Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin

Archive for June, 2008

3985 – Yes by Lato

Posted by Listen With Others on 27 June 2008


I’m a bit late starting the crossword this week. I don’t work on Fridays and so I can usually download at 16.00 and hopefully finish on Friday evening. But I was really busy this week and hadn’t finished Odd One Out by Oyler from last weekend. I don’t like numericals and had only got the pattern for the third grid and identified the obvious clues which could be assigned to particular grids and hence very few entries. So I spent most of Friday trying to solve the rest of the puzzle(s). I succeeded but did not enjoy it one bit (other than finishing). I could not find a logical way through and ended up making a lot of assumptions – not all correct – until I finally stumbled across a unique solution almost by accident. I look forward to Erwin’s blog to find out how I should have done it. After Oyler, I checked Derek’s Crossword Centre message board to catch up and came across the ‘to tea or not to tea’ debate sparked by Sabre’s Lip Service. I was astounded once again that a puzzle’s final step, which I had found quite quickly, had caused so many problems. I don’t say this to appear clever because I have been in the reverse position myself many times before. For example last year, I did not find GAUDEAMUS IGITUR, even though I know the quotation. Nor did I HAVE TO GET TO YORK when Travelling Light with Ploy. For those serious about the statistics, these failures in being able to see the final step must surely be what separate the men from the boys. I am definitely a boy by the way but have much admiration for the men who consistently make that final leap of the imagination. But it is interesting that what one person finds easy another finds impossible. [Two weeks later- and now that Erwin’s blog is on-line I see it was all very easy wasn’t it! Well no, not for everyone. For some it was the hardest Listener numerical ever and for others 3hours work. So a typical Listener then.]

