Listener 4124, Travel Guide: A Setter’s Blog by Aedites
Posted by Listen With Others on 16 March 2011
There have been several Listener crosswords based on the London Underground, so I thought that it would be appropriate to use the Glasgow Underground, known locally as the “Subway” or the “Clockwork Orange”. The Subway opened in 1896 and was the third such system in the world (after London and Budapest). When I lived in Glasgow I used to use it to travel from Hillhead in the West End to the City Centre. Little had changed since 1896 and the original rolling stock was still in use; the only significant modernisation had been to replace the cable haulage with electric motors in the motor carriages. Subsequently there was a major upgrade in the late 1970s, and some of the stations were renamed. Fortunately I noticed this before starting the construction of the crossword.
Gioconda’s crossword Circumnavigation (Listener 3586) was based on 18 stations on the Circle Line which were included in answers clued by rows and columns and had to be omitted before entry. A similar approach was not practical since I wanted to include THE RIVER CLYDE and have the stations in approximately the correct geographical position, which would create a major problem in the bottom left hand corner. In addition some of the Glasgow station names would be quite awkward to clue. Thus I resolved to encode the station names as extra words in the row and column pair which intersected at the correct place. Fortunately all the station names could be anagrammed in this way. A similar technique was used in Aragon’s crossword Linear G____ (3655), where each jumbled station name had to be replaced by a single letter before the clue could be solved. Splitting the additional words across two clues to give a set of co-ordinates for a grid square is, as far as I know, a new idea.
It took about a day to construct the grid by hand, and an initial set of clues were constructed over the next three days. I then put the crossword to one side for a couple of months before reviewing the clues and sending it to two test solvers who made some helpful suggestions on further improvements to the clues.
This was the first time that I have used either misprints or extra words. At the time I did not realise that the editors’ preference was for the correct letters to spell the message. The original message was going to be CLOCKWORK ORANGE, but I decided that this would give Glaswegians an unfair advantage and would not be helpful to most other solvers. I therefore used UNDERGROUND CIRCLE instead, which required two additional entries in the construction of the grid. I thought that most solvers would be familiar with IBROX and PARTICK (football grounds) and GOVAN (former major ship-building centre), but the editors decided that a pointer to GLASGOW was needed, particularly for overseas solvers. Comments received suggest that about half the solvers did require the seven letters spelling GLASGOW in order to finish the crossword. The editors also changed my instruction to highlight THE RIVER CLYDE to drawing a straight line through it to avoid the ambiguity in the final E.
I am grateful to the many solvers who have sent positive feedback, indicating that they enjoyed the crossword. The only negative comment came from one solver who disliked the grid that I used and felt that this led to some poor surfaces in the clues.