Listen With Others

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3975 – The Cause of Much Pain by Samuel – Setter’s Blog

Posted by Listen With Others on 20 April 2008

I first got the idea of setting a puzzle themed around gravity in December 2005 – actually before the inception of my first Listener, Hunt. I’d just written my first puzzle involving grid movements, East (which went on to be published in the EV series), and was determined to build on this and to set a further puzzle that involved moving letters in the grid. I was flicking through the section from Proverbs in ODQ seeking inspiration for a puzzle (not necessarily this puzzle), and ‘what goes up must come down’ jumped out at me. This seemed like perfect material for a crossword, although something more than just this phrase was needed. The proverb itself suggested two possible treatments – either entries moving down in the grid, or entries being first made upwards, but then having to be reversed so they were entered downwards. This second wouldn’t have worked – although if the phrase had been ‘what goes down must come up’ – but the first idea definitely would.


The only way to make full use of the proverb would thus be to have things that would normally ‘go up’ come down in the grid. But what sort of things went up? I would have to draw up a list. More to the point, what would happen when they came down? Something would have to be revealed in the grid – and that would surely have to be to do with gravity. Something to do with Newton.

At that point, maybe five minutes had elapsed since first thinking about the specific proverb. Unfortunately, progress from that point on would be a lot slower.

A bit of reading about Newton led me to think that it would be nice to have something quite long appear in the final grid, and my first choice was NEWTON’S LAW OF GRAVITATION. It would be possible to fit this in symmetrically in a 13×13 grid, by using three lines and having NEWTONS (7 letters), LAW OF (5 letters) and GRAVITATION (11 letters) placed centrally. I thus drew a grid on some graph paper, inserted these words in the relevant positions (rows 5, 7 and 9), and then decided to draw up a list of things that can go up, as well as down.

This was the first stumbling block, as it quickly dawned on me that whereas lots of things go up (birds, flying craft, trees, plants, people in flying crafts, etc), it would be hard to actually say whether these MUST come down again. Anything that goes up MAY come down, but MUST? At this point I paused for a few days, and decided what to do.

The answer was actually pretty obvious. It is impossible to guarantee that anything MUST come down. What happens if a lift gets stuck at the top of a building? What happens if a rocket passes out of the earth’s atmosphere? What if a bird flies up, but then dies in its nest on top of a mountain? However, reading the proverb a slightly different way, one can take it to mean that what goes up must come down in the grid. It would be hard for anybody to argue with that. I know that many Listener solvers are incredibly pedantic – as am I, before this is taken as being criticism – but that must hold true. This after a couple of long drives thinking about whether a rocket might disintegrate before falling into the gravity well of another object, etc, etc. So, what does go up?

When one thinks about it, the list of things that go up would have to be fairly common items so that there would be little ambiguity and solvers wouldn’t find them hard to locate. My first thoughts were incredibly obvious things – AEROPLANE, BALLOON, ROCKET, LIFT (or ELEVATOR), PILOT, and it seemed a good thing to include a climbing plant, of which the old crossword staple LIANA sprang to mind. Chambers gives this as ‘any climbing plant’, so it would be hard to find fault with that.

Starting with the initial grid to work through as follows, a problem became apparent:

This being that, of my shortlist of ‘things that go up’, none of them really fitted into the pattern that I had started with. ROCKET could end up at the bottom of column 11, but nothing else fitted. Even with a slight adjustment, so that the rows weren’t evenly spaced so that I could fit in ELEVATOR and ROCKET, I was going to struggle:

This looked a mess, in any case. I decided, after a few hours of thinking, that things should be more spaced out in terms of the message in the finished grid. This led me to:

This was starting to look a bit more feasible. At that point, I started working with two diagrams side by side in Excel – because I had to always consider two things. Where the words would finish, but, most importantly, where they would start. For instance, in my ideal world of things starting at the top of the grid and moving all the way to the bottom, the above would have to start life in the grid as:

But even such a simple grid as this – ie with just the final phrase and three ‘things that go up’ in the grid wasn’t possible. When BALLOON moved down, I had to get an O from somewhere to make NEWT?NS into a word again. So the things coming own would have to displace letters below, which would move into the gap created by the things coming down. However, this wasn’t possible in this grid, so I had to think again. The other problem was that there had to be quite a few things moving, or the phrases would be very obvious before starting to move a thing. Again, in the grid above, even if I somehow sorted out the BALLOON problem and found three more things to fit, then things weren’t exactly well hidden. About this time, I thus realised that if this was going to work, having all real words in the final grid was probably going to be a sad impossibility. I would try for it if I could get a fill – which I was now realising was going to be very difficult indeed – but I would have to resign myself to the moans that would ensue.

Then followed about three months of working to get a grid that worked. At one point, I completely gave up the idea as unworkable, but I kept coming back to it. I cheered myself up by setting another couple of puzzles in the interim, but my thoughts always came back to Newton.

One evening, sitting in a hotel in Egham in Surrey, after spending five fruitless hours moving LIANAs, LIFTs, etc, round a grid, I decided that the puzzle would never get set if I didn’t make life slightly easier for myself. So, it was out with NEWTON’S LAW OF, and in with purely GRAVITATION. Not as exciting as I had first imagined, but it could still be good if I made the whole thing hang together really well. I had also by then thought of a nice thematic clueing gimmick whereby either letters or words moved up to the clue above had to be dropped down to the clue below before solving – giving a further way in which WHAT GOES UP MUST COME DOWN. I knew that the thematic elements of the puzzle would hang together nicely, but I was still a long way from starting to write clues.