Anyway all that is merely an aside because at 17.00ish I download this week’s puzzle, a 13 x 13 grid  though somehow it looks bigger. The title suggests nothing to me and the preamble wants me to identify a group of eleven (teams?) no twelve members. Oh dear! Lots of things come in twelves and the Listener has used many of them. And there’s a relevant location from three answers. I’ll start with the shortest clues at the end of the downs.
33d Fruit most unlikely to remain fresh – Date? Not sure but I’ll lightly pencil it in.
32d French thought mostly the same about Spain – IDEE – ide(m) about E. We’ve had that recently in Sabre’s puzzle.
30d Reddish purple swelling soft on top – PLUM – P moved to the top of lump.
I now notice there are unclued entries, eleven of them which are presumably the entries to be associated with the group members.
28d With priest exorcised solicitor’s demons – P off a word for solicitors leaving demons? Bradford’s suggests imp for demon so P off pimps giving IMPS.
Looking at what crosses these,
35a PL??? Soft delicate material – suggests PLACE with no definition so that’s part of the location.
29a ??MP Worthless fool eating master’s porridge – Bradford’s gives SAMP which fits.
38a Engineer met seniors – also looks like a definitionless clue for an anagram of met seniors but nothing is obvious. Plus if 33d is date, it would end with EE, possible but unlikely. Going back to the downs;
27d don’t know. 25d Abandon earl in fix suggests an anag of earl in – RENAIL. But the re is not indicated in the clue which I can’t recall seeing before and it would put an L in 38a which I don’t want because I can’t see how else that clue could work – very lightly pencil it in then.
24d don’t know but 23d Quits taking the French team is ELEVENS (le in evens) which confirms the E of 35a Place and gives a V in 31a ?VI? Pass over bad singer – Diva backwards comes to mind but doesn’t fit the rest of the clue. 21d don’t know.
20d Get time off to tutor every one separately is (T)EACH.
19d No depth to darkish river is (D)USK making 24a ????K? Saucy broad gets a thousand for story at first which is a nice clue to CHEEKY (K for S in cheesy) which puts an E in 21d ?E?A??? Kelvin wearing upturned bowler in new versions which could be a ‘Re-word’ with a K in it. Bradford’s gives seamer under bowler giving REMAKES.
25a ?CL?? Sandy’s mount has character – not worried has could be s so I look up scl in Chambers and see SCLIM as a Scots word for climb, thus climate without ate. Which means 25d is not renail but S??A?? which I see now is SCRAPE (scrap E). The unclued word near 28a is MI?CHE?? which suggests Mitchell but is no help with the theme yet. Plus I have now solved 12 of 42 clues and not encountered a single extra word which is worrying so I decide to go to the start of the grid and see if I can find any there.
1d Doctor of Philosophy’s first lapse – DR-O-P.
12a P??? Told to provoke small dog – PEKE (sounds like pique).
2d ???E O’Neill deprived of two points – well done is EUGE(ne).
9a RU?? Drive round in wreck – RUIN – (I in run).
3d Wills likewise largely overturned – not right EGALLY (anag of largely minus r).
4d Prepared to accept contractor’s initial tenders for school is SECT (C in set) and at last I get TENDERS left over. I look up tenders but shed no light on the theme.
5d Tearing off artificial skin – INTEGRA (courtesy Bradford’s)
1a DE??ES?I?? Preparing covering letter suggests DEPRESSING (ep(istle) in dressing) and is another location word.
10a means nothing yet but 13a TIE? Drop talking cockatoo causing row – must be TIER (sounds like tear). I like the funny surface and change of meaning for row. This gives COCKATOO extra underneath which Bradford’s has Major Mitchell listed. This can’t be a coincidence so MAJOR is the first of the group. Ranks, musical terms and PMs suggest themselves but none would be a group of twelve.
10d ??I? One endlessly important piece of nature – A KIN(g) comes but not easily.
14d R??? Berry song has Prince on top Bradford’s again gives RAS-P. SONG extra.
22a PAE?? He stops tide turning giving praise to God – Chambers yields PAEAN (A=he in neap reversed).
6d G???? Flipping dog biting mother might make you this – GO MAD (ma in dog (rev)).
11d Stirs drink served up – ADOS (soda up).
18a DO?? John perhaps boxing in second bout – DOSE (doe round s).
About a third of the clues left now and still only three extra words so most of the remainder must contain extras. 17d Eat pudding away from headless apparition ((F)ETCH and PUDDING extra). 15a ???EL?NG Priest born in Belgian city back paying homage must be KNEELING but why? ELI N in that well known Belgian city GENK!
26a Triumphant exclamation about Italy – Columbus film location I spend some time on before getting OHIO (oho about I with FILM extra whereas I thought it may be Columbus)
24d CI?? Grouse about Italian’s sons – not gentlemen – C-IT-S with GROUSE extra.
16d N???H???? Be near daughter leaving old Edinburgh ground – NEIGHBOUR (anag O E(d)inburgh).
37a ?R? Prove right know-all, missing nothing – TRY (t(o)ry) with KNOW-ALL extra.
38a ??S?ME?SE? unravels to IN SOMERSET so the location is cryptically indicated by Depressing place in Somerset. I then spend far too long looking at a road atlas and getting nowhere. Nor can I see anything in common with the extra words. So I am forced to finish the remaining clues before attempting the theme.
7d ????S?AI? A pair of rooks land – one comes in for earth, one part of fence – I guess ARR for the start and get ARRIS RAIL from Chambers and working backwards see the wordplay as A R R Israel with E (earth) changed for I (one).
33d L??T Fruit most unlikely to remain fresh I now see is LAST (2 mngs) not date and FRUIT extra.
31a ?VIL Pass over bad singer – LIVE (EVIL rev) and SINGER extra.
27d O???I African animal raised in pen is now clearly ORIBI ( I BIRO rev).
36a Professor informs on doctor breaking laws – RUMBLES ( MB in rules) and PROFESSOR extra.
34a Salt to sprinkle is on edge of table – I take ages to find is EOSIN (anag is on e) despite having used it and I’m fairly sure having seen it recently in a Listener also clued as salt.
8d ????E? I can’t believe I’ve only got one letter when I’ve only got one clue to go but Incessant talk about the river rising is YATTER (re t Tay (all rev)). Which leaves
10a ?N?O?RA which can only be ANDORRA surely but for the life of me I can’t see how the wordplay works. I only have ten extra words so presumably 10a contains the eleventh.
Reviewing my thematic material I have
Title Yes
Location – Depressing place in Somerset
EXTRA words                                     and unclued entries
COCKATOO                                      .RACK
FILM                                                   .MART
SINGER                                              .E.TY
PROFESSOR                                      .URSES
KNOW-ALL                                       .I.C.
TENDERS                                           MITCHELL
SONG                                                 .NES
PUDDING                                           P??KE??
GROUSE                                             .E.S                 
FRUIT                                                 .O.ER.
I can only pair COCKATOO with MITCHELL giving MAJOR.
Perhaps .mart is SMART and smart alec(k) is a know-all but what links alec and major?
I consider Alec Douglas-Home and John Major both being Tory (poss hint from 37a?)
Prime ministers but can’t see any other Tory PMs in the words lists. I look at googled lists of PMs and ranks in case alec is wrong but get no further. Anyway there are more than 12 PMs. Then I see there have been 12 Tory PMs this century but still can’t make any of them fit the words I’ve got. And that’s as far as I get on Friday night. Lying in bed it occurs to me the lists all gave the PMs full names whereas Margaret Thatcher was better known as Maggie and Maggie May leaps to mind as a Rod Stewart SONG. I resolve to check this out in the morning and go to sleep.
On Saturday morning I'm still not surewhat the group of twelve is. Looking at the location you will not believe how long it took me (or maybe you will) to tumble DOWNING STREET but at least it confirmed the theme for me. MACMILLAN NURSES (TENDERS) followed (slowly) and then HEATH HENS (GROUSE) then ROBERT WINSTON (PROFESSOR). And there I stuck. Try as I might I couldn’t make the rest fit.
I still had PUDDING, FILM and FRUIT and a word from 10a to match to Tory PMs. It was only after looking up pudding in Bradford’s giving BETTY BROWN that I realised where I had gone wrong. It was the last twelve (since WW2) PMs not Tory ones. I then got BLAIR WITCH (project) (FILM), EDEN project as the twelfth member, CLEMENT INES (FRUIT) and WILSON PINKETT (SINGER). And then I was stuck again because I couldn’t link James Callaghan with .RACK or any word in 10a. I then remembered he was known as Jim and found Jim crack in Chambers. It still didn’t match a word in 10a and so I guessed I had missed an extra word in a clue, eventually finding WORTHLESS in 29a. The title I finally deduced to be YES PRIME MINISTER the TV series.
So I made a bit of a meal out of this one. The theme didn’t come out easily for me and I now see why. Many of the ‘associations’ were in popular culture and didn’t yield to Bradford’s or other list books. Very clever on Lato’s part. If it hadn’t been for cockatoo in Bradford’s I think I may not have got this one but I’ll never know of course. I really enjoyed this puzzle. There were some good humorous clue surfaces and the theme really made me work for the PDM which came in farthing-drop stages though all the hints were there. However, I still can’t work out the word play to 10a . I hope it is Andorra because that is what I have sent off. 10a Bullock/ in drama involving men/ out of /southern country. I did justify it by having ANOA with OR(other ranks (men)) in DR (drama) going in (to anoa) and O (of) coming out (of anoa). But I can’t really justify DR as drama. So if it is wrong all the hard work on the theme will have been for nothing.

