Now if anyone were to ask me where I get my ideas from, this one would be more or less a blank. I guess at some point I must have twigged that SUPERNOVA and BLACK HOLE have the same number of letters, and that one, often enough, generates the other. Which is a sort of neat starting-point, but doesn’t tell you anything about how it came to be a starting-point. So we’ll just have to assume the idea is there. (OK, here‘s a distant starting-point.)
The next step is how to transform one into the other. Certainly you want something that says ‘Make this S a B”, ‘Make this E a C’ and so on. From that emerges the idea of words that are still words if you make that change (SLACK/BLACK, SEAM/BEAM and so on). So the next step was to generate pairs of these for each of the eight changes needed (it was here that I first noted the Os were in the same place in each word). Were there enough? There were.
The intent was to have all the clashes in checked squares, and also for all entries in the final grid (after the blacking-out of the hole) to be words too. So SOUTH(ERN)CROSS was a useful thematically-related find. The vertical -URV- was much less accommodating, but REC and ING are words. And then I (looks at nervously shuffling feet) rather forgot about it. The difficulties of getting the clashes in checked squares rather occupied my attention – well, that’s my excuse, and it’s also correct! In the end, there were enough clashes, and enough options among them, to get the grid to work, but I had to have some of them in checked squares (and even then I found myself cornered into having two unches in five).
As a result, I came up with a new clueing regime for the words with clashes: originally solvers would have had normal clues and then found SLACK crossing with BEAM, and no way of knowing, until the final step, which was required. Instead you were given the clash via the clue, and whether the clash was in a checked square or not, you still had to find SUPERNOVA and deduce BLACK HOLE.
The concept of the central portion being blacked out was strangely attractive. (Actually, that wasn’t meant as a pun…) Black holes are usually at the centre of things, after all.
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