Listen With Others

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Listener No 4757, “Order, Order!”: A Setter’s Blog by Dolos

Posted by Listen With Others on 23 Apr 2023

I hadn’t noticed that the first of April was on a Saturday this year until December, when a setter asked if the date was available, because he had an idea for a Listener puzzle that might be suitable. So I reserved the date for him. However, as he developed the idea he decided it was of a more general type, and in January he withdrew his claim on 1 April. That left me with the feeling that we should have a foolish puzzle for it, and after checking in early February that my co-editor didn’t have another candidate in mind I started pondering.

The basic theme for the puzzle was something that had been rattling around in my head for years, without a seed to crystallise around, which I now had. I started the grid with 90-degree symmetry, which I always try unless thematic constraints make it impossible. The jigsaw entry method and the message from clues imposed no such constraints, so I wondered what else I could use. Knowing the puzzle would appear in the post-Dinner period when solvers were being invited to send for their statistics, I didn’t want anything too complicated, so I decided just to include some words related to foolery as grid entries. As I collated a list of potential items I was struck by how many short words there were, so I chose the grid constraint of making all the short answers (up to 5 letters) thematic. After a few hours’ jiggling I came up with a grid that had a pleasing range of entry lengths, good connectivity between the different parts and, of course, Ximenean checking. It was only after the puzzle was published that I noticed that by pure accident I’d hidden APRIL and FOOL in the grid:

Then I started on the clues, which I tried to make reasonably accessible because they mostly needed to be cold-solved without the usual help of having answers in alphabetical order. The only difficulties I ran into were finding convincing ways of ending a clue with U or I — until I got to the clue that had to start with “Violinist”, robbing me of the chance of any clues starting with the easy letter T (I decided “This violinist …” would be too much of a fudge), and forcing all those Ws at the end. Because the time to publication was fairly short, I spent only a day and a half writing the clues, to give my co-editor time to vet the puzzle. He was happy with it, so the third outing for my alter ego Dolos was ready.


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