Listen With Others

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Listener No. 4338, A Game of 15: A Setter’s Blog by Glow-worm

Posted by Listen With Others on 13 April 2015

Although this series is occasional in the extreme (only seven “Games”, spread over sixteen years!), it’s still quite a challenge to find a theme with appropriate material for an acceptable puzzle. The game needs a number of characteristics: it mustn’t be too well-known at first glance, maybe involving a little research; it must offer a handful of possibilities suggested by the title; and ideally one can see a path through a linear development, with moves connecting to each other.

Fairground games are quite useful, and time spent on Norwich Cattle Market, Great Yarmouth Pleasure Beach, and Nottingham Goose Fair over the years, reminded me of hooking a duck (but rarely one with a decent prize attached….) Straightaway the first two criteria were satisfied: the game (as has proved) was not always guessed immediately; and both “hook” and “duck” opened up all sorts of possibilities.

Linear development, however, was a problem; unlike a snooker puzzle I did many years back, where it was possible to take solvers right through the game in the right order, here we were limited to a single, simple action, and apart from receiving a prize (or not) that was that. So I realised the game had to provide a clutch of challenges, all based on the phrase, but not linear, except for the process to find Donald. So for me it was more like a compendium of games, where you could take what you liked, in whatever order, and, I hoped, have fun. I agree with some bloggers that the preamble was a bit turgid; however our editor is a stickler for accuracy, fairness and clarity, and I think he and I did the best we could on solvers’ behalf.

The filling was surprisingly comfortable; 15 was where I wanted it — in the centre of things and vertical; NO GO and CUDDLY TOY went in quickly, and matching them at the bottom was not too bad, once I’d found BOOMERANG as a prize. In went GAIN and PRIZES and we were off. Looking at the spread of words I felt that nothing was unfair, and indeed the editor changed no entries at all.

All the other challenges were within the clues, and I did wonder at one point whether too many of them would be “non-normal”. I guess not as it turns out. A huge bonus was that all the ducks were capable of being jumbled independently, so no need to chop up words, and the three redundant definitions were never going to be a problem to insert. Like most solvers, I enjoy a final unexpected moment — with a smile if possible, so how to do this? Ringing letters was hardly original, but it did allow Donald to pop up at the end.

Yes — “rod” was pure serendipity: ADORE had been in from the start. Why not, I thought, and it did seem to tidy everything up. Sorry if some felt it was quite unnecessary!

The puzzle was great fun to do, and I must pay tribute to my checker, Charlotte, whose careful work helped me on my way. Thanks for all your kind comments, and here’s to another “Game” sometime!

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