I just now finally finished last weekend’s Listener puzzle — “Cross-Country”, by MynoT — over lunch, with some help from Dave via text messages. I’d finished the grid on Monday morning, but there’s one last step: Solving all the clues gives a final instruction that has to be followed, and you can’t follow the instruction until you know what the theme of the puzzle is, and the only information given about the theme is that it’s a two-word, 21-letter phrase.

I spent all sorts of time trying to find a phrase of the right length running or snaking through the completed grid in some way, with no success. Today over lunch, though, I noticed something curious about the grid of letters that didn’t have any meaning that I could see but that seemed way too unlikely to have occurred by chance. I texted Dave about it, asking if he could see any significance in it. He couldn’t, but he made a suggestion that started me thinking in an opposite direction, and a minute or two later I’d figured out the theme and how to carry out the instruction. Whew! Talk about tough, though — there’s really very little in the puzzle to point you in the right direction, and even having spotted what I’d spotted, I wonder if I’d ever have gotten from there to the answer without Dave’s idea.

It may be too late now for my entry to get to England by next Friday anyway, but at least the puzzle is solved.

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