I’ve been dreading the Friday download all week. Yes, this OCD of Listener solving reaches the point where that three-monthly numerical can disrupt our existence for days. When we saw the length of the preamble (several times the number of letters in the clues) and tried to get our heads round what we were being instructed to do, we were truly discombobulated. This was not going to be easy.

Could Elap hope to have his Listener Tippler’s Club membership renewed with such an offering? I searched through his clues and found DeW – that’s one of the world’s top selling whiskies isn’t it? (It was also one of the last clues we solved when we had slogged for about five hours and found that D = 80, e = 89 and W = 73 which gave us 9216 to enter). I wonder whether that PASTS in Grid 1 was a careless spelling of PASTIS. Benefit of the doubt to Elap so “Cheers”. See you with the Pastis in Paris?

The other Numpty soon worked out that of the 34 available digits between 2 and 98 that could be the sum of two squares, 2,8,18,32,72 and 98 were not available as they are all the sums of identical squares, so we were left with 28 potential integers that had to be the equivalents of the letters I,A,P,C,R,M,S,T,E,Y,O,D,Z,L,N,V,W and t,o,e,a,r (there would be six left-overs). That didn’t seem quite so daunting and we set to work with him filling the usual mountain of paper and complaining at my slowness with the calculator.

Initially the grid fill went well but we hit our first brick wall when we found that we had E = 53 and o = 53. We had O at 89 and t at 61 at this stage and things had been looking good, but it was not to be. I don’t think my O Level maths teacher ever told us that a negative number squares to a positive, but the other Numpty knows that sort of thing and with lots of cursing, we extricated ourselves from our mess which meant rethinking O, t and N among others.

Enough – you wouldn’t be reading this if you hadn’t completed the puzzle. So on to the endgame.

Once our grids were complete (well, all the clues were in) it took five minutes to order the letters by increasing numeric values and we found the ten letters that must replace the digits 0 to 9 – ILAPCREMST, the hint that we had to VARY the positions of the letters in the first grid to arrive at the second grid and the information that we were looking for TWO DOZEN five-letter words.

At this point, I should admit that during our flailings, the word TWENtY had obligingly appeared and totally misled us about how many words were going to appear in the word squares, but TWO DOZEN! That is an achievement in itself and, of course, required two words going diagonally in each grid or some going in two directions (actually I found 26 by counting STIME and EMITS, TRAMS and SMART as well as the four diagonals, with SAIRS being a valid Scottish word but I suppose that is just nit-picking).

Converting the number grids to word grids was almost fun. That’s how I like my crosswords – WORDS! – but we were faced with gaps and were told that we had to VARY the positions of the letters in the first grid to produce the second. Crossword compiler told me that there was only one way to complete grid one and that gave SEERS on the last line and the spare letters T,M,S,S,I,S to use to complete the second grid

Ah, the HARE. He was there in 2d, running round like a headless chicken or burying his head in the sand at the thought of a numerical crossword, and there was a MARA doubling back on himself at the top of the second grid but it was another solver who actually told me how to fill the second grid. I had to anagram or jumble those 25 letters of the first grid and that gave SILLIEST TRAP SECRETES A MARA. Why didn’t I spot that for myself? Simples!