Micellany: Puzzlemaster

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The Independent Culture
SO MANY stories and so little space to cover them in. I am reduced to taking swipes at them as they buzz past like flies, in the hope of swatting some of them.

pTom (the p is silent) has broken his wrist at school during rugby. Rugby, I thought on hearing this, is a dangerous game with few of the mitigations of soccer. But there was an extra little twist, of the sort that makes fact so much more telling than fiction: he hadn't broken his wrist while playing, but on the way to the game. He'd tripped over his own shoelace.

It means I finally stand a chance of beating him at Goldeneye on the Nintendo64, in which we race up and down corridors trying to blow each other's virtual brains out in virtual proxy. My lifelong atopographia balances his reduced dexterity and makes it a far better game. Yes, I approve of computer games; they can be mentally stimulating as part of a calorie-controlled brain diet. Some of the skills may even be transferable.

Usually, however, fact beats fiction hands down. Take my over-close encounter with the "work of art" consisting of 65 sets of traffic lights on a roundabout on the Isle of Dogs in east London. The lack of road signs led to my cheap crack about there being no doubt, somewhere, an artwork consisting of a heap of signs.

Reality beat me to it. Pierre Vivant, who perpetrated the traffic lights and who works in Paris and Oxford, has already made a pyramid out of road signs in Cardiff, which has commended itself - for different reasons - to the city fathers, to down-and-outs and skateboarders alike. In the case of the traffic lights, philistines can still fight back. According to the Arts & Leisure department of Tower Hamlets, whose responsibility they are, the work is on probation for six months from the date of turning on (21 December 1998) in case it causes accidents.

This is the artistic imperative: if a thing is thinkable, do it and call it art. Has a sheep been sawn in half? No? Do it! The critics will undoubtedly fall over each other to discover meaning in it.

This degrading of the language of art results in a peak of the public's appreciation of art in Monet, who now features on my Tesco's "bag for life". I feel the phrase Monet Bags might be more apt. Will we buying little replicas of half-sheep in the new millennium? What will they put on carrier bags?

Let's hope it's both apt and representational. This rebus, sent in to Puzzle Panel by Mike Harrington of Lowestoft, certainly is. The BBC hasn't trailed or advertised he new series. Maybe that's because it doesn't need to.

Points to ponder

Deleting G from RUGBY gives RUBY. Delete the middle letter of i) a sport to give something that happens to bacon

ii) a sportsman to give a comic hero.

Last week's solution

1) Home & Dome must be at P & N or vice versa.

2) 65 sets of lights have a total of 8 X 8 X 8 * (keep going until you've written 8 a total of 65 times over) independent states.

Comments and contributions to independent@puzzlemaster.co.uk Puzzle Panel, 1:30pm Fridays, R4