Listen With Others

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Listener No 4603, In Round Numbers: A Setter’s Blog by Colleague

Posted by Listen With Others on 10 May 2020

The first difficulty in setting a Listener Crossword is to think of a (previously unused) theme – this is the hardest part. Then all of the thematic items must be squeezed into the grid whilst being careful about answer lengths and unches – this is the hardest part. Next comes the clueing – not too easy and not too difficult – this is the hardest part. Finally comes the wait of up to eighteen months to see if the puzzle has been accepted for publication – this is the hardest part.

The above is really a blog for this and every (possible) subsequent Listeners and so I thought I might get away with it for the future.

Then I remembered Shirley Curran and realised that I have no chance.

So, here are a few thoughts about the puzzle “In Round Numbers”.

I have always liked lists – they are neat and organised and formalised. At least some are. A list should be set in stone, immutable, irrevocable and unchanging (except for additions over time). The best for this purpose are the lists of actual events. Other lists have to be treated with caution. Take Wedding Anniversaries for example. They are constantly changing, evolving and modernising. The 7th anniversary was traditionally a woollen gift – now it is desk sets!

Events are good because they only change with later additions.

My idea was to select ten discrete lists, clue one item from each list and have the grid entry as a different member of that same list. I knew that these ten clues would be ‘blind’ with no cross-checking in the grid and so gave the actual word length of the answer and not its substitution. Also I felt that, even if the grid was only initially filled by the non-thematic answers, that would be sufficient for some thematic entries to be guessed, and some back-solving to take place.

The options for completing DA*LE*IS (24d), BL*SS (34d) and *O*EO (10d) are limited and 11across is fully entered as ALPHA.

After several attempts I managed to get all ten thematic names into the grid. I deliberately introduced a few red herrings. Ben Nevis was not a mountain but a Grand National Winner, Pond is not water but an Astronomer Royal and this Day-Lewis is not an actor!

The number of moves up or down a list needed to be indicated (hopefully in an original way) and this was achieved by means of the position of an extra word within the ten thematic clues. These extra words, by using letters 1234554321, gave the phrase ‘more or less’ (the alternative title) to give a hint of how the answer changed. Chambers gives the definition of ‘more or less’ as ‘In Round Numbers’ – the title for the puzzle.

Finally, as always, I am indebted to the puzzle vetters for their guidance and assistance.


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