Listen With Others

Are you sitting comfortably? Then we’ll begin

Not a Black and White Decision, by Brock

Posted by shirleycurran on 12 November 2010

Two years of Listener solving (or attempting to solve Listener crosswords) are behind us and we have the good feeling that we are making progress and can be fairly confident that we will reach a solution of some kind. We sometimes have strokes of luck, too, like instantly spotting that anagram ‘Rip up stalks and cobble where animals used to be kept’ at 1 across. STABLE BLOCKS. With the rest of the crossword divided into two halves, this was clearly going to be significant, and when we moved down to 20ac and found clues that gave us HORSES and HOUSES, we didn’t hesitate for long. Obviously, the horses were going to belong with the stables. Here, perhaps, was a theme.

We confidently worked our way through the rest of the grid, thoroughly enjoying some of the fine clues, for example, that well disguised ‘high explosive’ in 7ac. (‘In the morning with island cut off, HE – leading to AMATOL).

A complete grid and six clashes! I wonder how many other solvers were as naive as we were – automatically breezily slotting in the words where they fitted best to be brought to a standstill by that dearth of clashes.

How generous of Brock to have added that giveaway sentence, ‘Solvers finding they have almost completed the grid with fewer clashes should consider what might have coloured their decisions in these areas’.

The light dawned – or I thought it had, when I switched round some of my words in rows 7,8 and 9, the rows that clearly contained the clashes. SOWFF and ELDEST went left and REENS and BEDSIT moved right. I counted my clashes and ‘Eureka’, 18! It looked as though all that was left to do was find something to do with horses, houses and colours that would occupy 28 cells. Sure enough, there was a putative ‘GREEN FIELD SITE’ and ‘BROWN FIELD SITE’. Elated, I decided to check it in the morning and went to sleep to dream of happy horses. 

Saturday morning and gloom descended. With the grid as it was, I had my 18 clashes but an inexplicable F in my ‘green sield site’ and I had two exceptions to the rule that was imposed of selecting the across letter from a clash in one side and the down letter in its partner. I wonder how many other solvers reached this cul-de-sac. Clearly more rethinking was required. The obvious answer was to shift the entire bottom half of the crossword over – and, of course, it worked.

I thought the construction of this crossword was brilliant and I am still attempting to get my mind round the complexity of setting it so that solvers were led astray and had to rethink, possibly twice, to reach the required solution – and the astonishing way those pairs of clashing letters echoed the pairs on the other side of the grid. Superb, thank you Brock.

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