Thursday, 1 September 2016


This circular puzzle is based on Channel 4's most famous (it surely can be safely said) programme, Countdown

The radial answers, in the usual manner of the circular style, are entered with half going in one direction and the rest going in the opposite direction.

Apart from one normal clue, each clue contains a single-word anagram which must be unjumbled before the clue can be solved.  The initial letters of the unjumbled words spell out the instruction "E COUNT PER RING; NUMBERS GAME; TARGET FIVE FIVE TWO" and solvers are required to replicate a version of Countdown's Numbers Game.  Clue 25 is the normal clue and represents the Numbers Game's 'one from the top', while the number of Es per ring ('five from anywhere else') are 4, 7, 3, 1 and 9.

These give the equations:

25 + 4 = 29
7 + 3 + 9 = 19
29 x 19 = 551
251 + 1 = 552

to be rendered below the grid as

(25 + 4) x (7 + 3 + 9) = 29 x 19 = 551 + 1 = 552

or variations thereof.

Appearing in ring 2 are the presenters and co-hosts WHITELEY, LYNAM, O’CONNOR, STELLING, HEWER, RILEY, DENT and in ring 4, the original Countdown numbers whizz, CAROL VORDERMAN.

The grid itself, of course represents the Countdown clock and the title represents half a MINUTE, the time allowed for each round in the game of Countdown.

Some solvers' comments:

“A novel and enjoyable puzzle.
I wonder how many of your members
have appeared on the show? I
have — 1987!”

“Everything a puzzle should be: engrossing,
ingenious, challenging but fair.”

“Sum terribly difficult for me, being a
word person. Took days of experimenting.”

“ ‘Often ruining the sense’ was amusing.
For many of the clues, what sense? Eg
15Ac, 36Dn etc, etc.”

“Brilliantly conceived and executed.
I found 5 by far the most challenging
clue, even with four checked letters.”

“An enjoyable crossword spoiled by a
tiresome final stage — and I can see no
way of making 556.”

“I have anagrams for breakfast but I
struggled with these.”

“Clues somewhat tricky, with only a
few of the anagrams obvious.”

“I enjoyed this, though I am not sure
how it would work for someone unfamiliar
with Countdown.
Impressive grid construction, the
only slight weakness being the preponderance
of words beginning or ending
in S. I suspect that the single-word
anagram device made life more difficult
for the setters than for the solver.”

“Excellent puzzle with a very satisfying
endgame. Many thanks, Eclogue.”

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