At first, this week’s Listener crossword — called “Half-Thyme” — seemed like it was going to be fairly easy. The instructions were fairly straightforward for a change, and actually explain what is going on instead of dropping cryptic hints that you can’t understand until you’ve filled in 85% of the grid. I understood what’s going on by the time I’d solved a half dozen or so clues, and even now that I’m within a half dozen or so clues of finishing, that understanding still seems to be holding up.
Nevertheless, filling in the grid has been a slow battle, though a fair and a satisfying one (at least so far!). Lots of very nice, clever, well-written clues.
(At least one, though, that clues a word by breaking it up into parts, one of which is a closely related word. That sort of thing seems to be acceptable in a lot of British cryptics, though I don’t think it would get by the editor in most American cryptics. It always seems a bit lame to me — to make up an example off the top of my head, somewhat exaggerated in its lameness, but not by that much, such a clue might be “Bride-to-be makes groom-to-be full of energy” as a clue for FIANCEE, made by putting E for energy inside FIANCE.)
I don’t like to say much that’s specific about whatever Listener puzzle I’m working on at the time, in case I spoil the fun for someone who is working on the puzzle and hasn’t made some discovery yet. So I’ll just say that the puzzle grid represents an herb garden in which you must discover the names of a certain number of herbs. I’ve found about two-thirds of them, and I know what a few of the others will be even though I haven’t completely located them yet. There’s also a “thematic phrase” that you’re supposed to be able to reveal; I have a strong idea about how that will happen but don’t have quite enough of the grid solved yet to know what the phrase is.
Moments later: I just did a Google search on a hunch, and now I think I know what the phrase is. That should help me a lot in finishing up the grid!
Still later: Stayed up another half hour or so and finished the puzzle at about 2 am Sunday morning.