Games Interactive: Cross Numbers

gi-crossnumberI remember attempting the Cross Numbers puzzles in Games Magazine, but I’m not sure I ever actually solved one. I always found them intimidating. They’re dense tangles of interreferential logic, with clues like “Product of 33-Across and 30-Down” and “Number of 5s in the completed grid”. Such a thing offers no obvious foundation for solving; everything depends on something else, and finding so much as a toehold is difficult. Sometimes you have to notice that you have a couple of digits in a six-digit number that’s clued as the square or cube of some other number and there’s only one square or cube of that length that has those digits in those places. The instructions advise using a calculator. I prefer a spreadsheet.

There are two Cross Numbers in the Special Crosswords section of Games Interactive. (I’d have probably have put them under the Logic section, because they’re the sort of puzzle solved through deductive reasoning, but I can understand why they’re classified as they are.) They are positively the biggest mess I’ve seen in the whole game so far.

My first inkling that there was something wrong was a clue “Multiple of 45-Down” where there is no 45-Down, just a 45-Across. This turned out to be just one of several clues referring to things that go in the wrong direction. Perhaps it just had the directions swapped in these cases? But no, the clue for 24-Down is “Product of 24-Across, 47-Across, and 68-Down”. There is no 24-Across, and it can’t really be talking about 24-Down because then 24-Down would be itself multiplied by a couple of other multi-digit numbers. Another of the clues is “Product of 48-Across and 70-Across”. Not only is there no 70-Across, but 48-Across has six digits while its alleged multiple has only four.

Did they just include the wrong grid or something? Maybe, but that doesn’t explain the even weirder clues, like “Sum of 46-Across”. Sum of 46-Across and what? Maybe it meant to add together the digits of 46-Across? But no, in one place it asks for a three-digit “sum” of a single two-digit number. I suppose that could be explained by the grid being wrong too. But I’m still reluctant to accept this because the other Cross Numbers puzzle uses the phrasing “digit sum” for such things.

When I looked at the second puzzle, it was mainly to see if the two puzzles simply had each other’s clues. It turned out that the second puzzle doesn’t have the problems of the first, and is actually in solvable condition. It does have some problems, though. There’s a square erroneously colored black: you can move the cursor into it and presumably type a number, but you can’t see what you typed. 62-Down is shown in the wrong place, in the middle of 56-Down, with amusing consequences for navigation. The clue for 88-Down is missing, resulting in an “Index Out of Bounds” error dialog if you select it in the grid. Fortunately, the game recovers gracefully from this.

I did solve the second puzzle — a possible first for me, as I’ve said. The game rates my solution at 88%, but I trust my reasoning more than its judgment. I haven’t entirely given up on the first puzzle either: it’s possible that its nonsense can be overcome through copious use of the Hint button.

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