Listen With Others

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Listener No 4514, Cordon: A Setter’s Blog by Colleague

Posted by Listen With Others on 26 August 2018

I have known and liked the Bach Cantata BWV 208 — “Sheep may safely graze” — for quite a while. Then it suddenly occurred to me that it could make a Listener theme. My first decision was the size and shape of the grid. I wanted to somehow show sheep being ‘protected’ by shepherds and shepherdesses. After several tries it became apparent that a circular grid would best portray the theme. It was also serendipitous that the original German title — “Schafe konnen sicher weiden” — was four words each of six letters.

Having never set a crossword with a circular grid before I had to start from first principles. Obviously the required protection for the sheep would come from an outer cordon of shepherd(esse)s. This proved to be more difficult than I had envisaged. I immediately thought of Gabriel Oak in “Far from the madding crowd” and supposed that there would be numerous others around. However, it soon became apparent that there are not that many shepherd(esse)s in literature! Hence I had to resort to more obscure characters.

I had decided that Ring 5 should contain the German title. Therefore I needed to show the recipients of the protection in Ring 3. I managed to get a reasonable list of “sheep” to juggle into the ring. For a bit of humour I included Dolly and wanted to include Shaun as well but could not fit him in. I liked the inclusion of a wolf “in sheep’s clothing” suitably exposed.

With three of the six rings being thematic this gave me many problems finding real words reading inward or outward. I also wanted one answer in each quadrant to be of seven letters to extend into the centre circle and spell BACH. Some jumbles were obviously going to be necessary but I tried to limit them as much as possible. I decided that it might help the solver if no two adjacent answers were entered in the same way.

The outcome was, I felt, a difficult puzzle but basically fair. I am aware that some solvers did not like the jumbles or the ‘obscurity’ of one or more shepherd(ess). If I could have found a way to further reduce or even eliminate these I would have been delighted to do so but the constraints of the puzzle did not allow this. With hindsight I think that I should have indicated in the preamble that the outer ring started at radial 1 and perhaps also given the length of the names of the individual characters.

Nevertheless, I hope that Cordon did give some enjoyment to a few solvers.


One Response to “Listener No 4514, Cordon: A Setter’s Blog by Colleague”

  1. Encota said

    Hi Cordon, Many thanks for the post – very interesting and informative. And, of course, for the original puzzle! I’m ok with the jumbles, especially with the way you spaced them out; I am hoping on behalf of some solvers that, should it prove necessary, then The Marker is lenient if the odd alternative shepherd(ess) made an appearance!

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