Listener 4551: Optics (by Phibre)

This puzzle had its origins in Phi’s visit to Phoenix, Arizona for his partner’s pet-blogging conference.  The venue was very close to Sabre’s domicile so they met up. 

Eighteen months or so later Sabre visited New Zealand to undertake the Tongariro Crossing and stayed with Phi for Christmas.  From that Phibre and a trans-Pacific collaboration was born.

Now there’s fibreboard and fibreglass but they haven’t been set yet because we ended up with fibre optics.  The idea here was actually the second (there’s an aborted grid taking a different tack that might still be revived), and the idea for it owes something to a Phi Inquisitor based on the moon illusion.  Phi took first attempt at the grid, and, when SABRE emerged as a likely entry, made sure PHI was another one.  That grid was then comprehensively tweaked by Sabre.

We then discussed a clueing gimmick, which involved counting the clues and finally settling on lenses with lengths totalling 23 letters, so that they could be included twice, as in the grid.  Adding letters to wordplay is easy, but we needed to be sure there were enough instances of the 23 letters for deletion purposes.

What followed was a long exchange of emails with three clues being added each time, always with a keen eye on not using up the last word containing a P (say) when there was still a clue requiring a deleted P.  As it happens we got through the set without the problem arising.  Then a read-through by each, with proffered suggestions for clue edits, and off it went to the tester, who found it very hard.  So there were a few changes to make it more accessible and then it was submitted.

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