Friday, March 28, 2008
So close, and yet so far...
I made a promising start on this one, after my first sitting, I had a dozen or so clues in, and had found a few of the clashing points. If you're compiling a crossword and want to make me happy, have 1ac be a long word that is easy to get, makes me feel smart. Working from GLOSSES OVER and an equally gentle first clashing letter in 6 down (REND), I had a half-filled out grid by midweek.
I started looking at the theme at this point, extra letters in the wordplay... if you look carefully at the top of my grid you can see where I was. I had...
A - - R - - U I - E - - R O - - AN
I have had some lucky guesses in the past, so I was hoping the last part was EURPOEAN, and a look at 33a gave me more hope - (PRO)<= + RA gives me ORRA and a P, and now knowing the extra letters, I filled out the bottom half of the across clues, wheee!
- U I - E looked like GUIDE, and a peer through Chambers gave me EMERAUDE as a version of EMERALD, and there's my extra G from EMERGE(=came out).
Very excited by this point, all I have to do is take care of
A - - R - GUIDE EUROPEAN
Blank well and truly drawn. 11 across looks like TRIENE, and would you believe, as I'm typing this blog I think I see it now... I had TRIUNE - U + ER = TRIENE + R, and it was probable meant to be TRIBUNE - U + E(?) = TRIENE + B
So I was stuck at A R-R- GUIDE EUROPEAN, which I took to either be RARE or RIRE (still on that French kick from last week).
RIRE seemed the best bet, so I looked for words meaning to laugh or joke in other languages. No dice. I went to the preamble and thought maybe European words for "THE" was what I was looking for - naturally a lot of LA's and LE's. If the R is a B then I'm probably looking for birds, though I don't see any.
Congratulations to Mr. Lemon - I am undone, the streak is ended at 4, and I tuck my tail between my legs and hide in a corner. So near and yet so far...
Tally: Listener 4, George 6
Friday, March 21, 2008
Half of the entries are words that are spelled the same, but have (maybe) different meanings in French and English. Immediately main (hand) and pain (bread) sprung to mind and I thought this was going to be a fun puzzle, and one I had a good chance to finish for two reasons...
- I took French right through high school. And since I had a Scottish teacher, then an Australian teacher and then completed my HSC French by correspondence, (and lived for 4 years in Canada) my written French is much much better than my spoken French.
- All the answers are going to be real words, so I can cheat like crazy by hunt-and-pecking through Chambers Word Wizards.
Both of which ended up being absoultely necessary.
The NE corner ended up being the most amenable, with some long words (ON ONE'S PLATE, TROOPER) going in pretty quickly, and after a few days of poking and prodding I had almost the entire right half of the grid filled in. If you peer closely at the grid, you can see that I messed up 1ac, not once but twice, foruntately "RETICULATION" only had two incorrect words. Trying to fit words that checked with FAMOUS led me to fixing that up.
I kept a list of words - it helped to write down that there were 21 clues of each type, and I found it easier to spot the extra words than the French words, so when I got to the final hurdle, I knew there were three French words and one extra word to find.
The last hurdle was the SE corner. And thank you Monty Python, after being convinced this was my last extra word, and putting my thumb over one word at a time and trying to read it, SAMITE came to mind (from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail", the description of the Lady of the Lake - "Her hand, clad in shimmering samite"). MIT (German "with") in SAE (self-addressed envelope, what you would include in the post). And we have our completed grid.
This was definitely fun. Lots of good times looking up French words (I'll admit, altavista's babel fish translator was broken out once or twice, in favor of stopping by the library for a French-English dictionary). And the streak is up to 4 for George and early in the year, I've managed to build up a little of a lead.
Tally: George 6, Listener 3
Postscript: As I was typing this, the solution came online, and I find I am incorrect in one spot - I had vite instead of cite, a smack-self-in-the-head error. I'm still claiming this one, not sure what the leeway should be, comments welcome.
Friday, March 14, 2008
It's numerical puzzle time, and I have a great fondness for the numerical grids. The first Listener I ever solved, hanging proudly on the door opposite me was 3840, Telling Fibs. This one appealed to me straight out, it sounded like mostly a logic puzzle, and then a game at the end to figure out which horses came first, second and third.
The odds system too a few reads to get into my head, and I made a spreadsheet for it - you may be able to read my scribble on the top of the solution, but I figured out that the bets worked like this...
