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THE PYRGIC PUZZLER
By CHRISTOPHER MASLANKA, Michael Harrington
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1987 Christopher Maslanka
All rights reserved.
Some thirty years after the Pyrgic Puzzler was written, it is curious to think that a book that has so completely transformed my life was originally not written for publication at all, but as a diverting travelling companion for a friend.
An academic acquaintance of mine from Oxford was due to fly to Greece to spend two weeks in a tower of the kind that the inhabitants of the islands of Chios and Lesvos call a Pyrgos. Now, my friend is not a good traveller: no sooner has he arrived somewhere than he wishes himself back home.
As the date of departure approached, he became more and more anxious. I wrote a set of puzzles that would both absorb and distract him in his tower. As these puzzles were set in the familiar world of Oxford, he only needed to read one of them to be at once transported home, if only in his imagination. Thus were the Pyrgic Puzzles born.
The puzzles proved a great success, and on my friend's return, they found a home on his coffee table in his rooms in Oxford, where he taught philosophy Diligent pupils were occasionally rewarded with one of the puzzles.
And so matters might have rested, had Iris Murdoch not dropped by to visit just as my friend was called away to the telephone. When he returned, he found the great novelist comfortably ensconced on his sofa deeply absorbed in the puzzles. She told my friend that they should be published.
After the book came out, the question of what I was to do for a career settled itself. There were newspaper columns, consultations, radio programmes, and huge numbers of letters to answer from members of the public correcting, informing, enquiring, or just quibbling: all about puzzles.
If my friend had not been called away to the phone at that precise moment, Iris Murdoch might not have picked up the puzzles. Then I would not have embarked on a life that culminated with an Oxford College appointing me its College Enigmatist (a unique post not unlike that of a medieval court jester, but without the attendant political risk). Henceforth my work would be play; and my play would be work.
It is an honour for The Pyrgic Puzzler to find a new home in the country that gave birth, among others, to the great puzzlist Sam Loyd, the late-lamented Martin Gardner, and Ray Smullyan. May these puzzles now amuse and transport American readers, just as they once did my academic friend in his lonely tower in Lesvos!
CHRIS MASLANKA College Enigmatist of St Catherine's College, Oxford
Excerpted from THE PYRGIC PUZZLER by CHRISTOPHER MASLANKA, Michael Harrington. Copyright © 1987 Christopher Maslanka. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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