Listen With Others

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Listener No 4471, What Can the Matter Be?: A Setter’s Blog by Flying Tortoise

Posted by Listen With Others on 29 October 2017

Much as we may like to give the impression that we setters are intellectual giants who are struck by brilliant ideas which we then carry though every phase with aplomb to produce a sparkling jewel of a puzzle, the truth is that some days it’s just a question of throwing everything currently on your mind up in the air and hoping that it lands in some kind of coherent pattern. In no particular order, I had been giving thought to:

  • word squares, having read a learned article on the search for the perfect order ten square
  • word ladders, having been surprised to find that Lewis Carroll invented the puzzle as a Christmas amusement
  • unusual ways of providing checking letters, having a devious and cruel mind
  • ways to avoid the nightmare that grid composition can become, having had a particularly irritating battle with a previous submission

Having settled on the quartered 12×12 grid as a reasonable solution to the problems of the last on that list, the hunt was on for a way to justify it in a way that would still present an interesting puzzle. The four natural elements was an .. er .. natural candidate but it was only when I realised that it was possible to represent them best by emphasising the difference between them using a unique method of entry for each of the four quadrants that it really started to come together.

One problem, remained, of course. How to ensure that the entries were placed in the correct quadrants. I thought I remembered from my days studying Chaucer that the elements were linked in some way to the ‘humours’ and was very pleased to have this confirmed by a Wikipedia article. Although it gave me all I needed to complete the puzzle this would actually prove to be a stumbling block as after submission it became apparent that the direct link that the ordering of the quadrants relied on was not verifiable by any of the standard reference works which Listener solvers are assumed to have available to them. In keeping with its somewhat chaotic beginnings, it was only a piece of quick-fix thinking in providing the pre-highlighted cells in the grid that rescued the puzzle from banishment to the place of wailing and gnashing of teeth. Still they do say that every beautiful swan swims with grace only because of the furious paddling out of view!
 

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One Response to “Listener No 4471, What Can the Matter Be?: A Setter’s Blog by Flying Tortoise”

  1. Encota said

    Great insight – many thanks!

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