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Listener No. 4332, Two’s Company: A Setter’s Blog by Augeas

Posted by Listen With Others on 1 March 2015

Two’s Company started life almost exactly three years ago following the discovery in ODQ of the quotation. Clearly the length of the quotation, as well as its meaning, required two letters in each cell, and the double bed called for mirror symmetry. Filling the grid, done with pencil and eraser as always, was much easier than many commentators have suggested – very early on in the process that it was decided to allow the letter pairs to appear in either order, thus allowing much more latitude in finding checking words, although all had to have an even number of letters. This would necessitate the entering of letters in a precise manner, with the two letters in each cell appearing in the correct order both across and down. Many solvers found this a fertile source of trips, but it was not designed so. Indeed, a lot of effort was spent in agreeing a form of words in the Preamble which made it perfectly clear that “letters [were] encountered in the correct order in all entries and the perimeter”. In a small number of cells where the same letter appears twice any orientation would be acceptable.

By the time it had reached the point of serious consideration by the Editors (last summer) the sesquicentenary of Mrs Patrick Campbell’s birth suggested that the first week in February 2015 would be a good time for it to be published. In that version solvers were required to highlight the C and L at the start and finish of her surname to indicate a full grasp of what was going on, but this was later removed as “unnecessary after the solver has done the hard slog of filling the grid and finding the quotation”. One of Augeas’s earlier puzzles had involved a quotation by Nancy Mitford which did not appear in the then current Edition of ODQ. Since then he has taken the view that if a quotation appears and no indication is made then it must appear in the current ODQ. A recent puzzle shows that not all setters (or Editors) share this view, as we shall see next week. Where a quotation is given elsewhere then this must be specified (eg. in ODQ Second and Third Editions only). Augeas is one of those odd people who, of necessity, buys each new Edition of Chambers – like many solvers – and of ODQ. One solver, in her kind letter commenting, said that it wasn’t in her ODQ (Second Edition). Maybe a Christmas present idea for her to suggest to someone?

Anyway, back at the editing face things were moving. The ur-version had a different arrangement in what George calls the New England corner, and removing a couple of bars (and allowing the non-Chambers SHON) overcame the perceived problem there. It was pointed out that once the grid was filled there wasn’t much help from the letters in the perimeter to finding the quotation (a view with which quite a few solvers disagreed), so the idea of an anagram of the unches emerged. The serendipitous discovery that CHESTERFIELD could be obtained added weight to the idea. There was originally no indication of where the quotation started, and it was felt that, given the difficulty of getting a handle on the quotation itself, giving the initial cell would make the task less troublesome.

Clearly there is an urgent requirement for the BBC to show that fine film THEM!, the existence of which perplexed many solvers. Odd that one may regard oneself as too young to know about a 1950s movie, but not too young to be familiar with Haydn or Descartes. The general reaction from solvers has been positive, and Augeas thanks those who have ventured a response, in writing and, before all the fuss, on line. Augeas also owes a debt of gratitude to JEG, whose task was made a lot more difficult by the requirement to check orientation as well as content, thus slowing his work-rate significantly. Sorry, John.


One Response to “Listener No. 4332, Two’s Company: A Setter’s Blog by Augeas”

  1. Jaguar said

    “…before all the fuss…” I have no idea what you mean… 😛

    It was a fine puzzle, if a bit fiddly-ish at the end, although mostly the order of letters was fairly clear really so that’s more of a “my wrist hurt” gripe than anything serious. Thanks for the blog.

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