Listen With Others

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Listener 4222, 27: A Setters’ Blog by Mango

Posted by Listen With Others on 19 Jan 2013

The idea for this puzzle sprang as usual from the fertile brain of Steve Mann, Mango’s founder and leader, and he passed it on to his two Mango colleagues, John Guiver and myself, in November 2006.

The three of us soon agreed upon all but one of the main issues. We changed the title from Herrings (don’t ask!) to 27. In keeping with Mango’s preference for more or less thematic clue gimmicks, we decided that letters should disappear from the down clues, and that the message should be “Pot the six colours in sequence”. We settled on the grid configuration and the (somewhat improbable!) paths to be taken by the white (W) and colours (Y, G, B, B, P, B) during the potting process. We flirted with circular cells, to show more clearly how the balls were to rebound off the cushions, but eventually returned to conventional squares, with the balls sticking to the shaded ones. We filled the grid so that it contained no reds or extra colours (but did contain every other letter of the alphabet at least once), and with WHITE LIES at 27 down.

The exception was the preamble. We batted ideas back and forth over a period of almost eight months before settling at long last on what we believed to be a challenging but unambiguous form of words. We had spent so much time over the thing (maybe AnswerBank’s Charpy would have had second thoughts before describing our preamble as ‘slovenly’ had he known quite how much trouble we had taken over it) that we were relieved when the Listener men accepted it with only one (very good) major amendment: our idea had been that the first and last ‘white’ cells were to be asterisked, but they proposed instead that the thematic item in each of these cells should be circled, thus indicating without any doubt that the first and last Ws (and by inference the intervening Ws) were not to be deleted.

By contrast, writing the clues was a doddle, and took only about seven weeks in all. Each of us drafted seventeen clues, which were then modified in response to criticism until we were all satisfied.

We hope that the majority of solvers will have enjoyed this puzzle as much as we enjoyed setting it.

Roddy Forman.

One Response to “Listener 4222, 27: A Setters’ Blog by Mango”

  1. Tony Sever said

    I thought this was an absolutely first-rate puzzle, Roddy, and would like to thank you and the rest of the Mango team for the pleasure it gave me. However, what surprises me – given the effort you spent on the preamble making what was required utterly unambiguous – is that alternative solutions are being allowed with the coloured balls still remaining on the table unpotted, and/or with the positions of the white ball unmarked. Another commenter has already stated that he feels “annoyed that those who took the care of following the instructions precisely weren’t rewarded “, but I find it even more annoying that it’s effectively dissing your handiwork. (I’ve written at greater length about this in my RTC3 blog, to which the Listen With Others blog kindly provides a link – though following the demise of Race the Clock, RTC3 now stands for “Random Thoughts on Crosswords, Cryptic and Concise”.)

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