Derek Harrison's Crossword Message Board

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Listener 4396 - The Listener Audience by Pointer

This was one of those oddly balanced puzzles with an easily filled grid followed by a very lengthy search for the theme. It was pretty obvious that the thematic word lengths were not in column order, and every column had roughly between thirty and a hundred possible words of various lengths arising from a single letter change. With the word lengths out of order it seemed to be a matter of luck whether one saw the theme early, or, as in my case, much later. Eventually I spotted PALESTINE and, immediately after, NEPAL, but I had trouble finding much else in the way of states or countries. Finally I checked PALESTINE in Chambers and saw the reference to soup, and turned my attention to Bradford’s list of soups. It didn’t list PHO, so that was another struggle, but realizing the whole alphabet was involved in the changes helped.

I thought the puzzle’s endgame had an inherent weakness. Both Chambers and Oxford say TLA stands for three-letter acronym, but the examples are not acronyms, they are just abbreviations known as initialisms. I couldn’t see why genuine acronyms weren’t used for the other five - there are enough to choose from.


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