Listen With Others

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Listener No 4476, His: A Setter’s Blog by Nebuchadnezzar

Posted by Listen With Others on 3 Dec 2017

This crossword all started after a long day’s travelling to Croatia, and I remember trying to merge ‘Thinking Outside The Box’ with the 9 dots on a piece of scrap paper. It was approached with the mindset of a doodler, as opposed to “right, I’m going to sit down and write a Listener Crossword”, accompanied by a loud cracking of the knuckles. It was only when I realised the TH could do double-duty that I suspected this was a goer (although, in the interests of my relationship, I postponed the gridfill until my partner and I returned from our holiday).

The puzzle-within-a-puzzle theme is a well-trodden path, but I wanted to pay tribute to what I think is a particularly ingenious challenge of one’s lateral thinking. I was also careful to find a way of citing my references, hence DUDENEY and LOYD down the side — I didn’t want anyone thinking I was trying to pass this off as my own work! I was pleased that there wasn’t too much head-scratching in actually cracking Dudeney/Loyd’s puzzle, I think — I didn’t want to give those who already knew the solution too much of an advantage.

Finally, I needed to create a box outside of which one could think. A bit of research led me to the EGG OF COLUMBUS, and that old ‘letters omitted from wordplay’ trope enabled the square to complete what I felt was quite an aesthetically pleasing final grid.

The gridfill came next, which was achieved using Quinapalus’s magnificent Qxw software. In retrospect, I would have preferred fewer 3/4 letter words with wordplay leading to 2/3 letters, but I was generally pleased with the unching and average length. For the record, the ambiguity of the clue for BULB was recognised by myself, testers and editors prior to publication. I apologise to anyone who felt it affected the overall quality of the puzzle, but I’m of the opinion that, since the endgame removed any ambiguity, all should be forgiven? Perhaps I’m opening a can of worms — please feel free to argue against in the comments!

With my apologies, I don’t remember a great deal of the cluing process. My rule of thumb with these matters is to find a ‘hook’, around which I can build the rest of the clue. To use 25a as a case in point, my mindset will have been something along the lines of: enderon = skin; hen and heron are birds… birds and skin… ah, there’s some sort of surface there about dirty magazines! Then fill in the gaps, whilst trying not to be too clunky when fitting it all together. Those who were kind enough to test the puzzle, and of course the editors, were merciless with some clues. Any that I tried to ‘get away with’ – usually on the grounds that the surface made good sense, but the wordplay was unsound — were rooted out without hesitation, and I’m very grateful for that!

Last and very much least in the process was the title (His = •••• •• ••• in Morse = 9 dots), probably the least satisfying aspect of the puzzle. In my defence, I did feel as though a theme like this justified something that required a bit of lateral thinking. However, I soon realised it was perhaps a tad unfair, and I can only apologise if it detracted from the satisfaction of completing the puzzle. A small part of me still quite likes it, but then again I never had to figure it out.

Finally, I owe a huge debt of gratitude to everyone who contributed to the puzzle’s testing/editing. I know everyone says it in these blogs, but the level of expertise on display when it comes to proofing a Listener crossword is remarkable. I’ll stop gushing now for fear of appearing sycophantic, but I could go on! 


One Response to “Listener No 4476, His: A Setter’s Blog by Nebuchadnezzar”

  1. Encota said

    Title seems very fair to me – I’m just kicking myself that I didn’t spot it! And thanks for the setter’s blog – much appreciated!

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