Puzzemaster

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A TV interview about the new Eternity Puzzle forced me to tidy up Didcot Towers so that Central TV's camera crew and their mignonette roving reporter Geraldine Peers, something of a screen idol in these parts, could squeeze in and have somewhere to stand.

Discovering that the floor is blue has been more like archaeology than spring cleaning. I have found my spare car key and an ancient biscuit to rival that tudor banana they discovered recently. Mind you, I had to enlist help. Karen worked one evening and Debbie one morning. Over two days and between the three of us spick and spannitude has been achieved.

Unfortunately things are now so tidy I can find nothing. The open-cast filing system where I could all-but guarantee tripping over whatever I wanted within weeks of first needing it - all that has gone.

Neatly stowed away in stacks of salad boxes. Still, I tell myself, it's better than losing a whole camera crew.

Stanislavskian and Thinkerly poses were struck over the 209 pieces that make up the Eternity puzzle. I talked at length of jigsaws and dissection puzzles and somehow ended up transferring the part of the puzzle I'd completed to a piece of glass with a fishslice so I could be filmed from below as I moved pieces about.

In case you ever find yourself in this position, use the reflection of your face in the glass to monitor your expression and check that you can't see up your nostrils. Nothing is more unsettling to a viewer at tea than nostrils flaring out of the TV like the entrance to the channel tunnel. TV makes you look even fatter than you are. When I see the news later that evening Geraldine still looks mignonette. I look like Pavarotti after a bad night. The two hours' filming has slimmed down to a crisp two minutes. Two minutes and virtual fattening notwithstanding, I am recognised in Tesco's. Should I do a Greg Dyke and shave off my beard? Or buy dark glasses?

While I debate this lifestyle choice my secretary, Ann, ropes me into writing clues for a treasure hunt. Now that Keith Floyd has left the village, she explains, the mantle of local celebrityness falls on my shoulders. The adults and children will follow the same circuit, which happens to be the route I walk whenever I need to reason with myself about some abstruse and puzzly point without scaring the horses or giving the

inhabitants the idea they have a halfwit in their midst.

Adult clues are easy to write and are a bit like cryptic crossword clues. The fact that there are 12 stopping points on the circuit and 12 letters in treasure hunt helps me to bind them into a satisfying whole.

Will it work? On paper the clues look really neat. But what if it's too easy? Or worse still, too hard?

That night I dream that I, Baron Maslankenstein, am working late up at the Schloss. The honest villagers, angered by the crypticity of my clues in the local treasure hunt are coming up the path brandishing torches and singing opera menacingly. I shave off my beard and escape disguised as a not-too mignonette roving reporteress.

Points to ponder

It takes me 40 minutes to excavate with Karen's help a table from under my papers. On her own it would take an hour. How long would it take

me on my own?

Last week's puzzles

1.What's the furthest you can get in painting the lines on a tennis court if you may not cover any segment more than once? There are 10 points at which three lines meet (nodes), giving 1/2 X 10 X 3 = 15 segments altogether (why do we multiply by 1/2?), a segment being defined as the line between nodes. Only at the node you start from or end at can you use all three lines that meet there. (Why?) So you can cover only 11 segments altogether.

The diagram shows a solution. Note that four segments remain untraversed. Is it the best solution?

2. In the matter of the Didcot Dodderers, who are so bad at cricket that no-one ever scores a run, the 8th man is the last left when the last man is bowled.

Comments to: indy@puzzlemaster.co.uk

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