Listen With Others

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Listener No 4449, Whoppers: A Setter’s Blog by Nutmeg

Posted by Listen With Others on 28 May 2017

As usual I have no clear recollection of where the idea for this puzzle came from. Possibly it was some mention of the expression ‘the one that got away’ that suggested this treatment of a fishy theme. The first step was to produce a list of possible grid entries from which a fish could be removed to leave a real word. Unfortunately this turned out to be fairly limited, given no duplication of fish. However, I ended up with a list of alternatives that looked quite promising, so the next stage was the grid. Ximenes in his Art of the Crossword covers this and makes it sound easy, but it isn’t — at least to me — so I usually try to tweak a grid I’ve used before, as was the case this time.

Grid filling was relatively straightforward, then it was a question of cluing, which thematically had to be ‘the one that got away’, ie. a letter to be removed before solving. This is a doctoring method that I don’t find easy, but ever since the late lamented Radix commented (on someone else’s puzzle) that the cluing method should, whenever possible, relate to the theme I’ve tried to stick to it, as it seems eminently sensible and adds to the thematic element of the puzzle.

Then to finding a suitable quotation to provide the user with a clue to the theme. I know it’s common to use a quote that’s considerably shorter than the number of clues and simply say ‘some clues contain an extra letter…’ but to me as a setter that’s unsatisfactory – it has to be all clues, or there needs to be some reason for the selection of doctored clues, or at least some balance or equality between different clue types. (I’d like to be clear that this is a rule I set for myself, I’m not expecting others to agree, and I know some solvers like the added fun of spotting the doctored clues). That left me with two possibilities, of which a shorter quote, leaving clues for short grid entries undoctored, was preferable. I had some slight wriggle room, as RAID, which I’d have preferred to clue as is, could also be thematic, as RA + ID if necessary – which it was. ODQ was unhelpful, so I resorted to Google and eventually came up with the one I used, which though unknown to me seemed to fit very nicely once I realised that I could omit the final word FISH and get away with it, thus reaching the required number of letters.

That left the title, and it took some time to find one that didn’t immediately give the game away, such as ‘The one that got away’ which I’d been using. I was quite pleased to hit on Whoppers, the whopper being both the lie and the usual description of the elusive fish.


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