Listen With Others

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Listener No 4467, Theme of the Day: A Setter’s Blog by Kea

Posted by Listen With Others on 1 Oct 2017

When scheduling Listener puzzles for a batch towards the end of the year, I found I had a surplus of complicated and/or difficult crosswords and nothing with normal clues and a simple theme ready to balance them, so I resolved to come up with something myself. With the other puzzles slotted in, 9 September was the date available, which apparently is Chrysanthemum Day in Japan. That offered the opportunity to do an unusual grid design that had been in the back of my mind for years — I feel that we have too much conformity in our grids, non-rectangular ones being rather rare these days.

I compiled a list of chrysanthemum words, which came in two lengths, short (6) and long (11 or 12), which looked like they would fit a Fibonacci-like spiral arrangement of petals, long entries in one direction and short in the other. After a few days experimenting with a graphics program, I managed to produce something I was happy with, that looked aesthetically pleasing and in which it should be clear how the answers were to be entered. Then I made a minor tweak that slightly spoiled it, which I didn’t notice until it was too late to fix: the join between the last two cells in clockwise entries 2, 3 etc isn’t really clean. Rather than rebuild the diagram from scratch, I justified it on the basis that real-world flowers aren’t perfectly formed.

To fill the grid, I mostly used Sympathy, “unrolling” the grid to a diagonal band with across and down corresponding to clockwise and anticlockwise respectively, and manually checking that the top-right end matched the bottom-left. This allowed me to keep an eye on the unching, making sure each entry had enough letters checked by crossing entries. The average entry length ended up as 7.83, well above my usual target of 6 (and the suggested Listener minimum of 5.5).

Writing the clues, it was refreshing not to have to deal with a lot of short words of the kind that keep cropping up (repetition being another concern when scheduling the puzzles). I tried to rein in my tendency to write devious clues, but towards the end I couldn’t resist a few obscurities.

After we’d vetted the puzzle, I spotted that one of the unclued entries could be either POMPOM or POMPON, with the last letter unchecked. There wasn’t an easy way to change the grid to resolve that, and a preamble note would be clumsy, so I added the asterisks in cells that could form CHRYSANTHEMUM, including the final M of 15. And that was it.


One Response to “Listener No 4467, Theme of the Day: A Setter’s Blog by Kea”

  1. Andrew Fisher said

    I understand the Magpie discourages circular grids due to the additional design requirements. Interesting that the Listener is prepared to contemplate more experimental offerings. This one certainly gave me an anticipatory thrill at first sight.

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