Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin

Listener No 4483, A Little Ray of Sunshine: A Setter’s Blog by Jago

Posted by Listen With Others on 22 January 2018

As with most Crossword ideas — especially those involved in the Listener Pipeline, which has once more become extended well beyond a twelvemonth — the exact source of the original inspiration has been long forgotten. But if (possibly faulty) memory serves, then I believe I was dozing in bed one night, trying to drift off to sleep, when I tried my occasional ploy of “thinking of puzzle themes”: when for some reason, into my head popped a dim memory of a BBC Science programme about Sir Isaac Newton and his experiments with prisms and light. I could vividly recall that part of the programme where he was focusing a narrow beam of bright sunlight (from a chink in the window-blind, I think) onto a glass prism; and then producing the visible spectrum, as we know it today. Quite why that vision came into my head, is a mystery: but then, I suppose we all owe our “inspiration” (of whatever weight or magnitude) to some mysterious workings of the subconscious…

Anyway — I then resolved, once I was more alert the next day, to try to develop a puzzle on the theme of the colours of the spectrum (but not just about the rainbow, I might add!). And so I hit upon the idea of using diagonally-spilt squares to use as “focal lines” for my light source onto my “prism”. It so happens that I am a particular devotee of the 15 x 10 grid: I came across it in the late 60’s or early 70’s, when it was used quite a bit by (I think) Jeffec or ffancy — but in any event, I have used that format for about a third of my Listener puzzles over the years. And of course, the letter-count is pretty much the same as with a standard 12 x 12 grid: 150 letters as opposed to 144: thus not so different a challenge — but its merit is that it allows (literally) greater “width” in the grid; and also, 15-letter words, if you are that way inclined, too!

I soon discovered that the consecutive words “white” and “light” added up to 10 letters; which seemed the perfect start to the left-hand side of the grid. And then my split diagonal “focal lines” led naturally to a point about a third of the way in, where I then could place the “prism” which would “split” my “light beam” into its component colours. At first, I simply sought to enter the colours as words in their own right; but I soon realised that that was far too simple and straightforward: and so I hit upon the idea of hiding them amongst “normal” words. And with seven spectrum colours, plus my “white light”, my “focal lines” and my “prism”, I soon needed the additional grid-width that the 15-square grid gave me.

The grid filled fairly readily; but I was forced to use a number of quite short words, in order to retain the grid’s symmetry, whilst also being constrained by the necessity of the entire theme. (I haven’t always used symmetrical grids: but I try to avoid giving them up, if at all possible.) I found “indigo” and “violet” quite hard to divide logically and artfully between pairs of other words; and that probably led to the use of a couple of 3-letter words in the grid.

Once I had finished the grid (and the clues!), I needed a title: and I toyed with “Spectrum” (too obvious) and “Newton’s Discovery” (too clumsy) and a couple of other more leaden efforts. Then I remembered a phrase from my childhood years, which referred (possibly sarcastically) to someone who was always bright and chirpy and never let things get them down: “A little Ray of Sunshine”. That seemed to me the perfect way to mislead solvers into thinking of enthusiasm or bright spirits; whilst being literally true to the origin of Newton’s discovery of the visible spectrum and its colours. You decide!

Then came the submission and the (long, long) wait: almost 2 years from creation to publication. But I was delighted to have it as the final puzzle of 2017: and without any serious editorial changes — apart from a few tweaks to a few clues. (Aren’t there always? Or am I just deluding myself?) One proposed change that I successfully reversed was with the up-word “lad” — where I argued to keep the word “erect” in the clue (they wanted “upright”); but that conflicted with my wordplay about the sexual undertone of a young lad “fancying” anything with a pulse: and of course, “lad” when erect is “dal” — which is a variety of pulse, in its other use. I always like to inject a bit of humour into some of my clues (I hope you’ve noticed!) and indeed, I try not to take the whole world of crosswords too seriously, at any time.

I hope that “A Little Ray of Sunshine” did indeed bring a bit of light and colour to a somewhat cold and drab time of year…



Posted in Setting Blogs | Leave a Comment »

Listener No 4483: A Little Ray of Sunshine by Jago

Posted by Dave Hennings on 19 January 2018

Some solvers will always associate some setters with a particular puzzle. Poat will, in many eyes, always be remembered for that bloody hare (RIP!). Jago, more fondly (?), for his Origami wren. There didn’t seem to be any folding required here — that was Zero’s prerogative last week — and it seemed very unlikely that a wren would be lurking in the grid. [Hold that thought. Ed.]

Here we had a grid where some cells needed to accommodate two letters with a diagonal line separating them. It turned out that there weren’t as many of these as I had expected… only eight. 1dn 26dn and 20 were unclued thematic entries referred to in the preamble. Once these were revealed as WHITE LIGHT and PREAMBLE, it didn’t take long to spot the colours of the rainbow in seven columns to the right of the prism.

I seem to remember some time back being in a quandary over exactly what colours to use. Blue and Indigo have always confused me, and don’t mention Purple, Violet and Mauve! Anyway, I think that JEG is fairly tolerant when it comes to that sort of thing.

This turned out to be a very gentle solve for the last Listener of the year. Forty minutes saw everything fall into place. Thanks, Jago.

