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Listener No 4532 How?: by Twin

Posted by Listen With Others on 7 January 2019

On my laptop at work I keep a spreadsheet called ‘Ideas’, where I sketch out possible themes for crosswords, most of which never see the light of day, either because I can’t get them to work or because someone else has already done them. When I thought up the idea of a grid with a TARDIS in it, and double letters for the cells within the TARDIS, I assumed it must already have been done in the Listener — after all, double letters crop up every now and then, and Doctor Who is a popular topic — but an online check suggested otherwise.

This check must not have been very thorough, as it was only later that I discovered Ilver had written Journey to the Centre in 2013 (and, as the setter’s blog here revealed, How? had in fact been the working title of that one), shortly before I began solving in earnest. Curiously, it turned out that Ilver had also had Detective Work published in the same year, with a Hercule Poirot theme; my only other Listener crossword to date was based on Murder on the Orient Express. Great minds?

The basis for the puzzle thus set, I set out trying to construct a grid. The words TIME AND RELATIVE DIMENSION IN SPACE (I’ll come back to that) were slightly restrictive, as the lack of symmetrical words that could be formed within them meant that I had to bar off most of the phrase. At first I thought I could use DEMI-DEVIL across the bottom — coinciding with RELAT(IVEDIME)NSION — but I couldn’t get that to work; in the end only ADEMI or ELEMI would work in the bottom left of the grid, and I allowed myself the abbreviation EMEA at the top right. I thought that, being fully checked, this wasn’t too much of an issue.

In my brief setting career so far I have set myself rather difficult grids to create (I don’t use proper crossword software to complete the grids — which presumably wouldn’t work with double-letter cells anyhow — but I do make liberal use of the searching facility on my Chambers Dictionary app). This means that I’ve tended to end up with a few under-unched words and relatively low average word lengths, although I managed to scrape over the recommended minimum (5.51!) in this one. Completing the grid took many attempts, but I got to something I was happy with in the end.

Back to that TARDIS acronym. I became a keen Doctor Who fan in the Matt Smith era, so I was aware that DIMENSION was the preferred expansion of the D these days, and — even though Chambers has it as DIMENSIONS — I couldn’t bring myself to add in that S. Unfortunately that meant that I needed an extra letter to complete the picture (it only occurred to me very late in the day to put it in the place of the light on top, actually, rather than just completing the rectangle). This was the weakest part of the puzzle I submitted, I think, as I just claimed it was a seven word phrase — i.e. A TIME AND RELATIVE DIMENSION IN SPACE — and it was Roger Phillips’ suggestion to go with ‘article on top’. The neatest possible solution to the problem, I think.

The idea of using synonyms for doctor with misprints was a reworking of an idea I’d left out of my previous puzzle (which would have used synonyms of ‘stab’). Fortunately there are a lot of synonyms for doctor in its various meanings, including words like ‘breeze’ that might set people off down the wrong track. I ransacked my Chambers Crossword Dictionary (a tome I must admit I prefer to Bradford’s, although I also dug into that) and came up with 70 synonyms. Playing around with these, I managed to get all the words I needed except a synonym that could generate the W of TWO HEARTS; in the end I went for WHO, which I think worked well enough. The overall technique was one I don’t remember seeing before — although I’m sure it’s been used many times — and I think that, particularly with ‘jawbones’ and ‘burgeon’ to set people on their way, it will have helped people onto the right track.

The final part of the puzzle was entering GALLIFREY, albeit misspelled, in the centre. It was rather early on in proceedings that I rather organically came across GALL- at the start of a word, and thought it would be a neat bit of thematic content to include the Doctor’s home planet. But it was an odd number of letters — how to get around this? Well, double-entering the central letter of the word (also the central letter of the TARDIS and the grid) seemed very neat to me, given that the Doctor himself (well, ‘himself’ when I wrote the puzzle — ‘herself’, now) has two hearts. From the comments I’ve dared to read online, this part of the puzzle doesn’t seem to have been universally popular — the word ‘pointless’ has been used — and my only answer is that I always enjoy it when Listener puzzles have multiple bits of thematic content, so I aim to do as much as I can in mine.

