Magpie, August 2016: Supporting Roles

This one is easy to kick off.  I’ve been reading Terry Pratchett for years now, and his passing recently was a sad moment.  I managed to work several of his characters into one of the last Beelzebubs but I also wanted to do a further tribute.  Previous inclusions of Pratchett-related material in puzzles has been met with incomprehension, which is a little odd, given that he used to outsell J K Rowling until she was well into the Harry Potter series.  Being the nationally best-selling author seemed to be less a mark of popular culture than references to a poorer-selling pop album.

Still, such considerations were enough to keep me from offering the puzzle to The Listener (though, to be fair, they have accepted Haruki Murakami as a theme).  Also the puzzle clearly had to be circular, and somehow the Magpie felt a better home for that.

Much of the rest is fairly technical.  It started with noting that the letters in the turtle divided without remainder into the letters of the elephants (that may be the only time that clause ever gets written), which gave me the number of radials, and left me simply having to generate a same-length descriptive phrase for the outermost ring.  I adopted the “one inward, one outward, one jumbled” rule I’d used for A Puzzle With a Catch in The Listener all those years ago.

There’s always the issue that someone familiar with a theme will find the puzzle a write-in, slightly mitigated here by the outer ring being of my own devising.  That outer ring also should act as a hint to solvers unfamiliar with the theme as to how they can verify the rather unusual proper nouns in the other thematic rings.

I gridded it in Sympathy, unrolling it to a rectangle, while ensuring there was a degree of overlap at the ends.  But I manipulated the final circular grid from submission purposes in Quinapalus’ program, though I’m not exactly adept in it.

I was particularly pleased with the clue to ELAN, where I couldn’t find a reasonable synonym with a misprintable T until Sayle occurred to me with the accompanying thought that it would help if only Alexei had some letters in common with ELAN…oh, hang on…