Listen With Others

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Listener No 4495 An Exchange of Letters: A Setter’s Blog by Harribobs

Posted by Listen With Others on 15 Apr 2018

Changing one letter in the grid to another, thereby creating a new word, is a device often employed in themed puzzles, and so a couple of years ago I built a list of words tagged with their possible one-letter changes. The word list can be used by grid filling software to insert desired letter swaps where they’re wanted. My programming skills are pretty rusty and the creation of the word list wasn’t completely straightforward; I was quite pleased with myself when everything eventually came together.

To make best use of the list, and because I have no imagination, I decided to set a puzzle based on the theme of change itself. There are a couple of websites offering dozens of quotes on any subject, and for ‘change’ they suggested:

  • Nought may endure but Mutability — Shelley
  • Omnia mutantur, nihil interit — Ovid
  • Everything flows and nothing abides — Heraclitus
  • The times they are a-changin’ — Bob Dylan

The Keramos quote was chosen not because I’m a big fan of Longfellow but because, excluding the last word, its length was about right for the number of answers in a 13×13 grid.

To be consistent with the theme, letters spelling out the title and author were to be deduced by changing a letter in each of the across clues. This approach proved more troublesome than expected because it was difficult to avoid using words, apart from the intended one, which might also feasibly have a letter changed. Three versions of one across were sent back by the editor because the extra letter was ambiguous.

A couple of months after submitting the puzzle, I discovered that all my ingenious work building the letter-swap word list had been a waste of time, at least for this puzzle. The Qxw software from Quinapulus has a facility to do exactly the same job of filling all entries after changing one letter. The parameters can be set in less than a minute. The software has many brilliant features and is free to download. Any setters not using it already should download a copy now!


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