Listen With Others

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Listener No 4571, International Standards Organisation: A Setter’s Blog by Harribobs

Posted by Listen With Others on 29 Sep 2019

I used blocks of anagrams to cover the grid in a puzzle for the Inquisitor last year and was pleased with how neatly it turned out. I thought the device deserved another outing and embarked on ISO.

Countries represented by their flags were chosen as a theme because I liked the colourful solution. The editors, however, thought many solvers wouldn’t be too happy about all that fiddly colouring in, and added textual unjumbling as an alternative option.

The grid might look as though it were tricky to construct, but it wasn’t, thanks to the excellent grid fill software Qxw (available free from Quinapalus). A key feature of the software is the ability to select any group of cells and stipulate that they be filled by text from a special list. The text can optionally be jumbled, and so all the country anagrams were straightforward.

My source for the country names was the UN website. The site lists CABO VERDE rather than CAPE VERDE, following a request from their representative in 2013. The new name doesn’t seem to have been widely adopted yet, but the letters are close enough to suggest CAPE VERDE and a check on Wikipedia gives both names. MACEDONIA changed its name to NORTH MACEDONIA this year, after the puzzle had been completed.

Extra letters in wordplay were used to give the instruction to solvers. This method is sometimes considered overused but I find it helps considerably in cluing. Because the extra letter can be tried at various positions in the answer, it offers more possibilities for the components of the clue; and when there are fewer extra letters than answers there’s quite a bit of leeway in matching them up. So, in general the method should result in more natural sounding clues than the methods ‘misprints in clues’ and ‘extra letters in clues’, which are more constraining. It should even facilitate better clues than a puzzle with no hidden message at all. And it makes life easier for the setter too!

Thanks, as ever, to the editors for their rigorous vetting, and to the bloggers and John Green for coping with the graphical solution.


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