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Posts Tagged ‘The Code Duello’

Listener No 4480: The Code Duello by Agricola

Posted by Dave Hennings on 29 Dec 2017

A new setter this week, and one of everybody’s favourite features, the Playfair Code. On closer inspection, it’s actually Playfair Codes, so double the pleasure for our money.

In fact, I know that it’s not everybody’s favourite, but I’ve grown to have a certain respect for them and don’t normally find them too daunting. Whether this week’s offering will be forgiving, only time would tell.

On much closer inspection, the clues to be encoded were only clued by the extra wordplay letters in the clues. Not only that, they were long entries, 12 letters at 1ac and 10 letters at 10dn.

A speedy zip through the clues, and the grid was filled. This gave us the two clues: I rode unsteadily in sewing machine, said g’day on Buddhist mountain. I wasn’t too sure whether the break in thte clues was at machine/said or machines/aid, although the former seemed more likely. Also, I wasn’t sure if the clues were in the order of 1ac then 10dn or the other way.

SINGER was the sewing machine and BERG was the mountain, and those two elements enabled the answers to be swiftly scribbled in my notes: SCHROEDINGER and HEISENBERG.

The two Playfair codes were polished off in extra quick time: PARTICLE and WAVE.

OK, so that’s how it should have been solved!!

Unfortunately, every step of the way took me a considerable amount of time. Each one which I have described as “speedy”, “swift” or “quick” seemed to take an age. The analysis of the two clues was particularly slow, having got into into my head that it was (I RODE)* in a sewing machine (which I really didn’t expect to be the Singer — ®), and I wondered if there was a holy Buddhist mountain that I’d not heard of.

In the end, the clues were parsed as CH (I, dialect) RODE* in SINGER, and HEISEN (sounds like hi Zen) BERG (mountain).

And, of course, the Playfairs weren’t really straightforward, since SCHOEDINGER could encode to NBQEQLMDOFHE or OHGSRWCKMHGY and HESENBERG to either QHTUCQDBAH or GBNOBMWBYM. It was certainly a way to make Playfair code-squares move from being tricky to diabolical, but I eventually got PARTICLE and WAVE. The latter was the harder since, unusually, most of the square was made up of letters not in the code-word. We were also helped by CAT, not BAT, being revealed by the coded 10dn.

All in all, a real challenge for a puzzle near the year-end. Thanks for the duel, Agricola.

PS No animals were harmed in the making of the animation!



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Heisenberg’s Hog aka ‘The Code Duello’ by Agricola

Posted by Encota on 29 Dec 2017

There are those that react to the word ‘Playfair’ in a Listener puzzle – and not in a good way!  Luckily, not me …

So it’s all about a duel, eh?  The gaps at Clues 1 and 10 are of lengths 12 and 10 letters respectively, so what could be simpler?  Read through any pages you can find covering Famous Duels and there are just bound to be a pair of duellists that match those lengths.

[2 hours reading later, I move on to reading about fictional duels …]

Hold on a moment, what’s this from the TV Series Blackadder?  WELLINGTON (Stephen Fry) duelling the PRINCE REGENT (Hugh Laurie) – they are (10) and (12).  Aha, it’s a another bit of Fry & Laurie …

[An hour later, having searched for possible code words that create the correct Playfair cipher text … and finding none …]

With my LOI providing the G of G’DAY below, I now have deciphered the wordplay for 10d to (probably) read:


and, at long last, think, “HI ZEN BERG”, i.e. ‘sounds like’ Heisenberg.

And all the Quantum Mechanical hints I’d been managing to miss – Planck’s constant, ‘uncertainty’ in the Preamble, ‘Copenhagen interpretation’ – suddenly become clear.  WAVE-PARTICLE duality – they are bound to be the two Codewords required; SCHROEDINGER (or similar spellings) and HEISENBERG  as the two thematic names.  Check that I haven’t made an error in my pencilled out squares by using Sympathy crossword software’s Gimmick feature (That’s ‘andy ‘arry) to confirm the encodings.  They all match up – and I’m almost done.

All that leaves is the Preamble’s mention of the appearance of a thematic animal.  Well, using one associated with Schroedinger would be far too obvious, so what else is hiding there?  Aah – found it, see grid below.  Clearly we all know the Cat associated with Schroedinger but have you heard of the lesser known (Errr…significantly lesser known!: Ed.] Heisenberg’s Hog?  The grid confirms this is the one to choose, through the other words defining such a creature: HOG DOES OVER-EAT.  The mysterious female Hares make a Yuletide appearance, as DOES, at 30 ac too.


If you’re not aware Heisenberg’s (Xmas) Hog was originally defined to explain the following fact*: ‘The more certain you are as to where the Xmas Roast is (the HOG, of Heisenberg’s Hog fame) the less certain you’ll know how quickly it’ll be eaten (i.e. how long it will last).  Developed from Planck’s earlier work – as an aside, his constant is actually h for hog (not hilfsgrosse, or the like).  And for experimental proof, I’ve seen its corollary in action over the past couple of days over Xmas: ‘The less certain I am as to where the chocolates in the family tin of Cadbury’s Roses are, then the more certain I am that they’ll go faster‘.  Now that explains the empty tin …

A Happy Thingummy & A Merry Doobrey-flip to all – or was it the other way round?

Tim / Encota

*Using the word ‘fact’ in the sense of something that rhymes with ‘rowlocks’.

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