Listen With Others

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Listener No 4657, Dos: A Setter’s Blog by Awinger

Posted by Listen With Others on 23 May 2021

I have always been a bit of an election nut and normally stay up most of the night watching the results come in. It was while watching the results of the December 2019 general election that I started to think about whether I could design a Listener crossword around elections and parties. I noticed that the four main (English) parties could be designated by 6 letters (Tories, LibDem, Labour and Greens), and wondered about having them replace each other in a grid.

That night I started playing around to see which sets of letters in the party names could form replacements for each other. I spotted Tori and Gree as both valid 4 letter words and obviously Labour and Greens were 6 letter words. I wondered whether there may be a longer word that could contain labour and greens. It seemed like a long shot, but the Chambers app suggested around 40 words that contained greens. As I scanned them they looked less than promising until I came across overgreens. When I checked, overlabour was indeed a word, so that became the choice.

That left Libdem having to complete the circle and match with Labour and Tories. Libdem / labour looked promising in terms of the crossing words that I would have to devise in due course given the L and B were unchanged. I had a look to see what words started ‘our-‘ and although there were only about 20, one was ourology, which could go with demology, another stroke of luck. I was planning on a 13*13 grid so that would leave room for a 4 letter word ending in li/la at the start and fortunately there were a few options there, including hili, pili and soli.

Libdem to Tories didn’t look very promising although I noted the fifth placed e in both would be helpful. Best I could come up with was gusto / gusli at the start and having a word start with m or s at the end.

So then onto the grid. Given the libdem / tories line was going to be 5, then 3 unches, then likely 5, I pencilled that in for the middle row. I thought I would try and get the ourology and overgreens in one area of the grid if I could as then the rest of it should be pretty straight forward, so looked to see if I could place them going down after the m/s. After trying a few positions I got to mulga and sella, which I liked as the multiple changes would slightly complicate an otherwise pretty straight forward end-game. I managed to get the bottom right corner of the grid to work with this positioning and then the rest of the grid followed in about a week – much more quickly than my previous 2 efforts which had taken months.

I then moved on to the clues and wondered about how to signify the theme. I was originally going to use the usual ‘message hidden in the clues’ type technique but looking at the grid I realised I had most of the letters for Parties and Election already in there. If I reworked the bottom left corner to have an E in row 11 and an O in row 13 I would be there. It was while reworking the bottom left corner I had the idea about entering an X in a blank cell, which worked fairly easily and also left me with the option of ‘Voting’ in the first column. The grid was done.

I then had to decide which way to present it – the original grid could have had either of the party configurations. Clueing the more obscure word set and leave the less obscure words to emerge from the substitution seemed the more satisfying way round. Looking at the two sets I decided to clue (among others) gusli, vrils, ourology, Ardas and generale and leave gusto, veils, demology, arias and generate to emerge.

I spent a few weeks on the clues, and it was all ready to go about 6 weeks after starting. I sent it in to the editors in late January 2020. I had been hoping to have one to send in about then as I wanted an excuse to give them a nudge as to whether they had looked at my previous submission (the FA Cup winners), which had to be published in May 2020 otherwise would need reworking. I needn’t have worried as they quickly confirmed that one was well in hand and was on track to be published in May.

I heard back in March 2021 that Dos would be published the Saturday before the local elections in May, which obviously made sense, and as ever the editors did a fine job improving the preamble and knocking the rough edges off a number of the clues. My thanks as usual to them and to the various solvers for the positive feedback received.

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