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Listener 4157: Easy Win, Setter’s Blog by Ilver

Posted by Listen With Others on 22 October 2011

As a heathen I gave up Latin at school as quickly as I possibly could. This has left me at something at a disadvantage in the crossword world, particularly with Latin themed croswords, which are my Nemesis. Of course this led me to want to set a “Latin” crossword, which poked a bit of fun at the more usual high-brow offerings. I recalled from years ago that there was a way of altering words called Pig Latin, but could not remember how this worked or indeed whether it would be too obscure to use as a theme. Without expecting much joy I looked it up in BRB and slightly to my surprise there it was with a decent explanation of how the manipulation worked. Off to a good start. This also caused me to think it would be great to have a puzzle which only needed BRB for reference material.

Next step was to think about how Pig Latin might be used for a series of PDMs all related to the theme. Clearly pig in Latin was an obvious start and I had also been toying for a while with trying to incorporate the derivations part of BRB, which seem to be little used in crosswords. As pig needed to be verifiable in BRB I looked up pork as even with my basic Latin I was fairly sure Porcus was the word I was looking for. There it was. So this seemed like a potential finish – highlight the word PORCUS in the grid. Not a fantastic finish and a bit obvious, maybe a little more thought needed here.

Next step was to include some Pig Latin words in the grid. Clearly there needed to be some logic and link between the words included and pig jumped out as the thing to use. Back to the BRB, plenty of Pig related words in there and a surprising number of 4 letter words. So maybe a 12×12 grid with 6 letter pig related Pig Latin words around the outside and PORCUS somewhere in the middle. There were a decent number of words to choose from so I felt it give enough flexibility to get the grid to work. I scribbled out a quick grid with some ideas, swapped them around a bit to avoid Is on the right hand side etc. But what about all the AYs? they might have been a bit of a giveaway, so next step was to put in bars hiding as many of the Ys as possible.

Nearly at the stage of having a grid now to try to populate, but I still had the issue with PORCUS and maybe seeing if I could fit one more thematic element in. I turned to the internet to look up Latin for pig and there were in fact two alternatives PORCUS and SUS, and SUS would fit through the U of PORCUS. Again needed to check if SUS was in BRB and there it was both under pig and swine so that was fine. This happened to trigger the thought that swine in Pig Latin was WINE SAY (actually this later turned out to be wrong, INESWAY is the correct version as the editors pointed out) – maybe a title. The PORCUS with SUS crossing was still a bit obvious but perhaps the last two letters of PORCUS could somehow be used…SUS in Pig Latin is USSAY so this would work but I was not sure how it could be clued, but ESSAY or ASSAY with a letter change might work. This seemed to indicate a final step with a letter change to give PORCUS and SUS in Pig Latin – that certainly felt better.

Started populating the grid and in the course of it RAZORBACK popped up as a potential word across the middle. Might as well put it in as another thematic. After a fair bit of fiddling around got to a grid that worked, unches were fine, but rather a lot of open lights. Perhaps this could be fixed if the perimeter fill was not very obvious – I still needed to decide how to clue this. Maybe I could get away with not cluing at all, which then would help on the open light side as these would semi-count as unches. Back to BRB, were the words around the outside unique or was there some ambiguity? I probably checked this five times, yes the solution was unique, so no clues were needed for the perimeter.

All that was left was to decide on a device in the clues to hint at Pig Latin, write the clues and decide on a title. Putting Pig Latin into extra letters/misprints etc. in the clues seemed a bit simple so maybe an anagram – PLAITING was fine and suitably random. I had been doing a lot of extra letters and misprints so really wanted to do something different. Here I made a dreadful blunder which my test solver picked up, I decided to have a clue with definition and definition of another word with an extra letter which was an anagram of the answer, so what was in the end “Muted or said?” for SORDA started as “Muted broadcasting channels”. Of course this was an indirect anagram, but in my desire to find a slight twist on extra letters this passed me by. Finished off the cluing, deciding along the way to clue RAZORBACK without definition as it would have been too easy with a pig definition.

Back to the title – WINE SAY – this did not seem particularly good but with a bit of thought EASY WIN was a good alternative. I like the titles that are familiar phrases with a twist. Put that in, checked the clues and sent it off to my test solver. The key comments were the open lights and the indirect anagrams and the advice “polish it, get a couple of other test solver’s input and perhaps send it to the Crossword Club”. The open lights I felt I would have to cross my fingers on and hope they were OK. The indirect anagrams had to be fixed. In retrospect here I think I should have gone for misprints given I only needed to cover 8 letters which would I think have increased the challenge a little, but having started on the anagram route I thought I would see if I could include an anagram plus an extra letter in the clue, this was more straightforward than I thought it would be and the surface reading still worked.

Polished it and ignored my test solver’s advice completely. I had always wanted to try to write a Listener puzzle (for reasons relating to my university interview many years ago) and while the cluing here did not feel at the right level at least the thematic elements were standard Listener fare. What did I have to loose? I was in no rush (Listener wait time was rumoured to be about 7 months) and at the very least I would learn how the process worked and how the editors operated, which would help me in the future. So sent it into the Listener and forgot about it. Very surprised and happy when a few months later it was accepted. With some superb editing from Shane and Roger it was in shape to be published.

Very many thanks to Shirley for test solving to Chris for an excellent solver’s blog and to Shane and Roger for editing and most of all to those of you who took the time to solve and hopefully derive some enjoyment from my poke in the eye at Latin puzzles.

Ilver
 

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