I was away on Sunday and out on Monday and Tuesday nights but on looking again on Wednesday I see straight away it was OR in (S)ANDRA (Bullock the actress). I feel a bit dim now but relieved to confirm it was Andorra after all.

Posted in Solving Blogs | Leave a Comment »

3984 – Odd One Out by Oyler -Setter’s Blog

Posted by Listen With Others on 22 June 2008

A Setter's Blog by Oyler

            I’d just set two puzzles for The Magpie – Quadwrangle and Quadwrangle II which were based on an earlier 2002 Listener puzzle 3968 Twinset by Zag and a Tough Crosswords puzzle in December 2001 Light At The End Of The Tunnel by Googly. In those puzzles there were two grids and two sets of clues and solvers had to decide which clue went with which grid. In QW and QWII I doubled these up and had four 4×4 grids and four 5×5 grids respectively that were paired up in some way. The next logical step was four 6×6 grids. However I decided against this on the grounds that the puzzle would be too big ( at least 20 clues ) to fit comfortably on an A5 page without significant reduction in print size thus annoying those who like myself are visually challenged.
QW and QWII were set in a 3 week period and as I was on a bit of a roll I wanted to continue and wondered about merging Twinset with another Googly puzzle Red Herrings that appeared in the March 2003 issue 6 of The Magpie in which solvers had one grid but two letter/number assignment clues and so had to reject one of them. I decided to move it up a notch and have two grids and three clues one of which would remain unused.  

