A while ago (a couple of years) the Inquisitor series in the i featured a puzzle by Schadenfreude. The theme is immaterial – what caught my eye was the black central square, which happened to have a number of Os more-or-less around it in the completed solution. I was struck by the resemblance to near misses to a target.
Of course a target should be circular, so I evolved a version with 20 radials, and set to work. I tend to do my occasional circular puzzles ‘unrolled’ as rectangles, initially working at opposite ends to make sure of the ‘seam’. I wanted at least one ‘shot’ landing in every ring, and I also wanted some shared cells as a way of anchoring whether words went inwards or outwards. And of course I wanted a few bull’s-eyes. That would give people a surprise when there were some sevens among the six letters answers – but also the presence of a terminal or initial O might suggest the pattern.
This was a heavily-checked puzzle – the Os were,in fact, my barred-off cells – and I ended up with a couple of words not in Chambers, though nothing dreadfully obscure. The scoring system came next and, happily, there were the exact number of common Roman numerals to hand (though I wouldn’t have ruled out using F=40 or S=70 if need be).
There was a note from the editors partway through the entry period, indicating what errors were being encountered. So, first off, there should be four Os in the central circle (none of your Robin Hood arrow-splitting cleverness here!) The other expectation is that scores will be recorded by every radial with an O. The O in a shared cell therefore counts twice. This harks back to the desire for a shot in every ring (which allows you to feel confident about the I, V, X, L, C, D (M) pattern). With shared cells in the ring, there would have to be one cell where this occurred (though I was determined here would only be the one). So, perhaps Robin Hood can split one arrow…
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