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Puzzle forewarning

Puzzle forewarning

Puzzle forewarning

Every year I look forward to Christmas, not primarily for the food, or the time off work, or the presents, or even the getting-together with family, but because it means another of Gordon Gray's Christmas puzzles will be available.

Sad huh?  Well, maybe, but I'm not alone because it is an excellent puzzle.  It seems like just the kind of thing MAIers would like, so I thought I'd point it out to you.

You can find it here:


The puzzle itself will not be available until Dec 6th, but I will be away on holiday by then - in the windy wilds of the woolly North - with no access to a PC, so this is my only chance to tell you about it. It is written for charity - if you want to you can send a donation of you choice to the organiser (Gordon Gray).

The basic puzzle consists of an apparently meaningful essay which usually is in fact complete nonsense, but is grammatical.  This is split into 40 lines.  Each line contains clues to 3 words.  The start and end points of the clueing are not specified.  Spaces for the letters of each of the clued words are shown above the line.  In all cases, three consecutive letters from somewhere in the middle of the word are given.

Some of the clues are easy to spot, others can be trickier.  Some of the words are commonplace while others would challenge even the most erudite among us.  

The nice thing about it is that there is always some kind of theme which relates to words spelled out by the first letters of the answers.  So, once you have enough of the answers, and you know the theme, you can guess what the rest of the first letters are.  This then gives you a boost to continue after you have otherwise gone as far as you can.

If you like a nice easy life, then feel free to jump straight in and check out answers on the internet right from the beginning.  However, if you are like me and prefer more of a challenge, you might like to adopt my approach.  I usually try to get as many answers as I can without any aids at all (I normally aim to get at least 100 that way), then I restrict myself to just a dictionary and add as many more as I can.  I then allow myself use of any other reference books at home.  If I can't finish it with the help of those items, I then finally resort to Google, but I try to avoid doing so until I have a very small handful of unsolved words.  This whole process can sometimes involve coming back to the puzzle time and again over a period of weeks.  I find it thoroughly engaging and quite delightful.

Anyway, happy puzzling and good luck!


RE: Puzzle forewarning

Nice link N1GHTEYES, now I know what callipygian means.
It's my new favorite word.


RE: Puzzle forewarning

I have previous experience with only eight of the words, not all of which I could have defined without checking a dictionary.


ALFÉREZ - From the novel "El alférez real".  I started it, but didn't finish it, when I was studying Spanish.





QUONSET - This must only be rare in British English.  I bet most Americans would recognize the word.

SQUAMA - as in squamous cell carcinoma

RE: Puzzle forewarning

If you like the words in the previous puzzles, I'm sure you'll enjoy the puzzle itself.  

Consider it my early Christmas gift to the forum.

As I said, I'm going to be out of touch for a couple of weeks, but hopefully I can get a friend to print it out for me, so I can while away a few evenings playing with it.



RE: Puzzle forewarning

So, has anyone had a go at the Christmas puzzle?  I did manage to get my sister to print it out for me, so I had an enjoyable few hours puzzling over it in front of the log fire at the cottage.  

I think I've got 106 so far, 14 of them with varying degrees of uncertainty.  I'll probably have to resort to at least the use of a dictionary before I get any further.  I also reckon I've got all bar two of the snakes and 5 of the 6 ladders.

If anyone else has had a go, I'd be interested to know what you think of it.  Too easy?  Totally incomprehensible?  Goldilocks zone?



RE: Puzzle forewarning

I've printed it and had a very brief look at it. It's a very clever puzzle and I'm looking forward to sitting down with it and thrashing it out properly. I'm a bit of a fan of snakes so I'm hoping that will help me out a bit too


The lights are on but nobody's home, my elevator doesn't go to the top. I'm not playing with a full deck, I've lost my marbles. Barenaked Ladies - Crazy

RE: Puzzle forewarning

I thought I was too, but I'm fairly sure there is at least one I've not heard of.

Have fun.


RE: Puzzle forewarning

Taa Daa!  I just finished it!

I have not posted it off to Gordon yet (first I want to write out a clean copy without all the scribbles, crossings-out and marginalia) so I can't be absolutely certain they are all correct, but I'm pretty sure they are.

I have now added 13 new words to my vocabulary, including two snakes.  I also added a brand-new meaning for a well-known word.  Thanks GG.

At least one of the new words seems to exist only in Chambers.  I could not find any reference to it in any online dictionary I tried (including the OED), though there is a scrabble site which includes it.

If you've not tried it yet - go on! It really is good fun for wordsmiths.  To give you some idea of the level at which it is set, here is my breakdown.  Of the 139 words involved (including the snakes and ladders) I got:

121 from memory,
10 using Chambers (hardcopy),
8 online.

As you can see, the vast majority are fairly straightforward, but the inclusion of the few tricky ones means that you're never quite certain, as you stare at a clue, whether it is one of those, or if you are just missing the obvious.  So you continue to worry away at them and, in the vast majority of cases, are rewarded with some good "oh - of course!" moments.

If anybody wants any hints or tips, let me know.



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