Listen With Others

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Listener No 4679, Basic Fact: A Setter’s Blog by Opsimath

Posted by Listen With Others on 24 Oct 2021

I’ll start by thanking the editors for taking the time to look over my submission and improving so many clues for me. I won’t reveal here the number of minutes (sic) they each said it took to solve this. Nor should I mention that one of them suggested it was “short in the thematic department”.

Well, I can do with the 200 quid, so I’ll take the money and run — and on no account will I look for any feed-back online. Therein lies the danger of a nervous breakdown. We setters can be sensitive souls. Bear in mind the rate of pay is about 50 cents an hour.

Manufacturing one of these puzzles and getting it into print involves various layers of pleasure: there’s a great moment when an idea comes which has that vital element of “symmetry”. Then, I find using Qxw to produce a valid grid is the most enormous fun. Constructing the clues is bearable now and then when one stumbles on a good clue. Nerve has to be summoned to send in the final submission. There’s a brief acknowledgement from “Vetter 1” and then silence until the moment you receive notification: “it’s ready for publication. Please solve the clues back into the grid to check.” (At that point you find you can’t solve your own puzzle, and that’s embarrassing. Just trust the editors to have got it right.)

The real pleasure comes when the setter receives that package of feed-back from St Albans. Unlike the Internet — anonymous, 50% poisonous — solvers who want a prize must include their name and address, and are unlikely to be damningly negative. After my first Listener though, someone did comment “Not Really Listener Standard” [Yes, I know your address and I’ve lurked outside on Google Maps Street View! The fact that you had two errors in your grid gave me no pleasure.]

Of the setting process for “Basic Fact” I remember very little, but my files show that “BASIC 1” dates back to January 2017, very early in my career as a setter. Versions 2, 21, 301 and 401 came soon after. None of them much resemble the published offering, so somewhere in between I lost track of versions 500 through 901. But I can see that, right from the start, I felt obliged to use PLUSHLY, COEQUALS and UNEQUALS, none of which I was very happy with.

I do know that I had Chalicea look at one earlier version, and out of respect to her I made sure to fit PREMIER CRU into my later efforts. I’d like to thank Jason Watkiss and Jon Penman for encouragement and suggestions for the version I finally submitted.

Finally, I like to think that anyone who complains the “equation” is “too obscure” would only be embarrassing themselves. Thankfully, “too easy” is not a phrase the Editors seem to use.


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