View Full Version : Numbers man

Olly Buckle
February 25th, 2012, 12:59 AM
A good mind underemployed starts seeking entertainment. He had picked up one of the discarded free newspapers which littered the carriage every night for the last few stops down the line. The lack of any real news and the preponderance of bigoted and right wing opinions soon prevented him reading the text beyond a quick skim and superficial ogle at the latest bootylishus, barely covered, pop star bum. He soon got bored of that; then he discovered the puzzle page.

Being of a mathematical bent he inclined toward the number puzzles, and quickly found the Sudoku. However, no sooner had he discovered some basic principles, than he found those offered ludicrously easy. He started trawling the train for the occasional bought and discarded quality paper, or ‘Times’, ‘Telegraph’, or ‘Daily Mail’, that might contain more difficult versions. The rarity of them soon caused him to consider other options.

He tried completing them in the minimum time, accepting his decisions without question. Nor did he check the individual lines or squares when all nine numbers were completed. His confidence in his own decision making increased. Initially he made errors, but soon learned to take correct decisions without hesitation. Soon he could complete the puzzle in under a third of the projected time the paper gave with 95% success, and felt there was little point in pursuing this particular line further.

He sought to increase the difficulty of the ones on offer By imposing extra rules on himself. For example, filling in the numbers in order; first all the ones, then all the twos, all the threes and so on. Variations soon followed; a nine followed by a one. followed by another nine and another one until all nine nines and ones were filled; then move on to eights and twos. Other times he would start with fives and move up and down the scale away from the centre; or fill all the numbers in the top right square, followed by all those in the bottom left, top left, bottom right, and finally centre. Sometimes it was easy, he simply ran through, others he found himself memorising almost the entire grid to get his last one or nine. The trouble was, having done so he then knew all the rest with hardly a thought.

He ran out of patience before he ran out of variations and returned to carrying a book to read.

The Backward OX
February 26th, 2012, 09:52 AM
I seem to recall reading of some famous but highly unpopular personage put to death publicly at the hands of an axeman. Apparently the axe was blunt or the victim’s neck tough; whatever, it took two or three swings of the axe to separate head from body. It was said it was a good idea poorly executed. I adopt this statement to sum up your offering.

In detail:

The final sentence, with its extreme brevity, scrambles time. Running out of patience implies the here and now, whereas returning to carrying a book implies something that first took place on an earlier occasion.

The rarity of quality papers doesn’t preclude the existence of at least some, which is all our hero would need for amusement.

And I’m having real trouble marrying up “the last few stops down the line” with the time needed for 1) discarding the freebies, 2) trawling the train, 3) error-making and 4) creating and applying new rules. Out in the colonies, sure, the last few stops might encompass three or four hours travel, plenty of time for all the aforesaid, but in the part of the world I envisage as the setting for this piece I’d make that fifteen to twenty minutes, max.

Off with his head!

bazz cargo
February 27th, 2012, 10:24 PM
Hi Olly,
What an odd flash.

First I felt this 'underemployed mind' was seeking entertainment over the length of one journey, then at the end it implied it was more than one journey.
and returned to carrying a book to readAlso why was he all alone? No other passengers mentioned.

The very oddness will follow me around, so you win on that score.

Olly Buckle
February 28th, 2012, 02:28 AM
Thank you both for your comments, this developed over a number of journeys home for me. Orpington, Sevenoaks and Tonbridge are the main commuter towns, by the time the train leaves Tunbridge Wells I am often alone, or almost so, in the carriage. I took to doing the suduko as a change from reading and got as far as seeing if I could complete both the given ones before my stop, the rest was the musings of a bored mind.

I was concentrating on the possibilities for extracting entertainment and the individual involved, without thinking much about the surroundings, I guess they are so familiar after all these years, you certainly give me room to expand it in a sensible way. The fact that 'The very oddness will follow me around' makes that seem worthwhile, thanks again for your input.