Listen With Others

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Listener No 4618, You Don’t Say: A Setter’s Blog by Stick Insect

Posted by Listen With Others on 23 Aug 2020

There’s not much back story to this puzzle – I simply came across the Burgess poems when browsing the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations and found them amusing. I hadn’t heard of them before, so it was interesting to see in some of the feedback received that others had been entertained by them in childhood. The idea of the author wanting to revise his original work naturally suggested the idea of a puzzle which would perform the substitution and the challenge was to create a grid that would allow that and create real words.

My first attempt was frankly not good enough, involving under-checking of some entries and a low average entry length, and was quite rightly rejected by the first vetter pretty rapidly. That was very helpful feedback as it allowed me to make improvements without too much time passing and to produce something more acceptable, though strictly still with one under-checked entry.

I did have some concerns about overall elegance — Burgess unhelpfully hadn’t made sure his couplets contained exactly the same number of letters (!) so a little bit of finessing was required including the need for two letters in one cell. So far that doesn’t seem to have bothered many; the lack of symmetry (which I couldn’t achieve given the number of letter changes required) hasn’t been too widely criticised either.

The main tone of the feedback I’ve seen suggests it was an enjoyable but easy puzzle, which was gratefully received by many as a breather after Sabre’s magnum opus the week before. A fair summary as far as I’m concerned and I’m glad it provided some entertainment. It takes me back to my first ever Listener, just over ten years ago, which got similar feedback after following a Shackleton masterpiece which went on to win that year’s Ascot Gold Cup. Hopefully a good luck charm for Sabre for this year.

My thanks to all those who took the trouble to blog, comment and to send feedback with entries and of course to the editors for their improvements and to John Green for the detailed analysis of entries.


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