Listen With Others

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Listener No 4749, Commonplace: A Setter’s Blog by Brock

Posted by Listen With Others on 6 Mar 2023

Having just completed the submission of a collaborative thematic series in Enigmatic Variations on the climate emergency problems and solutions [EV 1546 – 1550] and with the collaborative Avian Listener puzzle on Watership Down [New Arrivals] moving up the queue, I was considering other facets of the global environmental issues we are facing. It was in this context at the start of 2022 that I was pleased to find that WOMBLE is in ODE and that I might still just be in time for the 50th anniversary of the original TV series if a slot were available.

The consideration of the various thematic elements came about in a different order to the way it was laid out in the final puzzle. ENWOMB/LESS… was there from the start, and the idea of having the Wombles as locations on a map, since the original characters had chosen their names by pinpointing Uncle Bulgaria’s old atlas. I wanted the map to be accurate and I expended a lot of effort to achieve that within likely limits of space in the paper. That is why the grid ended up being asymmetrical and 13×13 as I did have an earlier draft symmetrical grid with many more clues. It was fortunate that WELLINGTON refers to the place in Somerset, not NZ, but the historic Japanese province BUNGO still had to move about 30 degrees west. On the other hand, OCOTEA was a very helpful find in Chambers to allow ORINOCO to be as far to the SW as possible.

During the month required to come up with the final grid fill, most of the other thematic elements fell into place, including the RE(F)USE idea. The missing EVERYDAY and associated COMMONPLACE title was a relatively late inclusion as I considered how many clues I needed and what message to supply, while SCAVENGER HUNT was a fortuitous find on one of the later grid fills.

The editors, as usual, expertly rewrote the preamble and trimmed some clues to make everything fit. I was initially a little sad to lose a few of my favourite clues in the process, but on review realised that it was just a few of them, and after further honing on correspondence, those ended up among my new favourites in the set of clues as published.

I’m writing this late in the day, having just returned from a very enjoyable weekend in Bristol for the Listener Setters’ Dinner. Hence I can add thanks to setters and solvers for their very kind comments in person as well as those received electronically and in the post via John Green. Probably the best encouragement from solvers is “I enjoyed that one” or “that was fun” repeated again and again this weekend.

On that note, I do now regret perhaps trying to be too clever rather than considering the overall solving experience in part of the endgame. The items of LITTER recycled in clues were definitely not random but were chosen as thematic items occurring in specific episodes, and their initial location in the clue numbers was according to the episode number that they appeared in. Six recycled items of rubbish appearing in various episodes are:

  • LIGHT BULB episode 10 (10A => 1A)
  • INK episode 7 (7D => 10A)
  • THE TIMES episode 1 (1A => 13A)
  • TV episode 13 (13A => 18A)
  • ELASTIC episode 27 (27D => 7D)
  • RACKET episode 18 (18A => 27D)


This is verifiable in the episode synopsis at Fandom (excludes ‘racket’) and Tidy Bag (excludes ’The Times newspaper’), but to assemble a shortlist of items in the first place, I purchased second-hand copies of the original TV series and watched each of them at least twice. Hence I can definitely identify with those who were left with an earworm after solving the puzzle!


One Response to “Listener No 4749, Commonplace: A Setter’s Blog by Brock”

  1. Phil R said

    I loved this puzzle, and it’s always fascinating to read a setter’s blog. The time that must go into creating these things. I am particularly impressed by your due-diligence in watching the shows Brock. Thanks for summarising the setting experience.

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