Thanks as ever to Shane & Roger for their excellent editing. A lot of clues needed changing for one reason or another — two were rejected as being fanciful! — and, as I’d got a lot of rather long words to clue, several adjustments were needed for space-saving purposes, including a fairly dramatic rewrite of the preamble. We had quite a few emails back and forth, and there were one or two clues that I rewrote entirely, but I didn’t lose anything too close to my heart.

I didn’t use test solvers for this puzzle (I do now), but I should thank John & Simon, who gave me ideas for SOLSTITIALLY and STONE SAW respectively. And, of course, thanks to John Green for his excellent services — and apologies that he had 27% more letters to mark than usual!


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Listener No 4533, Telling Lies: A Setter’s Blog by Somniloquist

Posted by Listen With Others on 6 January 2019

I came across B.S. Johnson, “Britain’s one-man literary avant-garde”, a number of years ago when a friend recommended one of his later novels to me, Christie Malry’s Own Double-Entry. Since then, his books have always been in the back of my mind as possible crossword themes, with their unusual content and layout: Christie Malry lives his life by the principles of double-entry bookkeeping, The Unfortunates is presented in a box in several sections which can be read in any order and Albert Angelo has holes cut in the pages to reveal later parts of the story.

When I was mulling over ideas for my second Listener, I quickly settled on Albert Angelo and its cut-outs, which would provide good fodder for an endgame. I assumed The Times wouldn’t be willing to print some extra Listener content in amongst the sudoku on the page behind the crossword, so I had to find a way to fold the crossword to make the reveal work. I changed the shape of the grid from my default 13×13 to 14×12, so there was a natural fold line and the proportions were somewhat book-like. I toyed with making the theme the author himself and including references to other books, but was wary of trying to cram too much in and ending with a confusing treatment of quite an obscure subject.

I started with hopes of being able to use thematic words (cut out) on the left to reveal a long quote on the right, but quickly found this was far too restrictive to fill the grid. It would also have meant some very fiddly cutting out and holes that reached the edge of the page. So I settled on just the title and author being revealed using non-thematic words. I fed this all into the software I’d written for my first Listener (no 4466, X XX XXX) and started sifting through the possible grids to find a satisfying set of words – not too many obscure rock types or Scottish relatives.

Once I had a filled grid, I needed to work out how to provide the instructions and the words to cut out. For the sake of simplicity (for me and for the solver), I decided on an additional letter in wordplay to spell out the instructions (having spent a very long time wrestling with deleting letters from clues for my first Listener effort) and extra words in clues to indicate what should be cut out. Pleasingly, the message “cut out extra words then fold” required an extra letter in exactly half the clues, which made the preamble a bit more elegant.

I looked into including more thematic content, as it was fairly light, but the internet (my memory of the book not being up to scratch) didn’t turn up anything I felt was usable. It did give me an initial idea for a title for the puzzle: Alberto Angelo is described as a failed architect, so I looked for an anagram of architect and found The Arctic. Fortunately, I decided against using this dubious reverse cryptic as the title, as I think there’d be a large number of confused people at this point. I ultimately used part of a quote from the book, which highlights the author’s ethos: that “telling stories is telling lies”. This was obscure enough not to lead the solver directly to the theme (even via Google), but could fairly easily be linked to it when revealed.

After submission, I was pleasantly surprised to wait less than a year to get the email from Roger confirming publication – I think they were keen for an easier puzzle to give everyone a pre-Christmas break! The vetters’ eagle eyes had spotted a few clues that needed tweaking. Primarily, these were where I’d used a connecting word between definition and wordplay (IN, FROM, etc) that incorrectly implied the two were equivalent, when the thematic extra letter made them different: not something I’d considered when writing them.

If you want to find out more about B.S. Johnson, there’s an excellent biography by Jonathan Coe called Like A Fiery Elephant.

I’ve now used up the two theme ideas I’ve had, so I’m on the lookout for inspiration for Listener #3…

Happy New Year!


