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Posts Tagged ‘Journey to the Centre’

Journey to the Centre by Ilver

Posted by shirleycurran on 13 Dec 2013

Journey to the Centre 001There was an immense whoop of relief from at least one Numpty when we realized that a numerical Listener was not being inflicted upon us this week (or was it? All those little numbers scattered around the grid had us wondering!)

Of course, we have been saying, all week, that with so many anniversaries this weekend, (the Gettysburg address, the Kennedy assassination, Benjamin Britten’s centenary and the fiftieth anniversary of some weirdo scientific fellow who flew through time and space in a police phone box) the editors would be mad to give us a numerical. What good sense to step out of the straitjacket and honour or commemorate at least one of those!

The preamble told us fairly clearly which of those we were celebrating but we were a long and winding road from our destination in this journey to the centre. At first, this involved cold-solving, and we are never very good at that. The only gift was that, when we had a few clues solved, and some were generous, we had the length, first and last letters of the adjacent ones. However, the ‘winding’ aspect of the journeys flummoxed us in a few cases – even my very last clue, where I needed to insert EMOTED in order to get to the centre, but had already placed the I of SLID in the second E cell – so easy to go wrong. It was fun though!

Full grid 001Fun? As usual, I gave a speedy troll through the clues to check that Ilver was still a member of the Listener Setters’ Imbibing Association and he just qualified, with his ‘Fermented juice on French afternoon (4)’ SUR + A and, later on, ‘Research frothy ale and decide again (6)’ RES + ALE* giving RESEAL. I have seen him being far more discerning about his choice of beverage (well, we are part of a team of setters) but I imagine, on this occasion, the need to find an O in the fifteenth of his 26 left-over clues made him descend the path of choosing ale with far too big a head on it. Such is the downside of compiling!

In truth, with that constraint, his clues were of the usual high Ilver standing and, for once, generous on the whole so our grid was filled after a few hours of flailing, with the task becoming far easier when only the fourth journey was left to complete and a number of cells were left vacant, clearly indicating the route.  What’s more, the message hidden in the first 34 clues was emerging: COUNT A LETTER IN EACH OF REMAINING CLUES.

1st try  haha 001OK, time for a confession. Rather a long time ago, we test-solved this puzzle. Friends say to me ‘No doubt you have done this already and you’ll be sitting like a Cheshire cat watching us struggle’. Well, this is perhaps the place to disillusion them. First about a test-solve: there is often an immense difference between the original creation and the one that goes off to the Editors. There is then another time-shift to the polished product that appears one, two or even five years later. So what changed? Well, that instruction about how to complete this was nowhere near so clear in the original version (and there was a miscount in how many sides of one of the letters had to be adjacently coloured) and I thought it might be amusing to insert here what I produced on my first attempt to suss out what was going on. It is perhaps better to relegate that one to the bin!

I had realized that there were 26 remaining clues and that I needed to count the frequency, for example, of G in the G clue,  or Y in the Y clue and somehow apply that to the letters in the grid, but even that led to more than the usual Numpty head scratch.

Journey to the centre 001Secondly, clues change, too becoming, on the whole, far easier, and this time, the changes made a slight difference to the instruction. Anyone who thinks ‘The Editors must have made a mistake’ (as I occasionally hear) needs to submit a crossword and experience the detailed to-and-fro dealings of compiler and editors that produce what we finally see.  All that to say that vetters and test-solvers – and there are two or three, probably, for almost every submission before it even reaches the Editors, are not really being privileged to get an early glance – they have to re-solve anyway when the puzzle appears.

Back to the point! Fortunately, once the penny had dropped and I realized that some graphic depiction of the Tardis was not going to emerge from the grid, I was able to be a little more rational in my shading of letters, beginning with those around that centre cell. The device became clear, as did DOCTOR WHO.

What was left to do? We needed to understand how putting an L in the centre cell to reflect the fiftieth anniversary was ‘thus completing a representation of the transport in that row’.  All setters have to occasionally resort to that crosswordese use of EM and EN as ‘spaces’ and there was EM surrounding T and REL DIM. That, it seems, says ‘Time and relative dimension in space’ which gives TARDIS (Wow!). Dare I admit, that I don’t know much about the Doctor Who series but I’m happy to go with that.

Criticism, though. We are going to watch the fiftieth anniversary special broadcast this evening and we are looking forward to those anguished elephant trumpeting noises that accompanied every movement of the Tardis. Ilver has missed the chance to require a recorded message as his final endgame. ‘Solvers must send JEG  a recording of a relevant sound accompaniment to demonstrate that they have found a way out.’

What is left to do? Congratulate Ilver on an astonishing compilation. I have seen what must be hundreds of hours of work that have gone into that polished production. Quite something!

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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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