I barred off the two 5×5 grids differently. In the previous puzzles by Zag and Googly the grids were identical however I prefer them to be different as useful information can be obtained from product and quotient clues that can eliminate an entry from a particular grid and so makes it a bit easier.   I was about to start the clueing process when it struck me that it was a shame that one clue would be unused and wondered if that could form the basis for a third unseen grid and it would be this grid that solvers had to submit for their entry making it easier for John Green to check. 
Obviously each grid had to have the same number of clues and as luck would have it the two grids that I’d barred off just happened to have the same number of bars and unchecked cells as well as the bars in different places. I decided that the third grid would have that also. There were a number of possibilities for the third grid given that no two bars across all three grids were in the same place and I chose the one that had the entry lengths increasing to a maximum then decreasing again as it was easy to explain if that information had to be given. I had hoped to be able to miss that out but that proved not to be possible as I couldn’t solve the puzzle without it!!
Clues were going to be of two types as in the previous puzzles namely number definition clues such as prime, square etc and entry referenced algebraic clues such as 2A, b / D etc. I had used the double duty number definition clues idea in QW and QWII and as this was going to be a Listener puzzle decided to use it again as it makes things a bit more difficult for the solver. For example knowing a fully checked entry is 89 and it refers to a clue Fibonacci, Prime, A x B solvers have to carry the clue over into the other grids as 89 is both Fibonacci and prime. Of course it all resolves itself in the end!
I started with the A across clues first but as the puzzle was set some 3 years ago that’s about as much as I can remember. Sorry!
When setting puzzles that use number definition type clues I make use of a   few double sided sheets that contain lists of squares, primes etc that have been photocopied from various sources namely Wells’ Penguin Dictionary of Curious and Interesting Numbers and Jenkins’ Number File ( Tarquin Press ) then cut and pasted in order to get as much information as possible on a sheet then rephotocopied and laminated. When setting Euler’s Spoilers I made up a table for numbers 0 – 99 that detailed what type of number each was and I still use this in a slightly amended form.

Sq = Square. Cu = Cube. Tn = Triangular. Pr = Prime. Fib = Fibonacci. Luc = Lucas. Sm = Smith. Ha = Happy. Lky = Lucky. Ab = Abundant. MP = Multiplicative Persistence – multiply the digits together to get a new number and continue until you get a single digit, the MP is the number of steps required to get to the single digit.
The puzzle took 2 to 3 weeks to set during which ELP, The Nice, Deep Purple, Trace, Ekseption and Triumvirat had a good airing on my hi-fi. For some reason I set puzzles best listening to 60s and 70s prog rock. It must be something to do with the keyboard playing and classical overtones!


Posted in Setting Blogs | Leave a Comment »

Zero-less Pandigital Products: Prime 234 by Oyler

Posted by Listen With Others on 20 June 2008

In a first for Listen With Others, the following is a puzzle by Oyler that was sent to all solvers who submitted feedback with their solution to the puzzle.

Many thanks to Oyler for allowing this to be published here, and I hope that people have as much fun solving it as I did. If anybody has any feedback on this puzzle, then I will happily pass it on to Oyler, or it can be posted as comments at the bottom of this posting.


Zero-less Pandigital Products : Prime 234


By Oyler


            In the clues P, Q and R are a two digit, three digit and four digit number respectively that between them contain all of the digits from 1 to 9 with P prime such that PQR = X_Y_Z where X_Y_Z is a nine digit number split into three groups of three digits that again contains all of the digits from 1 to 9.  For example 29 x 871 x 5364 = 135,489,276.  Across entries are in capitals and X¢ denotes the reverse of X.  All the entries are different, the normal rules of algebra apply and there are no zeros in the grid. 