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Listener No 4531, Superpower: A Setter’s Blog by Shenanigans

Posted by Listen With Others on 23 December 2018

I’m fairly mathematically-minded, and follow a number of YouTube channels like Numberphile and Mathologer. I’d certainly come across a googol before the infamous WWTBAM episode (see below) and the idea for representing its bigger brother, the googolplex, based on the defintion in Chambers, could lead to a fairly neat bit of highlighting as the endgame in a puzzle.

The first thing to decide was what technique to use in the clues. Given that the definition had numbers as well as letters, extra ‘things’ in the wordplay didn’t seem a particularly logical way to go. So misprints it was. Now those setters who can put a misprint in the definition part of every clue in a puzzle have my absolute admiration. I suspect it needs far more clueing experience than I have. I therefore decided that the misprint could appear anywhere in the clue, either the definition or the wordplay and, for the latter, in either the indicator or the fodder. I decided to try and make it half in the definition, half in the wordplay.

That was the clueing technique sorted, now how was the grid to be presented. The final grid, with GOOGOLPLEX down the centre and the crossing 1^10^100 and TEN^GOOGOL, needed a bit of tweaking after a suggested gridfill by Sympathy. Ideally, I wanted to avoid proper names and words not in Chambers. Eventually I got there with the exception of REISHI which is in the ODE. I should also add that AGAPAE and AGA SAGA weren’t there for deliberate confusion, but just the way the grid fell out.

The original idea that I had was for GOOGOLPLEX to be provided by three words, GOO, GOLP and LEX. Unfortunately, that led either to asymmetry or too many clues — I needed exactly 46 to spell out the definition. I then decided that it would have a bar between each letter, perhaps with those erased as part of the endgame. And that is where the carte blanche came in, so that bars inserted by the solver could then be rubbed out to reveal the theme word in the grid. With clue numbers, this would then become 13 down, which was my original title for the puzzle.

Given the normal alphabetical jigsaw style, I listed the clues in alphabetical order of answer without any separation of Across and Down. Luckily for you, one of the test solvers said that it made the puzzle just too tough. After experimenting with making it obvious that the two 12-letter answers were down entries, I decided that separating Across and Down clues would be the right decision.

Then began the clueing, and it proved pretty tough, even with the misprint appearing anywhere in the clue. Some of my first stabs were fanciful to say the least. For example, PYROTECHNIST was Rising anxiety about launch of rocket; initially Kim’s absent and isn’t amused; Mighty Boosh is his creation with Boosh becoming Woosh [HYP< about (ROCKET – K(im))* + ISNT*]. I think this took about 2 or 3 hours to rework into One who creates volcanoes, say, tossing pitchstone awry without a peak with peak being the misprint for weak.

All in all, the clues took a prodigious amount of time, not because I was trying to make them difficult (I wasn’t) but to get good surface readings. With input from my test solvers, it was an educational experience as well. Sometimes short easy words were a pig and longer ones straightforward. I also made some clues deliberately easy (I think) — the hidden AMMONIA and the alternate letters for REISHI, for example. The long entries, ATTRACTIVELY and PYROTECHNIST, were also (obviously?) anagram-orientated although the misprints were tougher to spot. I also assumed that solvers would initially try these long entries down the first and last columns which would get other answers slotted in quickly. For many, this proved not to be the case.

And so the puzzle went off to the vetters, Roger and Shane. The major change they made was to have GOOGOLPLEX unclued rather than completely barred. Without any previous reputation for symmetry, I can understand if solvers didn’t immediately assume it was in the centre of the grid, although I suspect that wouldn’t have helped too much without knowing its length. The other change, courtesy of Roger, was to give it the excellent title. As far as the clues were concerned, exactly half remained unscathed, with the most of the rest having minor or medium tweaks and a couple rewritten.

In hindsight, I suppose bars in the grid and/or clues in the correct order would have been appropriate, given that the theme word was now unclued. I think I avoided correct order for clues because that would have revealed the sort of thing that was going on if 1ac were solved quickly with 1 being the misprint. Of course, that also meant that the unclued theme word was probably identified before the hidden definition and source.

