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Posts Tagged ‘the nine dots puzzle’

His by Nebuchadnezzar – Thinking outside the box

Posted by shirleycurran on 1 December 2017

Not a long pre-ramble but one that caused us some trepidation as we read that there were extra words (yes, I called that a setter’s cop out last week but it was used in an original way to get pairs of letters this week), clashes (ugh!), and one or two omitted letters in 16 clues that were to lead to a closed outline. What’s more, there were two clues with wordplay only. Yes, those are what gave us our pdm after several hours of solving.

I believe I have seen Nebuchadnezzar, glass in hand, at a Magpie event – he’s an established compiler there (Magpie plug – six Listener-style crosswords available each month and a lively editorial with a mass of crossword related comments) but this seems to be his first Listener crossword, and what a debut! Does he get his admission to the bar at the next Listener setters’ dinner in Paris? Resoundingly “Yes”. ‘Dipso, drunken pest? (6)’ was his first alcoholic clue and that gave us PSOCID with an extra C emerging from the wordplay. “City’s dropping prohibition from us (3)” gave us URBAN dropping BAN and an extra O in the wordplay, so that we entered OUR.

An entertaining clue ‘Camp bed, beer or [blonde] afterwards, displayed heartlessly (4)’ produced that extra word giving us two letters (RA) of the message and we heartlessly used LA(G)ER and LA(T)ER to enter LAER. Not satisfied with the blonde and the beer, our drunken dipso pest concluded his alcoholic references with ‘Pub stop — Queen entering place of debauchery (8)’ HO = stop and ER enters STY producing HOSTELRY with yet another of those extra letters, L. See you at the Paris hostelry Nebuchadnezzar? Santé!

We solved slowly and steadily and it eventually became evident that a square or box was being created by those omitted letters and they were spelling something about COLUMBUS. Wikipedia was, as usual, a great help here and led us to something I should have seen far earlier as I had a puzzle published on this very theme on the crossword centre’s message board not quite five years ago. My ‘Thinking outside the box‘ was a far simpler puzzle just called Beyond the Pale. We needed a further prompt to finally produce the penny-drop-moment we Numpties needed. Clue 1d clearly spelled DUDENEY: ‘Admirable fellow’ = DUDE and ‘the old’ =YE, ‘mathematician at last’ =N both returned (with a fine reference to the mathematician of the theme) – so there it was. LOYD seemed to be the inevitable accompaniment, as the other clue consisting of wordplay only at 31d but we needed a long scribble on a sheet of paper to justify that (‘encyclopaedia’* – ‘piece’*, ‘about’ = C  and ‘a number’ A N. Yes, we muttered imprecations at Nebuchadnezzar at this point!)

However, all was now clear. Our theme was the nine dots puzzle. We still had some improbable words appearing in our grid at 13d and 14d, 24ac and 36 ac but those were going to incorporate the clashes that had to become the dots of the puzzle. How cleverly that message was concealed. We scribbled out the ‘omitted wordplay’ letters and, sure enough, there it was. REPLACE WITH DOTS/ CONNECT WITH FOUR STRAIGHT LINES WITHOUT LIFTING PEN.

Of course, drawing the box was no problem but, at first, it seemed to us that there were four possibilities for the solution to the nine dots puzzle. Ah, no. Nebuchadnezzar was far too cunning for that. (Nudge, nudge, remember to read and obey every word of the preamble!) ‘with a unique solution guided by the original contents of the affected cells’.  We found THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX in those clashes and a well-placed I and T in the grid margins. Brilliant! How very clever! Of course that was a problem for the setter and I went back to my own use of the theme and found a more simple way of resolving it.

Ah, the Poat hares. Nebuchadnezzar may be a new Listener setter but of course they were there, if, as usual, somewhat jumbled. I was a bit worried about that clue ‘Fleeces hot (supermodel) overcome by a French hauteur (7)’ but decided it wasn’t a case of mis-spelling or stripping the coat from the animals. (It gave us UN AIRS around H(ot) = UNHAIRS).  My vote this week went to the little creature ‘thinking outside the box’ and gambolling on the bottom line of the grid.



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