I just now finished today’s Listener crossword, “Merchandise” by Adam. After filling in the grid correctly, you still have to find a quotation that is “embedded in a regular way” in the grid. I spent a while staring at the completed grid and trying out different ideas — looking for words forward, backward, and diagonally in word-search style, trying every second or third or fourth letter, trying out zigzag paths and knight’s tours and so on — before I finally found the quotation, but I have it now. It’s a very familiar quotation to me — the first words in it I spotted were the third through fifth, and as soon as I found half of the sixth word, the whole line sprang into my head.

1 Down and 16 Across are two more examples of a kind of clue I dislike, where the wordplay makes use of an obvious form of the very same word, like (this is a made-up example) clueing BELOVED as “Cherished one showing passion in bed” (that is, BELOVED composed of LOVE inside BED). 22 Across is of this sort, too, though not quite as blatantly.

You see this kind of clue a lot in British cryptics, but rarely in American ones. Is it a cultural thing? Does this sort of thing just not register to the British puzzle-solving sensibility as being lame?

Still, the puzzle has a number of nice clues, and it was a pleasant challenge. And I’m too busy with working on the play this weekend to be knocking my head against the Listener puzzle all day today, so I’m just as happy to have a moderately easy one this week.

Later: This posting has become the most popular one on this blog in a long time! It seems that a lot of solvers are not having any success in finding the quotation and are searching the Internet for help. I don’t like to give things away, so I’ll just say that the phrase “in a regular way” in the introduction to the puzzle is straightforward and accurate.

I’ve read some snarking online to the effect that the manner in which the quotation is hidden should have been indicated by the theme itself rather than by a phrase in the introduction. I’m not sure I see why; it’s certainly fun when it works out that way, but it doesn’t seem to me to be an unwelcome change of pace to have a puzzle that ends with something of a treasure hunt like this one does.

5 thoughts on “Merchandise

  1. congratulations – my experience of listener 4104 has been intensely frustrating. have been staring at a completed grid for 2 days. have checked the answerbank (assume you know this?) but everyone seems to have gone crazy, sending in their email addresses and asking for the answer from the few who know. normally there would be a few subtle hints to help you progress. could you oblige?

  2. Persevered and got it – thank you for not giving it away.
    Non-contiguousness is my particular bugbear – this was not a pleasant experience.
    I also think resorting to 8d, coupled with jumbles, was an easy way out for the setter (it also breaks one of the cardinal rules of Listener crossword-setting).

    • I didn’t mind 8D, which seems both well known and well clued to me. I agree that the puzzle is not a remarkable feat of construction. Where all the across entries are to be entered jumbled, I tend to think that that makes things so easy on the constructor and so hard on the solver that you shouldn’t be allowing yourself any unchecked letters at all.

      It does occur to me now that it’s too bad the quotation wasn’t hidden as a symmetrical knight’s tour. Add the information that the path started in, say, the upper left corner of the grid and finding it would have been a good maze-like puzzle without being impossibly difficult.

  3. Agree that knight’s moves would have been more satisfying.

    I hate to be a stickler, but as you know Chambers is bedrock for The Listener and 8d isn’t in it, whereas the similar 16a (which you’re not keen on for aesthetic reasons) is at least in Chambers and has a nice surface reading.

    Working within the setter’s limits, if [hidden till after the entry deadline — DSM], this clumsy corner could have been avoided.

  4. sorry about that – didn’t think it could give anything away but I now see it could possibly have been used to confirm the letters in the quotation

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