Listen With Others

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Listener No 4672, Form..ation: A Setter’s Blog by Mr E

Posted by Listen With Others on 5 Sep 2021

I first thought of the line “The [conson]ants go marching” many years ago; no memory of how I came to it.  For a long time I was considering a parade route in the grid, going back and forth row by row; but that never led to anything that felt worth doing.  Then finally the idea of five sets of four consonants occurred to me; putting such sets in rows or columns did not seem likely to work, but diagonally – they fit nicely into a 12 x 12 grid, and I went to work.

I like to use only 36 entries in a 12×12, and this conveniently was just enough to accommodate the line and the CONSON.

I thought it would be easiest to fill such a grid if as many as possible of the 20 consonant cells were unchecked.  I believe I found an old Mephisto grid that had 10 of the 20 unchecked, and with some modification I got it up to 12.  It was still more difficult to fill than most of my previous puzzle grids – I don’t do programming, I use Word Matcher and go word by word.

Nothing special to say about the clueing — I took my usual time and eventually got to where I felt good about it.  The editors needed a few changes as usual.

My original title as submitted was “Boom!”; I also considered something like “Rainy Day Activity”.  The actual title “Form..ation” was a creation of the editors, who felt that a possible hint that ants were involved [formication] would be good.  I did not realize that solvers might be unfamiliar with the song!  It seems like every time I have wondered in the past if UK solvers would be familiar with some American idea, there has been no problem.  My knowledge of the song must be from childhood — and I see references to it on the internet mentioning the 1950’s and as far back as 1946.  Certainly before the more recent animated versions which some of you found on the net.

I have received the batch of comments sent by solvers – Thank you all!  

That’s about it.

Mr E (Mark Oshin [Portland OR USA])

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