If A is the bet amount and B is the odds
A win bet pays A(B+1)
An each-way win pays A(1.25B+2)
An each-way place pays A(0.25B+1)
So I set up cells where I could type in the bet, the odds, and have the grid answers show up magically in front of me. Cheating? You betcha, but this is a horse race, and I'm on a hypodermic path to solving this thing.
Next logic step: the bets are all in increments of 5, so win bets all have to end with a 5 or a 0. When the last number of a win bet lands on the starting square of another answer, it has to end with 5 and the odds must be an even number. This almost gives me a starting-point straight away - 1 down has to end in 5 and the odds on Ciao have to be even, meaning 8 across has to be 510, 540 or 570 and the odds on Olio have to be 16, 17 or 18. We're off and running!
A bit of brute-forcing to find a few number possibilities followed - looking for either large bets with small payouts or small bets with large payouts told me a few more grid numbers - the first number in 6 across had to be 1 or 2 for an each-way place to make a 4-digit payout, and the odds on Lido have to be at least 44. I kept a running high/low on each horse and each grid entry, if you really want to see the workings of my inner mind, clicking the picture below will display it in gruesome detail.
The solving segment really was a lot of fun, it was like doing a sudoku, eliminating possibilities, and narrowing it down until finally building up grid entries. There was a lot of brute force (like trying to figure out Nemo's odds by fitting 1?2 into 12 across). Once I got a start, I think it was less than an hour to get to the completed grid.
And now to the denouement... I had all the odds, I wrote the payouts for win and place on an each-way bet. And stared at it for a moment trying to figure out what was the best way to approach it. But Xeno was in the back of my mind, and the prospect of the race being a FIX was too good to resist. Filo pays 600, Iago pays 463, Xeno pays 138 and we end up making a profit of one shiny penny (don't spend it at once).
The grid is a masterpiece - the rounding up thing must have made it a real piece of work to put together. I was excited about this puzzle, because as soon as I read the preamble I had a plan of attack and confidence that I could get this out, there'd be no guesswork, everything is logical. The ending was fun, and the best thing of all - my streak is a staggering 3 (I have never solved more than one in a row), and I have edged to the front - George by a nose.
Tally: George 5, Listener 3
Edit: After posting this, I took a look at the solution on the Times site and we differ in two spots. 1D should be 125, that's a misprint of mine, I had the correct odds for Ciao. Sloppy... I have 1023 for 10 across and 153 for 7 down, another sloppy misprint. Always check your grid...
Friday, March 7, 2008
The grid weirded me out originally, I didn't know what was going on with the shape, and I thought with the crinkly corners it was one of my favorite sorts of biscuits from Australia (of course that wouldn't make any sense)
I actually got off to rather a good start on this one, after a few bashings through the clues I had the four 13-letter answers and one of the 9-letter across answers, and had figured they would have to cross each other somewhere (if you click on my grid you can see how I was checking through the letters to find the matches). I've numbered the 5 places the 13-letter answers could go. With five answers entered in less than an hour, I was sure this was going to be a major success...
A week later, I still had only 5 filled entries. I decided to take a punt and work from the longest answers that I had backwards, and promptly filled "popadum" in the wrong place (note all those letters written over each other in the bottom-left).
Next brainwave, there are only five three-letter answers, and they all seem to have letters that would be difficult to check (Z, J and Y in JAY). So I took a punt and put four of them around the three-letter spaces on the outside. Inspired by this, I put QUIP and LEAK in the bits jutting out on either end. This was when I realised that POPADUM was in the wrong spot. Steady insertion of clues, and hunting around for answers followed. SNIFFLEURS took a long time (longer because I knew where it was meant to go, but myPOPADUM was in the way).
I tried to get the theme by googling the five words I was still having difficulty placing (WEALD, WINZE, WEARY, CRAN and FLAX). It tuns out WINZE and WEARY were both in Robert Burns' poem about Halloween which would make perfect sense for a puzzle in February. However, it did convince me that WINZE and WEARY were the left-over words, and I had a grid, finally! Woohoo!
Chambers told me that both WINZE and WEARY were words for curse in Scottish. Thank you Chambers, this has got to be about MacBeth and THE SCOTTISH PLAY with all its curses was the theme and now I have to find a SPOT and erase it. Nope.
THE SCOTTISH CURSE is too many letters, but CURSE OF SCOTLAND is the correct number. A googly search tells me that the Curse of Scotland is the 9 of diamonds. It's a playing card, and if you tilt it 45 degrees the squares look like diamonds. And there's only 9 D's and they are correctly arranged. Yessssssss!
Took me a while, but we're there. Call this one a victory for George, a streak of 2.
Tally: George 4, Listener 3.