Listen With Others

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Listener No 4500, What Have We Come To?: A Setter’s Blog by Kea

Posted by Listen With Others on 20 May 2018

Once again, when scheduling Listener puzzles at the end of March, I found myself with a lot of tricky ones and felt the need to insert something straightforward for a bit of relief. I’d already noticed that the round number 4500 was coming up, so I Googled for anything interesting about the number and quickly found the Status Quo song Forty Five Hundred Times (which I’d never heard of). Both forty-five hundred and Times seemed apposite, as well as status quo, in the context of a milestone puzzle.

I set to work on a grid, deciding from the start to include the words as things to be found and highlighted, and the parallel diagonal arrangement seemed feasible and relatively neat. As usual, I started with 90-degree symmetry and 36 entries but it wasn’t possible to fit all the words in, in order, under those constraints, so I relaxed the symmetry to 180-degree. Still, despite trying several different spacings for the thematic material, I couldn’t find a fill with 36 entries that conformed to our standards for average entry length, unchecked letters, connectedness etc, so I allowed myself to go up to 38 entries. After several hours I had a grid that was suitably balanced.

For the clue gimmick, I wanted something other than the usual misprints, extra letters or words etc, for the sake of variety (again). I knew that Forty Five Hundred Times was the last track on the album Hello!, so I was thinking about letters occurring in the clues in the last position before … something. The first idea I had was letters occurring in both the clue and the answer, which morphed into the last letter before any letter in the clue that was shared with the answer (with the necessary adjustment to take the clue’s first letter if the letter I needed for the message was also in the answer).

I see from timestamps on files and emails that it took about 36 hours to create the grid, write the clues and send it to my co-editor for vetting, which surprises me, as it felt longer. I suppose I was in a rush to complete the batch of puzzles and the sense of a deadline resulted in an increase in productivity. It seems to have had the desired effect, receiving the highest number of entries (and the second-lowest number of errors) so far this year.


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