Games: Crossword puzzlers out for a duck
Don Manley explains himself
Saturday 09 May 1998
The fact is that I have achieved - if "achieved" is the right word - something quite unusual, and have been invited by my long-suffering crossword editor, Louise Levene, to give an account of myself. In puzzle 149, published on 18 April in Ism, I invited solvers to fill in some squares with clashing letters "to accord with the shape they make", adding that "a final mark should be added at an appropriate intersection of two grid lines". The shape (see Ism) looked like a K knocked over. I assumed that readers would interpret it as a (pi) and work out (perhaps following the hint in the puzzle's title "More or Less") the numerical differences between the clashing letters.
Thus, at the bottom of the pi the second I of IMAGINE in 26 down is three away from the second L of LILY at 41 across, so "3" is entered. Progressing up the leg of the pi, we get 3141, then 592... along the top and 7932 down the bottom leg. When you add the decimal point after the opening digit, you get 3.141592... the value of . Clever stuff? Obviously too clever for all eight or nine hundred entrants.
Looking back, I can see that the shape of the pi is a bit inaccurate, and perhaps in my day job as a maths editor I am used to seeing too many hand-written approximations to this transcendental wonder. But surely the shape wasn't that bad, and a few mathematicians would have seen what I was driving at? Alas, I miscalculated.
There has long been a tradition of providing impossible or near-impossible crosswords. Two Listener puzzles spring to mind: in one crossword by "Afrit" in the Thirties or Forties, the publication expressed regret that none of its readers connected "Lombardy" and "Man of Words" with The Cardinal's Snuff Box at 28 across - a connection which some of us still fail to make; and about 20 years ago there was a puzzle entitled "Lip Service" by Leon, which involved playing a game of solitaire and spelling out the inscription on the Blarney Stone.
Afrit was a master working out the rules of a new game; Leon was probably too clever for his own good. So where does that place Duck? I'm in the Leon camp, though I suspect Leon knew what he was doing. I guess that, despite over 30 years of setting, I didn't. I am as dumbfounded by the zero correct entries as the hapless solvers who failed to recognise the malformed mathematical symbol. But my feelings, to be honest, are mixed: I'm tempted to be excited at having fooled everyone, but reckon I should feel guilty at having spoiled everyone's fun.
Only two more things need to be said. One is that we need to explore the new and strange in crosswords to keep the game alive; the other is that no one should ever set out deliberately to produce a puzzle that will stump all the solvers. On that charge I plead innocent, so my apology to Ism enthusiasts has some qualification. For most of the time, the setter must expect to be a gracious loser in a battle of wits in a contest that has a fair set of rules and conventions. That is how the battle is normally conducted in the Ism puzzle, and indeed all the puzzles in The Independent and Independent on Sunday.
Don Manley contributes as 'Duck' to 'Ism'. His less-than-impossible puzzles appear weekly in the 'Independent on Sunday', in the guise of Quixote.
Costa Concordia: Shipment of Mob drugs was hidden aboard cruise liner when it hit rocks off Italian coast, investigators say
Brixton squat flats now costing up to £3k per month show how out of control rent is in London
Iran nuclear talks: Prospect of deal with Iran pushes Saudi Arabia and Israel into an unlikely alliance
A new (old) cure for MRSA? Revolting recipe from the Dark Ages may be key to defeat infection
Jeremy Clarkson 'could be given minder' ahead of a potential Top Gear return
Ukip supporters are 55 or older, white and socially conservative, finds British Social Attitudes Report
Street preacher quoting from the Bible fined for calling homosexuality an 'abomination'
Jeremy Clarkson sacked live: Alan Yentob 'wouldn't rule out' ex Top Gear host's BBC return
Woman filmed launching racist tirade against men on the Tube for speaking in 'own lingo'
The West has it totally wrong on Lee Kuan Yew
David Cameron calls Labour 'hopeless, sneering socialists' while announcing 7-day NHS plans
- 1 Replica Back to the Future Hoverboard released
- 2 Katie Hopkins attacked me on Twitter — so I reported her to the police for inciting racial hatred
- 3 Brixton squat flats now costing up to £3k per month show how out of control rent is in London
- 4 Gamers confess the worst things they've done in The Sims
£25,880 – £28,610 per annum: Imperial College London: Imperial College London ...
£26,976 - £31,614 per annum: University College London: UCL Information Servic...
£30 - 32k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking an Instructional / e-Learning De...
£30500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Schools Education & Careers Executive ...