Listen With Others

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Listener No 4544, The Session: A Setter’s Blog by Gila

Posted by Listen With Others on 24 Mar 2019

One of the first Listener puzzles I remember solving — or, more specifically, remember actually finishing — was Class by Gioconda (no. 3,964, way back in early 2008). For some reason, the theme of that puzzle — groups of answers being modified in accordance with theme words (‘tall’, ‘fat’, ‘short’, etc.) — stayed with me.

The world of drinking lends itself quite well to wordplay indicators, so I thought it would be a decent starting point for a puzzle along similar lines, not least as I hoped it would presumably secure my entry to the Listener oenophile elite before a single clue was written!

‘Having a drink’ and ‘drunk’ groups were fairly easy choices for thematic treatments. I was initially less sold on ‘with a hangover’ to indicate an additional final letter, but reasoned it would be OK if I tried to make the final grid contain only real words and then defined the clue entries separately. There are no doubt simple scripts/code that will quickly and easily identify all possible starter words which remain valid words when you put, say, PORT inside them. Ditto all words (plurals aside) which you can suffix with an extra letter to make new words. I’m yet to learn these skills though, so there was all manner of silly jiggery-pokery involving word lists, Excel VLOOKUPs and the like in order to create valid lists. I’m sure I first encountered the maxim IN VINO VERITAS in the crossworld – and have certainly failed to heed it enough times in the real world – so decided this would be a good additional step for the non-treated clues.

Clueing was good fun and I tried to use thematic surfaces as and when the opportunities arose. As is often the way when you’re too close to a puzzle to see its potential flaws, it never occurred to me that it would be impossible to tell a hangover clue from one where the wordplay omitted the last letter. Had I spotted this, I would have started over, but we were able to allow for this by referencing the impostors.

It was a nice cherry on the cake to have my debut puzzle published on the same day as the setters’ dinner. I hope it was solved in the spirit in which it was set and that not too many solvers found themselves in Stage 3 on the Sunday morning. Many thanks too to the editors for their suggested amends to the preamble, for cleaning up my clues and for dutifully Googling the nutritional breakdown of a Greggs pasty in light of the ambiguous PASTY/PASTA clash at 20dn!




One Response to “Listener No 4544, The Session: A Setter’s Blog by Gila”

  1. poat said

    One site worth a visit is – if you go to the ‘try it’ link and type AB;AportB it swiftly delivers a list from OO/OPORTO through to TRANSHIP/TRANSPORTSHIP. Many other wonderful searching features there too.

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