Listen With Others

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Listener No 4624, World-beating: A Setter’s Blog by Kea

Posted by Listen With Others on 4 Oct 2020

In August, as I was putting together a batch of Listener puzzles, I found that I had to drop one of them, which needed further work because neither vetter had been able to solve it fully. We didn’t have a suitable alternative ready to replace it, so I looked at the few crosswords I’d been working on in my “spare” time.

This puzzle seemed like a good fit, mainly because it had normal clues, and we’ve been overrun with extra-word clues lately. I hadn’t been thinking of it as a Listener puzzle (more likely an Enigmatic Variations submission), which should explain why the theme was less tricky than my usual ones. I’d only written about a quarter of the clues, so the rest were done in something of a hurry and were perhaps not as polished as I’d like, but the jigsaw grid required a fair amount of cold-solving, so it was appropriate not to make the clues too devious. One thing that caused comment was “takes on board” for X, referring to chess notation for capture. I saw it in a Times daily crossword a few years ago and had wanted to use it ever since; I now know that the originator was the current Times crossword editor, Richard Rogan, whom I would like to thank.

Clues in alphabetical order of answers usually produce several beginning with A at the start, which I find a bit boring, so when constructing the grid I’d decided there wouldn’t be any. In the end, the resulting six-letter B answers helped with placing the only 10-letter answer, URBI ET ORBI, in the grid. The thematic entries were all based on phrases I knew, rather than obscurities, but after publication I found “hunger is the best sauce” in the Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, which would have been nice to use.

My working title had been “Belting”, referring to “six of the best” both literally in the sense of excellence and idiomatically as corporal punishment. But an alternative I’d considered was “World-beating” (again, excellence and thrashing), which the prime minister had by August made a topical reference, so it was clearly better. An added coincidence was that in the week before publication he introduced the “rule of six”, resonating with the theme more than I could have hoped for.


One Response to “Listener No 4624, World-beating: A Setter’s Blog by Kea”

  1. Andy Mullins said

    It sounds like there’s a stinker in the pipeline.

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