As mentioned above, it wasn’t my intention when starting out to make a puzzle as tough as this obviously was, but this is the Listener after all and it was obviously solvable.

To the three testers, Ifor, eXternal and his fellow solver, thanks for all your help, especially with my understanding of clueing. To those who commented with their solutions or online (most of it favourable), your feedback is much appreciated, even the solver who would have preferred that the editors had waited until the appropriate puzzle number came up!

Finally, of course, thanks to Roger and Shane for all their work vetting, correcting and polishing the puzzle, and to John for marking entries and forwarding solvers comments. The detail that goes into every aspect of running the Listener — not just this week, but every week — was an eye-opener.



Already knowing at the time what a googol was, enabled me to enjoy the trials and tribulations of Major Charles Ingram on Who Wants to be a Millionaire. The £1,000,000 question was “A number 1 followed by 100 zeros is known by what name?”, the choices being Googol, Megatron, Gigabit, Nanomol. He seemingly settled on each one in turn over the course of 20 minutes or so before finally deciding to risk the best part of a million pounds on Googol. Of course, it transpired that he had cheated, with a member of the audience guiding him to the right answer by coughing.


Putting my other hat on, Listen With Others wishes all readers



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Listener No 4529, St Hubert’s College: A Setter’s Blog by Oyler

Posted by Listen With Others on 11 December 2018

One greedy cat and a snail on drugs by Oyler

How many narrative style mathematicals have there been in The Listener Crossword since it moved to The Times? To save you the trouble of going to the website and trawling through the years I’ll tell you. It’s two and both were set by Polymath. A Harrowing Time L3477 in 1998 had 1078 correct entries and Pyramid L3632 in 2001 got 889 correct entries.

The crossnumber genre has a couple of techniques for clueing entries namely letter/number assignment and number definition. In order to make the latter type more interesting setters would introduce a theme and use a narrative in that this would hopefully appeal to crossword solvers as there was more reading to do and elements of humour could be brought in. The narrative also helps to eliminate various possibilities from lists of numbers or sets of solutions. The classic is Little Pigley Farm that first appeared in The Strand magazine in the 1930s and subsequently in many other publications usually without attribution or acknowledgement that it had appeared elsewhere – even The Listener fell for it and published it in 1949 as L988. In that puzzle solvers have to discover the closely guarded secret which was the age of the farmer’s mother-in-law! That puzzle also goes under the title of Dog’s Mead in some publications. Another puzzle that appeared was in Mathematical Pie and entitled The Egg and solvers had to work out the age of the egg. That puzzle used a grid that looked like a face and had bars as well as blocks. In 2001 issue 27 of Tough Crosswords published Aunt Auguta’s Will by Tangent which also appears in his book Cryptic Cross Numbers by John Enock. A further book Fun With Figures by L H Clarke contains 5 narrative style crossnumber puzzles. The narrative type of puzzle isn’t as common as you’d think although there are some examples on the internet.

After I retired in 2013 I wrote an article for the Mathematical Gazette about setting crossnumber puzzles. It was whilst writing that article that I realised I’d never set a narrative type puzzle before and set about rectifying that situation. The result was t20 which appeared as EV1118. Of course I got totally carried away and continued with many others of this style mostly with a sporting theme. The results can be found on Derek Harrison’s Crossword Centre for a snooker themed puzzle and The Magpie for a golf one. All of the others have appeared in CQ under the pseudonym of Moog – got to get a prog rock reference in somehow! The book Challenging Crossnumber Puzzles by Oyler and Zag also contains Who Stole The Ascot Gold Cup? which was set for The Listener Dinner in Harrogate in 2015. Copies of the book are still available and details can be found at

I must have been watching lots of repeats of Morse or Lewis with all the colleges when I had the idea of using a fictitious college as the theme for a narrative type puzzle and it was set shortly after the appearance of t20. As I mentioned above a number of the others of this style that I’d set involved sport and this proved to be a stumbling block for some solvers who were not au fait with cricket, golf, chess and snooker! Tangent’s puzzle also mentioned above involved a clue that was someone’s PIN so I decided to use that for the dénouement.

