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Saturday, 18 November, 2000, 15:01 GMT
No online bids for puzzler's home
Eternity puzzle
The puzzle was supposed to take three years to solve
The creator of the Eternity puzzle is facing a tricky problem of his own - how to sell his 1.5m stately home.

Christopher Monckton was forced to put the Palace and Estate of Crimongate in Aberdeenshire up for sale after the 209 piece game was solved sooner than expected.

The house was offered for auction on the internet - and failed to attract any bids at its starting price of 1.2m before the sale closed on Saturday.

Christopher Monckton
Christopher Monckton: Forced to sell up
But Mr Monkton - a former policy advisor to Margaret Thatcher - said he was neither surprised nor disappointed that no-one registered any formal interest.

And he said potential buyers had been in touch from the United States.

"We are quite likely to find somebody who will enjoy the splendour of a really magnificent house," he said.

"The other problem in the UK is that nobody understands how the internet works, but in the States that is now the routine method by which people do their house-buying."

Top mathematician

Mr Monckton, 48, thought it would be at least three years before anyone cracked the puzzle, by which time he would have made more than enough to cover half the 1 million prize money, with the remainder coming from the insurance policy.

But about a year after hitting the shops in June 1999 Eternity was solved by 32-year-old Alex Selby from Cambridge, who worked on the puzzle over seven months with help from former colleague Oliver Riordan, 28, who is one of the world's top mathematicians.

The Aberdeenshire estate, bought by Mr Monckton four years ago, was put up for auction on the internet on 8 November by trading company eBay.

Winners of the Eternity puzzle
Number crunchers Selby and Riordan cracked the puzzle in October (Photo: Eternity)
The site did not receive any bids for the property by the closing date, but a spokeswoman for eBay said potential buyers had taken interest.

She said: "We have had a bit of interest that has been generated from people seeing it on eBay and calling Mr Monckton direct."

She said there were no plans to extend the time-scale for the sale, or to re-auction the property on the site at a later date.

The property, which is about 40 miles north of Aberdeen, includes a 67-room stately home dating from 1825 and designed by Scottish neo-classicist Archibald Simpson, 200 acres of land and three gate-lodges.

The new owner will take the title of Laird of Crimonmogate, which comes with the sale of the palace and estate.

New game

Mr Monckton has previously described Crimonmogate as "one of the leading stately homes in the world" and "just perfect".

Speaking about having to sell, he said as an entrepreneur one had swings and roundabouts, and it was "not really a problem".

He said he was already looking into producing another similar type of puzzle which he hoped would corner the American market - something Eternity failed to do.

And he hoped the new game would make him enough money to buy back the house.

Eternity consists of 209 jigsaw pieces which have between seven and 11 sides, are all the same colour and can be used on either face. Unlike normal jigsaws, there is no pattern or picture to follow.

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See also:

26 Oct 00 | Entertainment
1m Eternity jackpot scooped
02 Oct 00 | UK
The Eternity puzzle solved?
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