Peter Gordon’s Fireball contest, “Half and Half” — Conrad’s writeup
This month, we are asked, What eight-letter word is hinted at by this puzzle? My writeup was delayed a bit because I whiffed on this one (and didn’t submit an answer). All of my solving friends missed it as well. So I waited to see Peter’s solution before posting. Apologies for the delay.
There were four long theme entries, each comprised of two words:
- [Citrine, e.g.]: YELLOWQUARTZ
- [New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company, today]: WESTERNUNION
- [One of Time’s two 1983 Men of the Year]: YURIANDROPOV
- [1. d4 d5 2. c4, familiarly]: QUEENSGAMBIT
I tried a bunch of mathy stuff to the themers and generated waves of noise. Seeing no solvers, Peter sent this additional hint: New 1-Across clue (new part in bold):
A common one (which you need to use before and after doing the math) is A = 1, B = 2, C = 3 … Z = 26.
The hint didn’t help me, and I spun my wheels for awhile before throwing in the towel and waiting to see Peter’s solution. It turns out my first idea was the correct rabbit hole (but I had no idea at the time): take the number of the first letter of each themer word. I started to divide each number by two, but bailed when I saw they were all odd numbers. So close. Here’s what I missed: divide them by two (half), and then add 1/2 (the other half in the title). For example: Y =25, 25/2 = 12.5. 12.5 + 1/2 = 13. Then map that number to the conversion table shown above.
- (Y)ELLOW -> 25/2 = 12.5 -> 12.5 + 1/2 = 13: M
- (Q)UARTZ -> 17/2 = 8.5 -> 8.5 + 1/2 = 9: I
- (W)ESTERN -> 23/2 = 11.5 -> 11.5 + 1/2 = 12: L
- (U)NION -> 21/2 = 10.5 -> 10.5 + 1/2 = 11: K
- (Y)URI -> 25/2 = 12.5 -> 12.5 + 1/2 = 13: M
- (A)NDROPOV -> 1/2 = .5 -> .5 + 1/2 = 1: A
- (Q)UEENS -> 17/2 = 8.5 -> 8.5 + 1/2 = 9: I
- (G)AMBIT -> 7/2 = 3.5 -> 3.5 + 1/2 = 4: D
The mapped letter spell MILKMAID, our contest solution. I was close, but had no idea. In hindsight: this is a fairly straightforward meta. My challenge with metas like this is that every potential step one yields dozens of potential step twos (for me), and the rabbit holes multiply (like, um… rabbits) and become chaos theory. I struggle to choose which one to stick with. If you solved this: please let me know how you found the path. For everyone else: how many rabbits did you chase? Let me know in the comments.
Conrad, your second conversion should start with 17 rather than 7. I found that adding one before dividing works as well:
(Q)UARTZ -> 17/2 = 8.5 -> 8.5 + 1/2 = 9: I
(Q)UARTZ -> (17+1) / 2 = 9: I
However, both techniques fail if the letter translates to an even number, because the result yields a fraction.
Notice Western and Union. W translates to L, and U translates to K.
Since K and L are adjacent letters in the alphabet, and U and W are not, that makes the interleaving V an orphan with this translation method.
Hence, the meta answer needs to be in the range of A to M, because Y translates to M, and Z translates to nothing
Frankly, I think this is an arcane meta, fit for few. In Peter’s email, he said, “There were 6 correct answers submitted, and 4 incorrect ones.”
That means only ten people submitted an answer.
> Conrad, your second conversion should start with 17 rather than 7.