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Listener No 4626, Pot Plant: A Setter’s Blog by Karla

Posted by Listen With Others on 18 October 2020

Pot Plant is my first foray into barred thematic puzzle setting and my first submission to the Listener slot. I have been setting as Wire for the Independent for the last couple of years having come up through Big Dave’s Rookie Corner. I am also a contributor to 1Across magazine.

Two esteemed colleagues have been an invaluable source of support. Alberich kindly tested my first draft and rightly pointed out that my first grid design had serious flaws. I had to scrap the whole thing and start from scratch. Encota tested my second draft, providing excellent guidance especially on ironing out my over-use of links for the themed clues.

The idea came while watching the World Snooker Championship on holiday in the Lake District. I had thrown a copy of the Saturday Times into the car before setting off with a view to trying to solve one of the Listener puzzles for once. Glancing from the (largely empty) grid to the TV screen one rainy afternoon, I started to put the ideas together.

I had wanted to represent the colours/ triangle of reds/ pockets somehow but decided to keep it simple for my maiden voyage. Another idea was to have ‘snooker loopy nuts are we’ as a hidden message in the grid. Then ‘clue tips’ and ‘cue tips’ jumped out at me which felt ‘Listener-ish’.

After that, straightforward devices to identify the colours and the ONE FOUR SEVEN. I tried to shoehorn in undefined entries: NUGGET, HURRICANE, WHIRLWIND etc as nicknames but I could not get them in whilst keeping to the grid rules. In hindsight, I should have tried to incorporate a nickname angle some other way.
 

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L4626: ‘Pot Plant’ by Karla

Posted by Encota on 16 October 2020

Any setter with a pseudonym from George Smiley’s world gets my interest straight away! Thanks Karla for a fun puzzle!

Here we had a puzzle based on snooker. All eight coloured balls in snooker appeared, with each deleted from an answer to create the grid entry. So:

  • [RED] LINE
  • [YELLOW] CARD
  • [GREEN] BERET
  • [BROWN] SHIRTS
  • is this one [BLUE] PRINTS (at 13a)?
  • [PINK] PANTHER
  • [BLACK] MAIL, and
  • [WHITE] FLAG

It seemed to be possible to jumble the 12 omitted letters from wordplay to make ONE FOUR SEVEN, the maximum break in snooker.

And the ‘above advice’ from the Preamble might be described as CLUE TIPS. Remove one letter from this to leave CUE TIPS, a more snooker-related phrase.

One of the easier Listeners of the year. Though I perhaps enjoy harder puzzle more, I do love the variety that the Listener dishes up – you really don’t know what you are getting until you get solving!

My thanks to Karla for a nice debut puzzle!

Cheers,

Tim / Encota

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Pot Plant by Karla

Posted by shirleycurran on 16 October 2020

We haven’t met the name Karla before and we read the preamble with a hint of trepidation. There seemed to be three instructions here and two of them were going to affect twenty of the thirty-seven clues. The first few clues we solved were normal and a skeleton grid appeared with COHABITEE, RAP SHEET (what a fine clue! ‘Criminal past here (8,two words)’ anagrammed to those words that record a criminal past), SPENT FORCE, REGISTRANT, PROSPECTS, DRYING, SYDNEY, FUSSED, AZOTE, AIRY and EID AL-FITR. There were generous anagrams and succinct clues that had us slightly worried. Where were those extra letters and words coming from? (And where was the alcohol? Surely we can admit this ‘new’ setter to the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Outfit?)

Then there was a speedy p.d.m. ‘Use of threats, a defence in bygone battle (4)’ “MAIL” said the other Numpty “and we seem to have an extra BLACK – and here’s BLUEPRINTS with an extra BLUE.” “RED CARD” I responded gleefully, so we have the ‘Red’ after all, and if these are snooker balls, we are goig to find ‘white’ (as we did, ‘Giving up standard part of stone floor (4, two words)’ gave us WHITE FLAG) – so “Cheers and welcome Karla!”

