Head Money by The Ace of Hearts
Omitted letters give A REWARD FOR A PROSCRIBED OUTLAW’S HEAD, a definition of HEAD MONEY; clashes occurring at the head of entries for outlaws are resolved in favour of M for Money.
I came across this particular definition of “Head Money” by accident while searching Chambers for something else, and immediately thought “there’s a crossword in there somewhere”. I put it on the back burner for a while as nothing came to mind straight away.
As letters latent is my favourite gimmick, I decided to go with that, and put it into the “Sympathy” crossword construction programme (32 letters, so 32 solutions) and pressed “go”. Within the space of a minute I had 10 possible grid fills, which led me to think that there was more I could do to add to the gimmick. After some thought, I gathered a list of synonyms for outlaws, increased to solutions to 36 (a more normal number of solutions for 12 by 12 grid) and put four of the synonyms into the grid manually, but changing the first letter to “M” (money) to represent “Head Money”, the definition. I then specified that these four lights DO NOT need the “letters latent” gimmick. These restrictions however made it very difficult for the program give me any grid fills at all, as after a number of different trial and error combinations, I kept getting a “grid fill failed at …” message. However I persevered and eventually got a grid fill (I can be stubborn like that).
All that remained now was for the clues (my weakest link). I compiled the clues, left them for a couple of weeks, re-edited them, left them for a couple of weeks, re-edited them, and again and again, until I was happy that they would pass muster. Unfortunately, this was only partially successful, as Steve still had to alter and in a couple of cases, re-work the clues (though not as many from previous puzzles) to make them fair and legal.
Anyway, I really enjoyed the challenge of compiling the puzzle and with Steve’s help, I think we got a good product at the end of the day, which I hope solvers enjoyed.
A full review of this puzzle can be seen over on fifteensquared.