I have always been drawn to linguistic oddities and I’ve used them to make what I consider ‘joke’ puzzles – puzzles that are not too difficult, and are intended as much to raise a smile as detain the solver. They come along unpredictably as I tend to have to wait to notice something odd, and then wait while it transforms itself into a puzzle.
This was a case in point: I spotted the PROSTITUTION/CONSTITUTION pair a long while ago. (There is surely a good joke lurking in there somewhere.) Noting that these weren’t exactly antonyms, despite their prefixes being generally considered so, led me to produce a few more examples, most of which made their way into this puzzle. I don’t recall finding an example where there wasn’t something at least disjointed between PRO-X and CON-X.
But what to do with it? The list sat in my ideas file for a while until glancing at it one day I started thinking about PRO and CON in the voting or debating sense, and the final puzzle sort of dropped into place more or less immediately: an odd number of affected answers, some way of identifying which were PRO and which CON (redundant words in clues, as it turned out), and a result.
Most of the remnant words were short, so there was a pressure towards a smaller grid, and so it proved. But in constructing it I boxed myself into a corner – my excuse is that the (for want of a better word) rhythm of an 11×11 grid isn’t quite the same as a 12×12 – and I ended up with two barred-off squares. So I turned that into a virtue, and avoided solvers having to write the result under the grid by entering the Y and the N from the outset. Always something slightly spooky about turning to the puzzle and finding it prefilled, I feel.
I didn’t have a preconceived outcome in mind – I just jotted down the alternative meanings and fitted them in as I went along, merely ensuring a 4-3 split. Then the preamble, with its slightly unexpected last sentence, tying in to the title, but not to the main body of instructions – hopefully enough to set solvers thinking.
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