Yes, I know that the RED card had to be converted to a YELLOW one when we needed our red for the red line, and the BLACK shirts had to be BROWN but we soon had our full complement of colours, with those GREEN berets and the PINK panther, and a full grid too. However, we had solved rather quickly and had only ten of the 12 extra letters. While the other Numpty returned to watch the snooker, I had to carefully work through the clues to find an R in REITERATE (‘Keep repeating obligation to retire European judge (9)’ – we had to reverse TIE = obligation, + E RATE – that was tricky!) We were left with only one word where there could be our last extra letter and it had to be a final letter: GLUTEN, ‘Coeliacs don’t tolerate such cheek (6)’ Imagine my amazement when the Big Red Book told me that a ‘glute’ is a bum muscle!

Those 12 letters gave us a rather appropriate ONE FOUR SEVEN (we had stopped watching the snooker where O’Sullivan had just drawn equal to Hill at 3-3, in order to download the Listener). All that was left to do was find the eight-letter phrase and CLUE TIPS seemed a likely candidate – we had certainly has a couple in the preamble. We highlighted it and erased the L to get our cue tips. Thank you Karla for a very clear and engaging first crossword – if it is a first.

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Listener No 4626: Pot Plant by Karla

Posted by Dave Hennings on 16 October 2020

I spy a newcomer to the ranks of Listener setters. Karla was head of Moscow Station in Le Carré’s Smiley novels and his real name is never revealed. Would our Karla be similarly secretive?

Here we had eight answers losing a word before entry. From the title, I had a horrible feeling that we were in horticultural territory and that’s not my favourite subject. The removed words are a thematic set. First or last letters omitted from the wordplay in twelve other answers will need arranging to give a three-word phrase.

The first thing I noticed was that there were a lot of two-word answers — eight to be precise. Would they be the thematic answers losing something?

1ac Viewer’s irritation about major UK road block (6) gave STYMIE so I thought I’d try the crossing down entries. 1dn was SCOFF and 2dn was TO LET. This last one couldn’t be thematic since the wordplay gave the full answer. Of course, I should have got 3dn Use of threats, a defence in bygone battle (4) sooner for BLACKMAIL, but heigh-ho.

I gradually worked my way down the grid and finally got the PINK PANTHER although sadly it’s not in Chambers. PINK was the giveaway to steer us towards the colours of snooker balls. The last two snooker themes were No 4222 27 from Mango in 2012, and No 4291 MAXON by Schadenfreude in 2014. Of course there was Chalicea’s billiard table earlier this year.

Although there were a couple of colours that could fit two clues, (BROWN/BLACK SHIRTS and BLUE/GREEN BERETS), they eventually resolved themselves to WHITE FLAG, BLACKMAIL, PINK PANTHER, BLUEPRINTS, BROWN SHIRTS, GREEN BERET, YELLOW CARD, RED LINE. The clue to WHITE FLAG was one of my favourites: Giving up standard part of stone floor (4, two words) for its nice definition.

Unravelling the letters omitted from the wordplay took a few minutes. Seven something and Four something were both tried, but a bit more jiggery-pokery gave us ONE FOUR SEVEN, the score of a maximum break in snooker. CLUE TIPS was an easy spot, and erasing the L gave CUE TIPS.

Good fun. Thanks, Karla.
 

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Listener No 4625, If P Then Q?: A Setter’s Blog by Mr E

Posted by Listen With Others on 11 October 2020

There’s not lot to say about this one. For some of my puzzles the idea sits in my mind for months or years until I think of a good way to execute it; but for this one, almost as soon as I thought of using the line [If all is not lost, then where is it?], the way forward was clear.

As for filling the grid, my first thought was that I would need to resort to some jumbled across entries; but I decided to see if I could get a good fill without jumbling and was pleasantly surprised that it turned out not to be all that difficult.

I did not want to clue ALL in the wordplay nine times so the decision to let the wordplay refer to the entered form for the clues with omissions was easy.

And that’s about it, except to say that I was unaware that COVID appeared in row 9 of the grid. It was mentioned by a number of solvers in their feedback but was completely unintentional.
 

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