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Listener No 4669, Clothes-line: A Setter’s Blog by The Ace of Hearts

Posted by Listen With Others on 16 Aug 2021

I was looking for something round to build a circular crossword grid and decided to try “Circus”. The exact definition in Chambers for circus “A circular or oval building for public entertainments” is 46 letters long, which means 46 radial clues + some perimeter and circular clues. While this could be done, experience has taught me that there would not be enough space to accommodate the entire puzzle in the paper (mainly because circular grids take up more space than rectangular ones). So I decided to drop the initial “A”, and “or oval” and the final “s” in entertainments to leave a 38 letter definition, which I knew would be more manageable.

I then began searching for “circus” quotations on the internet that had 38 letters and sure enough “clowns are the pegs on which the circus is hung” appeared. It seemed logical then to have one circular ring with the quotation and another with synonyms of clowns.

Next step was to open “Qxw”, the (free) and very powerful crossword construction program. So I (Qxw) created the 38 radial grid and filled in the third ring with the quotation and got a list of clown synonyms ready to place in the perimeter ring. I also clicked the “override” default radial lights buttons to allow lights to be entered forward, reversed and encyclical and with the “letters latent” gimmick (my favourite) wordplay allowed. (The editors have since advised me that this gimmick is now played out and for me to try something new). After a bit of trial and error juggling with clown synonyms, I soon had a full grid. Because it didn’t take long to fill the grid, I thought I might start again and this time get “Barnum” to appear somewhere into the grid, so I saved the original filled grid and started again. This was a bit trickier and required more trial and error, but the powerful program still managed to give me a full grid and enough choice of words to enter that were reasonably common and readily “ clueable”.

And so to the clues. I knew with the “letters latent” gimmick that the editors didn’t allow any “link” words in the clues (which did make the clueing a bit harder) but I did put a lot of effort into this, and although Shane and Roger (the editors) still had to make a lot of tweaks to the clues, this was still an improvement on my previous clueing efforts.

So thanks to the editors for bearing with me and ensuring that solvers have a puzzle that they know that the clues are all above board and grammatically correct.


2 Responses to “Listener No 4669, Clothes-line: A Setter’s Blog by The Ace of Hearts”

  1. Alan B said

    This was highly reminiscent of The Ace’s previous circular puzzle, for obvious reasons, and it was a similarly challenging and very enjoyable experience. The setter might be interested in a few observations that I made while solving this one.

    Ring 3 clue 42 had an ‘almost valid’ alternative answer. The correct answer is WHICH, but SIREN (which I filled in at first) can also be derived from the clue – it’s only the excess word ‘like’ that makes it less than perfectly formed for SIREN but not for WITCH. Chambers uses the phrase ‘fascinating woman’ for both WITCH and SIREN.

    The clue to Radial 4, whose correct answer is CADUCEAN (ADUEAN = U inside A DEAN, with C inserted twice) has an equally valid answer ARMATURE (AMATUE = U inside A MATE, with R inserted twice). ARMATURE is ruled out only because N, not M, must be in the innermost ring. (The extra letter R also turns out to be incorrect, making CIRRULAR rather than CIRCULAR in the text of the definition.)

    IRELAND and ICELAND are equally good solutions to Radial 8, but the R is needed instead of C for the last letter of CIRCULAR in the definition.

    Congratulations to The Ace of Hearts for such a well-designed and well-clued puzzle.

  2. Brock said

    I’d not spotted ARMATURE, but I had the other two. Clues with 2 (nearly) possible answers are not unusual, but it is unusual to see 2 or 3 in one puzzle unless deliberately made so. At one stage of solving I had wondered whether it might be deliberate.

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