Never knowingly undersolved.

Enigmatic Variations 894 Gas Control by Shark

Posted by Colin Blackburn on January 7th, 2010

Colin Blackburn.

Oddly, I had just completed a Shark puzzle in Magpie before downloading the EV and discovering that it too was a Shark. I found the Magpie puzzle relatively easy but this one proved more difficult. Some of the clues had me using electronic aids (ACS and Chambers on the iPod) to find the answers that fitted and then working backwards. That’s not something I like doing but I did find a good handful of clues that tricky.

Anyway, after getting almost all the answers I finally teased out the message from the letters that the subsidiary indications led to. Actually, the preamble stated that the subsidiary indications contained an extra letter. This is point aside, the message was JOIN UP TWO SYMMETRICAL LETTER STRINGS IN GREEN. The preamble suggested comparing the grid in two halves. It also suggested the joining-up should be continuous and not overlap.

I have to admit to staring at the grid for a good while looking for patterns and trying to think through the various elements. I also tried to think about what Gas Control might mean without much success. Green was clearly significant, but not significant enough for my synapses to fire. The two halves were clearly significant. A bit more grid staring and I saw that the lower letters either side of the central vertical divide had a similarity. In fact the word TREE was in there. Doh! It’s Christmas!

A quick scan revealed several letters in the grid mirrored about the central vertical, starting with a C at the top (these are shown in red in the grid below). On the left they spelled out CHRISTMAS TREE (on the right the slightly less successful CHRISIMAS TREE). Joining these letters up revealed the classic shape of a Christmas tree. I have drawn the line on the grid below how I imagine it should be though it is possible the pot for the treemight be drawn a few ways.

I still don’t get Gas Control, though maybe it is about the role trees play in CO2 regulation? I imagine the unsymmetrical T/I (in blue) was forced by the grid constraints—splitting MOISTURISING (and thus UNACHIEVABLE) would practically break the puzzle into two parts. I did notice that the grid was pangrammatic to boot!

EV 894 grid


(XY Z)* anagram
X[Y]Z insertion
X[y]Z deletion
ZYX< reversal
[xW]YZ replaced letter
uvwXY Zabc hidden answer
X.Y.Z. initial letter or letters
.X.Y.Z final letter or letters
.XY. central letters

1 J MUCLUC MU [CLU[e]] JC an Eskimo’s boot apparently.
5 O CAPPED CAPO PED a capo is a movable bridge for a string instrument.
9 I ONE-ONE O. NEON IE one-one is the same as one-to-one.
10 N HUSSAR HUN ‘S SAR the sar, sargus or sargo is a marine fish.
13 U DISH HI[e]DU‘S*
17 W MOISTURISING (SWIM OUT)* RISING a rising is a hill.
19 O SEGUES G[aE]SEOUS* E = ecstasy, a= active. Segue can now mean a compilation of pop songs run together without pause, building on the original musical use of the word.
25 S WARMTH SWARM TH’ swarm means to climb a pole or tree.
27 Y UNACHIEVABLE CHI in (NAVY BLUE)* E chi is a Romany woman.
30 M OSSIFIC OSSI F MIC[e] Ossi is slang for an East German, as was.
32 M SAUT ‘S A TUM&lt; saut is Scot’s for salt which means lively, among other things.
33 E SKER dd ESKER sker is Scots for scour. I mistakenly had the extra letter as A as I had guessed as asker for esker (a ridge of gravel) confusing it, perhaps, with the spelling eskar.
35 R REJECT RR EJECT the explanation for this one eluded me for ages since I didn’t think to check eject itself. It turns out that eject is a mental state other than one’s own.
37 C ESTRAY EST CRAY another one that I saw he definition but no he wordplay for a good while. Originally I tied ‘estate’ to the definition. An estray is a ‘beast within a manor’. Once I saw that EST = estate I took a punt on the River Cray existing, and it does, even rising in Orpington.
1 A MODEMS MODE MAS a modem (modulator and demodulator) essentially converts between analogue and digital signals as it sits between a phone line and a computer.
2 L UNIS UN LIS a uni(versity) could be seen as a collection of colleges depending on the uni. Oxford and Cambridge are the clearest examples but some other universities, including my workplace Dundee, are divided into academic colleges hat might be called departments or even faculties elsewhere.
3 L CESTI CEL[l]IST Antonio Cesti was an Italian Baroque composer of operas and cantatas.
5 T CHIGRE CHIT ERG&lt; an erg is a Saharan area of shifting dunes, nice to see this instead of the energy unit. The plural of erg is areg which I assume is where Tuareg originates.
6 T AUREI TAU [R] EI R = 80, one of numerous medieval Roman numerals available to the setter of advanced puzzles. An aureus is a gold coin.
8 R DRONGO DR [w]RONG .O a bird. Interestingly there is also a drongo-cuckoo.
11 S SHASTRA ST in HARASS Hindu holy writing.
18 I SUCCOTH SUCCI HOT* Succoth is a Jewish harvest festival, succus is juice.
20 N ETNEAN NET NE AN Ne = neon, an = actinon.
21 G PAVISES PAG[VIS]ES a shield designed to protect the whole body.
22 S QUASAR [a]QUA SARS SARS was the last big disease before bird flu, swine flu,… It’s an acronym for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. A quasar is a quasi-stellar radio source.
23 I MAZUTS MAIZ[e] UT S. mazut is petroleum residue after distillation. ut = as.
24 N BISTRE BI[STR]NE a bine is a stem of a climbing plant, think woodbine.
25 G WEST G[W]EST a gest is a tale of adventure, a romance.
28 E HOXED HE[OX]ED to hox is to hamstring.
29 E BIKER BIKE RE bike is Scots word for a swarm of people or a nest of wasps or bees.
31 N CECA ambulANCE Car the cecum is a pouch in the alimentary canal.

2 Responses to “Enigmatic Variations 894 Gas Control by Shark”

  1. shark says:

    Thank you for your comments Colin.

    In Chambers, looking up Christmas tree, the title will be revealed.

    Unfortunately your drawing is not quite correct.

    If you look next to the red M in each half of your grid then there is a symmetrical T, thereby ensuring a true symmetrical Christmas tree from the letters. The zigzagging also is more aesthetic.

    Happy New Year to you all

  2. Colin Blackburn says:


    Thanks for the reply. I must have examined that grid a hundred times and yet I still failed to see, the now obvious, symmetrical placement of the Ts. I think I must have been drawn in by hat I felt was an aesthetic drawing. Many apologies for suggesting a failing in the grid construction where there was none, one reason I never send in my entries!

    PS Really enjoyed the magpie puzzle and I think I may have got that one right.

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