K + g






K + j


p¢q – F – N – P












7 ( k – n )


ce + c



Posted in Puzzles | Leave a Comment »

3984 – Odd One Out by Oyler

Posted by Listen With Others on 20 June 2008

Saturday 31st May, 11am A bit of a late start this week what with certain commitments but good to see the return of Oyler, a Listener regular since 1996. He gave us Dedication last August, which was a fairly straightforward tribute to Euler. At first glance, Odd One Out looks far from straightforward but there is a lot of information in the preamble on the third grid (III) and it is immediately clear that the seven Across entries in order will have the lengths: 2, 3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 2 enabling the positioning of the vertical bars as follows:

[Later I discovered that there was enough information in the preamble to also enter the six horizontal bars at this early stage.]
I first look at the two clues:
d = 5G : A / b : B + g
A = Cube : Fibonacci : Prime
d = 5G is too big for grids I and II so must belong to grid III where it has 2 or 3 digits.
d = A / b can only belong to grid II and A(II) must be a Cube or Fibonacci number.
Now considering:
b = AB : Fibonacci : 2E
b(II) can only be Fibonacci or 2E (AB(II) is too big), giving:
{A(II), b(II), d(II)} = {5832, 54, 108} as the sole fit where b is 2E (b even & >19) or a Fibonacci number.
b(II) = 54 = 2E(II)
E(II) = 27
Now looking at the two across clues, A again and G, specifically the value A / 3 in G where A cannot be Prime:
A = Cube(II) : Fibonacci : Prime
G = Prime : A / 3 : b / A
We know the value of G = A / 3 if A is the cube:
{A(II), G(II)} = {5832, 1944} and G'(II) = 4491
And of the 2 or 3-digit Fibonaccis there is only one fit:
{A(I), G(I)} = {987, 329} and G'(I) = 923
So, the value G = A / 3 cannot belong to grid III.
Now looking at the down clue:
a = G – A : G' : Palindrome
G – A cannot belong with G = A / 3 where a = G' or a = Palindrome.
a(II) = ???2, which doesn’t fit with G'(II) = 4491 so G = A / 3 belongs with a = G' in grid I.
Also G(II) can only be Prime (not b / A)and a(II) cannot equal G – A (a Prime minus 5832 cannot equal ???2).
We now know:
A(I) = Fibonacci = 987
A(II) = Cube = 5832
a(I) = G' = 923
a(II) = Palindrome = 2??2
G(I) = A / 3 = 923
G(II) = Prime
b(II) = 2E = 54
d(I) = B + g
d(II) = A / b = 108
E(II) = Cube = 27
And grids I and II look like this:
Continuing, there are no Fibonacci numbers of the form 7???3 so b(I) = AB and B(I) (Prime or a Square) is in the range 71 to 81.
{A(I), B(I), b(I)} = {987, 71, 70077} {987, 73, 72051} {987, 79, 77973} {987, 81, 79947}
d(I) = B(I) + g(I) = 79 + g(I) = 9? so g(I) is in the range 11 to 19.
g = Fibonacci : F / 2 : Square
{g(I), d(I), F(I)} = {13, 92, 30-39} {12, 91, 24} {16, 95, 60-69}
F = 2B : A + e' : Factor of D
F(I) can only be a Factor of D and F(II) = 2B
F(II) = 2B = 882
B(II) = 441 (a Square)
a(II) = 2442
g(II) = 81 or 89
f = Prime : 2 × Square : Palindrome
Ending in a 9, f(I) cannot be 2 × Square so must be Prime or a Palindrome
At this stage I am getting a bit bogged down so will have a look at placing the six horizontal bars in grid III. Two bars cannot go into the centre column or there will be an odd number of unchecked cells, which must be six. Therefore, because no two grids have bars in the same position, one bar must go in columns 1 and 5 and two bars in columns 2 and 4. There are two possibilities:

