As part of the drive to keep us all socially engaged at the office, there have been intermittent games of Bingo, on Teams. Apparently, a good time is had by all.
I spotted the ‘bingo cards’ before one such event. Unlike the usual ones with three rows and nine columns, this one had a 5×5 array. Well, you know me and square arrays – I was immediately seeing each component as 2×2 and fitting it all into a 10×10 grid.
I can’t think offhand how to do the calculation that delivers, given the system A=1, B=2 etc, the average score of four letters in a crossword grid. It was fairly clear that all those uncommon letters at the far end of the alphabet would not push you past 90 very readily, while A=1 would give you a good chance of single-digit totals. Not the same distribution of numbers on a bingo card, but near enough.
The grid itself was intricate, and if solvers spent a lot of thinking 19+5+12+16=54, no, hang on, 52, then you can be certain the setter did also. The setter, in addition, had the problem of finding two sets of four cells adding to 37, changing one entry, only to find there were now two 61s, changing which led to two 53s… It was a fascinating new way to discover that changing something in one corner of the grid had a knock-on effect somewhere else entirely. I also had to work around retaining LOTTO, BINGO, and HOUSE.
But all the duplicates were chased down and eliminated, and I recall a final push to remove a couple of obscure non-Chambers items. Somewhere in the back of my mind it was always the intention to have four-way symmetry. One of the consequences of this was the appearance of a swastika in the centre of the grid, about which I’ve received one comment. This is a moderately common result of four-way symmetry, and I tend not to worry about it unduly. We cannot permanently sidestep items of historic and cultural significance appropriated by subsequent unwelcome regimes. Given that I’m putting this up in the gap between Christmas and New Year (which I saw named ‘crimbolimbo’ just this morning), it might be timely to remind people that the current New Year’s Day concert series in Vienna started out as a New Year’s Eve concert in support of one of Hitler’s wartime charities.
Slipping the redundant words into the clues was a doddle by comparison to the grid construction, though a one-letter redundancy is a bit of a challenge. I did wonder whether the absence of a redundant word could be relied upon to indicate a ‘0’ – but in the end there were (fortuitously, perhaps – I certainly didn’t plan it) no zeroes.
I also recall encountering a couple of words I somehow never had stumbled across before, whether in solving, setting or simply browsing Chambers. GOAF – which even had two unrelated meanings – was definitely not going anywhere once established in the grid, whatever manipulations were required, while CAHOW booked its place after it popped up during one such manipulation. After so many sightings of EPHA and EUOI and the like, it’s always a pleasure to find there are corners awaiting discovery.
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