Strangely I started with the title by looking for the patron saint of mathematicians and found St Hubert. I went with convention and used a blocked rather than a barred grid. David Scott Marley set a puzzle for CQ entitled The Book Signing which was a narrative type puzzle but he used a barred grid instead as this provided a much better fit for what he required.

In previous puzzles I gave solvers the choice of two dates as the way in and they had to find the correct one. Regardless of which date it was though solvers would always be able to put in 2 or 3 digits into the entry. This time I decided to use the date the college was founded and have it in the 17th century so that 16 could go in immediately.

Of course colleges have quadrangles and I decided to use this, having not just one but two quadrangles, one a square and the other a rectangle that was linked to the other in some way. The nice thing about Imperial units is that the conversion factors aren’t just powers of 10 and as I was at school when Imperial measurements were still used I went for lengths in feet and yards. (One of my physics teachers at school was a young chap called Mr Tomlinson and he delighted in setting problems involving obscure units, his favourite being furlongs per fortnight!)

So the quadrangles have an area and a perimeter and having a clue that asks for the perimeter of the Great Quad in feet and another which asks for the area in square yards means that the perimeter must be a multiple of 12. Using the 6 from the date as the middle digit for the perimeter clue means that only nine cases need to be calculated as the entry is a multiple of 4 it has to end 0, 4 or 8 and it has to divide by 3 so the digit sum must be a multiple of 3. So we have 360, 660, 960, 264,564,864, 168, 468 and 768. By making the area of the Great Quad a 4-digit entry rules out 360, 264 and 168. I wanted it to be 864 with 5184 as the area. One of our cats Tango, sadly no more, appeared in t20 and I felt that the balance should be redressed and that our other cat Flo should appear. Now Tango’s prey of choice was of the feathered variety whilst Flo (Fibonacci) prefers fur and as the puzzle was set in a college it would no doubt have a cat. Having the cat catch a 2-digit Fibonacci number of mice would fit well as it would remove 960 and 768 from the list. That still left four possibilities and I realised I could give information in the preamble as well that solvers would use and by having it divisible by its number of factors forced the entries 864 and 5184 with the cat catching 55 mice.

How solvers go about solving a puzzle is entirely up to them and some may have looked at 2-digit numbers greater than 31 that were divisible by their number of factors. Those numbers are 36, 40, 56, 60, 72, 80, 84, 88 and 96 then multiplying each by 12 gives only 72 and 80 as possibilities.

Puzzles of this style have a lot of reading involved and it is easy to overlook some deductions that can be made. I decided to use two PINs in the puzzle, one for The Master and one for his wife with the second one having to be written below the grid. Having both as the product of 3 distinct 2-digit primes limits the choice somewhat and using three that were grid entries and clueing them as factors of the entry that was the Master’s PIN would see if solvers would twig that those three entries had to be prime numbers! With so few possibilities solvers could deduce the wife’s PIN from the preamble alone in that two of the 2-digit primes had to differ by 24. The 17/41 pair fail in that multiplying by 11 or 13 yield an impossible final digit for 16ac and the 34/47 pair is too large. In retrospect maybe I should have chosen the 17/41 pair with different clues as solvers assumed that you had to be over 18 to get married which is not the case in Scotland where it is 16.

In puzzles like these you can inject a bit of humour and so with it being set in a college I thought of various shenanigans that could occur. Having a bursar imprisoned for tax evasion, both the Master and his wife being unfaithful to one other and a snail race in Imperial units I hope did the trick. Obviously there had to be a clue linked to alcohol to appease one blogger and what better than to have it at the College anniversary dinner. Cheers!

I did a cold solve and sent it away without any test solvers being involved. If I had then they would have picked up on a few omissions in the preamble like forgetting to mention that the measurements were in yards. I now use test solvers.

