Listen With Others

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Listener No 4562, My Nap: A Setter’s Blog by Mr E

Posted by Listen With Others on 28 Jul 2019

I came across the quotation [‘What an addition to company that would be’] while reading Samuel Beckett’s Company [it occurs I believe 5 times] and immediately saw the possibility of using it for a puzzle, having words that could be jumbled and added onto CO to make another word.

I decided to use extra words in the clues of normal entries to generate the quote, but I did not want to give ‘company’ so directly. So I had the extra words give the quote (without ‘company’) and author’s surname, which comes to 34 letters.

I’m not one who tries to fit large numbers of thematic entries into a grid; fitting in more than about 5 gets more difficult than I like to bother with, and I don’t feel that having more necessarily makes a puzzle better anyway. I figured 5 or so was good enough.

How big to make the grid? Well, a standard 12×12 such as Azed or Mephisto typically has 36 entries and about 54 unchecked cells in a grid of 144 cells; dividing those numbers by 18, that means that for every 8 cells, there will be 2 entries and 3 unches. I like to stick as close to that as possible even in Listener or Magpie puzzles, and generally I have found this possible if I don’t put too much thematic stuff into the grid. So 39 entries x 8 cells per 2 entries gives 156 cells, so a 12×13 grid. 39 entries x 3 unches per 2 entries = 58.5 unchecked cells was the goal (as it turned out, 58).

The bar pattern did not have to be anything special, anything with the usual variety of entry lengths was going to be ok, so I made a suitable blank grid without knowing what the thematic entries would be or where. I made lists of (many) suitable words of 4 or more letters, picked out five, including some with two unchecked cells [with some trial and error of course] that seemed suitable, and (using Word Matcher), went about filling the grid word by word [I don’t do autofills]. Eventually I got a fill that I liked and wrote the clues, working on them until I got surface senses I was satisfied with (definitely not a quick process – clueing a puzzle generally takes me several weeks).

The title fits in with the ‘company’ idea, and also seemed ok because the narrator of the work is confined to his bed.

I believe the editors needed to change only about 4 clues a little. So there it was – I have not yet seen solvers’ reactions or statistics.


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