TARDIS.

The unfortunate thing was that I probably had a lot of cold solving in front of me. Moreover, certain clues (as seems common these days, we weren’t told how many) had an extra wordplay letter, but they shouldn’t be too daunting.

Luckily, the clues, all good, were pretty straightforward, but it took me about an hour to finish my first pass through them. Not that that bothered me… I had solved over 40 of them, and the grid was coming along nicely. I’d even managed to get the message spelt out by the extra letters: Count a letter in each of remaining clues. All that was in the first run of clues, with the rest not having any extra letter at all. How wonderfully sneaky! Moreover, the clues without an extra letter numbered 26, so it was obvious that something needed to be done with them, one for each letter of the alphabet.

It wasn’t much later that I had a full grid, and the instruction had to be interpreted. My initial thought was that we had to count the occurences of each letter of the alphabet in the clues in order. Unfortunately, the F in row 2 column 1, had to be surrounded by four shaded cells and that conflicted with the W in the top left corner which would be surrounded by none.

I tried various other possible interpretations, including trying to find one particular letter whose appearance in each clue indicated how many shaded squares there were. Nothing worked out.

It wasn’t too long before I checked my four word chains and discovered that I hadn’t finished the top left corner correctly. Indeed, the end of stage 6, REALTER didn’t appear properly at all. Stupid boy! My first instinct about counting each letter of the alphabet in order proved correct, and I built a new grid containing the numbers 0 – 4 and corresponding to the number of shaded squares that should surround each one.

Listener 4269 My EntryThis stage proved a little bit tricky, but was very rewarding when it all worked out correctly, and there in front of me in large letters was DOCTOR WHO. Obviously L, for 50, needed to be slotted in the central square to reveal ETRELDIMM, ie T (time) & REL (relative) DIM (dimension) in EM (space), which is what TARDIS stands for.

Thanks, Ilver, for a superb (and not too tricky) implementation of a wonderful anniversary.

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