Listen With Others

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Listener No. 4393, Vingt-et-un: A Setter’s Blog by Little Hare

Posted by Listen With Others on 4 May 2016

This isn’t really a setter’s blog at all, because I’m not sure how much credit I can personally take for the puzzle. The basic idea came completely at random when I was listening to the Butterworth setting of A Shropshire Lad (highly recommended, even for the several solvers who commented that they really dislike A E Housman!) and it vaguely occurred to me that it was full of potential thematic “treasure” in the form of pearls, rubies, etc. I mentioned this to my other half, whose first reaction was “one-and-twenty – that’s blackjack, isn’t it”? So a combination of terrible boyfriend/girlfriend chat (it’s not always this bad, honestly) coupled with a slight gambling problem (again, it’s not that bad, honestly) led to an obvious crossword possibility. The basic construction followed pretty quickly, and it soon became clear that a neat symmetrical finish could be made to work quite straightforwardly.

The people who really deserve the credit for the puzzle ending up in a publishable form are the very kind souls who gave their time and expertise to comment on various earlier drafts, and who suggested really helpful revisions. Even though this meant that the crossword went through several major turns, I learnt many of the crossword setting “dark arts” on the way – the sort of things that you don’t notice when you’re an enthusiastic solver, but which really make a difference when you’re trying to set a fun, solvable puzzle. Double unch? Open light? I had no idea what I was up against, to say nothing of the laser-like pedantry that has to be applied to individual clues (quite rightly so, of course). I cannot thank these solvers – and the vetters and statistician – enough. The Listener community is incredibly supportive and open, and it was all an eye-opening experience.

And thanks to everyone who sent in comments, all of which have been helpful. There was a bit of a consensus that the puzzle was on the easy side, particularly because of the bunched thematic clues. A fair point, and one that’s noted. I’ll get back to working on my four-dimensional encoded torus…

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