With only GRAVITATION to now fit in the grid, things were still not easy. Things that go up (and can come down) just didn’t seem to fit around the word at all. In the end, I decided that six moving elements would probably be plenty – every second letter in GRAVITATION could be affected, starting at the G and finishing at the N. But even then, things didn’t play ball. Using some of my original idea, I could get four quite easily, but not five or six. The key moment came when I scribbled out the following – conscious that this was a ridiculously poor point to be at after about three months on the puzzle – and was struggling to fit other ‘things that go up’ into this framework. I then saw the N at the bottom of BALLOON, and had the mental image of an apple falling onto Newton’s head:

And surely solvers would have to find that amusing! It was also good that the apple landing on N could be read in two ways – either the apple landing on Newton’s head, or the apple landing on Newton (as in the unit of measure). Perfect. Had an apple actually landed on his head? Probably not. But, if it had, it would have hurt. This also led to the first title of the puzzle, which was ‘Ouch!’, with or without exclamation mark.


But, despite what seemed to be some more good ideas, getting a fill was about as far away as ever. I decided to slot a shorter dropping item in, that would end up below GRAVITATION but the displaced letters from this would contribute towards the theme word. If this went in the central column, this meant that I could start to construct the grid proper from the row containing GRAVITATION. At that point, another problem occurred to me – one that I hadn’t really taken seriously to this point. That of symmetry. With the six ‘things falling’ having to be in the top half of the grid, I either had to go for an asymmetrical grid, or consider that some of my thematic items would have to be symmetrically placed. Another problem, but one that this time took only a couple of hours more to figure out:

And things were starting to look promising with this. There were no particularly nasty letter combinations in here, although I knew that I had to be very careful filling from hereon in. I didn’t want to have too many bars in or around GRAVITATION, as this would really point solvers towards the right place to look. Fortunately, TEA told me that ANDOUILLETTES would fit across the middle – a word that seemed like ideal composite anagram fodder – which removed this worry.

Despite making what I thought was good progress, though, it was another six or seven weeks before the fill was complete. This was for no other reason than the fact that there were still limitations to be observed. I had to studiously avoid things that could be seen to go up – and the number of times that I was left with only names of birds to fill certain lights was ridiculous. I made a conscious decision that I would not class trees as things that go up – LIANA was okay, I thought, given its definition in Chambers. In case of any ambiguity, I would just have to make the preamble state the number of items that moved so that solvers wouldn’t head off and start moving just about anything that they could think of. Because, at the end of the day, just about anything can go up. Limbs, buildings, towns can be ‘built up’, people can ‘grow up’, as can animals, etc, etc.

It was sometime in June when the fill was actually complete. Home and dry? So I thought. But then I had to start on the clueing.

I’d already considered words moving between clues, but I had seen this done somewhere before – and it was too similar to superfluous words for my liking. So we would have letters moving between clues. I didn’t have 44 clues to match 2 times the 22 letters in WHAT GOES UP MUST COME DOWN so I had a bit of leeway… but to make sure that time wasn’t wasted, I would almost certainly have to write clues in order. Hmm.


The full horror of the gimmick that I had chosen didn’t take long to hit home. To have to find for a clue, a word that contributed to the wordplay or the definition when a specific letter was taken away? Very difficult. This was made doubly so by the letter having to be added to the clue directly below. Many times I almost gave up and reverted to something much more straightforward – simple misprints, perhaps. But I wanted the thematic gimmick to become a feature of this and other Samuel puzzles. Besides, in a strange way I enjoyed the challenge. However, rather than writing a clue in perhaps five minutes, it took a stupid length of time. I found myself sometimes spending two hours on a single clue. There were also some horrendously difficult words to even come up with a clue for. I had known from the start that ORCZY would prove problematic, and so it proved. There were a few that I was very pleased with, and a few whereby pop culture kept trying to creep in – I toyed with clueing TOTO as the seventies MOR band, but decided that this was a step too far for the Listener, but decided that Gary Numan could stay in the clue for ACE.

Almost the last thing to be sorted out properly was the title. I was very impressed with the title of a Phi Listener that appeared towards the end of my time setting the puzzle – the title in question being ‘The Consequence of Being Mortal’. This just sounded superb. In line with the original title, ‘Ouch’, I decided upon calling it ‘The Cause of Much Pain’. Newton would have got a headache when the apple hit him on the head but, more to the point, every time that I had fallen over in my life, it had hurt. Sometimes a lot. Gravity certainly causes one to fall so, as such, it must have been responsible for causing a great deal of pain to a great number of people.

The preamble was also tricky to write, especially how to describe what happened to letters when they were displaced by the falling objects… and when working out how to tell solvers what to highlight. In the end I decided upon solvers having to highlight ‘the principle involved’, as this was another homage to Sir Isaac. His ‘law of universal gravitation’ was first published in his book ‘Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica’ often shortened to ‘Principia’, or ‘Principles’, so ‘the principle involved’ seemed very apt. So, after almost a year working on the puzzle, it was then time to send it off to the Listener editors.


Looking through some old files, I've now found some old copies of the grid in pencil, dated February and March 2006. These have various versions of the preamble, including the following:

21/02/2006 – Each of eight answers must be moved in accordance with the phrase, the letters moved in each case replacing those in the target cells. Those displaced must then replace those moved in the same order.

20/03/2006 – In clue order, the letters so moved give a phrase which indicates how six entries in the grid must be moved, any displaced letters moving in their original order to fill the ensuing gap.

I also find that, during this period, things 'going up' included ALBATROSS, EAGLE (to try to misdirect solvers towards a golfing theme), as well as (Chris) BONINGTON, the climber.

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