Not a Black and White Decision

I finished this Friday’s Listener crossword, “Not a Black and White Decision”, Sunday afternoon. I’d actually finished solving all the clues the day before, but then it took me a while to see what to do with the answers.

The introduction could have been more helpful. The introduction makes it sound like there’s only one way to arrange the answers in the grid in accordance with the instructions, and then, as a bonus, you can find some appropriate words hidden in the completed grid. In fact, there is more than one way, and finding the hidden words isn’t a bonus, it’s the only thing that makes one grid correct and the others wrong. I spent more time than I liked going over the instructions again and again and backtracking over my work looking for what I was missing.

Finally, you’re supposed to resolve one last ambiguity in the grid in accordance with the words that have appeared in the grid; I thought the connection was a bit less than clear-cut, myself, but then I’m actually very familiar with the words appearing in the grid, as they’ve come up several times in the books I’ve edited, whereas I think the constructor probably knows them just from their definitions in Chambers. There’s no particularly compelling reason in the real world why the correspondence couldn’t be the other way round. And there’s actually a stronger connection with something else in the grid, a connection that can be used to resolve this final ambiguity, but the instructions don’t mention it at all.

Oh well. Not a bad puzzle, but the vague instructions added a level of bewilderment that was more annoying than entertaining.

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