One Across have been very kind and have agreed I can put the whole puzzle up. I’ll put a link here, but I must of course urge you to try the puzzle first (and thus DON’T READ ON). If you really don’t want to do the puzzle then you can just click through to the solution diagram to see how it works.
But you should try it, of course, and you should also try the magazine, which arrives once a month in my Inbox. Unlike many magazines – and GAMES, the March 2021 edition of which has just arrived, I’m looking at you – One Across arrives in the month that is actually printed on the cover. There are five puzzles each month, mostly blocked, but there’s often a barred one. They are all themed, although some of the themes are less overt than others. You can find them and all the details for subscribing here.
Thinking of an unusual gimmick for a blocked puzzle is a slightly different business from the barred grid. The checking is that much lower, of course, and it is quite easy to misread that, and end up with an idea that does not work too well.
The image for this puzzle was quite clear – two grids overlapping with a common area in between. That area itself would be a grid of real words, capable of standing by itself as a puzzle. All in all, the crossword as Venn diagram, which at least gave me a decent diagonal message to aim for (though it turned out that having V and E adjacent on a diagonal is not a nice thing to work round).
I have a few rather scrappy pages of sketches that tried to see how the grids would fit together. It took a long while to get anywhere. The early attempts had the overlapping grids arranged on a sort of NW-SE line, and nothing much eventuated until I flipped them NE-SW, at which point something clicked and the thing filled pretty quickly.
I found there was quite a lot of freedom in the external words, which bothered me slightly – anything that gives the setter too much of a free hand can leave the solver with a lot to do. But I think I landed on a reasonable set of words. I would have been content with the solution grid being merely the small one presented, resulting in the unusual situation of writing clues to answers that were never seen.
One difficulty emerged as to presentation, with it being felt necessary to hint at the fact that the puzzle extended into the space surrounding it – without giving too much away, either, of course. I haven’t heard, at the time of writing, responses from solvers, so I can’t yet say how successful our solution was. I have reproduced it in the puzzle here on the blog.
The image hasn’t quite gone away, so I may revisit the idea in the future, and in an alternative way. I imagine it could land very differently in a barred grid.
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