I’m currently looking at a grid and willing it to turn into a working idea. This is the moment when I should be noting details for the ultimate setter’s blog – but the actual work is all on getting the grid to cohere. And the idea might not be workable, so all the notes for a blog will go to waste.
Which is why, I suspect, it’s often hard to recall quite how a puzzle got under way. The impetus for the idea might be recalled, but the precise justification for the implementation won’t come. Here it was clearly that a spoiler alert might be implied by the phrase ‘Killjoy was here’. But where did that phrase came from? (It might have been new to me, but it seems to have occurred to others across the years.)
I did tinker with the type of grid where a cell in any given row is displaced by half a cell from its neighbours in the preceding or succeeding row. Often, in a grid like this, the cells are rectangular so that the effect is of a brick wall. Down entries often do not go directly down as they can step right or left from ‘brick’ to ‘brick’.
But that didn’t work. I started thinking about other types of spoiler, and the dog in the manger metaphor came to mind. The same number of letters as my invented “Killjoy…” as well. And so was born the idea of adding things together.
Best to give you the familiar phrase and use the additions to provide the novelty. So what + D = K – G, of course. Is there a word with a G that can be replaced by K? Lots, as it turned out. And what about ? + H = Y – that would be Q (muted cheers…). The X turned up later, though it was a bit easier than the Q. I was particularly pleased with AURISTS becoming AORISTS – I bet no-one saw that coming!
I always felt this puzzle was at the limit of what I would have been prepared to solve – each run through for editing and proof-checking dropped me back into a complex set of intermeshing entries. It didn’t help that I couldn’t always solve my own clues. So the next one should be easier.
SPOILER ALERT has already featured in one of my EV puzzles: No. 1357 Giving the Game Away, from 2018, which copied the layout of (e.g.) emails where SPOILER ALERT appears at the top, with some distracting text a bit lower and finally the thing whose discovery was being deferred. While the days of ‘Justyn Print – VII’ and so on, seem to be behind us, it remains congenial to reuse ideas or aspects of them.