My original puzzle was written in the 3rd person however the editors changed it to the 1st person presumably due to space constraints and added the Time Travel department, a name for the snail as well as giving more information for 13dn. That information was required in order to eliminate the possibility of 16ac being 43507 and testing if it was a prime in that its factorisation is 139×313 which takes a long time to get with a basic scientific calculator. Now I know that solvers will just have gone ‘ Alexa – is 43507 a prime number? ‘ or used Google but the rules are the rules and a standard scientific calculator is all you need and is all that is used for the pathway that’s published on the Listener site. If you choose to use a computer or use the internet then that’s entirely up to you. I personally use my Casio calculator that has a factorisation function and cost less than £10.

Reading the various comments that appeared on some sites it seems that the introduction of the Time Travel department muddied the waters somewhat which was not the intention. It may have been better to say that the puzzle was found in the college’s archives instead. However I only thought of that once I’d read the comments.

My thanks go to the editors for having the guts to publish this bit of whimsy and finally the star of the puzzle, the college cat examining the fan mail that was much appreciated by both of us!


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Offender by Chalicea, Setter’s Blog

Posted by shirleycurran on 25 November 2018

Setter’s blog Last One by Chalicea ‘Offender’

When I ask setters for a Listen With Others setter’s blog, they regularly respond that they set the puzzle so long ago that the process has been obscured by the mists of time so, exceptionally, I decided to keep a written record of the entire setting, vetting, editing process. Who knows, it might be useful for a new, hopeful Listener setter to read about the years of work before the adrenalin moment when the final product appears in the Times.

May 29th 2016, I unexpectedly received a proof from Roger for Ad Nauseam. It was my birthday – what a fine present! (I hadn’t expected it to appear for a while). I had just sent off to the Magpie one that, with a bit of tweaking, might have replaced it in the queue (Massive) and feel that it is important to get them into the queue so needed to create one. This is the first time I have deliberately set with the Listener in mind and not simply sent one because my vetters suggested it was appropriate.

Busy for a week compiling a month of cryptic Farmers Guardian crosswords – got those out of the way, then on June 7th started hunting for a theme. I had just created ‘Absent Letter’, ‘Massive’ and had in the Listener queue ‘Predicament’, all using the idea of a letter or letters significantly placed within the grid. I worked right through ODQ looking for one more appropriate letter and, of course, found the ‘Thou whoreson zed, unnecessary letter’ the Kent quotation from King Lear. I test-solved a friend’s version of this some time ago but could see a different way of handling the theme.

My idea was a Z in the centre of the grid, composed of words containing Z all of which must be adapted to remove the ‘unnecessary letter’ from the grid. I hoped to use misprints to identify the 36-letter quotation and possibly to hide the replacing words in the clues.

Checking on Dave Henning’s Crossword data base revealed four previous crosswords on what is an obvious setter’s theme. Only one of these was in the Listener (Radix) and all handled the theme differently. One was by Ifor – one that I test solved – so I needed to clear that with him. (His went to Magpie and he had no objection to my re-using the theme). Of course, when this crossword was accepted, the editors pointed out that the theme had already appeared a number of times.

I spent the rest of the day working on a grid. 13X13 seemed the obvious size. I got up to 4.8 mean word length with seriously flawed unching and almost abandoned the idea.

June 8th – before attempting in a new format (I was considering 11X11) I fiddled for a few hours and was delighted when a possible grid with 5.51 mean word length and ‘acceptable’ unching appeared. It had Z-DNA in it, that I thought would have to be converted to C-DNA or B-DNA, neither of which is in Chambers, and C-in-C would have to replace ZINC in the submission grid. The DNA clue seemed to be a serious flaw but when I discussed the grid with husband Charles, he said “Why not EDNA? That’s in Chambers.”

Having spent a total of about 10 hours creating the grid I began work on the clues. After a couple of hours attempting to work out misprints, I realized I simply couldn’t do it and reluctantly decided to opt for extra letters produced by the wordplay. A count revealed that 19 replacement words had to be hidden in the grid, some of them very difficult to conceal (DITE, C-in-C, JEEP, LUTE, AISLE, DRIBBLED, SICEL, SATI, AGATE, EYRA) I had considered simply giving definitions of those in the clues but decided that would be messy and impossible for the solver. Then I spotted the fact that there were 51 clues and if those 19 words took 19 clues, I was left with 32 which could contain the quotation less the initial THOU (rendering it slightly less easy to spot for the solver).

