Listen With Others

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Listener 4240, Forlor: A Setter’s Blog by Nutmeg

Posted by Listen With Others on 25 May 2013

This puzzle was published 5 years to the day from its date of submission, and it was set a little while before that, so my recollection of the setting process is hazy to say the least. I’ve long had something of a phone phobia, and had been playing round with the idea of ‘mobile’ phone in crossword terms, but it was the discovery that that irritating Nokia ringtone was not a commercial jingle but part of an actual classical piece that was the final trigger.

I had fun compiling a list of possible words containing a jumble of PHONE, with the help of electronic Chambers. I think there are websites that would have made the job easier but I hadn’t discovered them then, so tried out the various likely permutations of PHONE individually. There wasn’t a whole heap of possibles, but enough to make a puzzle viable.

For those of us still phoneless and condemned to hear one side of others’ conversations, the usual starting point was ‘I’m on the phone…’ – a convenient 12 letter phrase that went in to the main diagonal – then it was a matter of fitting in thematic words, involving as many different arrangements of ‘phone’ as possible.

Determined to include a reference to that nauseating ringtone, I eventually came up with a message that started ‘four bars from Gran Vals…’ and resorted to the relatively easy method of ‘wordplay leads to the answer plus one extra letter’. Nowadays I might use a different method – one that fitted the theme if possible, otherwise perhaps misprints or an extra word or letter to be removed before solving, as I find these more fun both as a setter and a solver.

Well, I sent the puzzle to my (then) tester – thanks to him – who liked it and pointed out a few errors which I duly amended. I was preparing my final files for Listener submission when I remembered you’re supposed to cite references for any slightly obscure thematic material, so I Googled ‘Gran Vals Tarrega’ to find a suitable website, only to find from Wikipedia that that pesky ringtone was, in its original form, just one extremely long bar and not four! I know I’d seen it written out elsewhere as 4 bars, but the ‘hidden message’ had to be changed of course. After a cooling off period I addressed the problem and managed to find a substitute which, while still involving a lot of rewriting of across clues, allowed me to keep a couple of favourites.

Such a long time elapsed after submission with no news of the puzzle that I’d more or less written it off, but it seems it was part of the batch from around that time that got overlooked. My main doubt about publication of the puzzle at this late date was that its theme might be hopelessly out of date, but the vetters considered it to have enough merit, and who’s going to turn down the chance of a Listener? Certainly not I. From online comments I gather there are still plenty of you around who share my sentiments.


One Response to “Listener 4240, Forlor: A Setter’s Blog by Nutmeg”

  1. Jim360 said

    I think I saw the diagonal before really getting the theme — for a while I was going on the HOPE+ another letter going missing — but when the penny dropped… it was a very nice puzzle and thank you Nutmeg!

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