Listen With Others

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Listener No 4585, In this World of Sin…: A Setter’s Blog by Pointer

Posted by Listen With Others on 5 Jan 2020

A reminder to solvers of how many like to think of this time year: But in this world of sin, Where meek souls will receive him still. The dear Christ enters in. And here, in the puzzle, Christ — abbreviated to X — enters the grid in the bottom row to form ILEX ET HEDERA (The Holly and the Ivy).

As a possible theme, I’ve had this idea in my mind for many years. It came to me, as most ideas do, as a result of engaging in an activity and applying a crossword twist to my interpretation of what I was seeing. So, when reading the words of the carol (not singing the words, I might add, for long ago I gave up the notion of my being able to sing), I was struck by the way extracts of the chorus could be seen as “wordplay” for clues.

The rising of the sun
The running of the deer
The playing of the merry organ
Sweet singing in the choir

The first suggested a reversal, the third an anagram, the last one a hidden word; the third wasn’t so obvious but could surely represent a charade, couldn’t it? That was the start of it.

I often wonder how different setters get their spark at the beginning of the setting process. Do you remember the wonderful puzzle Check This Out, by Charybdis (No. 4268)? The theme was set around the phrase “unexpected item in the bagging area” and (wow!) drew in a Raymond Chandler quote to do with a tarantula on a slice of angel food. I thought, Yes, Chris was standing in a queue at the till in Sainsbury’s, probably bored and wondering, maybe subconsciously, what his next puzzle could be about.

Then there was 24 Across by Pilcrow (No. 4198). Did Pilcrow’s spark for this puzzle come whilst he was reading about or watching Premier League football and incidentally started to investigate how the name Arsene Wenger could be transformed into the words Arsenal Manager? I myself am an avid football fan, and sometimes can’t help myself playing in my mind with the names of the footballers and the teams appearing on my tv screen. Recently, during a match (Spurs v West Ham) I spotted a name on the shirt of one player which was an anagram of that on the shirt of another! (Any ideas, who the players were?) The best coincidence I can think of was when Collins John was signed by Fulham in 2004. In the previous year Fulham had on their books an international by the name of John Collins.

Once I had decided on a Holly/Ivy theme, there were decisions to be made about how to represent the two key lines “Of all the trees that are in the wood, the holly bears the crown.” I needed a lot of trees restricted by wood. The best way I found of building a frame to show the “wood” part was to dig out a Chambers’ definition. A surprise came when I saw amongst my list of trees the word ANTIAR; the link with tiara was my eureka moment. How this sort of thing happens is just a mystery to me. The setting process then became one of fitting together the trees, making sure that the antiar was placed above the holly and selecting an appropriate description of wood to surround them all. Easy-peasy!

Hope all Listener solvers and setters have a restful and enjoyable time over the festive period, whether or not their dear Christ enters in.


2 Responses to “Listener No 4585, In this World of Sin…: A Setter’s Blog by Pointer”

  1. Declan RICE and ERIC Dier? Can’t think who else you mean…

  2. John NIck said

    Winston REID and Eric DIER?

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