Listen With Others

Listener No 4600, Polygram: A Setter’s Blog by Opsimath

Posted by Listen With Others on 19 Apr 2020

This was one of the very first puzzles I attempted to set. I know, because I only stumbled on my pseudonym while looking for suitable words to use for the grid. Putting *psi* into TEA produces loads of words like campsite and lop-sided, but oΨmath caught my eye and seemed appropriate, since I was already well into my 60’s when I even started to think about setting. Plus, I was always a Math teacher. [To save you rushing to Chambers, an opsimath is someone who learns late in life. I’ll admit to having been offered the very best schooling from an early age, but I only started to learn quite recently.]

Many of my puzzles have been made easier (both for the setter and the solver) for being accessible with Qxw – the brilliant program I use most regularly. But, with Polygram, I had to do a bit more work by hand (as it were) before a usable grid appeared. This may be the one saving grace of a puzzle which I’m sure will be slated (again) as “Not Really Listener Standard” – since those solvers who rely on Qxw for help may have been stymied for a minute or two. If Qxw can’t offer hints for one section of the grid, it gives up on the whole thing.

My dear friend Chalicea has strong feelings about pangrams, I recently discovered, whereas I have found that using a variety of letters around the grid helps me decide which words I might use, if given a choice of many. Thankfully, I notice she added a qualifier:

…X wasn’t attempting to make his grid pan-alphabetical as we had initially suspected, a setter exercise I consider to be self-indulgent and futile, unless it is given some thematic purpose).”

Anyway, to keep Chalicea sweet (as it were) I made sure to include the word “drink” or “drunk” three or four times in my clues, and a single clue actually includes the words Rioja, Xeres and port. Hopefully we may soon still meet up “somewhere around ΕΦΕΣΟΣ” and we’ll share a bottle of local wine – even if it is during the month of Ramadan.

Once again, I must thank the Listener editors who “tweaked” and improved so many of my clues, without worrying me in the process. I can only guess that they appreciate the effort we setters put into the initial concept, the grid, the symmetry, the balance – and how we’re only too happy to leave details of the blasted clues to the hard-working editors.