The Listener Notes for Setters say that “Puzzles for which more than half the clues must be solved before entries can be made in the grid are more likely to be rejected since they fail to deliver a principal feature of a crossword”.
Were many solvers able to start filling the grid with fewer than 25 clues solved? Unlikely, I’d have thought, as it depended heavily on the central nine-cell entry, which was far from straightforward.
The main downer for me was that I saw where the puzzle was heading as soon as I read the message from the doubled letters. So there was no real PDM. After that, it was an inevitability and something of a chore.
Perhaps I was underwhelmed because Twin had set the bar high with Tip-Top Condition, his 2020 Ascot Gold Cup winner, where the puzzle number 4630 was encoded in binary to 1001000010110 to resolve all ambiguities. This felt pedestrian by comparison. But I do, of course, applaud the originality, and appreciated the inbuilt self-checking