I spent the rest of the day cluing in clue order (working down from the top and up from the bottom of the downs – I had to do it that way as the device required it). After about 8 hours of cluing I had 16 clues. Unusually fast for me.

June 9th. I worked all day on clues and almost finished all the acrosses, then remembered a message from Editor Shane, years ago, that required Rasputin (the Artix, Ilver, Chalicea compiling team) to rewrite about a third of our clues as we had link words in them – not permitted in the Listener when there is no equivalence between definition and wordplay (as in this case, where the extra letter device is being used). I had to back-track and rewrite, and also adjust clues that Charles, on a quick read through, rejected as ‘poor surface reading’, ‘way too easy’ etc. 

Half of the extra words were still to place so I now focused on down clues where they could be concealed and I managed to hide all but two (AGATE and LUTE) The clues were now more than 2/3 completed in two days of non-stop setting (another 8 hours or so).

June 10th. With some switching of extra words from across to down etc. I placed the last two extra words and was left with just twelve words to clue – several fairly difficult because of the z or zz in them as obviously I had already used all the Z abbreviations. I spent about six hours on these and tweaking to see that no device word was used twice. A total of four full days’ work and the first draft was ready for vetting.

June 12th I asked Artix for a test-solve. His initial reaction was ‘Like it’ but then he found serious flaws and suggested

1 That I anagram or jumble as many of the extra words as possible as they are glaringly obvious.  I responded that this wouldn’t work as only twelve will anagram, leaving a mixed bag.

2 That all the zs in the clues give the game away at once and that I remove them from the wordplay.

I spent about five hours rewriting the clues where Z appeared in the wordplay and moving the extra words around since the Z of the quotation still has to appear and clearly cannot appear where there are Zs removed. 

17 June I rewrote the preamble, changed the name from ‘The Last One’ to ‘Offender’ (since the ‘end’ letter of the alphabet has to go ‘off’ somewhere) and asked Ifor to look at it.

20th June Shark, having a free weekend since he had been the test-solver for Artix’s  ‘No Offence’ which appeared on that Saturday, test solved and gave fabulous detailed input. I spent three hours adapting clues accordingly.

21st June Ifor sent valuable input correcting flawed clues with some superb suggestions (SACRED BEETLE and JULEP – which has earned great solver approval) I spent about two hours adjusting.

22nd June. I sent ‘final document’ to Artix who found a few flaws and unfair clues. It took me one hour to incorporate all but one of his suggestions. I think it is ready to go. About 50 hours so far.

Tim King (our newest LWO blogger Encota, said he would do a test-solve. I sent him the ‘final’ version. He solved it carefully, gave it the thumbs up and suggested that I could use the letters in the two bottom corners of the grid for an extra hint to Kent. This added a final touch but caused worry for some solvers as the actual character in the play is the EARLOF KENT. Mr Green suggested, when entries were arriving with both KENT and EARL OF KENT that there should be a slight adjustment to the solution notes, admitting both as (EARL OF) KENT.

As my ‘Overseas Outing’ (St Patrick expelling the snakes from Ireland) appeared on the weekend of this year’s Listener dinner, I didn’t expect to see ‘Offender’ in print until mid 2019 (yes – about three years from compilation) so I was delighted to receive a proof from Editor Roger Phillips in late September (could it be that he was deliberately placing a relatively easy one after a rather tough one?) No rewriting was required, though Shane and Roger had vetted a number of clues and adjusted 12 of them as well as polishing the preamble. They had found the puzzle of ‘about average difficulty’ and ‘slightly easier than average’ – their comments ran to five A4 pages.

Clearly I owe thanks to those editors and vetters and to JEG for his meticulous marking and forwarding of the lovely bag of solvers’ comments and to those generous people who commented on-line or sent their encouraging words directly to me. I really was astonished that the puzzle proved to be so popular.

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