But the grid on the left has only five down entries leaving the grid on the right as the correct construction for grid III.
Continuing with the Across clue:
D = EG : g(A – f) : Palindrome
Only D(I) fits g(A-f) = ?9?
g(I) = 12, 13 or 16
A(I) = 987
f(I) = Prime or Palindrome from 909 to 969 = 909, 919, 929, 939, 949, 959 or 969
{g(I), f(I), D(I)} = {12, 929, 696} or {13, 949, 494} are the only fits.
But E(I) = Cube + g or Cube – g = ?7?? (Cube = 1728 or 2744)
and only {g(I), f(I), D(I), E(I)} = {12, 929, 696, 2732} fits.
F(I) = 24
d(I) = 91
e(I) = Square or Cube = ?624 = 4624 (68 Squared)
Only c(II) fits d' – B = 360
D(II) cannot be a palindrome so must equal EG.
C = Prime : E + E' + e : Prime × F
C(II) only fits being Prime and E + E' + e is too large for C(I) (247?) so C(I) = Prime × F
C(I) = 2472 (103 × 24)
c(I) = 7263 = Prime × Cube (269 × 27)
This completes grid I:

Completing grid II was then plain sailing starting with D(II) = EG = 4?00?.
The final entry here, e(II), is interesting since it can be either a Prime or Cube of the form 172? or 772? (C(II) is Prime = 61 or 67). There is only one Cube that fits: 1728 but four Primes: 1721, 1723, 7723 or 7727 so e(II) must be a Cube (1728) or else there is not a unique solution. I must note whether or not e(III) could also be a Cube or Prime – I rather hope that it can’t.
So, all that remain are the Odd Ones Out to complete grid III:

A Prime
B Square factor of D
C E + E' + e
D Palindrome
E Cube + g
F A + e'
G b / A
a G – A
b Fibonacci
c Prime × Square
d 5G
e Prime
f 2 × Square
g Fibonacci


Starting with the 3-digit Fibonacci numbers for b (except 987 = A(I)) there is only one fit for:
G = b / A = 29 = 377 / 13
e might only be the Cube 512 but that doesn’t fit.
After about half an hour, c appears in the grid and as a final check is confirmed to be:
c = Prime × Square = 15408 = 107 × 144
Puzzle completed at 5.26pm, about 3hrs working time, which is quick for me.
Post Mortem
So, a pure logic problem, no more than an overblown Sudoku, therefore possibly hated by many solvers but I loved this and had a fine old time. I was able to complete it using no more than a calculator, David Wells’ book of Curious and Interesting Numbers (for the listed Squares, Cubes and Fibonacci numbers), my list of Primes up to 10000 (courtesy of BBC Basic in the 80’s) and a mere one and a half sides of A4 for notes. For the first time that I can remember, I went through a numerical puzzle without making a single error so there was none of that tedious backtracking from impasses on this occasion.
Initially, I had thought that the construction of grid III might give us an insight into how these puzzles are set so was a bit disappointed to find that all the required information was in the preamble – although it was well concealed.
It is rare to have more than one but I would be interested to hear of any opening moves that I might have missed and similarly any shortcuts. For the purposes of this blog, I repeated my opening but this time using BBC Basic to check that the four 4-digit Fibonacci numbers and ten 4-digit Cubes (barring 1000 & 8000) gave a unique solution for A, b and d in grid II:
20 X=INT(A/1000)
30 Y=X*10
40 FOR b=Y TO Y+9
50   d=A/b
60   IF d=INT(d) AND d>99 AND d<1000 THEN PRINT A,b,d
70 NEXT b
80 GOTO 10
90 DATA 1597, 2584, 4181, 6765, 1331, 1728, 2197, 2744, 3375, 4096, 4913, 5832, 6859, 9261
This gives four solutions but only one fit for b (Fibonacci or equal 2E):
A = 5832
b = 54
d = 108
I have opted out of the debate on whether or not there is any place for numerical puzzles under the heading The Listener Crossword since I didn’t think that it was going anywhere but, from the mid eighties, they have always been an essential element for me so long may they continue.

Posted in Solving Blogs | 2 Comments »

3983 – Reappearance by Poat – Setter’s Blog

Posted by Listen With Others on 14 June 2008

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.

