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Listener No 4700, Hear Hear!: A Setter’s Blog by Vagans

Posted by vaganslistener on 20 Mar 2022

Confessions first, as becomes a bishop (which I am by day — now mostly retired — while being a mediaevalist and cruciverbalist by night). Hear, Hear! began life in the fertile mind of Opsimath, who is of course no stranger to Asia Minor, and who loves to build grids with strong thematic content like the present one. It was a major challenge to fit all Seven Churches in, though, even for him, and a hat-tip to Chalicea who lent a hand too.

Meanwhile — after solving barred crosswords for several years I had put trying to set them on my bucket list in retirement, and had had a first go in 2019. The said Chalicea and others were very helpful as I tried to learn the rules, written and uwritten, and fell into all the traps available — and rather lost heart as I realised how far I still had to go before I could safely submit for publication. So energies were diverted for a while into my mediaeval research where I was on safer ground and journal submissions generally sailed through.

Come COVID and lockdown, though, and there was suddenly so much more time that I girded my loins for another go. By this time I was producing half-decent clues, but still hopeless at grid construction, so I was delighted when Opsimath invited me to work with him on the thematically conducive grid for Hear, Hear! and work up some clues (eventually writing most of them) — and send it in as ‘Vagans’. An episcopus vagans­ was a roving bishop in the Middle Ages, sometimes helping out in diocese, sometimes creating havoc; you can see why I chose the rather odd word as my nom de guerre!

I compose quickly, so a set of clues was drawn up pretty quickly, though tweaking and correcting took longer. “Extra Letters in Wordplay” was the chosen clueing device, which was a sensible choice for a beginner. Only later did I learn that it meant that the Listener’s style meant that all the connecting words implying equivalence would have to be removed. Three cheers for the editors who sorted that out for me. We live and learn. I enjoyed making sure there was a good sprinkling of ecclesiastical references, alongside the boozy ones to satisfy Chalicea’s oenophilic standards.Turkey had to have a name-check too.

A challenge for me — since I have the sort of mind that sometimes enjoys obscurity — is to make sure that the solver’s journey progresses smoothly from grid-fill to thematic PDMs to sourcing any required information and completing the puzzle. I’ve rather assumed that most solvers won’t stumble for too long in moving from the quotation given by the extra letters to the relevant Bible reference and so to the names of the Churches — but I see that the vetters had to do some searching to make the connections, so I hope the Guess What I’m Thinking challenge wasn’t too great.

All in all, I enjoyed the process of moving from poacher to gamekeeper, was privileged to have a lot of help in doing so, and would encourage other newbies not to lose heart and look forward to having their own first Listener published too.

David Thomson (Vagans)

One Response to “Listener No 4700, Hear Hear!: A Setter’s Blog by Vagans”

  1. gillwinchcombe said

    Thanks Vagans for your kind reply to my feedback – I will respond, but as you can see from this morning’s post re Hear Hear!, I’m behind again in all things cruciverbal!

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