A group in Dublin celebrate Bloomsday Photo by: Alamy

James Joyce puzzle in Ulysses gives way to software solution


A group in Dublin celebrate Bloomsday Photo by: Alamy

A Dublin software developer is preparing himself for a deluge of criticism from James Joyce fans – after claiming to have solved a near century old Ulysses riddle.

As Ireland celebrates Bloomsday, Rory McCann believes he has settled decades of debate as to how to cross Dublin without passing a pub.

The puzzle was first set in the Joyce masterpiece Ulysses and has enthralled Joyceans and drinkers for years.

Now McCann claims his simple mathematical equation – over a year in the creation – has proved that it can indeed be done.

But his decision to ignore hotels and restaurants who hold alcohol licenses is bound to lead to a sea of protests from those loyal to the Joycean cause.

McCann finally produced his solution after using online maps to work out a computer equation that found how to criss-cross the capital, from north to south and east to west, away from the temptation of any pub.

“The puzzle was just one of those things I was aware of, like most people in Dublin,” McCann told the Irish Examiner.

“I started thinking about how you would go about it, the pen and paper route which many people have tried, and which gets very tiring very fast, then I decided to try it on the computer.”



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A computer science graduate from University College Dublin, McCann began his quest by plotting out 30 points on either side of the city, 15 along the northside’s Royal Canal and 15 along the southside’s Grand Canal.

He based his findings around the canals, as the waterways were traditionally regarded as the city limits in Joyce’s time.

According to the Examiner, he then developed his algorithm to try and find a path between a point on the northside to a point on the southside while avoiding pubs marked on the online map website OpenStreetMap.

His riddle busting route was no sooner on his website at www.kindle-maps.com when a number of people got in touch immediately pointing out pubs that weren’t included on the map.

McCann has since tweaked his route and is now confident he has the conundrum conquered with a route that passes the Guinness brewery. “But it doesn’t pass any of the tourist pubs inside,” he claimed.

The decision to ignore hotels and restaurants is likely, he admits, to run the ire of those loyal to Joyce and his Ulysses masterpiece, first published in 1922.

“It is a contentious issue,” admitted McCann. “But they are not pubs."

“If anyone finds any pubs that are not there they can add them to the street map and we can see if we can continue to get around Dublin without passing a pub."

“Or maybe there will be a deal-breaker, and we may find it is impossible. But I think it is looking good.”

As the Examiner points out however - others have long since claimed the answer was simple. You can cross Dublin without passing any pub by simply going into them.


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