Oddly enough, the initial seed for this puzzle came when I was toying with the idea of pantomime horses splitting up and cantering all over the grid, with the new joins possibly spelling a message of some kind. But I let the matter rest after concluding that it would be an unusual panto that had more than one horse.

Subsequently, flicking through a volume of Yeats poetry while staying at a friend’s house, I came across ‘The Second Coming’ with its familiar third line, and this prompted memories of reading part of the Chinua Achebe novel while at school (and my garbled attempts to pronounce the names of the protagonists). So I decided to try and create a grid that included Achebe’s name, in tribute to this landmark work in African literature – which itself is rarely, if ever, encountered in Listener puzzles – using the same twist of answer-halves ending up in different slots, combined with omission of the central letter. The line in question also had thirty-four letters, which looked like a handy limit on the number of clues.

First of all I planned an ambitious grid that would feature (i) CACHEBE and WBYEATS as unclued answers, (ii) middle letters being omitted from all answers, the omissions spelling in turn the relevant line, and (iii) second halves of answers randomly situated in both across and down locations, rather than being placed symmetrically in opposition to their first halves. In the event I found it hard to produce a suitable fill, and decided that the solve would quite probably be too difficult in any case. I subsequently determined to include the letters of CHINUA ACHEBE hidden in the grid as a starting point, it happily being twelve letters in length, and to show the poem’s title as twinned unclued answers. I also settled on having across answers entered in accordance with the first part of the relevant line, and down answers in accordance with the second – meaning that the omitted letters need not have any additional significance. All grid entries were
therefore of even length, though down answer lengths were odd. Finally I thought it best to use a symmetrical entry method for halves of across answers, giving further leeway to solvers in a puzzle that might be tough to break into, even if the quote were identified fairly early.

Having done a bit more research into the poem, I learned about Yeats’ thinking on what he called ‘gyres’ – his word for contrary and conflicting spirals within the process of history. Thus the ‘widening gyre’ of the opening line anticipated the forthcoming cataclysm when he believed a new era of contraction would begin. Based on this concept, an early working title for the puzzle was ‘Spin Cycle’, and this prompted the somewhat unusual appearance of the hidden name (as if it were starting to spin from a level plane into chaos, falling apart into the ‘mere anarchy’ of line four).

After a few attempts I ended up with a satisfactory fill, and had also ensured that there would be 34 clues to write – I was thinking of using either misprints or extra letters in wordplay to spell out the line of poetry. But these methods are pretty hackneyed (not to mention non-thematic), and I thought there would be subtler ways of pointing the solver towards the relevant information. Furthermore I prefer plain clues, on balance. I had included seven widely-spaced answers, the initials of which would spell W B YEATS, and these, combined with the surmised unclued answers and preliminary information from the grid, were intended to be the route to a solution. The seven special clues for these answers were arranged with mismatched definitions and wordplay, ‘turning and turning’ in a cyclical sequence.

As a further self-imposed constraint and since I had the right number of clues, I now elected to compose them with initial letters matching the quote, but in numerical order rather than normal clue order. I thought the acrostic would be sufficiently well-hidden this way, but might provide an enjoyable ‘Easter egg’ for a few particularly alert solvers after unravelling the puzzle. Indeed, none of my testers or the Listener editors picked up on this before seeing the solution notes; I had included an oblique hint in the draft preamble, but this was sensibly removed and the feature was left as something to be discovered. Finally, my test solvers having deemed the original title to be misleading, since the puzzle was based on line three rather than line one of the poem, I amended it to the slightly dull ‘Reappearance’. This was approved by the editors as a useful hint towards getting SECOND and COMING.

Incidentally, a correspondent speculated before the puzzle appeared whether there would be a tie-in with the Ian Fleming centenary (instead, it coincided with the 50th anniversary of the appearance of Achebe’s novel, which I understand is currently Radio 4’s Book at Bedtime). Alas, The Casino Royale wouldn’t quite work for the unclued answers, but I hope solvers were suitably stirred, if not shaken.

Posted in Setting Blogs | Leave a Comment »