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , | 1 Comment »

‘A Little Ray Of Sunshine’ by Jago

Posted by Encota on 19 January 2018

That technique of hiding famous people’s initials as the consonants of your name?  That gives J(a)G(o) and so JG.  Singers of a famous rainbow-based song with initials JG?

Hmm?  John Gummer?  John Green?  No, no, Toby, try again …

Singers of a famous ‘rainbow-inspired’ song?

  • Rainbow with ‘Catch the Rainbow’?
  • Something from the quite brilliant Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’, perhaps?  ‘JiGsaw falling into place’??

Nope. Can’t get it.

I loved George’s comment elsewhere: I’m not even sure I’d know if I had an Indigo pencil!  Here’s my off-blue attempt:

2017-12-30 13.43.24 copy



Posted in Solving Blogs | Leave a Comment »

A Little Ray of Sunshine by Jago

Posted by shirleycurran on 19 January 2018

Just what we needed after catching a very crowded train from Euston to the north with a range of wet and snowy conditions. Naturally I started my solve by reading through all the clues to confirm Jago’s continued membership of the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Outfit (though as, for years, he has organised the Setters’ dinner, there could be little doubt – even if this year he is having a break and the dinner is performing some sort of Frexit to France). I hunted vainly for those telling clues only to have to resort to the RED in ‘A subject of severe doubters making another attempt (4)’ The red was hidden there wasn’t it – and yes, hidden even more effectively in the final grid – there was the RED, so cheers Jago!

The other Numpty was solving so quickly that all I could do was wield the pen and soon the right hand side of the grid was full and we still hadn’t found a single pair of letters that needed to share a cell but he then suddenly announced ‘It’s going to be WHITE LIGHT down the left’, and, of course it was. PRISM quickly followed  so that we realized that those split cells had to form two continuous lines. We were lucky to be given that anagram ‘At back of theatre agitated prude becoming distracted (5)’ PRUDE + (theatr)E* leading to EPERDU and the EP and ER were candidates for cell sharing, as were the GO of EGOS, the FU of FUERO, the TE of TASTES, KI of KISAN, AS or FASCI and UB of YORUBA. How clever to have made those tally with across clues that used the pairs of letters in the other direction: HOGWARD, TREETOP, PER PRO, LYOMERI, GRASSUM and HUBCAP. Neat setting!

We spotted our prism and wondered ‘Is that all?’ but, of course, it wasn’t. How had I managed to fill the grid without spotting a single one of the rainbow colours that the prism was splitting the white light into? Nice one Jago.

Did someone mention Poat’s hare? There was one cavorting round HAWES (just a few miles from here) in Jago’s grid but I am afraid it is RIP Hare – he is clearly not going to appear in a straight line in four letters in the grid.

We’ve had a touch of friction in the family. As I buried him, the anguished other Numpty said “You can’t do that to him! Why not just send him off with a little suitcase and a label ‘Please look after this hare’ or something like that.” So I passed him the pencils and there’s Poat’s hare off on his hols, heading in a straight line to the beach.

Posted in Solving Blogs | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Listener No 4482, A Paper Construction: A Setter’s Blog by Zero

Posted by Listen With Others on 14 January 2018

It seems impertinent — indeed hypocritical — to say so here, but I’ve never been a fan of the idea of setters’ blogs. Crosswords are like magic tricks: the very best are miracles whose inner workings it would be a sacrilege to reveal, whilst the others are perhaps best not scrutinised too closely.

A Paper Construction is, of course, in the second category, and I can’t remember much about how the setting went anyway, so that aspect of a setter’s blog is ruled out. However, the space constraints for the solution notes didn’t allow me to witter on about the geometry at much as I would have liked, so many thanks indeed to the LWO folks for giving me the chance to do that now.

I don’t know whether the designer of the printed grid was aiming for a 12:17 rectangle or a 1:√2 one (it would be hard to detect the difference). In the first case, the constructed shape is only approximately a kite; in the second, an exact kite is possible, but the designated cells don’t coincide perfectly on folding.

Chambers doesn’t provide the geometrical definition of a kite, which is a quadrilateral in which a diagonal is a line of symmetry. The kite shape in this case did not have the perfect angles for a traditional kite toy, though hopefully the family resemblance was strong enough for solvers not to worry too much.

To see that, in the exact case, the construction leads to a geometrical kite…

… it is really only necessary to observe that angle WQR = angle WXR = 90° and that if WY = 1, then WQ = √2 (via Pythagoras in triangle WYQ), so that the right-angled triangles WQR and and WXR share a common hypotenuse WR and have WQ = WX = √2, so they are therefore congruent. Thus WXRQ is a kite with symmetry line WR.

People who enjoy playing with square roots may find it satisfying to note that QZ = ZR = √2 – 1, so that XR = 1 – ZR = 1 – (√2 – 1) = 2 – √2, and (by Pythagoras in triangle QRZ), QR = (√2)(ZR) = √2(√2 – 1) which also multiplies out to 2 – √2, thus verifying directly that QR = XR.

Many, many thanks to all who have helped with and commented on this puzzle. I have not gone back to check which of the clues that people have kindly complimented were actually the work of my wonderful test solvers or of the equally wonderful Listener vetters, but I do know that the final preamble (there were many drafts) was infinitely clearer and more concise than anything I could have come up with on my own.

Posted in Setting Blogs | 3 Comments »