Listen With Others

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Listener No 4707, An Overt: A Setter’s Blog by Awinger

Posted by Listen With Others on 8 May 2022

‘The bare necessities’ just popped into my head for no good reason one day. Singing the third line – ‘forget about your worries and your strife’ – it occurred to me that that would work as an instruction to drop letters from clues, and the idea for a Listener puzzle was born.

My first idea was to base the puzzle around the second line of the song. The original grid had 5 necessities, 5 types of bear (brown, sun, black etc) and 5 words that can follow ‘simple’ (fraction, time, ton etc), only one of which that survived into the final grid – ‘interest’. This first grid only had Baloo, Mowgli and Kipling (which was horizontal across the middle), intersecting at the L in the middle of the grid.

I then thought about getting ‘Jungle Book’ in as well, given that also had an L towards the middle. I knew I was going to need a bit of luck to get the four different elements to work, particularly with the words around the L. I came up with the orientation that gave me ‘pea’, ‘iga’, ‘oip’ and ‘ogi’ around the central cell, which looked vaguely promising, particularly when I found ‘loipen’. ‘ogi’ led me immediately to ‘yogi’. This sent me towards trying to use other cartoon / puppet talking bears and the final idea took shape.

I always find it is a struggle to get the word length up to the required 5.5, and this puzzle was no different. I looked for a while at leaving the central cell empty and tried to get two 6 letter words across the middle. ‘Ebooks’ worked fine on the right. I toyed with ‘CGJung’ on the left but a brief enquiry to one of the editors confirmed my view that this would not be acceptable. So Cajun / Gie / Books it was, and I managed to find an extra couple of letters elsewhere to get the average length up.

Having completed the grid I noticed that it contained every letter except Q – the thematic material contained J, W, Z and K and I had only been able to make the bottom left corner work with X and V. I know some people aren’t big fans of puzzles that use every letter, and I don’t plan to make a habit of it, but I thought I would have a quick look to see if I could wedge a Q in the top left corner. A short while later I had ‘requiems’ and ‘quoth’ and the grid was done.

As usual, I took my time with the clues, partly because where a letter is being dropped from a clue I like to try to make the surface read reasonably well with and without the letter. I also tried hard to avoid issues that had caused clues in my first couple of puzzles to require amendment. I was pleased to see this worked fairly well, with a significantly lower number requiring amendment by the editors.

I struggled to come up with a good title. I submitted the puzzle with the title US AT AN EE (must, fate, want, need). The editors pointed out that three of these overlapped with grid entries and came up with ‘An Overt’ instead, which is obviously much better. As usual thanks to the editors for the improvements to the clues (and title) and to the solvers for their kind feedback.

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