Generally with a Listener crossword, you solve clues and put the answers into the grid, and gradually figure out what the theme of the puzzle is, sometimes not figuring it out until the very end when it suddenly flashes on you with a great aha! moment what the heck is going on here and what you have to do to get the final pieces of the puzzle to fall into place.
With this weekend’s puzzle, though — Mass Production by Hedge-Sparrow — I think it has to be the other way ’round. I cannot imagine how you could get much of the grid filled in until you’ve figured out what the theme is, so you pretty much have to tumble to it without any help from the grid. There are just too damn many uncertainties until you know what the thematic words and phrases running through the grid are going to be, and then those help you fix the location of the letters of the regular words.
If you take the right approach, you could probably tumble to the theme quickly. I didn’t take the right approach, though, and it was a while before it even occurred to me to try to suss out the theme while the grid was still mostly empty. Once I did, though, I figured out all but one-half of the other thematic entries fairly quickly.
There was a nice little aha! moment for me near the end, though. I had only figured out what one-half of one of the thematic rings of letters was going to spell. It gave me a nice little aha! moment and a chuckle when I got close to finishing the grid and saw what the rest of that ring was going to be.