Listen With Others

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Listener No 4730, Two-four-one: A Setter’s Blog by Lysander

Posted by Listen With Others on 16 Oct 2022

I first came up with this idea in the year 2000, when my father (Aedites) first started creating Listener crosswords. At that time, I created a list of possible 3-letter homophones for letters of the alphabet, and a small 4×4 mini-crossword with 4 symmetrical barlines. The lack of A, E, and various consonants made the 4 barlines necessary. Back then, my father then tried to create the 12×12 crossword grid with the 16 3-letter homophones buried in it. However, we did not have such good software for creating crosswords then, and he may have been trying to create the grid by hand — which he found was extremely difficult to do, so the idea was abandoned. A few years later, he came up with his own loosely related idea where letters dropped out of clue answers into the sub-grid, and this was published in 2006 as Dropouts.

After I had created the grid for Co-Star in 2020, I realised that I now had the knowledge and software to create the grid for the homophones crossword, and with a little programming I managed to create some sample grids. My small grid did contain 2 letter “O”s which was a little disappointing as it meant having “OWE” twice in the big grid, however we decided that it wouldn’t affect the overall experience of the crossword so very much.

The computer was meant to try and only have the correct homophone in each 3×3 square, however it seems that computers are not perfect, and a stray VEE was mixing it up in one of the squares. By the time that I realised this, my father had already written most of the clues. He was disinclined to start again, and he commented that it would create a bit of extra interest. This proved to be correct, and maybe it was a fortuitous gremlin in the AI as the V seem to cause more trouble than anything else, without I think being unfair.

I wrote my first crossword clue in this crossword for the answer EYOT. My original proposal was “At last paraglide stealthily onto gunfight island”. This was meant to be a fully Fortnite-themed clue, relating to my own personal journey of when I finally purchased a computer on which I could play Fortnite with my nephew (on the lowest resolution settings, but better than nothing). However, my father was concerned that the crossover between Fortnite players and Listener solvers was likely to be somewhat low, and that the clue wouldn’t make any sense to anyone. But he did accept the compromise solution of skydiving onto a desert island, and there was a desert on the island for a long time in Fortnite, so it was at least still Fortnite-inspired.

There was also a small debate about the title of the crossword, which had the working title “Homophones”. My father did manage to come up with the alternative title “Two-four-one”, which I much preferred as it contained a homophone as well as being thematic.

Thank you to my father for his patience and efforts for both our original attempt in 2000, and our second successful attempt more recently. Thank you also to the editors for their edits to various clues, particularly their revised clue for “NEW DEAL”. Given that it was a crossword about homophones, I really should have thought to check if there were any natural homophones amongst the grid entries, particularly given that there were nude eels swimming around waiting to be caught, so thank you to the editors for picking up on this oversight.


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