Listen With Others

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Listener No 4760, “Queen”: A Setter’s Blog by Rebel

Posted by Listen With Others on 14 May 2023

I started on this puzzle in 2007 and when asked to write a setter’s blog I initially thought that I wouldn’t be able to dredge memories from that far back, but fortunately I found some notes I made at the time. I had my previous puzzle King in the queue for publication when I began, and the train of thought to Queen to apiary theme to hexagonal grid was fairly quick as you can imagine.

I had the idea to clear a path to the centre and to use Bs to direct the path very early on. I worked on the message to the centre for a while before finding the one that I settled on. I inserted Bs at a number of key points along the route to make the path clear, too many as it turned out. The hexagonal grid I used lent itself to having down answers going straight down. The complexity was in the across paths, and I decided I would need 180 degree symmetry to provide grid feedback to the solver. I spent a few hours working on the grid structure that had the right unch level and lack of entry ambiguity.

I started to put words in where the most Bs were and quickly realised that this would be a struggle. I decided on Letters Latent which would allow me to drop letters and vowels in particular to suit the multiple B areas. I didn’t initially intend to have all LL clues but switched to that approach due to continued grid filling difficulties. I worked out the messages I wanted to include from the dropped letters as that of course needed to be decided before the grid entries could be established.

I remember spending many hours over multiple sessions with long gaps along the way working on the grid fill and according to my notes it was in March 2008 when I put the puzzle away. At this point other life events took over and I didn’t revisit it until the start of lockdown in 2020 when I finally had the time and motivation to begin setting again.

After more fruitless effort on the grid fill, I realised that it wasn’t going to work with the number of Bs I was trying to include along the path. I decided that I would have another go with a reduced B count which would make the path a little harder to find but at least I might get a finished crossword.

This time progress was steady, though still running into roadblocks from time to time due to the Letters Latent constraints. The structure had to be tweaked a few times, one of which led to an entry ambiguity that I didn’t spot at the time unfortunately and ultimately had to be resolved by including two letters in the starting grid.

I finally had a completed grid sometime in April 2020 and then spent another 2 months working on the clues. Feedback from King was that clues were on the easy side, so I went through multiple iterations toughening up clues bit by bit until I felt I had a good set of challenging clues to go with the grid and finally submitted it in July 2020, 13 years in the making!

Not quite the end of the story as feedback from the vetters was that one of my Bs could misdirect the solver so more tweaking was necessary to resolve that issue. I appreciate Shane and Roger’s help in tidying up loose ends and ensuring it was fit for publication. I hope the challenge for solvers was an enjoyable one!


One Response to “Listener No 4760, “Queen”: A Setter’s Blog by Rebel”

  1. Brock said

    When I saw the title, it reminded me of your excellent King puzzle you mention, although the hexagonal grid made it likely it was going to be about bees. I find it interesting that the timelines for original drafts and re-visiting your hexagonal puzzle were very similar to my pentagonal one, Bunch of Fives.

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