Listener No 4443, Not the Rockies: A Setter’s Blog by Kruger
Posted by Listen With Others on 16 April 2017
The personal incentive to set this puzzle came about 7 years ago when I realised that, of all the barred-grid thematic puzzles I had set over the years, I had not attempted one from either the “Left & Right” or “Printer’s Devilry” genres. (I still haven’t for the latter and seriously doubt if I ever will.)
So I started to give some thought about what would be a novel and suitable theme that would logically be appropriate for Left & Right treatment … and simply drew a blank. Despite chewing it over in my head from time to time, nothing readily came to mind for about 2 years. Then one day I was reading an article in The Times about regional funding for local transport throughout the UK and became rather angry about the figures quoted. (To put my irritation into context, I live in a rural area where already infrequent local bus services stop altogether at about 18:00 every day and with none at all on Sundays). The article confirmed that the more prosperous SE of England was getting the lion’s share of funding and I muttered to myself “this is another example of the north-south divide”. That was the moment of enlightenment.
I then started considering whether a North & South (i.e. Top & Bottom) approach would actually be an acceptable format and convinced myself that is was really just a Left & Right rotated through 90º so should be perfectly OK.
I was keen to get the North-South Divide message somewhere in the grid so decided (against convention) to have an unclued central row instead of a complete barring between the top and bottom halves. To me, this obviously had to have DIVIDE in it and the two main sections would ideally need NORTH and SOUTH hidden in them too.
It then came to me that it would be a good idea to have all Northern entries to contain the letter N (and none with S) and vice versa for the entries in the Southern section. But what about 1D which was the solvers’ inroad to the puzzle? Serendipity provided INEQUALITIES which was not only thematic but also contained N in the top half and S in the bottom. I was also fortunate that DIVIDE in the middle contained neither of the two letters – also thematically consistent. The circled letters anagramming WATFORD were an afterthought which I hoped would add a bit of “tongue-in-cheek” spice to the whole concept.
Then I had to give some thought to a puzzle title that would be both relevant but (hopefully) not a give-away. The Rocky Mountain range pretty quickly came to mind as a continental divide that is in a N-S orientation – albeit a different interpretation of “North-South” to that of the puzzle.
The completed puzzle then sat in my “pending” folder for another 3 years while I tried to decide to which outlet I should submit it and also, I admit, I forgot about it. Obviously, in the end I discovered it and plumped for The Listener where it sat in the queue for another 2 years until Shane & Roger took it on board and hammered it into a publishable condition. (My thanks to both of them – they do a terrific job.)
With the odd exception, my thematic puzzles are usually considered to be at the easier end of the spectrum – especially for The Listener series. I really don’t set out to produce a puzzle of any specific level of difficulty and, of course, degree of difficulty is very subjective in any case. I just hope that “Not The Rockies” provided an enjoyable solve for the majority.