Re(4): (no subject) IP: 184.108.40.206 Posted on November 19, 2016 at 12:05:37 PM by Andy Stewart
I'm absolutely stunned by the published solution. I did briefly consider it at the time but almost instantly rejected it as there was nothing to signal that we should look outside the grid, not even a hint in one of the acrostics. I also had in mind Shirley Curran's considerations at the end of her blog.
If the grid entries are written out in grid formation but without any bars or grid lines it's easy to see HARE in a straight line starting from the H of VEHMIC, passing throughthe A of QUARTOS an the R of OUTLEARN to the E of JOE. They lie on a straight line that joins their centres without crossing other letters. Even though the R has an E by its side that doesn't invalidate things because the E is off-centre. A line of four towers is still a line of four consecutive towers even when one of them has another tower next to it. When I saw this I thought Poat had been very clever in exploiting the distraction of the grid lines to mask the HARE. Instead, he's not been clever, but has resorted to a cheap trick that spoils an otherwise excellent puzzle. I feel cheated.
I did consider two other possibilities. Firstly the solution given by Dave Hennings, which has the merit of using the letters of SEARCH AREA in the grid. The problem with it is that one has to wangle things to an extreme degree to get it to work. The other possibility I considered has been referred to above, namely the 'lifting' of LIFT in the grid so that HA RE lie in a line with no intervening letters. I rejected that because I thought the preamble would signal that the grid needed manipulation or mutilation, but since the published solution depends on an unsignalled trick I cannot see anything wrong with interpreting LIFT in the grid as an instruction, a similarly unsignalled trick.
The wider issue is the implications this has for future puzzles. Whenever we are asked to search for a hidden item we will be wondering if it's hidden in the preamble or the clues, or anywhere other than the grid itself. That is just unfair on solvers, and I'm with those who are crying "Foul". Sorry, Poat. I've always enjoyed and admired your puzzles in the past. I did enjoy this one until the end, but I'm afraid I cannot admire the endgame.
Perhaps the answer is to stop sending in entries, which I have been considering for a while, though I do like to support the Listener by keeping entry numbers up. Then I really wouldn't care what the published solution is.