Listen With Others

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Listener No 4648, Not One: A Setter’s Blog by Nudd

Posted by Listen With Others on 21 Mar 2021

Having been asked for a setter’s blog, I tried to recall something enlightening about the setting mechanics, but sadly I can’t offer anything particularly original. Maybe I’ll concentrate first on the inspiration for the puzzle.

Back In the days when I had to work for a living, my reward for a twelve hour day was the fact that my commuting time tended to be conveniently shunted outside of the worst of the rush hours. Consequently I could normally find a seat and spend a fairly comfortable 90 minutes reading. One book I remember tackling then was “So much blood” by Simon Brett (not my usual fare but I think we had acquired it free with a jar of coffee or some such promotion and I thought I’d give it a try). It actually proved to be an entertaining read. The hero was a thespian performing his one man show about Thomas Hood on the Edinburgh Festival fringe. The text / chapter headings were littered with quotes from his poems and assorted writings, and that was enough to have me hooked. Before then — despite the fact that we share a surname — I only vaguely knew the writer’s “I remember I remember the house where I was born…”.

In fact I found that he proved to be a master of the play on words, and humorous linguistic twists creep into many of his works…

“The best of friends fall out, and so his teeth had done some years ago”

“Some minds improve by travel, others, rather, resemble copper wire, or brass, which get the narrower by going farther”

“Frost is the greatest artist in our clime — he paints in nature and describes in rime”

“His death, which happen’d in his berth,
At forty-odd befell:
They went and told the sexton, and
The sexton toll’d the bell”

To give him his full due, he also wrote a number of more serious pieces, some of which highlighted social injustice and deprivation as in “The song of the shirt”:

“Oh! God that bread should be so dear,
And flesh and blood so cheap…”

When I eventually started setting, I decided I’d like to generate something to acknowledge the enjoyment he had given me, but I couldn’t see a way to build a crossword around his array of puns. It consequently took me a long while to home in on the final subject, though on reflection I could have got there much sooner — the closing lines of “No” are surely an absolute gift to the crossword setter.

“No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds,

Anyway, having finally arrived at the theme, I just had to put together a grid to accommodate all those removals — the radio communications alphabet conveniently provided me with the final shape I wanted to display.

It was not exactly plain sailing as there was a lot to accommodate. I initially came up with a symmetrical grid but that had a pitifully low average word length — even my final version fell far short of my target length, but I could not find a way to improve it significantly. I also reluctantly had to allow an imbalance in the examples of each item, feeling quite sorry for that solitary bee amongst the abundance of birds. Despite those misgivings, I did finish and submit it.

Anyway, that’s about all I can offer. I’d just like to add my thanks to those who have already taken the trouble to give feedback in a variety of ways. I have yet to see the John Green package and doubtless there will be more in there so thanks to all for the invaluable comments.

Stay safe everyone.



One Response to “Listener No 4648, Not One: A Setter’s Blog by Nudd”

  1. Brock said

    Thanks, Nudd. A neat puzzle which I enjoyed, although I too felt sorry for the solitary bee amongst the birds! First cruciverbal sighting of butterflies this year, but soon gone. Enjoyed the setter’s blog too.

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