Listen With Others

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Listener No 4559, G: A Setter’s Blog by Xanthippe

Posted by Listen With Others on 7 Jul 2019

The inspiration for this came from Elgin’s 2018 puzzle; ‘Doing a Sort’. Sadly, I didn’t attempt to solve that puzzle but reading about it afterwards I admired the way letters fell through the grid. The Trotters television episode came to mind and I looked at getting two chandeliers side by side. The result was much too large a grid and the idea was put aside.

Later, I realised that the two halves of the scene were similar, both having the chandelier and bolt, it was just the players that were different. By using clashes in the grid both parts of the scene could be portrayed. At this point I looked up the episode and found it was an earlier one with Grandad, not Uncle Albert as I’d remembered. This was pleasing as I could have Grandad displacing the ‘bolt’ resulting in new words.

My initial plan was to have a symmetric grid and proper words left when the chandelier was removed. This was much too ambitious so I resorted to asymmetry for flexibility. I looked up pictures of chandeliers and played around with a few but needed something simple that was symmetric with 18 letters. My submitted preamble had the phrase ‘with some artistic licence’ but the puzzle was large so the original preamble was made more concise.

How to get all those letters of the chandelier smashed and scattered on the floor at the base of the grid? Initially with 18 letters to drop I thought of having chunks of chandelier, 1, 2 or 3 letters in the bottom row making new down words. At this point I realised that the writer’s name was in the dropped letters, cushty! Now only 10 letters to get into the bottom row. I completed the grid dropping mainly single letters to the bottom row but used some double letters. The ‘UNDERKEEP” in the final puzzle was there so that ‘ER’ could go under it on the bottom line. Pleased to complete the grid, I was about to start cluing when that sinking feeling arrived. The removal of the ‘D’ meant this didn’t work at all – you plonker! I couldn’t face a complete rewrite so put it aside.

Returning some time later I realised that cells I’d originally discounted on the bottom line could be used to make 2 letter words. With the cell under ‘UNDERKEEP’ out, I then had 12 cells for 10 letters if I stuck with single letters, probably doable but it had to be unique. After more manipulation, the grid was complete.

Turning to the clues the solver must be directed to ‘Only Fools and Horses’ for it to be fair. Dropping letters from down clues was thematic, I wanted 3 of each but went with what worked well as I was clueing, the two references to posterior being a chance for solvers to temporarily go in the wrong direction. Initially, the across clues were going to be normal but I was unhappy that the stepladders weren’t in the Del and Rodney half of the scene (too difficult to get in). Adding the extra letters again seemed thematic. With 20 letters for 24 clues how to choose the normal clues? Serendipity again as there were 3 across clues with clashes and the thematic ‘BOLT’ clue.

The episode title ‘A Touch of Glass’ gave me the idea for the puzzle title. One of those titles that is realised at the end so not offering assistance with the theme. That said ‘G’ is the symbol for the gravitational constant, so appropriate in a secondary way.

During setting and submission I did have a slight worry about whether it would be acceptable but believe puzzles that wouldn’t have been fair in the past are now, due to the internet. I know for some overseas solvers in particular, it was tricky. For most, I hope it was either a pleasant reminder of, or an introduction to, a classic comedy. Sadly, not the case for one solver on one of the message boards who awarded me the notorious Z-Cup – sure Del Boy could sell that on as valuable piece for me, mange tout!

Thank you to all solvers for feedback on the message boards and through letters and written comments passed on by John Green. It’s always a pleasure to hear solvers experiences of my puzzles. Thanks as ever to Roger and Shane for all the work they do improving my puzzles.



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