Competition - Win vouchers to spend at any Tesco store

Competition No 3702

Set by John Crick on 8 October

We're always reading idiot's guides to complicated subjects. So we decided to set the opposite: deliberately complicated guides to easy subjects.

Report by Ms de Meaner

An interesting comp to judge, with the chosen subjects ranging from a game of conkers to climbing the stairs to painting an interior wall. A large number of you picked simple card games, the favourite being Snap. However, I was unsure about John O'Byrne's "Literary competitions are never easy . . . " entry. How very true, John, and your opening sentence rather drove a cart and horses through the "easy" instruction. I also rejected M E Ault's "How to apologise to a counsellor" on the same grounds, this being a subtle and difficult enterprise at the best of times (or so I've always found). Then there was David Silverman's guide to breathing, on the face of it a true contender, like Sid Field's guide to climbing the stairs or Michael Cregan's tips on scratching your nose. But the medical references (" . . . medulla oblongata, which you will find located between your cerebellum and your hypothalamus") put me on the right track: why do you think doctors take so long to qualify? The physiology of reflex actions doesn't have to be made to seem complicated: it already is. Hon menshes to Field and Cregan, also to Michael Burgess and Anne Du Croz (who both explained what to do with a book) and Connie Yapp and Peter Lyon (walking). D A Price can have a special mensh for her version of Snap, but I'm afraid I couldn't pick two. £20 to the winners; the vouchers go to Greg Clare.

For this game, take 52 rectangular pieces of card (or similar material) with an identical pattern on one side and various numbers and traditional symbols representing different values on the other, and manually intermingle them to randomise their order. Repeat as many times as is necessary to achieve effective disorder (1.5 x log2n where n is the number of cards). Distribute the cards in individual sequence, pattern facing upwards, into two separate piles of equal number (p1 and p2), one for each of the players (p3 and p4). During play, p1 remains on the playing surface, pattern-side up, within easy reach of p3, and likewise p2 with respect to p4. Then p3 and p4 simultaneously turn the top cards (t1 and t2) from p1 and p2 and place them next to p1 and p2 with the patterns face down and the numerical or pictorial representations face up, thus creating the bases for two new piles (p5 and p6 respectively - see fig 2.8). If t1 on p5 is of equal value to t2 on p6 (see Chapter 3, "Card Values") then p3 can take p6, or p4 take p5, by being the first to shout "Snap!" (s1). If, however, the values differ . . .

R Ewing

. . . of course you have an appetite for success and may be tempted to trust your intuition, but we urge caution here and suggest that you first undertake the risk assessments for: acquisition logistics; strategic route-finding and temporary tangential vehicular placement (copyright-free templates are in appendix 22). With these and the cost-benefit analysis completed, you will be ready to go. Before entering the distribution terminus, however, you may find it useful to have read The Use of Signs to Enhance Way-Finding in General Stores (Cope, J et al, 1999), as the semiotics of the schemes encountered are often less than consistent. A handy tip here is to note that each row (or aisle) is thematically arranged, and so, with the minimum of deductive reasoning, you should quickly and easily find yourself face to face with the canned vegetables. Only two more crucial steps and the baked beans will be in your trolley. See Chapter 7, "Own Brand or Branded: the ethical and ecological dimension", and appendix 43 for practical guidance on the biomechanics and ergonomics of trolley loading and pushing. Note that it will not be necessary to repeat risk assessments if acquiring your bread from the same store.

Greg Clare

The "board" should be placed on a perfect horizontal plane, such as a table, carpet or similar, and the participants placed in a crude circle at roughly equidistant positions from one another. If x=1,500, and y the purchase of King's Cross Station (where 1+4, 3+2, or their obverse, is computed by ocular observation of the die), then the first motion will result in x-y, which is 1,300, two times 100 having been deducted in return for the "property". This is represented by a monochromatic card. To retrieve y, it is necessary to obtain Marylebone, Fenchurch Street and Liverpool Street on an aggregated principle, having initially invested 4y. If this is effected on four consecutive circuits, and there is no further happenstance, then the outlay will have been defrayed by passing Go. Neither houses nor hotels may be symbolically entertained upon these "properties", but they act as safe havens. Monopoly is based upon the acuity of each individual's utilisation of statistical calculation, and although the circulation is ungeographical (as it was in the parent American version), it serves as a rudimentary introduction to metropolitan life.

Will Bellenger

No 3705 Set by Paul Kocak

Some time ago, Michael Jacobs suggested in the NS that the UK needed some new bank holidays - and even went so far as to suggest that a national competition should be held to decide what the "new days" should mark. Let us have an NS comp instead, complete with suggested dates and rationale.

Max 200 words by 8 November (to appear in issue dated 19 November) E-mail: